Well, my granddaughter, Allie, survived the first semester of kindergarten. So did her parents and grandparents. Interacting with Allie reminds me of the importance of education's early years and why we need to invest in them.
Allie was fortunate that her grandmother, a retired teacher, kept her every weekday until she entered preschool. Being with "Momo" significantly increased Allie's vocabulary, math skills, shape recognition, thinking processes, and other learning. Entering a high quality preschool not only took these skills to the next level but helped her develop social and emotional skills. As an advocate of strong early childhood programs my beliefs are definitely reinforced as I observe Allie's growth.
Kindergarten is going well, in large part due to Allie's great teacher. Mrs. O is pretty phenomenal and is making sure the kids in her class are learning. It is teachers like her that we need in every classroom, and we must be strong advocates to make that happen. These are the kinds of things that Mrs. O taught during first semester:
Numbers 0-20 Sorting/counting objects
More than and less than Length/weight
Number words Size and position
Counting by 10's Beginning and ending sounds
Author and illustrator Predictable text
Using sight words when writing Seasons
Apple and pumpkin life cycles Fire safety
Community helpers Thanksgiving/Pilgrims and Native Americans
Needs vs. wants Holidays around the world
Beginning to write simple stories, using one main idea and a beginning, middle, and end
Using "inventive spelling" to stretch sounds and write words
Write using finger space, punctuation, and a capital letter at the beginning of a sentence
Having these building blocks in place will pay long-term dividends for Allie, and I am thankful she has these opportunities. Luckily her school district provides an all-day program that allows time for this learning, even though the state only funds half-day programs.
Allie has also tried different types of activities outside the classroom, with mixed success. There is good research indicating that kids who participate in activities outside the classroom have higher academic achievement. She is currently taking violin lessons, but this has had its ups and downs. Sometimes she talks about drawing and writing while she is practicing and finds it difficult to focus. Her parents plan to give her more time to see if this works out. What didn't make the cut was soccer. She joined a co-ed team but didn't like playing with the boys because, she said, "they were too rough and too loud." Early morning choir at school seems to be working well, as is cheerleading at church. She did announce at the end of one year of dance lessons that she didn't need to go back because she had learned everything she needed to know. Of course her mom and dad make sure she also has time to play with her friends and toys and use her imagination. The point: It is important that kids try different things as they grow. All of these activities that complement classroom learning help her brain develop. We have to figure out ways to allow ALL kids to participate in these types of activities, wherever they live or whatever their socioeconomic status happens to be.
Recently, Allie has begun to use her mom's smart phone to text me. At first I thought her mom was helping, but I quickly learned she was doing it all on her own. How does she know how to spell the words? "I just sound them out."
Here is a recent 7 a.m. exchange:
Allie: Poppo, are you sleping? Love Allie
Poppo: No, I am up and getting ready for work. Love, Poppo.
Allie: I am giting rety for scoool I love you.
Poppo: I love you too. Have a great day.
It is amazing to see our youngest kids using the most up-to-date technology. Allie uses the pass code to access my IPad, which she loves. She instinctively knew how to swipe the locked screen to get started. She can locate every one of her apps and can get to bookmarked pages on her parents' laptop. Through our advocacy we must ensure that all kids have access to the latest available technology. This is how they learn, and we must provide the tools for them.
Another key piece of Allie's life is the involvement of her parents in her education. They know this is the most important thing they do. There is strong research showing the positive correlation between parental involvement and academic achievement. We must find ways to engage all parents to become partners with their child care, preschool and kindergarten providers. We must advocate for home visiting, parent education and engagement programs for all families, but particularly those with extra challenges.
Do I sound like a proud grandfather? I am. But this post is really about advocating for all kids. We must continue to advocate for high quality early childhood programs. We must let policymakers know that early childhood education is an investment rather than an expense , we must have great teachers in every classroom, and we must find ways for all kids to participate in exciting activities and experiences outside the classroom.
Now, I have to close. My phone just signaled me that I need to answer a text from my 5-year-old granddaughter.