We’re at that point of actively preparing for Elliott to start prep next year. We’ve had a screener interview in April and most recently an enrolment interview.
I don’t know why but I was nervous for the first one. The second one, well, it took me a little by surprise and then afterwards, it utterly confused and annoyed the shit out of me.
So let’s track back to the first interview.
The first interview
Elliott is four years old. We take him to a building he’s never been before to meet someone he’s never met before. Of course, he’s going to be shy.
The teacher asks him various questions. ” Point to the shape that is the odd one out. Write your first name. Balance on one leg. Walk in a straight line, one foot in front of the other.”
The teacher noted down her observations on a form. I was trying to decipher them but it made absolutely no sense to me. I just went with the flow knowing there was a reason for the questions, they meant something.
Towards the end of the interview, Elliott started to come out of his shell. The teacher said there would be another interview at which we could catch up and see how Elliott was progressing. She assured us that this was all about ensuring Elliott was ready for prep.
The second interview
The second interview comes along, we go to a completely different office but meet with the same teacher. Elliott was a lot more confident but still not himself. Who could blame him?
We sit at a table and the teacher goes over the results from the first interview.
“Based on the results from Elliott’s first interview, he’s actually fallen under the prep readiness level,” the teacher said. I remember thinking to myself how on earth could his prep readiness be determined on a few questions in a totally alien environment?
The teacher did admit that Elliott was a little shy and that this likely influenced the answers to his questions, so she asked the questions again. Thankfully he did really well.
And then another bombshell came along (well it was to me considering this is all so new). The teacher told me that Elliott fell below the average for gross motor skills. Skills such as balancing, walking in a line and heel to toe. She then went on to explain that a whopping 70% of the children fell below average. Something didn’t sit right with me hearing this result. To me this isn’t a failure on the children’s’ part, to me, it seems like it shouldn’t be an indicator at all considering their age.
After giving me this result, the teacher suggested I let him balance on things a little more. I can appreciate that she’s doing her job and likely following a particular guideline but what I’m confused about is that fact that Elliott does activities using gross motor skills every single day. He also LOVES soccer and running. He does not need any more focus on these skills, he’s four years old!
And the results kept on coming. It was at this point where I came to understand the complete ridiculousness of the current methodologies when it comes to educating our kids. They’re expected to fit into this little box.
“My concern is that he can’t write his name yet,” the teacher said to me.
But no, the teacher was quite insistent that he really should know how to write his name by now. I’ll say it again, he’s only four years old!
Again, I appreciated the teacher’s help, she suggested some fine motor skills activities for me to do with Elliott to help him improve his writing and drawing shapes, but still, I just couldn’t understand. So many of the things she suggested he enjoys on a daily basis, so it wasn’t the fact that he lacked the skills at all.
Towards the end of the interview, the teacher went over what the children will be learning in prep during the year. Now, as I’ve said, this is all completely new to me and I’m simply going with the flow and learning about this new stage in mine and Elliott’s life, but when the teacher said that they have them writing sentences by the end of the year, I was both shocked and amazed. When I was that age, I was happy painting and playing, there’s no way I was writing sentences and reading books. How did I turn out? Well, pretty good I think.
Why so much pressure?
Through this ‘getting ready for prep’ experience I can honestly say that, as a parent, I’m overwhelmed, confused, surprised and just a little nervous. The experience has definitely got me asking why we are expecting and putting pressure our children to do things so young? It seems as though young children who are still developing are expected to conform to one set of criteria when we all know that kids (and adults) learn at different paces and in different ways.
Talking, reciting the alphabet, counting to ten, counting to twenty, writing their name….why is there so much emphasis on doing these so young, so soon?
My belief is that kids will do it when they’re ready and when they are given the opportunity to learn in a way that suits them. Perhaps, if we force them, they’ll most likely memorise it without having an understanding of what they’re saying or writing.
It happens all the time, children who are behind eventually catch up to those in front anyway. We experienced it with Elliott’s speech. He experienced mild hearing loss for quite some time before having his adenoids removed and grommets when he was 22 months old. I can remember feeling really worried that he was falling behind in his speech, but he caught up and now you can’t shut him up!
So no, my son can’t write his name. But do you know what is more important than being able to write his name? It’s his confidence, the fact that he is a kind, happy and creative kid. He has his little quirks, things he enjoys and things he’s good at, he loves building things and he has a wonderful imagination. Elliott is busy developing into his own self, he may not learn like other kids, but he’s still learning about the world in his own little way and in his own time.
How do you feel about the expectations placed on our young children?
*Edit – After writing this post I came to realise that I wasn’t quite clear and want to add that my concern and surprise lies around the requirements for prep readiness, not with the school or it’s prep curriculum. We are not at the prep stage yet and so I cannot comment on the school’s teaching. The school definitely does focus on play-based learning, it is one of the reasons we are sending him there and was one of my first questions. My post is more focused on the whole ‘readiness’ thing for a four-year-old and how it’s come as a big surprise to me. I’m here sharing why I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary.