By Ellen Booth Church
You may be hoping your child will learn how to read and write in the first few months of preschool or kindergarten. But there are many other skills she needs to master before an academic focus is appropriate. Studies show that the most important skills to learn in the beginning of the year are social: cooperation, self-control, confidence, independence, curiosity, empathy and communication.
In the first months of school, early childhood teachers are most concerned with children who have behavioral and attention problems. It's simple: If a child is not able to take turns, listen and sit in a group, how can she learn what is being taught? That is why teachers spend a good deal of time early in the year on the basic social skills of preschool and kindergarten. Even if your child has been in a child care center or another type of program, she still needs to learn the social and emotional dynamics of this new group. Luckily, her previous experiences with social interaction both at home and in other programs will help her make the transition. Once these basic social interaction and group behavior skills are in place, she is more ready and able to concentrate on academics.
Your child learns best with a balanced approach supporting her growth in social, emotional and cognitive (academic) skills. So if he is not yet coming home from school knowing new letters or numbers, don't worry! Most early childhood programs slowly introduce more academics as the year progresses. Recent research in brain development has shown that a child's ability to interact with others, control and express her feelings and take care of basic tasks independently are as (or even more) important for success in school as academic skills. The neural pathways needed for learning are actually constructed through positive interactions with others! Your child's teacher will use this brain research information to help your child make connections with others in the class, share and care, listen and speak in a group and feel confident when taking on new challenges.
Here are a few examples of teachers' goals for the beginning of the school year. Ask your child's teacher to tell you about her objectives and for her suggestions on how you can support these skills at home.
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