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Madness? My 3-year-old being taught phonics, numeracy, cursive writing at private nursery.

(23 Posts)
bookishmum Mon 26-May-14 03:27:02

Please give me some perspective. My 3-year-old attends a private nursery in an international school because my husband is a teacher there. He currently goes five mornings a week, but is in the minority, as the majority of children attend full-time and also go to after school clubs until 4.30pm (8.10am start).

He is being taught cursive writing, phonics, numeracy and we are being encouraged to work with him at home to get him ready for Reception, which he is due to attend from September full-time five days a week. He loves making friends, playing and the PE bit, but although the school talks a lot about play-based learning I am fairly certain that they are already regularly sitting down to fairly structured learning sessions around literacy and numeracy. I know that his teachers are giving him one-on-one tuition to help him in this area - an area that he instinctively doesn't get and just seems confused and frustrated with. They are also being taught French at the school. The three days a week when he doesn't have PE I struggle to get him into school, because he just doesn't seem to want to go days when perhaps there is more pressure to be sitting on the carpet doing literacy and numeracy.

Am I crazy to be questioning this in-demand, highly regarded school which we have access to FOR FREE by dint of my husband's profession? My gut instinct tells me again and again that it is too much too soon for my little boy. He is not ready for all of this. And my heart breaks at the thought of him going full-time from September and being subject to even more stresses at the just-turned age of 4 (he's a summer baby). We are unlikely to stay in this area long term so it really doesn't matter if we lost his place as likely to move in a year's time.

My instinct is to take him out, find some local play-based preschool with part-time hours and enjoy the rest of the week at home together, with his little brother. My husband is completely opposed and thinks I am crazy and being selfish.

Any advice?

ThaneOfScunthorpe Mon 26-May-14 04:17:13

I would find somewhere new, definitely. They are only small for so long, it's a lot of pressure to be 'grown up'. I didn't attend any kind of school until I was five, as is normal where I'm from. And I grew up just fine, along with my peers who were in the same boat, many of whom are now very successful people.

I am kind of in the same boat, also in an international setting. My soon-to-be three year old will be taught chess and IT from August. She can hardly sit still for a second and doesn't even know her colours! She will be expected to go to school for eight hours a day. I am going to be firm and say no, she will go only in the mornings. If they don't like that I will be taking her out of the school.

The sad thing is that I know people at the international school which DD's school feeds into. Apparently at least 50% of the potential students have some kind of 'therapy' before they apply to the school (speech therapy, counselling etc). These are three and four year olds. Their parents are told by the nursery teachers that therapy will make the more attractive to the school if their 'defects' look like they're being addressed. I think it's awful.

ThaneOfScunthorpe Mon 26-May-14 04:19:01

We are also encouraged to work with DD at home and she gets homework ... which I often 'forget'. Homework for two-year-olds is madness!

augenblick Mon 26-May-14 04:21:40

There are significant studies about pushing boys into early literacy when unwilling turns them off reading. On phone so can't link but should be easily findable.

Trust your instincts I would say, they are only this little once.

Suzietwo Mon 26-May-14 04:28:02

If you're unhappy with it then take him out. But what you describe sounds pretty normal if you out it in different language. Eg "number of the day", "alphabet song" and "french day"

It's an international school so I'm not surprised they're teaching them a different language and would consider that a real bonus.

I'd probably leave him there until you move but pick an choose those parts I wanted to participate in - ie no bloody homework.

Singsongmama Mon 26-May-14 04:30:40

Too much too soon. Play play play!! Numeracy and literacy are fine as part of games or real life settings ie count me four apples while shopping or pick up the third hoop etc. But structured sit down lessons? Phonics? No, not yet. Let him be young and carefree while he still can be. Good luck.

Littlefish Mon 26-May-14 14:37:33

I agree that this seems very inappropriate for your child. I'm a nursery teacher and do everything possible to avoid this kind of practice.

