Is Nursery Education Really Beneficial To Your Child’s Education?

Pre-school years are a time for a child to acquire self confidence & positive self esteem

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Hermione Gerry

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The young Nursery School age child of 2.5-5 years is very vulnerable as far as their emotional development is concerned. Even though they might appear to be too young to notice much around them, they are in fact beginning to make sense of the world and their place in it. This is the vital time when they begin to develop the confidence, and courage to ask questions, and explore their world without the fear of making fools of themselves or being harshly censured in front of the peers. This is how they learn and evolve and their experiences will shape their developing personalities. On the other hand, if they are frequently criticised and become frightened that they cannot match their teacher or parents’ expectations, they will grow up feeling inadequate and unable to achieve their full academic and social potentials. This is often a big challenge to their development and most importantly, will almost certainly create unacceptable behaviour at school and home.

Once a child has learnt to believe “I cannot do it”, each failure to reach the desired expectations only serves to reinforce the child’s negative belief in themselves. From my experiences as a Head Mistress, once a child has internalised these feelings it is very hard for teachers to motivate the child and help them to reach that elusive concept: potential.

Sadly there is a school of thought that believes that the earlier a child is made to read or write or command any other pre-school skill before they are physically or emotionally ready, the better it is for the child. No, the reverse is true. The word education from the Latin educare literally means to lead out, not try to cram in.

I do believe that nursery education can be very good for the child but only in the right circumstances. Plato said words to the effect, “Let your young child’s education be PLAY.” To my mind and from my many years of experience of working with young children, this sounds very wise advice, and still applicable today.

These precious pre-school years should be a time spent on helping the child to acquire self confidence and a positive self esteem, a love of learning, an enquiring mind, an ability to concentrate, good social skills, how to listen (very important!), sharing, how to conform in a group situation, as well as pre-reading, pre-writing skills and an understanding of number. It is also the time when any health issues like poor eye sight, or hearing can get in the way of reading and speech can be picked up and targeted.

All these PRE-school skills can, in a structured environment, be acquired in a positive and encouraging atmosphere of play. At the beginning of term, I used to put up a bunch of balloons on the Nursery door to give the children the idea they were coming to a party!

Our sessions were structured in a blend of child-directed and teacher-lead activities. The former gives the child the chance to develop their personal skills of decision making, making friends and interacting with their peers, thus developing their conversational and communication abilities that are vital for adult life.

The teacher-lead activities on the other hand prepared the child to conform as part of a group preparing them for the more formal type of learning appropriate for their increase in age and stage for when they go up to Reception Class and beyond. Not only will they learn how to wait and take turns when answering questions but also and most importantly, how to listen and concentrate, ready and happy to face the demands of ‘big school’.

Hermione Gerry
Co-founder Prospect House School

March 5, 2013