Between my two kids I am entering my fourth year of parent participation in a play-based preschool. I am familiar with the research that supports play-based learning, and think it is fine—for children coming from middle class and beyond homes.
But if you have ever faced down a classroom of third graders living in poverty, where some of them didn’t even know their ABCs, you might reconsider the research saying play-based preschools are best, just like I did.
Looking back at my experience as a Psychology student at Stanford’s Bing Nursery school, a play-based preschool where a lot of early childhood research is conducted, I can remember that even though the professors strongly encouraged the parents not to “teach” their children at home, many of the families were doing this anyway. One three year old girl in my class even had a reading tutor.
The English Language Learner kids from East Palo Alto who were at Bing to help “normalize” the data pool? Well, their parents were savvy enough to get them into Bing, right? How typical is that? Most of the parents I knew in the Ravenswood School District loved their children deeply, but none of them knew how to “work the system”.
The East Palo Alto students I taught spent their preschool years playing in the front yard with their cousins, pit bulls, a garden hose and their pet squirrel. They had play-based formative years, but that didn’t mean they entered Kindergarten ready to learn. Some of them didn’t even go to Kindergarten at all, because Kindergarten wasn’t mandatory in the state of California at that time.
So fine academia… Keep telling me how wonderful play-based education is for all learners. I’ll view all of your research with the wisdom of my own personal experience.
For the record, I think Montessori preschools would be a much better choice. They are a hybrid of choice, exploration, reading, counting, painting, real-life skills, and cultural compassion and understanding. Maria Montessori’s very first classroom in the slums of Italy proved that her methods could help all children learn, regardless of socio-economic level. I’d be happy to pay more taxes to fund that.