What are your other options?

charleybarley Mon 26-May-14 14:52:01

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

NaturalBaby Mon 26-May-14 15:00:02

My ds's went to a nursery attached to a private prep school and they were taught phonics and cursive writing in nursery. However, they were very happy and they thrived there. Dc2 is an August baby and they gave him a reading book in the summer term of nursery because they said he was ready. Mine were pretty much the only kids who only did the morning sessions. We debated taking them out to start school but they were so happy and had great friends which really helped them settle into school. The nursery also took them up to visit the school for things like art and a few p.e sessions so it was all familiar to them in September.
If you're not happy and you think your child would be happier somewhere else then there doesn't seem much point keeping him there. The preschool months fly past so fast.

Flexibilityiskey Mon 26-May-14 15:08:48

It sounds like way too much too soon to me. It would be fine if your DS was enjoying it, but from what you have said he isn't, and it sounds like there is a real risk that he is finding that learning is boring, and stressful. That is not a lesson I would want my 3 year old learning, especially when he hasn't even started school yet!

racmun Mon 26-May-14 15:18:34

If he's not happy then move him.

My ds is also in preps of a private school where they do very similar lessons- he's also summer born and going into Reception in September but he loves going to school.

He was at another setting 2 days a week which was totally play based and he cried every tibe he had to go there and invariably ended up being 'naughty' because he wasn't given much direction or focus.

Every child is different and I think you should be guided by his happiness (or not).

bookishmum Mon 26-May-14 19:04:08

Thanks all for your thoughts and advice.

Augenblick - I am googling info on boys and literacy in early childhood. Thanks.

Littlefish - my options are to take him out completely. I am full time at home with his 2-year-old brother so I would try and find a few mornings a week playgroup for him, maybe one that he could go to with his brother. I have to say that I've thoroughly enjoyed having a break from being full-time with two this past year, so it would be a massive decision to go back to that (although two older boys, no longer a baby and a toddler, will be a bit easier, I imagine).

I'm very grateful for all your perspectives. It's helped me to take a step back and look at things a little more calmly. A list of pros and cons is what I'm about to draw up. I can see that there are benefits for him in being in an environment that he knows, where he has friends and where his dad is too!! But I do continue to wonder (being married to a teacher), whether in reality, even if the school is selling itself as 'play-based', the teachers can really have the time when they seem to be all consumed with creating learning journals, monitoring 'learning' in the classroom, working with individual children on their literacy and numeracy. I think it really is about different environments and what suits different families and children. In many ways this school is amazing - I am just not sure if it's 'amazing' for him right now. A very difficult decision to reach.

Thank you again for your thoughtful insights!

teacherlikesapples Mon 26-May-14 22:34:29

I am doing some work with some settings that sound very similar to this. They describe themselves as play based, but in reality. they are not. The children may get to play- but with teacher led & initiated activities. There is very little time for child led activities- and what there is, is usually scheduled during the qualified teachers break and seen as a rest from the proper learning.

The schools that I have encountered like this say it is mostly because the children go on to selective entry schools. Considering those schools only take the top 10% the children are made to try and learn things much earlier than they would usually.

Honestly- as a teacher, I hate it. The children are learning some things, but what I do notice diminishing is independence & creativity. These children are taught what to think, when & how. There is a great deal of emphasis on doing things properly & conforming. The children begin to have anxiety at a very young age. This focus might get them into a 'great' private school- but when we consider the skills we will need for the future (innovation, perseverance, social skill, emotional intelligence, critical thinking) I don't think it will adequately prepare them for life.

Littlefish Mon 26-May-14 23:16:09

Great post teacherlikesapples. I agree wholeheartedly with your final paragraph in particular.

racmun Mon 26-May-14 23:24:18


How could you tell if a child has anxiety from being in such a setting?

It's interesting because my son is at such a school and his imagination, social skills (with adults and peers) and confidence has grown so much since he's gone. He is always so exited to go.

