Children attend school for various reasons that depend on their age, location, parental preference, and local policies. Parents send their children to school to expose them to experiences that differ from their home and community environments. Schools are designed to provide opportunities for exploration, self-awareness, and social connections. Teachers help children strengthen their existing skills and acquire new ones as they progress through different grade levels.
As a researcher and educator who has worked with children from birth to 21 years old, I am constantly thinking about creating the best learning environment for them, starting with preschool. I believe it is crucial for all children to have access to a school that meets their learning needs, as well as their physical, social, and emotional well-being, at every stage of their lives.
The Importance of Preschool
Around 61% of 3-to-5-year-olds in the United States attend some type of preschool. This is a critical period for brain development, and attending a high-quality learning program is essential.
What makes a good preschool program? Since children learn through play, it is important for play to be the focus of most activities. It is also crucial for teachers to interact with their young students and respond to their individual needs.
During this stage of development, children are also forming their sense of self. They begin to identify themselves as siblings or develop deeper connections with others. They learn to express their feelings, practice sharing, and more. When schools incorporate children’s identities, cultural norms, and traditions in the classroom, students feel a sense of belonging and inclusion, which is vital for effective learning.
Early Education in Elementary School
Children entering kindergarten at age 5 or 6 may experience a mix of nervousness and excitement as they embark on this new journey. It is important to note that children start learning from the day they are born, and kindergarten is not the beginning of “real learning.”
During the transition to kindergarten, children begin to develop personal and social skills such as managing their behavior, problem-solving, and logical thinking. Their early experiences help shape their understanding of how the world works. As they grow, they become better equipped to comprehend complex concepts such as reversibility and the properties of matter. They also learn to utilize various resources, both inside and outside the classroom, to expand their knowledge and understanding of different ideas.
Transitioning to Middle School
In middle school, students, typically between 10 and 13 years old, and their parents start engaging with school in different ways. Teachers begin to delegate more responsibilities to students and personalize the learning experience based on their strengths and talents.
As students become more independent, parents often entrust them with more school-related tasks. When their environment supports their individuality and encourages the application of existing skills, students feel capable and competent. The challenges they face during this period, such as fitting in, maintaining friendships, and dealing with puberty, are balanced by new opportunities to explore their interests and talents, such as participating in band, theater, robotics, and other extracurricular activities.
The Excitement of High School
For many students, high school marks the final gateway to adulthood. They may take on a heavier academic and extracurricular workload to prepare for higher education. High school offers diverse courses, specialized activities, and opportunities for personal growth. Students can choose subjects they are passionate about, such as journalism, biology, foreign languages, or history. They may also engage in volunteering or travel abroad, gaining exposure to potential career paths.
The fundamental goal of education is to cultivate kind, compassionate, and contributing members of society. While not all students have access to excellent educational opportunities due to inequalities, it is crucial for all children to receive an education, whether at home or in school, regardless of public or private institutions. Schools serve as a reliable and established platform for children to acquire knowledge and skills that they carry with them throughout their lives.
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