Monday, May 12, 2008

Preschool Dilemma - advice please?

Despite my embarrassing rant about Miss E's school, I do like it there. My gut reaction to the place was that it was warm, loving, safe and very child centered.

On the whole, I like Miss E's current teacher, but...

I have been concerned at the frequency with which Miss E comes home with worksheets, or colouring sheets. Lately, Miss E has not put a single mark on these sheets.

Miss E's school is a parenting co-op - so each morning a parent helps out in the class. I have my co-op day once a month and I see how these worksheets are used.

They are presented to the kids - either as the first thing they are instructed to do in the mornings, or after they have been told to tidy everything away.

Some kids sit and meticulously colour them and trace the numbers or letters or whatever they may be. Other kids (including Miss E) get restless, are not interested in the sheets, and try to break loose and do something else.

This is a group of 3 and 4 year olds.

I've voiced my concern to the teacher herself who told me not to worry - that these were presented as an opportunity for the kids to do them, they don't have to if they don't want to.

I recently took my concerns to the director of the school who simply responded by saying 'mmm hmmm' to my every sentence. She informed me that Miss E would be in a different class with a different teacher next year - and hoped that that would make things better. Time will tell I guess.

Miss E will be in this school again in August for a full school year and I am hoping that she will still enjoy it as this school has an excellent and highly recommended Voluntary Pre K (VPK) program (state funded 5 morning a week Pre Kindergarten). Good VPK programs are hard to find.

However, the more I talk about these worksheets and my concerns about them - the less comfortable I'm feeling with the school.

I have had feed back from other parents at the school whom have raised the same concerns, and from friends who are in the education system who are pretty much disgusted that colouring sheets or worksheets are being used with kids this age.

My gut instinct at this point is to 'let's see how it goes'. Miss E will start with a new teacher, and will be in a new room. I intend to talk to the teacher before the term starts and offer any practical help I can in terms of helping her prep materials for art sessions or whatever she may need to help her gear up to let the kids have FUN - and learn through that fun.

I don't want to presume to tell a qualified professional how to 'teach' my kid - but I'm not really interested in her being actively taught anything at this point. I want her to go and have fun. To make friends. To learn through her play and above all things - to think of school as a fun and exciting place to be.

She has many years of formal schooling ahead - I don't want her being switched off this early by being bored with worksheets!

The advice I need from you - especially those of you whom have been through this stage - is how would you approach the school, and/or the teacher. Proactively? Would you raise the issue of worksheets from the get go? Would you wait and see what happens?

I want to do the right thing by Miss E - if that means finding her a different (better) school - I will.


Heather J. said...

You need to do what's feels right, Annie.

I hope your "Mudder's Day" was peaceful and fabulous!

jennifer said...

First, happy Mudder's Day to you, too!

As for advice, I have none. I have the same concerns about Preschool...and worksheets teach NOTHING. They don't help kids make friends, sing songs, follow directions...

Feener said...

i would suggest visiting another school that believes in learn through play and check it out for a day. if you see that you like it better, i would move her.

Sophie said...

I have had this with most of my children's preschools - hence preschools in the plural (!) . Worksheets are an easy way for staff to look like they are doing something useful.

One horror house we experienced made the kids sit and do around 10 sheets a day as their sole "academic" activity. I didn't realize until I arrived early one day and found all the boys in the class (including my son, then aged just 3) sitting around the edge of the class in highchairs. To "keep them under control because they wouldn't sit still and do their work".

My 4 year old loves the worksheets she gets at (a different) school, but she brings home maybe three a week, and it is not a forced activity. Children who don't want to can go do a puzzle or draw a picture.

IMHO if the school is worth its salt you should be able to say to the principal that "I need my daughter to be allowed to do an alternate activity to worksheets", in the same way as you would say "she is not to have peanut products".

Wow. I almost sound like I know what I am doing. But I don't really. Unfortunately I only got to this point after years of practice :-(

Jessica @ A Bushel and a Peck said...

My daughter is in preschool as well, and they have a coloring sheet given to them when they arrive many days. I think its more of a way to occupy them when the teachers are waiting for the entire class to get there than anything else. But Sunshine DOES do worksheets in school--they do a different letter every week, and have sheets where they trace the letter, then write it themselves. And then they color in the picture. I think its pretty standard, and I also know that Sunshine doesn't always "finish" her sheet and that its not a big deal.
My husband's cousin is a pre-K teacher and gave us a HUGE stack of sheets to PLAY with at home, and Sunshine really likes them...she feels like a big girl, and doesn't really realize she's "learning" as she does them. If you are concerned, certainly look into other schools, but I think most preschools and Pre-K programs are going to use worksheets like that as a pretty standard method of teaching. I would say that if the teacher doesn't MAKE them finish the worksheet, its clearly not the focus of the class and its not as though Miss E is being forced to sit and do something she doesn't want to do. That's just my 2 cents, for what its worth. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Annie, you are such a good mom. I like Heather's advice to do what feels right to you. BTW, my four year old just started doing worksheets this year. Last year, just crafts. Whatever you decide to do I don't think you can really mess it.

Motherhood for Dummies said...

Find what works for you. parents need to learn to fight more what is best for schooling their children. We don't need to take schools as they are, they should be the best and shouls work hard to want to keep children learning. Find what you like and what works for your children. Hopefully you will find a place or the school will see how unhappy you are and try to change some things

Iota said...

Go with your gut feeling.

If the worksheets really are just there for the kids to do if they want to, and no big deal at all if they don't, they I wouldn't worry. Miss E might enter a phase where she loves them. But if they become pressurised to do them, then I would raise my voice.

Julie Pippert said...

Listen to your gut---the reaction may not be the thing you do, finally, but your gut is telling you something important.

IMO, worksheets are simply learning by repetition. It's a necessary style of learnign but meaningless until you know what you're doing.

So...learning to write letters...trace them repeatedly on worksheets.

Otherwise, IMO, sort of useless.

If they just mean them to be a "quiet time" activity so the kids sit because teacher needs that down time and thinks the kids do too, well I'm not sure I'd be comfortable with that method.

At this age---preschool---I believe more in learning through play and exploration.

So in short, I agree with you. I think you are on to something.

On the other hand, there are an awful lot of parents who believe in academics in preschool and require some sort of tangible proof that their kids are being prepped to be The Best.

So if the teacher is simply sort of pandering to that, it's a necessary evil to some degree.

Can you find out *why* the teacher uses them, somehow? Let her know, somehow, that you don't find worksheets necessary and wonder if your daughter could sit in a center and look at a book or similar?

I eventually found a preschool where the school AND the parent believed collectively in learning through play and exploration and no more worksheets for us.

Follow your values.

Good luck!

Queen of Shake-Shake said...

Oh my bklas laioa.

Worksheets in preschool? This has to be a joke? Why pay for the preschool tuition when you could go to Sams and buy a workbook with worksheets yourself?

I agree with Sophie. I think worksheets are the easy way out to teach children. But then again, if the elementary school is anything like mine, that's all they use. So maybe it's prep for elementary school.

Sad, really.

MoziEsmé said...

As said already, it's your call. But from my perspective, if the worksheets are the only issue and everything else is fine, I wouldn't stress.

My baby's 13 months, and I've already started worksheets with her. We talk about the pictures and she scribbles on the page, though of course she doesn't get the point of letters yet. And if she doesn't want to do it, there's no pressure. But she's getting exposure to the foundations of education/knowledge, which I personally think is a good thing, and one day it'll all click . . . And we do lots of other things as well.