By Sandralynn Byrness (Advisor)
On 6th August 2016, I was kindly invited to speak to a group of parents about Early Childhood Education.
This is such a fascinating topic for me to discuss as not only is it close to my heart but I have witnessed so many changes in this area of education over the years, that looking towards the future of Early Childhood Education is exciting.
If I look at what we have now in Early Childhood, to be properly ready to step into Primary 1 a K2 student must be able to ready fluently, manipulate numbers, speak at least 2 languages perhaps 3, have wonderful general knowledge, skills of being able to be thoughtful and compassionate people, have some knowledge of science and the procedure of how to write up a simple experiment, know how to write in different genres, possibly play an instrument or know the basics of music, and have some coordination in sport.
Oh my goodness! Poor dears, these children are 5 or 6 years old! But the reality is most of them do have these skills. Whether it came only from the school or it came by parents paying huge amount of money with extra lessons, mandarin lessons, English lessons, kumon, dance, etc.
Where did their childhood go?
Early Childhood of the future says, yes we can still have all these things but the big news is don’t put pressure on your child. A child will not learn under stress. AT ALL!
The best state for learning is ‘relaxed alertness’. Children who are stressed can’t learn. It’s as simple as that.
The part of the brain we use to think with is the neo-cortex. It works slower than the limbic brain, which is the part which controls emotions and feelings. What happens when we get stressed is that the limbic part if the brain takes over, often resulting in emotional flooding as we try to counter the stress brought on by a perceived aggressive situation so in other words children learn best in a loving caring environment.
If you are a parent who supervises by yelling because your child’s work is not as neat as his cousins, or what you taught her yesterday she cannot remember today. It may well be true. They cannot work under pressure and stress (and neither can you).
Early Childhood of the future tells us that we have learnt so much about the children’s brain in the last 15 years which has a direct correlation to their learning it is called “Brain based learning”. Simply stated: What we eat for breakfast and how much water we drink affects brain functioning.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and fruit such as bananas are great brain starters. Drinking water is also very important. Five or six glasses of water a day help the brain.
When preparing meals in the school canteens they are looking at brain foods. Peppers, leafy greens, rice. When parents complain to staff that my child does not like broccoli, you may find the response is “well they will learn to like it because it is good for them “Unless an allergy exists all children should be trying all types of foods. Early childhood schools are now looking at food which is brain based menus.
In Early Childhood Centres of the future not only will play be a large part, but directed play will be important.
In a world where values and morals are needed more than ever it is important that they are intrinsically taught from an early age. Children do not naturally have self-confidence, generosity, empathy. These are skills which must be taught as part of the curriculum
Bettie Young identifies six ingredients of positive self-esteem: Physical safety, Emotional security, Identity, Affiliation (I belong to a group), Competence “(I can do it”), and Mission (I know what my life is supposed to mean).
But as well as these values children of the future must have emotional intelligence. This is the time to develop their confidence, curiosity, intentionality (What are their goals), their self -control and relatedness (helping children understand what happens to them)
So, it seems that the Early Childhood School of the future, is not solely based on a rigorous academic curriculum. It is based on a school where each child is nurtured for their own individuality.
A school where the passion of the teachers is palatable when you enter the school and creativity explodes in the classrooms. Of course you will see smartboards or equivalent in the classrooms but this is not a focus in an Early Childhood School.
I have my own peeve about the use of i-pads with very young children. I am quite sure that parents are not sure of the damage that over use of these devises do to little children.
We have seen a marked increase in speech problems and auditory concerns in the last 9 years. That is correlated with increased use of i-pads with small children. I predict (my opinion) we will have optical concerns in the next generation as well!
Baroness Greenfield, the former director of the Royal Institution, said spending too much time staring at computer screens can cause physical changes in the brain that lead to attention and behavior problems. Technology that plays strongly on the senses – like video games – can literally “blow the mind” by temporarily or permanently deactivating certain nerve connections in the brain, the Baroness said.
“The human brain has evolved to adapt to the environment. It therefore follows that if the environment is changing, it will have an impact on your brain.
“If you play computer games to the exclusion of other things this will create a new environment that will have new effects … every hour you spend in front of a screen is an hour not spent climbing a tree or giving someone a hug.”
Screen technologies cause high arousal, which in turn activates the brain system’s underlying addiction and reward, resulting in the attraction of yet more screen-based activity, the Baroness said.
Whist I am not advocating going outside and hugging trees, I am very aware of the addiction of i-pads and small children. How much nicer for a family to sit down together of an evening, no gadgets, eat dinner and talk.
Now…. isn’t that the future!
For more information about Early Childhood education, visit http://www.leapschoolhouse.com.sg/index.html