While at ISU, elementary education was my major with a minor in early childhood education. Even though it's been many years, educating the very young child was believed to be of major importance. As I finished my senior year, I wanted more experience working with little ones. I was fortunate to find part time employment at an outstanding preschool.
Three days a week I mixed gallons of finger paint, read books aloud, recited poems, sang songs, joined in finger plays, took part in free play, and spent a lot of time supervising and communicating. I can't say that the students received a formal education.
We didn't do paperwork, they were not evaluated, and the instructor spent little time instructing. Every minute was hands on involvement. And our kids thrived in this environment.
From this experience, I became a strong advocate of educating the very young, whole child.
How many people have read or heard the quote, "Everything you need to know you learned in kindergarten"? Heard it, read it, don't believe it. Learning starts at a much earlier age than was originally believed.
After hearing that grants for preschools had been nixed, I did a bit of research. The evidence suggests that "High quality education before a child's fifth birthday can yield lifetime benefits". (Marietta Sarvia-Shere).
By providing first class learning situations, student achievement can rise. A child's ability is not fixed in a permanent place.
John Hopkins studies concluded, "A child's early years lay the foundation for all that is to come. The human brain develops most of its neurons and is most receptive to learning between birth and three years".
Neurons make connections in the brain. Our brain forms a million new connections each second. Every person is born with about the same number of brain cells. These cells grow and reach full size at about age six.
Not all children live in stimulating environments that promote these connections in the brain. "Investment in a child's early education pays extremely high dividends down the road. It improves cognitive ability as well as behavioral traits like social ability, motivation, and self esteem". This is likely the most important part in a debate over education; infants and toddlers.
Julia Isaacs of the Urban Institute in Washington stated, "If children keep arriving in school with deficits in math, reading, and behavioral skills, no amount of money or teacher evaluations may be enough to improve their lot later in life".
A good friend of mine pointed out if political aspirations take precedence over the education of our young children, the reality will be terribly unfair as each child reaches kindergarten age. You can never gain back what has already been lost.
Tawni is a retired Linton-Stockton Elementary School teacher. She can be reached by email at email@example.com.