This article will focus on what children should be taught in the first years of school (pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and the early grades in primary school).
A host of constituencies are in the process of preparing children as young as four or five for the new world of formal schooling. Parents greet the advent of school for toddlers with enthusiasm because taking children out of the home for a half day or more means a respite from caregiving.
For most children, pre-kindergarten or even kindergarten means an introduction to peers and a whole new experience of interaction, compromise, argumentation and personal involvement beyond watching television, playing outside or milling around the house.
Once in school, children need an introduction into a formal classroom setting with the usual academic tools like building blocks, crayons, educational toys, flash cards, arts and crafts, music, and readings by the teacher or librarian.
Beyond the formal academics, children need a firm grounding in the relevant behavioral dimensions of the learning experience. And so, children may interact in small groups in order to learn the fundamentals of cooperation, listening skills, critical thinking, peer-tutoring, and constructive argument or criticism.
To be successful academically, children will need to set boundaries at home and with their relatives and friends once they come home from school. Part of the learning experience is homework. To complete the learning cycle involving assigned homework, children must set boundaries with everyone outside the confines of school. Without boundary-setting, children cannot do homework or complete the cycle of learning transfer which begins in the classroom and is confirmed by formal in-class tests as students progress through the lower grades.
Once students leave school and go home, they are confronted by all sorts of demands on their time. These demands can involve the students in chores, shopping, medical appointments, outside visitors, phone calls, text messaging and other things which quickly take time away from doing the homework that complements the learning begun in school.
And so, students need to rehearse the behaviors needed for turning back a constant stream of requests which tie up their time and limit their opportunities to finish assignments begun earlier in school. The relevant behavioral responses require that students assert themselves at home so that there is time to complete homework and projects.
Another important condition is a quiet environment for learning and deep concentration. Parents should be instructed to set aside a quiet spot in the home so that children can complete assigned homework unimpeded by outside noise. In some cases, parents may find it easier to take children to the local library or school library, if necessary.
Before academics can be attempted in any meaningful way, students must learn to concentrate and work independently in quiet surroundings. Then, they can think clearly about assignments in all of their academic subjects.
Most school districts throughout the United States teach in English. In districts having bi-lingual students, the attainment of a consistent curriculum is made more difficult by language barriers.
There are new technologies available to teach any language quickly. For instance,Pimsleur guarantees a basic core fluency in just 10 days. Rosetta Stone has a good program of language instruction, as do others in the field.
School districts need to utilize the most up-to-date language teaching models so that all students can achieve language proficiency easily. Otherwise, students risk getting to college with a very weak foundation for tackling more advanced studies. Pimsleur would be a good complement to existing bi-lingual instruction because the acquisition of language is quick and the methodology mimics how young children learn.
In summary, the early grades from pre-kindergarten onward are an ideal time to introduce students to learning, the optimal setting for learning, boundary setting, and the fundamentals of language acquisition.
With the passage of time, students may lose the opportunity to learn these life skills comprehensively. The stakes are high at the outset and the passage of time only makes the task of teaching the basics harder and more expensive to achieve.