Educating children is not something that only happens in school systems. A child’s education can begin while the child is still in the womb. Numerous studies have reported on the benefits of prenatal stimulation with music and speech, in that this stimulation can lead to a jump-start in emotional and intellectual development. Early childhood education through parental guidance and support, and preschool and Head Start programs are key to providing the best possible life and environment for children. While the options available for early childhood education are plentiful, all should involve proper social, physical, intellectual, creative, emotional, and cognitive development.
There is no denying that parents are crucial to a child’s basic care and well-being, but parents are also crucial to proper early childhood education. The pre-kindergarten years (0-5 or 6) are integral to the success of early childhood education. This is the time when children’s brains are developing at a rapid rate, and they are learning language skills and patterns that will stay with them throughout their lives. This age block is also the time when children spend much of their time with their parents, and when children begin the process of self-identification.
Children will learn to see themselves in a particular way, as well as begin to learn how others see them and act around them. During the self-identification process it is crucial for children to be taught the importance of home, family, culture, and language. Even before the age of one, children are already building a vocabulary, learning about the act and process of speaking, and learning how to imitate the tone of words spoken to them. Parents should be aware of the impact that they have on their children’s development, and in turn, the impact that they will have on shaping their futures.
On the most basic level parents should read to their children, practice the alphabet and letter formation with them, and teach their children how to count. Providing children with this basic skill set before entering a school system will give them a jump on success.
In addition to the support and education provided by parents, preschool, Head Start, and other pre-kindergarten programs are available to provide proper early childhood development. Preschool programs are geared toward the 3 to 4-year-old age group, and usually provide several options for attendance. Some children only attend preschool centers for a few hours a day or week, while others attend for an entire day as a form of day care.
There is evidence to support that children who attend at least one year of preschool enter kindergarten with better reading, language, and math skills than children who do not. Also, children acquire immense gains in socialization. Children gain independence, are able to interact with their peers, and learn how to respect and compromise.
The Head Start program also provides tools for early childhood education by focusing on social, cognitive, and nutritional development. In addition, significant attention is placed upon parental involvement. Head Start provides grants to numerous agencies in the public, private, non-profit, and for-profit sectors to provide early childhood education services and programs to economically disadvantaged families. These programs focus much of their attention on providing early reading and math skills to preschool aged children.
The importance of early childhood education is something that should be valued by parents and educators alike. From birth, children begin to learn from their environment and surroundings. They remember where their food comes from, and they can begin to recognize the voices and faces of their caregivers after mere weeks. Children want and need to be educated from an early age. Their minds are abuzz with the world around them, and teaching them how to properly function within that world will shape who they will become.
In truth, early childhood education is key to nurturing successful children and communities. For more information you can visit U.S. Dept. of Education and the Office of Head Start.