I was recently asked by a prospective family if I have a list of what their child will be able to do–skills she’ll have developed–by the end of the year should they enroll her at Yoga Preschool. As a person who focuses so deeply on individual needs of children where they are, as they are, in that moment, the question really caught me off guard. I blabbered something about it depending on their child and her interests and how I would work to create an engaging and challenging learning environment, but that we couldn’t know until that year was finished what she would and would not be doing. I am certain I didn’t answer the question in the manner they were hoping.
It seems that many people are seeking “kindergarten readiness” programs that can hand you a list of skills with a promise they’ll put your child’s name at the top and be able to check off all of the boxes by the end of a year in their program. (If, for some reason, they cannot check off all of the boxes at the end of the year, it will be because there is something wrong with your child and how she/he learns and definitely not anything to do with the list itself.)
Kindergarten readiness. Such a loaded phrase.
Our culture’s obsession with “readiness,” with standardizing exactly what each child should be doing, and when, is baffling to me as someone who works on a daily basis with young children. It baffles me as a person who has worked with people of all ages. We are all unique. No two of us are going to learn exactly the same thing at exactly the same time and in exactly the same way. Why do we expect this of our children??
I deeply believe in Magda Gerber’s wonderful statement: “readiness is when they do it.” We meet each new milestone, learn every new skill, when we are ready and not before. This “readiness” is highly individual and based on the unique person as well as their own particular experiences. Readiness cannot be standardized.
What I should have said to the family about what their daughter would experience over a year in our cooperative preschool program is this:
At the end of this year at Yoga Preschool your child, if she so chooses, will have participated in lots of fun, messy, exciting and inspiring science experiments, art activities and learning games—some self created, some led by others, or a combination of the two. She will have, if she so chooses, listened to and perhaps shared with others many stories and books as well as songs, finger plays and nursery rhymes.
At the end of this year your child will have spent lots of time, if she so chooses, playing with other children as well as by herself (depending on her preference in each moment), exploring the world around her, testing her own theories and hypotheses and coming to conclusion after conclusion about life and the world as she knows it.
At the end of this year she will most likely have picked flowers and touched fallen leaves, tasted white snow and spent lots of time running outside away from a “giant squid” or other imaginary creation of she and her peers.
(Running from the “giant squid,” a daily playground game.)
At the end of this year your child will have become part of a community of children and families that care for one another and enjoy spending time together.
At the end of this year your child will have learned more than I can ever check off on a piece of paper about topics I cannot know until and unless she shares them with me and the class community.
This learning—about the world and herself and those around her—will happen whether or not she comes to this class.
Should your child come to Yoga Preschool, I promise that I will provide (what I feel is) an exciting, cooperative learning environment rich with opportunities to explore and have fun, tailored to meet the (currently unknown) needs of the particular and unique group of children and families in your child’s class.
And I deeply believe that over the next year, no matter what your child chooses to do in each moment of her days—whether or not she ever attends any school or class or program—if she is encouraged, supported and trusted to follow her own unique passions and interests in a loving and enriching environment, she will learn just what she needs to learn, as she is ready.