Pre-K and preschool are the formative developmental years. And we are absolutely WASTING them.
I’m not going to sugarcoat it. Our current system — one that doesn’t challenge kids to expand their minds, that lacks any type of excitement or edge, that falls short on every imaginable metric — is a total failure. It is waste of time. Kids may be better off trick-or-treating than memorizing and reciting the standard Pre-K curriculum like a bunch of docile robots.
Seriously. What the hell are these curriculum writers thinking? They want us to spend all of our time uploading memorizable content into a four-year old’s brain. They want us to talk to them and treat them like babies. Or zombies. I don’t know which is worse! And then, they want us to totally throw out any aspect of wonder, awe, and personal fulfillment.
I call it this curriculum The Three R’s — Repeat, Remember, Recall.
“Sing your ABCs. Count to 10. Identify this color. Tell me the name of this shape. What is this number? Let’s try it all again. From the top…”
Repeat. Remember. Recall. Over and over again.
This is excruciatingly boring. Actually, it’s way past being boring. It’s painful. It’s even kind of cruel. I mean, are we raising robots or little humans? Do we want kids who can recite and recall but can’t analyze, apply, and think? The fact that these questions even come up — man!
These three R’s are RELENTLESS. They are rote. More importantly, they are wrong!
Drilling kids on constant memorization. It feels like torture. Even Circle Time is a nightmare. Calendar and weather. Calendar and weather. Calendar and weather. Every single day. Ad nauseam. And it hardly ever changes! It’s been sunny all week, I don’t know how many times we have to go over that we wear shorts when it’s sunny out!
Ahh! It makes me want to scream!
If you’re in the same boat, you’re not alone. Not by a long shot. But how do we get out of this rinky-dink canoe and get into a world-class ocean liner of learning? I’m going to tell you.
We all agree that kids brains are like sponges, right? Then why the hell aren’t we helping them absorb as much as possible? Why aren’t we trying to make their first impression of school — they’re first impressions of learning — the kinds of experiences that will hook them as life-long learners? Why do we treat kids like their minds, tastes, and intellects are less than any other human? Who decided that kids love songs like Wheels on the Bus and Old McDonald? They’re great for Toddlers who are learning speech patterns, rhythm, vocabulary — but once kids can speak, why are adults deciding this content?
Do any of you out there actually enjoy singing The Wheels on the Bus? Do you consider it to be “good music?” Don’t lie. We all know it sucks. Now ask yourselves, why do kids like singing the Wheels on the Bus if you don’t? Maybe it’s because some adult decided that kids love it and it’s all they’ve ever heard! My four-year olds loved the songs on the radio — Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, Maroon 5. Even the Motown classics, Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack, Pink Floyd. Kids hear great music and they know.
But still, children’s music treats kids like their ears work different than any adult’s. Like they need the same melody to repeat over and over again. Like a chord or a drum track is beyond their comprehension. It’s these low expectations and this different set of standards that bleeds into the academics. This is why we have curriculum that focuses on farm animal sounds rather than how to garden and grow crops. Lessons that teach us how to count but not how to gain any sense of entrepreneurship or financial literacy. Activities that tell us to wash our hands, but not how to become doctors, dentists, and pediatricians.
The way curriculum is designed for little kids — it’s just not fun. It’s not inspiring. It’s not much of anything. And you know the worst part? It never really advances throughout the year. I’ve seen curricula that teaches a shape every month. One month is square. Next is circle. Next is triangle. Same thing with colors. Two colors per month.
Where’s the ambition? Does any one enjoy teaching the same shape every single day for an entire month? Didn’t think so. How about sticking to a rigid plan that doesn’t allow you to jump ahead? Yeah, that sounds sooo great. I’ve seen kids go from 0 letters to all 26 uppercase, lowercase, and sounds in three months time. Reading in 5. They were changing the world in 7 months, tops.
And this all happened without singing the ABCs once.
We definitely need to teach the memorizable content but not in the ways of the past. We need to teach through art, music, and movement. Through technology, videos, and games. More importantly, we need to teach through the frame of relevance for our kids. Every lesson needs an important reason as to why we are learning this. And it needs to be fun. If a lesson can be important and fun, kids will learn it, no matter how challenging.
It’s only possible if you believe in kids. If you change the rotting, decaying zombie curriculum of the past to one that lives and breathes energy and excitement into your students’ souls.
On this Halloween, there’s nothing scarier than sticking to the old way of doing things.