One of the biggest concerns parents have (among health, safety, and happiness), is education. No parent wants to see their child fall behind. Further, there is a wonderful exhilarating feeling when your child is succeeding and thriving academically. However, it is important to remember what it looks like to truly succeed and thrive academically. At the age group of 3 to 6 years old (which is the age group I’m writing about here), success is not measured in test scores or grades. Rather, success is something that means much more. In this age group, successful learning may be more difficult to see (in comparison to older children), but it is just as important. As shared on Montessori.com:
“Your preschool-aged (and younger) child may appear to benefit from flashcards and workbooks as they are storing more information, more rules and more facts. But if this is how they spend most of their time, then the true value of the earliest years of life has been underused. This is the time when little human beings build the cognitive foundations that last a lifetime. This is when your child learns how to learn, how to solve problems, how to think. Additionally, this is the time to begin practicing social skills, learning how to deal with emotions, figuring out how to use little finger muscles to hold a pencil and how to use bigger leg muscles to climb”.
Quite simply, if you are building a house and decide to skip straight to framing the walls, your house will fail. The first, and most important, step is to set a strong foundation upon which the rest of the house can be built upon. How does one want to learn to run if they haven’t yet loved the feeling of wind on their face? How does one truly understand how to play an instrument if they haven’t experienced what it feels like to really hear and feel music first? Further, how does one learn to read if they haven’t had the love for stories instilled in them from the beginning?
That is what learning joyfully means- first we must help our children build the foundation of their learning process. This foundation involves showing them how to actually enjoy learning, how to seek after knowledge for the love of it, and how to feed their curiosity about the world around them. After that foundation is laid – the rest will all fall into place.
In the 3 to 6 year old (also known as primary) classroom, this process is achieved through a lot of hands-on work. The preschool and kindergarten child learns primarily through how they experience their environment. They are very sensorial – which means that they learn best through using one (or all) of their five senses. For example, when a young child comes across a worm in the grass, first they get down at eye level and look very carefully at it. Next, they may even attempt to pick it up and see how it feels in their hands. They may gently touch the worm, notice if it feels hot or cold, smooth or rough, as well as “weigh” it by discovering if it’s heavy or light. Some more adventurous children may even smell the worm! This whole process sends a vast amount of information to their brains for storage. They now know what a worm looks like, feels like, and maybe even smells like. This type of knowledge is not something that can ever be learned from pictures in a book.
In the primary classroom, each of our classroom materials have a purpose (some the children are aware of, and some they are not) that is focused on helping the child lay a foundation for future learning. One example I like to talk about is our binomial and trinomial cubes (pictured below). What looks like an interesting cube-shaped puzzle, is actually exposing children to advanced mathematical concepts. At the age group of 3-6 years old, they aren’t solving algebra equations yet. However, by understanding how to solve the trinomial cube they are experiencing the trinomial equation: (a+b+c)3. When they come across these concepts later, they will have
had that experience of actually seeing what this equation looks like and solving it many times when they were in the primary classroom.
There are many other examples similar to the binomial and trinomial cubes in the primary classroom. However, like this blog post is just simply words on a screen, they can’t be fully experienced through reading alone – they have to be seen first hand.
In closing, here is a lovely video of a 3-6 year old primary classroom, a peek into what “work” looks like and how learning is done joyfully.
Thank you all for reading! I’m looking forward to our next article already.