In a recent week’s National Center for Literacy Education Smartbrief I found, “Sharing Our Practices: Family / School Partnerships Web Event.” You may read this review of a panel discussion about involving families by clicking here.
My first reaction was that nobody who understands children and learning would argue against family / school partnerships. They are an essential feature of creating a maximum likelihood of success once children enter school.
I am concerned however, that schools continue to follow the pattern of building hospitals at the bottoms of cliffs instead of building fences across the tops. Not that such “hospitals” aren’t needed sometimes for children who fail to thrive in school, but these infirmaries should be dedicated for problems that cannot be avoided, not for problems that could be largely eliminated with adequate planning and focus. Of late the news has been full of clear paths to eliminate this special kind of “carnage.”
- The “window” for enhancing child development is fully open only during early childhood. 90 Percent of a child’s brain growth occurs by age 5… fully 70% by age 3!
- The parts of the brain that are stimulated during those irreplaceable five years are the parts that grow and develop most robustly.
- The parts of the brain that are not stimulated fail to grow at all, then over time, atrophy and virtually disappear.
- The two areas of intellectual growth that create the foundations for success in all others are: strong language learning and complex problem solving.
- Virtually everything that children need to know to regarding language and thinking that prepares them for smashing success in primary education can be learned through playful interactions at home and in the community. This can be accomplished through casual and delightful conversation about every day matters, with adults who love them.
- All parents, even those most in need of help from professional educators, want their children to succeed in school. Too many moms and dads just don’t know how to give their babies the help needed in those all-important five years prior to formal schooling.
- Even hard-nosed economists have determined that far and away the best time to spend money on education is in these early childhood years.
Despite these evident truths, those five years are continually squandered by well-meaning but unknowing parents and too many children come to school with brains, avoidably starved for language stimulation, and unaccustomed to thinking deeply and expressing themselves fully. At age 5, gleefully hopping into their first day of Kindergarten, these children find themselves lying at the bottom of the cliff they never saw.
Given what we know, policymakers could productively spend more time focused on creating a fence of support for parents of preschoolers than worrying about building “hospitals” to stem the flow of school failures and drop outs.
If schools spent time and very little money guiding new parents to read with their children every day, to talk and play with them wherever the family goes, to answer their questions fully and honestly and to encourage their self-expression about life and living, then schools would be well on the way to eliminating the ever-growing number of children that are identified for “catch up” help on day one of Kindergarten, and sadly, who are likely to remain in catch-up mode throughout their academic careers.