This paper will focus on Early childhood Education which is reported to have metamorphosed with time and its base has considerable expanded especially in recent years. The paper will be in a position to discuss these changes which have over the time affirmed some long held and valued developmentally appropriate practices and at the same time challenged others. Besides the demand to gain new knowledge and increasing need for out of home children care, the realization that young children’s education is the most important aspect of education in an individual life has become a major focus of the public in the recent past. From this study we will therefore be able to know that there has been an increased interest in education for children between the age of zero to eight years and this has led to growth of child development centers, preschools, kindergarten and other day care activities. Research done one the physiology of brain development by Jensen (1998) has made the public realize the importance of early experiences on the cognitive , social development, motor and emotional growth of young children especially between 2-5 years old. It has become clear and more profound now than ever that young age is critical period in which building blocks of future learning and development are formed.
As a result, methods of learning including developmentally appropriate practices have drastically changed especially with the introduction of the ever advancing technology. Some of the learning programs have changed in their operations mainly because of results of globalization and technological advancements. Historically, programs served only children from mainly same cultural and linguistic backgrounds and this has over the time been found wanting since social integration and globalization have brought with them aspects of diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds where all programs must now adjust to accommodate the new demands. Moreover, one of the requirements for any educational program is access for all despite their social, physical, mental, economical status. Before children with disabilities could not access education but now it is a requirement through the Disabilities Act that all children with disabilities and those affected with developmental delays must access education. Such legal rights have therefore put a demand on early childhood education stakeholders to change their approach to methods of learning and of course developmentally appropriate practices. Some of the contributors to the establishment of the legal rights for disabled children include Carta et al 1991; Wolery and Wilbers 1994; DEC Task Force 1993 and Bredekamp 1993b.
Due to economic and status quo pressures, children are now enrolled in educational programs at early age as opposed to the traditional age of between 5 and 6 years. Currently, children are enrolled in childhood programs as early as from infancy and as to how long children take in different centers be they day cares, kindergarten, preschools etc is solely dependent on an arrangement between parents and operators of the centers. Most working mothers leave their children for over 8 hours for lack of choice since the demand to work more hours is increasing by the day. As a result the corporate America including IBM and AT&T has started sponsoring child care programs as part of their social responsibilities programs. As opposed to traditional public school programs of offering educational services to children over 5 years, today public schools are offering pre-kindergarten programs from as early as 3 years. The schools have gone ahead and extended their services to after- school child care. For more information on the same see Seppanen, Kaplan deVries and Seligson 1993 among many other writers of the same. Though there is an increasing demand to put children in schools to receive quality education, there is however a concern on the traditional role of parents in their children’s education welfare.
Since the break of World War II when men went to war and women started working, parents have lost connection of their children’s educational development. Today it is difficult for a parent to even know what sought of curriculum their children go through as opposed to early days when particularly Greece parents were not only involved in contributing to the make of school curriculum but taught in classes themselves. Between the 12th and 17 century, children were viewed as small adults who needed to be taught by the whole society how to become a responsible adult in the future. The second half of 19th century, teaching from home programs was removed but still children were parents were seen as important contributors to their children education. As a matter of fact there the first Parent Teacher Association was formed provided a mechanism where parents would learn about their children. This included focus on family and life and government’s support for childrearing.
