Young Minds vs Grown-up Ideas

The materials, experiences, and opportunities we provide the very young must be age and developmentally appropriate, not based on trends. As teachers, our work is to provide these without influencing children. Without interfering with our grown-up issues, opinions, worldviews, or beliefs. We’re talking about children under eight years old.

What is Early Childhood?

When discussing early childhood, we are discussing children from birth to eight years old. Since the 1970s, we have been discussing “whole child” care. This approach supports the overall development of the child. Following the child’s lead in the development of cognitive skills, identity, mental, social, emotional, and physical health. As educators, we are tasked to learn about, understand, and apply these concepts from a child’s perspective, not an adult’s perspective from a developmental, not a societal perspective.

How They Fit in the World

Children from birth to eight walk through their day learning new skills, how they fit in the world, learning how to use their growing bodies, and classifying everything they see, hear, and encounter. This cognitive activity helps them distinguish if something is positive or negative. If something will help or hurt them. It informs their preferences in everything.

Base Learning on Individualization

If children are provided age-appropriate materials and opportunities to explore and learn in their own way, based on their individual identities and development, they can make their own decisions about who or what they like or don’t like. Who they are as individuals. What interests they would like to explore further. Adults, families, and teachers often influence this through their own understanding, preferences, experiences, worldviews, and biases. Sometimes intentionally, most of the time unaware they are doing these things.

Families are the strongest influencers in their child’s life, as they should be.

In today’s world, many adults are having a difficult time with ever-changing thoughts, ideologies, societal pressures, and what they are seeing in the mainstream and social media. Most people are just reading the headlines, the clickbait, instead of seeking the facts, the truth. I do my own research on this. And I ask people what they think. All diversity indicators. 90% of the time, these adults said they didn’t want to think about it. They don’t want to know about it. Because they have no control over it, their voice will only be heard if they are following the current narrative.

They want to work, care for their families, and live an uncomplicated life. So they say nothing.

Many families are told that their opinions are not as crucial as the societal pressures to conform. Causing them to conform or pretend they are conforming rather than living their own truth. This is not healthy for them, their children, or society.

Learning not Based on Trends.

The materials, experiences, and opportunities we provide the very young must be age and developmentally appropriate, not based on trends. As teachers, our work is to provide these without influencing children or interfering with our personal grown-up issues, opinions, worldviews, or beliefs. We’re talking about children under eight years old. Understanding that our work is to support the whole child and respect their family dynamic.

The parent handbook should lay out and explain the early childhood program policies and practices so families can choose care for their child based on an informed opinion. Families should also have access to any other guidelines the program must follow.

The children in early learning classrooms are not your children. As educators of the very young, your work is to gain an understanding of the child’s home experience and the FAMILY goals and expectations for their children. Not to supersede them with personal ideologies, worldviews, your take social trends, or pressures of the adult world.

Let the children keep their innocence as long as possible.

We may not agree with family choices or lifestyles. But if they are not on the list of abuse or neglect, if they are not illegal or causing harm to the child, themselves, or others, we need to respect them. Families have the right to raise their children based on their own standards, expectations, belief systems, and worldviews. Minus the things listed above.

The Importance of the Family

The dismantling of the family has been happening for decades and has contributed to much of what we see and hear in the news, social media, and rumor mill and experience. Our work is not to make it harder for healthy, well-meaning families to raise their children.

What Children Are Exposed To Today

I recently heard that a family member missed being in a mall shooting. They were in the place where the shooter was with children only 5 minutes before the shooting started. They heard the shots just as they left the building. Another family member was shopping in a clothing store. As they entered the store, two individuals ran past them with armloads of clothing and jumped into a waiting car. I heard from a child I know that they witnessed a friend being threatened on the playground with abduction and bodily assault by another child. In the last six months, I have witnessed assaults and a fentanyl overdose two doors down from where I live.

This is the reality of what children of all ages are seeing today with their own eyes. They need a safe place. Is it your classroom?

One of the most essential mandates of being an early learning educator is that we are not allowed to diagnose or judge a child or their family. We are to observe, document, and assess needs to help a child meet milestones, support skill development, find red flags associated with mental and physical health, and prepare them with the skills they need to be successful in their first years in elementary school. That’s the job.

What about Kindergarten Readiness?

After decades in this business, here is what kindergarten and 1st-grade teachers have repeated over and over as needed to have a successful classroom learning experience. A successful learning experience.

  1. Ability to get along with other children.

  2. To follow teacher directions promptly.

  3. To work out conflicts with other children.

  4. To stay on task. Work when it’s time to work.

  5. To treat materials and equipment respectfully.

  6. To keep your hands to yourself.

  7. Self-regulation, which means regulating their emotions and meeting classroom behavioral expectations.

  8. The self-help skills include tying shoes, zipping coats, and toileting.

  9. Simple basic academic concepts include the ABCs, counting to 10, colors, and basic shapes.

  10. Families that support their academic achievement.

These are the ultimate goals for your work in the early childhood classroom. If they have these skills, they have a better chance to succeed in school.

Ideologies, Societal Trends, and Teaching

When the very young are confronted with ideologies and societal trends in an early childhood classroom that conflict with their home worldview, it can cause them harm. They are too young to understand and grasp this conflict. I have personally experienced kindergarten children crying and becoming fearful over things they had no reference for or ability to understand the complexity of the topic. That’s not ok.

Your Classroom may be the Only Safe Space

Very young children are exposed to many ideas and concepts they do not understand. Sometimes, they experience these personally, through their home environment or media. You need to be the safe person in a safe space.

Remain a Neutral Party

A teacher, an educator in an early learning program, is to remain neutral. To follow the guidelines of state licensing and requirements, their individual program expectations, and those of governing bodies. Most of these requirements cover health and safety. There may be extra policies you are required to implement outside the mandated requirements by your state. You may disagree with them and feel you cannot fulfill them. You may need to change your workplace to somewhere that aligns with your worldview and meets the mandated health and safety requirements. Or choose another career path.

The Future is Influenced by What We Do Today.

The children we care for today, in 2023, are the Alpha Generation. Alpha means the beginning. How you teach, support, and guide this generation will influence the world when they have grown up. If you are a teacher, if you are family, neighbor, friend, or decision maker, you are an influencer of this generation for good or for disaster. When they are adults and decision-makers, you will be old, but you will see the work of your labor and subject to the destiny you helped into place.