- Their reception curriculum is more like year 1 - I'm now worried its going to be too much for him - how would I know? Thanks

miramar Mon 26-May-14 23:27:26

You may find this interesting. It's about school rather than preschool, but still relevant.

pommedeterre Mon 26-May-14 23:32:35

Dd1 did 3 terms at an international school abroad. Sounds very familiar! She also did just ams which made her unusual.

She really loved the structure though and has not loved coming back to the uk play to learn scheme at all.

They are all different, the school isn't bad or weird but may not be right for your son.

morethanpotatoprints Mon 26-May-14 23:50:48

Ah, poor little lamb just isn't ready.
Tell your husband the obvious signs he is portraying - not wanting to go on structured days.
They are only little for a while, let them play, learn and enjoy themselves at their own pace.
Let them play for plays sake and not to learn, let them recreate and mimic, expose them to vertigo, they will learn so much.

<gets philosophical and Knowledgeable>

teacherlikesapples Tue 27-May-14 15:19:34

Racmun- My statement was a generalisation. There will be schools that operate like this that still have children who thrive despite how they operate. It might be because they have a brilliant teacher who manages to help them develop those skills within the restrictions, it might be because they have brilliant parents who support them in the times they are not at school. As with anything, there will always be exceptions. That doesn't mean that generally- this type of practice is ok. The curriculum is so much broader than academics- if we are only focusing on academics during a child's early years, it has massive implications on their development of personal, social, and emotional skills & general well-being.

I work closely with the children in some of these settings and the type of anxiety I see is mostly children being reluctant to have a go (because they are afraid of making mistakes) They may take less risks with their artwork (because they know what they produce will be judged, & typically during their focus art sessions they will be given a demo of what the art work should look like.) With so much emphasis on getting things right or wrong, as they get older, they can start to tie their feelings of self worth into their achievements. They start focusing on pleasing adults, rather than developing their individuality. Aside from the obvious implications on creativity, it can really prevent children from trying new things & seeing mistakes as a valuable part of learning. Again, it all depends on the adults they have in their life as to how much of an impact this has.

teacherlikesapples Tue 27-May-14 15:29:06

Also Racmun - Not all structured schools or play based centres are created equal. There are so many variables.

I would never state all structured places will cause emotional damage or anxiety- or a child who didn't enjoy a play based place (as pommedeterre & you have done) instantly makes all play based places unsuitable for your child. It will depend on the staff & set up of that setting.

I am yet to meet a child that did not enjoy a high quality play based setting, because play is a broad term and should be based on each child's interests & strengths. If staff are engaged & understand how children learn, they will work their butts off to ensure each child feels happy to be involved, and once involved they will learn. They will learn everything that they could in a structured setting, just on their own schedule. Not someone else's.

pommedeterre Tue 27-May-14 15:51:13

Hmm. I'm pretty sure dd1 would reject all play based structures smile

We've tried two very well regarded ones in two terms. Just hanging on for reception now smile

teacherlikesapples Tue 27-May-14 18:10:31

pommedeterre -I don't want to make this any more personal,
I would just be extremely surprised to meet a child that didn't enjoy being in a place where they have the choice to join in with activities & play with resources that they are interested in. Not saying those children don't exist, I have just never met one and I have worked with hundreds of kids!

Some children find noisy & busy settings difficult to manage- but not all play based settings are like that. I have also met children that get overwhelmed with the choice at first and like any other child, I would work with them to help them become more confident & independent.

Any high quality play based setting should do the same- work with the parent & child to figure out what the child enjoys, then plan the environment so that it is interesting, fun and safe for them. I am sorry your child wasn't given this opportunity.

pommedeterre Wed 28-May-14 07:21:42

Sorry teacher, I didn't mean to be flippant. I'm sure you're right. One of her nurseries is a private pre prep and the quality of the teachers has surprised me (in a bad way!). We're going to state for primary now.

There is a very expensive pre prep near here doing structure like at her international school but we can't afford that!

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