Hunter Park Kindergarten

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Friday, February 5, 2010

National Standards- Don't get stressed by them.

Currently you will be hearing a lot of very politically slanted information from a range of sources about, what the effect of national standards will be, and why teachers, principals and leading academics are resisting how they are being implemented (not the actual standards, just the implementation and plans for how outside parties {including politicians} will use them.)

I do have an opinion on them, but it's not my place to comment on them in this forum, and like most of the opinions I'm hearing expressed in the media, it's a not very well informed opinion. Nor is it likely to become informed at any time soon given the current political nature of the debate.

One thing I have noticed about the debate however is that it is having an impact on parents. A number of parents have had concerns about their child, "will they be ready for school", "I'd better be doing extra work with them on reading writing and maths now, so they'll be ready in six months when they turn 5, because they're finding it hard." Let's face it no parent wants their child to be classified as below standard.

But "Don't panic", in some countries children don't start on formal reading and writing till age 7 and they don't fall behind, trust me on this.

The best thing you can do if you're worried is inform yourself. Read the "moving to learn booklets" in the parent library for ideas on what works for instance.

Better yet a great place to start right now is to watch this 15 minute online video , it talks about all the things that need to be in place before a child starts to learn to read, write , and do mathematics. It shows actual children in an actual classroom, shows some who struggle, explains why they struggle and how to help them get ready to read, write and do maths. We have the full DVD at Kindergarten, two copies, both out, so book it in, but watch that first chapter now.

As the video explains, if a child isn't physically ready to learn formally, not only will trying to make them do formal reading, writing and maths be hard for them, but chances are they won't hold onto that learning, they may also learn bad habits that will be hard to unlearn later, and they might even decide to classify formal learning as too hard, or worse still take on the attitude they're no good at it. ( Not that there's anything wrong with teaching them if they are ready.)

I'm sure we all remember "learning" stuff from school we no longer remember how to do now, things we learnt but never used and so forgot, as well as stuff that was too hard and we gave up on. I'm no dummy, I got top mark in New Zealand, in my Biology bursary exams, but I missed 6th form (year 12) chemistry and then tried to catch up in the seventh form (year 13) but found I couldn't, I really struggled. I then continued to struggle failing first year chemistry twice until in my third year at uni I did a basic chemistry course that taught me the foundation skills I was missing from way back in the sixth form, suddenly it all made sense, I just wished I hadn't run out of time so I could have gone back and done first, second and third year chemistry papers. It wasn't that I was dumb, but that I'd missed out on the foundation skills and knowledge and so found the work hard, and taken on the attitude I was not good at it.

Regardless of National standards New Zealand already has some of the best education systems and assessment practises in the world in the world, many of our teachers and researches are world leaders, so don't stress about them now.

Instead if you want to help you child learn to read, then read to them, read where they can see you reading, share a joy of books, newspapers, online blogs and the attitude that books and reading are important to you. Play ball games with them to strengthen their eye muscles and the brain connections that process information from the eyes. Point out important letters, like the first letter in their name, what it's called, how it sounds.

If you want your child to write, get them to crawl to strengthen coordination of the left and right hemispheres of the brain, model correct typing and writing posture, get them to swing on trees to strengthen their shoulders, hands and backs, let them to draw and paint to develop hand eye coordination and control. Whenthey are ready and do show an interest answer their questions and build on them, but don't pressure them, have fun.

Equally if you want them to be good at maths, give them responsibilities that strengthen their number concepts (being able to count to 4 is different from knowing how much 4 is and what happens if you add or take away 1 from 4). "Can you get me two cans of cat food, oops we had 4 of our list, see, how many more will we need to make four."

Find out what numbers they can handle easily and build on them, use familiar, real every day situations, so that later when they get to more abstract stuff at school they'll have a firm base to build on. At this age children think concretely, that is hands on, in terms of real physical situations, rather than in their heads. Get them to put out the plates. "We'll need one plate for each person, have you got one for mum, 1 for dad, 1 for baby, one for gran, and one for you. How many have we got, wow that's five plates. Yes that's right when you're five you'll go to school, how old are you now?"

And remember relationships and attitudes are some of the most important things of all. Children pick up and mimic both of these. So get to know your child's teachers and future teachers, and help them get to know you. Build positive relationships and always model positive attitudes to learning, especially that it is fun.

Remember watch that video!

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