Currently, early childhood programs are characterized by arguments and debate on which are best practices and methods of teaching for early childhood education. Developmental appropriate programs’ has four main sectors and this include, Active learning Experiences which promote children’s active exploration of their surrounding environment. During this time the child is exposed on hands on type of learning where the child is expected to interact with his environment including making decision, exploring, and learning team work since he is expected to work with collaboration with other children. This kind of learning exposes the children to real life events including cleaning, scientific experiments, visiting historical events and basically getting involved with community based projects where the child is expected to think of how he can help better the circumstances of his community. The other type of developmentally appropriate practices is Valid Instructional Strategies this is a contemporary method of learning where a child learns how to write, read, solve mathematical problems etc. this kind of learning is done through instructions by the facilitators, it can also be through cooperative learning where the child is taught together with other children, peer coaching where the older pupils help the younger ones etc. It is also through this type of learning that the child is exposed to conducting projects, and is expected to identify a problem and come up with its solution. All these styles of learning are put in place to enable different children to learn differently according to their capabilities. This style of learning recognizes the different types of children since despite being of the same age; there are those who are faster and intelligent than others. (Bredekamp 1997)
There is also the third type of (DAP) known as Balance between Teacher-Directed and Child Directed Activities. In this style of (DAP), there is integration between the teachers based learning where it is the teacher who facilitates and gives instruction and there is also a time when children are allowed to learn by themselves. This style helps the children to become both a follower and a leaders and it balances his life since he learns that he can be taught some things and discover others by himself. The last mode of (DAP) is Integrated Curriculum. This is the style where the diverse areas of study are conducted by the children being taught or learning to connect one subject matter to the other. In this mode students know how to connect different things learnt in different subjects and come up with workable aspect that is meaningful to them. It also allows pupils to realize that there are some shared principles that apply in life no matter from which subject. Through the thematic approach, pupils are exposed to investigate integrated ideas from multiple perspectives. Though not all integrated curricula revolve around a theme, the child gets to know how to connect learning and day to day life. (Lipson, Valencia and Peters 1993)
As said earlier in this paper, Developmentally Appropriate Practices are changing with time. Technology plays a significant role in all aspects of life in today’s world and as already witnessed, dependence on technology is going to increase in the future. It has also been established in this paper that experiences at early age is of formal schooling is very formative. Children can therefore not afford to be exempted to technological education since the future is theirs. As a matter of fact, market researchers have shown that the largest software growth recently is focused on early childhood education market. However, no matter the undeniable benefits of technology to the children, and the fact that as technology becomes easier to use, early childhood use of technology becomes a common thing, it is important to know that children are still children and that they need control and supervision from their seniors. Early childhood education stakeholders including educators and parents must take responsibility of the exposure of technology to children. The stakeholders must evaluate the appropriate use of technology, ensure that the children are exposed to all relevant technological benefits, ensure that the children are able to connect technology with their day to day living, and above all ensure that there is access to technology for all children including the disabled.
Though Developmentally Appropriate Practices are put in place to ensure that a child is developed all around to be able to handle future responsibilities effectively and responsibly, there is need for an early childhood education curriculum which will help to ensure that all that has been intended to be passed to the children. A curriculum is helps the staff to cover important learning areas at the appropriate time and age. A developmentally appropriate curriculum looks into all areas that a child need to be developed. This includes physical, social, cognitive, linguistic, aesthetic emotional etc. all the developmental areas are supposed to be meaningful, relevant and intellectually engaging to the children. With a curriculum in place, children are able to follow a consistent plan of learning where they are able to build and develop what they have already learnt. It is through the development that the children are able to discover new concept and engage in making sense of their discoveries in relation to their day to day life. Since curriculums consist of all subjects, they provide the child with an opportunity to study one lesson at a time and allow the child time to be able to connect one subject matter to the other. Through this kind of an arrangement, the child is able to gather knowledge and understanding of how to utilize and integrate skills though learnt separately. Curriculums also provide the child with an opportunity to learn community cultures and linguistic while at the same time allows the child to respect other children’s way of life. By so doing, children are able to come up with and participate in a shared culture. Despite the benefits of curriculums, they should have realistic and attainable goals so as to give both the children and the educators a sense of satisfaction. (Fogarty 1991)
Successful educating is a combination of many aspects and despite a well planned curriculum, a good teaching method must be put in place in order to facilitate efficient learning. As earlier discussed in this paper, children have different understanding capacities. There is therefore need to identify the differences and deal with children according to their capabilities. Some of the characteristics that are looked at when classifying children are skills levels, body sizes, age, previous performances and developmental status. For teachers to be effective they need to evaluate pupil’s progress so as to identify the different approaches of teachings methods that can be used to develop a physically educated person, a person who is first and foremost physically fit, socially responsible, endowed with necessary skills for participation in day to day life and is emotionally and spiritually healthy. (Gabbard 2000)
Human Development Process
According to Erick Erikson there are eight stages of human development from infancy to death. These stages are characterized by different developments. The first stage is the stage of infancy which is between birth and 18 months old. During this time a child’s parent are the most important aspect of his development. It is during this time that the child learns to trust or mistrust. If he is treated well the child learns to trust and thus develop optimism, confidence and security while as if the child is not well take of, and he develops a general mistrust towards everything in general. Studies show that adults who show signs of hopelessness got it from their childhood. The other stage is beyond 18 months all the way to 3 years. This stage is characterized by learning new skills. It is at this stage that a child starts to differentiate right from wrong and at this period parents are expected to start instilling discipline. It is also a stage of self esteem development. Depending on how the child is treated, he starts taking form at this stage in terms of esteem and discipline. The third stage is the between 3 years and five. This is the time to go to school and at this stage there is initiative from the side of the child, it is also a very experimental stage where the child develops a sense of curiosity. The forth stage is called latency stage, here the child is capable of learning creating and discovering new things. It is an industrious stage where the child starts looking for a sense of satisfaction in all that he does. Since it is the school age, parents start loosing control of their children and teachers play quite a big role on development of these children.
