THE FRAMEWORK FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION
October has come and gone but the conversation for the importance of early childhood education must continue. This conversation needs to take into consideration what is developmentally appropriate for this sensitive period for learning.
From birth to age 6, children undergo five unique sensitive periods for learning. The five periods are social relationships, order, refining the senses, language and movement. Throughout these sensitive periods, children have "absorbent minds" where knowledge effortlessly enters like water into a sponge.
During the first six years of life, information enters the subconscious and later spontaneously emerges in the conscious mind like a light bulb turning on. This is learning by discovery. After age 6, learning requires a different process, demanding different strategies and conscious effort.
The standard approach to preschool and kindergarten is a top-down model. For example, this model is designed around what children need to learn in kindergarten to be prepared for first grade, which is distinctly different from a ground-up approach. Ground-up design is based on developmental research that considers the sensitive periods as they arise naturally.
The preschool and kindergarten years are the most formative and learning is specialized through the sensitive periods. A developmentally appropriate program honors and appreciates how children learn at this age.
Children are busy with the task of creating their conscious minds. Through the sensitive periods, they absorb information subconsciously, like a sponge. Only when they are ready can points of consciousness occur. They can't be forced, predicted or hurried.
Expectations of teachers and curriculum restraints should never overestimate or underestimate the ability of children when designing early childhood education.
Read the published article in The Gainesville Sun here.