When you are trying to decide where your child will attend Kindergarten, you are looking for a place where your child will be safe and happy, but also where they will learn and find challenge.
When preeminent child psychologist Robert Evans suggests that you prepare your child for the path and not the path for the child, how can you know your child is ready for the path? How can you be sure that the road is rising up to meet your child? A good college preparatory school puts this idea in action from day one.
There are so many ways for your child to be challenged in Kindergarten. School should:
- challenge a child intellectually,
- instill a love of learning,
- be fun,
and do nothing at the expense of the other.
Your child needs challenges very early on to develop resilience. If you haven't yet come across the work of Angela Lee Duckworth, she has come to find that IQ is not the factor that determines success in school, but the drive to persevere, or what she refers to as grit.
A good Kindergarten program will develop your child in three key areas. Each one is important to your child's growth and development. Social/emotional skills have a profound impact on a child's ability to learn.
Let’s look at these three areas of opportunities for growth so that you can search for that appropriate challenge for your bright and curious 5-year-old. Let’s see what challenge looks like for a Kindergartner!
- Modeling good social behaviors and setting the pace for the kind of culture a school wants is important in the Kindergarten year. For example, if your child is outgoing and confident, the challenge is to recognize and allow others to contribute to conversation. If your child is shy or introverted, challenge comes in self-advocating and learning how to contribute to the team.
- Figuring out our world and community are key areas of social studies in the Kindergarten year. How is our community different from others around our country and around the world? Your child might be able to consider how he/she fits in that community and recognize that there are differences. The Vanishing American Adult by Ben Sasse is an excellent resource for parents eager to help their children become solid, contributing citizens.
- Although grade placement is generally determined by age, educators know that all children progress at different levels. You want to know that your children are progressing at the pace that’s right for them, and are challenged appropriately. An individual phonics and reading program is self-paced with guidance from reading experts to guide your child. This allows your child's teacher to assess his or her rate of progress rather than comparing your child to averages, which tell us less than we might imagine.
- The scientific method is a great place to start when educators encourage independent learning and thinking. Although you might think Kindergartners are too young, they are actually naturals at asking questions! Most 5-year-olds are the most naturally curious people you’ll meet! Guiding them through the wonder of research and exploration, they’ll thrive in an environment that continuously challenges them to think critically. Asking the right questions, guessing what will happen, and watching the results are the basis of a lesson in a good science curriculum in Kindergarten.
- Schools should promote health of both mind and body through daily physical education classes and recess. At this age, your child should switch gears about every 20 minutes to stay focused. Both structured physical activity and free play are important to foster good habits of body and mind.
- In addition to P.E. and recess, incorporating movement in the academic setting helps firm up lessons. Research finds that when children move while learning, they learn in a more natural way. Gross and fine motor skills are fine-tuned in a variety of activities. Think of it as crossfit for the mind! Old-fashioned as it may sound, chalk and slate help with that brain-eye-hand transfer, slowing down the processing time. We live in an age where speed seems to equal smart. Not so!
A few years ago, our entire K-12 faculty read the book Brain Rules as a summer read. The 12 Brain Rules outlined by author John Medina, a developmental molecular biologist and university researcher, underscore the importance of movement, music, physical practice, and the human drive to explore as critical to growth, memory, attention, and cognition. The Brain Rules themselves provide a good checklist for assessing any classroom you visit.
"The desire to explore never leaves us despite the classrooms and cubicles we are stuffed into," writes Dr. Medina. Your children will be happiest and learn best in an atmosphere that promotes curiosity and exploration from their first day at school.
Today, we know so much more about early childhood education. We know about the importance of creating a challenging academic environment where children thrive. We have tools today to enable children with skills and information to chart their own paths to success. But educational environments that put children first are expensive and selective. Furthermore, children can't choose this option for themselves and the choices parents must make seem tougher today than ever before.
Today's world seems to generate stress and confusion for parents. Adults are plagued with choices, advice, and an unstable sense of happiness. It's no wonder that more parents worry whether or not their children will have a better life than they do. Nonetheless, as adults, there are certain decisions we must make for children and these are the decisions that matter most.
Seeing your child grapple with challenge and sacrificing financially to provide that challenge are not necessarily comfortable things to think about. But it is the right thing to do. We stand ready to partner with families who want more for their child. This is why families choose Randolph.
If you are interested in learning more detail about what a challenging education looks like for your soon-to-be Kindergartner, download our latest eBook by clicking on the button below.