After a 2 week holiday my 4 year old went back to school yesterday. As it’s a day another mum picks her up, I was shocked to see her come home in a completely different uniform, than what I sent her away in the morning. She also left her water bottle and her lunch box at school, only bringing home her fruit box. This got me thinking:
Are we expecting too much responsibility from a 4 year old?
We send them to school in the September after they turn 4. Are they REALLY ready?
They join a class of 20-30 children, here they are launched into a hustling-bustling environment of study mixed with play. From what I see there is little structure to the day, though the teachers have to put in a LOT of planning to ensure all objectives are met. The staff ratios of good old nursery go out the window.
The children are expected to do a lot on their own- eat (finishing their food quickly), toilet (wiping their bottom and no one checks if they’ve done it right, leaving them with a sore bottom to learn the hard way if they haven’t), they have to carry 3 bags- because the book bag and lunch box and PE kit all have to be separate of course!- and look after all their items.
The teachers try to combine small group activities, including reading and writing practice while other children run riots around (…without supervision, because the teacher is paying attention to the individual she is teaching).
Now I’m not saying I have a solution, but I am frustrated that Little Miss regularly comes home without half her things she went with- scarf, water bottle, cardigan, wellies, etc. and often half her food in her lunchbox. She’s scanty and needs help. The resources aren’t there. So we expect her to remember all this by herself!
Little Miss loves the reading and writing part, however should we be developing fine motor skills with drawing and crafts instead of writing? Communication skills with role play and storytelling instead? Numerical skills through games?
In some European countries children start school at 6-7 years of age, they go into a more formal setting and thus have more structure and less responsibility on their shoulders. Some might argue that is too much structure- 45 minute lessons, homework, etc.- and not enough responsibility and freedom of choice.
There is no wrong or right answer how best done. Yet I cannot help question whether we are heaping way too much responsibility too early on our 4 year olds’ shoulders?
What do you think?