Can a Preschool Ensure Entry into the Ivy League?
The New York Daily News article that made its rounds on Facebook on March 15th, “Manhattan mom sues $19K/year preschool for damaging 4-year old daughter’s Ivy League chances,” got me thinking about the potential and limitations of a preschool education.
For the sake of full disclosure, I must tell you that I am the daughter of the director/owner/head teacher of a preschool in Wharton, NJ: The Children’s Workshop. My mother started this school for me over 35 years ago, when upon picking me up from my Jewish preschool one day, she found me sitting, miserably, at a desk completing worksheets.
She thought she could do better.
She did: she created a play-based/art-based curriculum through which children explore, discover, and learn about the world around them. True, I did not wind up going to an Ivy League school (nor was it my ambition), but I arrived in kindergarten with early numeracy skills, emergent literacy skills, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, and most importantly, a love of learning.
The last item in this string of gifts from nursery school cannot be undersold. Today in the United States, preschool is the gateway to education. With a nation-wide push for universal preschool, early intervention programs like Head Start, and many parents working full time, it is quickly becoming the norm that children attend preschool prior to kindergarten. This early school experience can either leave a child hungry for more, or it can be the first in a lifelong series of negative educational experiences that leave a bitter taste in a child’s mouth.
The school’s philosophy—be it Montessori, Reggio Amelia, play-based, religiously affiliated, art-based or otherwise—matters less than the level of engagement that takes place in the classroom. Students engaged in their learning are noisy, active, excited, begging for turns. At school, they are busy playing, painting, writing, enjoying books, exploring centers, constructing, asking questions, cooperating, imagining, laughing, talking, taking risks and trying something new. When they return home, they are full of news about what happened that day. They bring home original work that is messy and imperfect. They ask you to read to them. They make connections between what happens in school and what they see in the world around them. And the biggest clue that says how engaged your child is in his/her education: They wake up asking you if they can go to school that day.Continued on the next page