Learning how to learn
By Maureen O'Connell
Advertiser Staff Writer
Getting a child school-ready starts long before picking up a backpack for kindergarten.
That's why the Center on the Family at the University of Hawai'i-Mänoa is encouraging parents and caregivers to seize opportunities as potential learning experiences for preschoolers.
Its recently published family guide, "Raising a School-Ready Child," offers an assortment of simple activities aimed at prepping for success in kindergarten.
"There are things that they can do from very early on to help children learn and develop optimally," said the center's Grace F. Fong, a professor of family resources.
Rote learning, such as alphabet recitation or memorizing multiplication tables, is not on the list. Activities through which children build upon natural curiosity and, essentially, learn how to learn, are emphasized.
Starting in kindergarten, then continuing through all grade levels in Hawai'i public schools, students are assessed for their ability to grasp six key functions: self-directed learning, cooperation, complex thinking, performance, communication and use of technology.
However, parents are often unacquainted with this framework until they sit down for their first parent-teacher conference.
"We wanted to create this awareness earlier," Fong said, "so that when you do certain things in your everyday life, it actually has a direct connection" with developing skills in those measured areas known among educators as general learner outcomes.
Gordon Miyamoto, an educational specialist in family support services for the state's Department of Education, said the "School-Ready" guide can also help prepare parents for school years.
"If the message is the same from both school and home, then kids are more likely to advance in those areas," Miyamoto said.
Amanda McCann, the mother of a third-grader and a preschooler, and owner of Hawaii Kids Count an educational enrichment program offered after school hours and when school is not in session agreed with that sentiment.
"It's great to know ahead of time what you're going to be tested on," McCann said. "If children walk into kindergarten with confidence" in these areas, "it can boost their confidence" in the classroom.
Routine activities, such as setting the table for a meal or sorting through objects collected at the beach, can be more meaningful for preschoolers when adults ask them questions related to tasks and encourage them to use problem-solving skills and work independently, Fong said.
"You take an everyday opportunity and turn it into a more intentional learning experience," she said. "When you do this, it has an effect."