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Preschool Myths

Early childhood education

by Tracy Lai and Lisa Coburn
Seattle, Washington 

The myths and reality of early childhood education:

  • Myth #l: Preschool is where kids go to play instead of daycare.
  • Myth #2: Preschool will teach my child to read and write.
  • Myth #3: Preschool teachers don't need to be paid much, they're just like babysitters.

Reality: Early childhood education is an opportunity for young children to be creative, learn social skills and begin to open their minds under the guidance of educators skilled in child development and learning theory.

Early childhood educators carefully focus on five basic skill areas of child development: fine motor, gross motor, social/emotional, conceptual and language. By providing dramatic play areas, art, music, literacy and beginning math skills, young children learn to cooperate, make friends, ask questions, imagine, build self-esteem and use their bodies with confidence.

Early childhood education is the crucial place to emphasize diversity. By celebrating all peoples, cultures, and sexual orientations at this early age, we begin to create acceptance and inclusiveness.

Within the hierarchy of education, early childhood educators have traditionally been undervalued and dismissed as glorified babysitters. Although they are not compensated for their skills, they greatly influence those years during which a child's basic self-concept is formed. A positive self-concept is the best predictor of future academic success.

Early childhood education contains powerful models of "family" education. Headstart and Community Cooperative programs incorporate parents in the classroom, as well as providing additional parent education and support systems. These models challenge traditional models in middle school, high school and higher education in which teachers have decreasing contact with parents around curriculum involvement and how their children are developing.

Parental and community involvement are the foundation of a strong, responsive educational program. In terms of multi- cultural and anti-bias curriculum and environment, parents must be involved in the process of incorporating these perspectives across the curriculum. For education to be visionary and reflective of the diverse world that we live in, schools must connect to neighborhoods through community resources.

The benefits to us, the adults, in meeting this challenge to be involved at this earliest stage of the educational journey should be self-evident. We have to struggle with ourselves to model the multicultural and anti-bias perspective not only in words, but especially in action. It is all too easy to buy the token books and foods. Who comes as friends into our homes? What activities are regularly a part of family life? What we choose to do is what our children will learn.

This article was written by Tracy Lai, parent and Seattle Central Community College instructor, and Lisa Coburn, Headstart Family Service Worker.

Published in In Motion Magazine October 29, 1995.