Kindergarten can be a frustrating time for parents and children as it is normally the first “big school” experience for families. This is the time that parents have to relinquish the notion of their children as babies and instead embrace the new idea that they are students and that their educational journey has formally begun. To ensure college graduation, especially for those children who are normally not on the track to college or for whom college is not part of their larger family and community experience, a student’s educational career needs to begin with college readiness in kindergarten.
When thinking about college preparation most people are thinking about high school or at the earliest late in their child’s middle school career. Unbeknown to most, this is much too late to begin not only thinking about college for your child but also to prepare them for entry and success in college. There are those that will argue that many of us as parents who are college educated were not on a “college track” at age 5; but if you think about it, we were. Elementary school for most of us over the age of 25 was not a place where day in and day out we were under the pressure of standardized tests. We took these tests of course, and they do have an important place in school, but we did not spend months preparing for them. We might have done some quick review in the days leading up to the test and we were told the night before to get a good night’s rest and to have a good breakfast. End of story. Now, the test overshadows instruction and both teachers and students are under constant pressure. We, in education, it seems have forgotten that good instruction and frequent informal testing by the teacher will ensure that students are prepared for any test. This instruction and follow up support from home has to begin in kindergarten.
College preparation that starts in kindergarten does not look like unhappy children being repeatedly drilled with no social skills, nor does it have to sour your child’s Prekindergarten Education experience and turn them off to school. It’s actually the opposite because early college preparation plants the seeds and builds the foundation for the authentic intrinsic motivation needed to be successful in college. You would be surprised to see what even your 2 or 3 year old can learn and do if taught. Remember, children will rise to the bar you set for them, do not cheat them by setting the bar too low!
One only needs to do simple research to see where states have fared with student achievement and the depressingly low standards that our children are failing to meet. Then take a look at the research done by some in the prison building industry to see what they use to determine the number of beds they’ll need. Would you believe that they use third grade reading scores? Yes they actually do, not graduation test passage rates or college entrance exam scores. Nor do they rely solely on juvenile detention rates; they use third grade reading scores. I’m going to assume that the thought behind this is that if a child cannot read by the third grade then they are pretty much on a path to prison. (1)
So what can you do? Does this mean you need to sign your unborn or newborn child up for the most elite private school you can find? If you can afford that by all means, get moving! However, for the rest of us, whether or not we have access to good schools there are concrete, research based things that can be done. Start doing your homework when your child is a toddler but if your child is already in kindergarten, don’t worry, it’s not too late.
Look around you either at the people you interact with on a daily basis or through media. Look at those people who are successful and/or smart people. Now imagine them if you can as a 5 year old. What did they get that helped them on this path, what could they have gotten that could’ve pushed them even further. Now look at the child or children in your life and fast-forward to high school graduation, yes it is normal to get a little teary-eyed her, what do you want for them? Like most parents you want them to be happy, well adjusted people with real options laid out before them for the most optimal future.