The fifth stage is the age between 12 to 18 years, here development is dependent on happenings around the person. It is at this time that there is discovery of identity and a person start placing himself in a certain class that his environment dictates. It is also a stage of confusion since one does not know how to behave like either as a child or a young adult. As a result many people at this stage are prone to negative peer pressure. The other stage is the stage of love, this is for persons between 18 and 35. At this stage people are engaged in a search of companions where some begin to get married and settle down and start their young families. The other stage is middle aged adult this is between 35 and 55. This is a stage of stability and responsibility. By this time a person has settled on a career and or a job and is also a parent so there is a sense of great responsibilities on one’s life. The last stage is the stage between 55 and death. This is a person of reflection. It is a time to look back and see count one’s successes and failure. It can be a very fulfilling time and at the same time a regretful life depending on how someone has led their lives. (Erik Erikson 1902 -1994)
Young children need facilitators and teachers to take them through involvement, modeling and observation so that they can learn. Educational environment is very important for children and it is therefore the responsibility of teachers and educators to ensure that the learning environment is conducive. It is through the creation of such an environment that the teachers are able to discover a child’s response and interests and as a result each child is provided with the environment that he needs. However it is important for educators to involve children with environments that are relevant to their developmental level which is mainly age related and not age determined. Since children learn through interactions with their environment, they should be allowed enough time of interaction and therefore the need for schedules and routine because it is through this that the children become accustomed to their environment and therefore be able to learn from it. One form of environment can be learning centers where children go and they have the freedom to choose what they want to do and how long they will do it. Through such a forum, children are allowed to explore and discover things all by themselves.
Learning centers are very important and they should not be interfered with either by supervision or class work. It is important to note here that the environment includes people and objects so it is again the responsibility of the educators to ensure that the children are interacting with the right kind of people and harmless objects including technology. This environment should not be based solely on educational activities, since these are children, they should be exposed to both indoor and outdoor play experiences which gives the opportunity to freely practice and develop their skills. It is through such interactions that the children are encouraged to express themselves by asking questions and sourcing for answers either from the educators or other children, that way the child develops communications skills and also gain courage for public speaking. One more important thing to note here is the fact that an educated person is an all around person who is matured in all areas of life. We can therefore not leave the teaching of biblical truths from babies, they must be let to know that spirituality holds one’s life together and that spiritual knowledge comes from the bible. A child can start to be taught stories about baby Jesus and then as they mature up they should be let know a bit of truth about obeying God and trusting him as they grow up. Since children learn better though examples, there should be included in their bible lessons of people children who took ruler ship when they were young e.g. King Josiah, this will help them realize that they don’t need to be adults to be leaders.
As discussed above, childhood is an integral part of human development. It is during childhood that values and virtues are implanted in human’s heart and mind and that what you train a child to become is what they end up becoming. Children’s mind are like computers if you put in garbage you are sure to get garbage but if you put in values and good and quality education then you not only secure a future but a responsible life. A human cycle starts from infancy to adulthood and a today’s infant is a tomorrow’s adult. It is from this understanding that all childhood education stakeholders including the government, educators and parents are all concerned with the development of the children. Studies have demonstrated that children’s success or failure during the first years of school often predicts the course of later schooling (Alexander and Entwisle 1988). It is therefore important for childhood educators to know that by working with children they are forming not only the children’s future but the future of the society in general They should therefore ensure, that all that is needed including Developmental Appropriate Practices, curriculums, the environment and the quality of education is all at the required standards and also accessible to all children.
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