Down: Achieving Preschool Academic Excellence
see them trudging through campus, weighted down with the cares of the
world, as if their foreheads are being slowly pulled to the ground.
I never see the color of their eyes, just their packs, like some
dromedary or other beast of burden, piled high with who-knows-what.
They are children whose parents have set the bar so high that they
only see the ground in front of them. Many of them in third or fourth
grade, with faces that speak of innumerable shocks, planning their day
with Palm Pilots chirping at them, reminding them of soccer games, violin
lessons, tennis practice, and after school math enrichment.
portfolio begins in pre-school, and there seems to be no end to how
difficult it gets. I work at
school on the West Coast that is pre-K through high school.
I am the assistant head of the high school. In fact, I have worked at four such high-powered college
preparatory schools over the last 12 years, but for some children the
stress starts early; parents have already picked out the colleges for
their children as early as four-years of age.
Stanford, Brown, and Yale dot the landscape of most parents’ top
schools. However, most of the
elite schools have seen their prospective student pool increase ten-fold
over the last twenty years.
happened? How did it get this
way? What can parents do to
avoid the trap of children who may crash and burn far too soon?
Here are a few suggestions to keep your life sane and raise
healthier children, even as the college admissions process drives what
children learn as early as pre-school:
Parents should avoid making
decisions based on erroneous assumptions about the right curriculum or the
perfect school for their children. Be
wise and selective when choosing schools. Never just go for the name.
This is true whether you are selecting a pre-school, public school,
or college. Remember you
always have a choice.
When researching schools or
even extracurricular programs, look for value-laden clues like how well
the children treat each other. Do
the teachers and aides know all of the children, respecting each as
individuals, with each being uniquely important?
Is there an emphasis on
providing a rich environment rather than on getting students ready for the
next year or a certain test?
True, children do learn how
to take test quite well in the test-them-until-they-drop states and
schools, but can a test measure whether a student will be a life-long
learner. Hint: Most elite
private schools do not use tests in the same way as public schools.
Why? Because tests
only validate a child’s ability to take a tests.
No test can truly show how a student treats or accesses knowledge.
Never force your child into
an area of elective interest that she or he does not want to do.
Parents often will risk a complete aversion to piano lessons or
soccer practice because they pushed too hard early on.
Take the dilettante approach by exposing your preschooler to a wide
variety of activities and interest. However,
make sure that what he or she decides to sign-up for at your local
recreation center or neighborhood church can and will be finished at some
defined point; choose an activity that has a merciful escape hatch.
Meaning, the activity’s session is long enough to learn some of
the fundamentals, but your child can gather a sense of completion--four to
six weeks depending on the activity.
Always give your child a
choice. Almost every child will battle parents with oppositional behavior.
Take away that struggle, particularly with school issues, and see
how long your student can have a one way battle.
enjoy the school years. They
are short-lived. Treat each
day with your child as if it will never come again because it never will.
2000 by Brian W. Thomas
and raised in Harvey, Illinois, Brian Thomas earned a degree in American
History from Yale and later became an actor. Brian had a recurring role
during the second season of NBC's "A Different World, a spin-off from
"The Cosby Show." He earned an Emmy Award in 1988 for his work
on "Fast Break to Glory: The Du Sable Panthers." Currently,
Brian lives with his wife, Jaime, and two children, Eian and Olivia, in
Portland, Oregon where he is the Assistant Head of a prestigious prep
school and founder of A Child's Book.com-- http://www.achildsbook.com.