What inspired you to write this book?

During my career, so much has changed in the educational climate. We entered a technological age which created an immediate gratification, product-driven society. Education and the development of skills in the early childhood years is a process. It does not happen immediately and it is not about producing a product on a piece of paper. We cannot turn back the clock and return to the days when children spent more time outside and less time in front of screens.  We cannot go back to a time when there was less competition and the process of development was given its due time. We can, however, teach young children in a developmentally appropriate way while preparing them for the world in which they will enter. It is my hope that Teach the Whole Preschooler will inspire people to remember that young students are whole people and will spark change and be a voice for what needs to take place in our early education settings. Doing things just because they have always been done isn't good enough anymore. We need to teach intentionally for our times and find ways to lay a foundation for critical thinking skills, pro-social behavior, self-worth and the academics. Teach the Whole Preschooler shares information and ideas for making that shift.

What is one practical takeaway for educators from your book?

Educators need to rethink the routines that they have always done and decide if they provide opportunities for meaningful learning. I think one practical takeaway is in the examination of circle time. Traditionally, children have been seated on the floor and taught concepts that are not meaningful to them such as the adult calendar. We can seat children so they are better able to attend to task. We can teach concepts of time that matter to the children so they will learn real life information that helps them manage their days rather than rote memorization that is meaningless. We can use that large group time to teach far more effectively and have impact across the curriculum.

What is the most important piece of advice for parents in your book?

It is important that parents understand that adults cannot force development before its time and when we do -when we try to force children who aren't ready to read or to write, for example- we defeat them. We make them feel like they are not enough and cannot accomplish what would make us happy. We need to listen, watch and respect who the child is today while we engage in activities that build the stepping stones to get where we are going. It is a process. 

Why is it important for educators and parents to reconsider pedagogical approaches to young childhood education now?

The world changed rapidly and we did not keep up. We now have more teens who struggle with anxiety and depression, a bullying epidemic that doesn't seem to be waning no matter how many programs are run in our schools, rampant childhood obesity and other symptoms that I believe indicate that their experience is out of sync with the lessons and approaches that they really needed. We can do better for our younger students. Helping young children to feel their own worth, become confident decision makers, learn critical thinking skills and still be academically ready for the years ahead will take a new pedagogical approach.  

What do you see as the biggest obstacle currently facing young childhood education?

There are two huge obstacles facing early childhood educators-their own childhood experiences were nothing like those of today's young children, and there is a lack of understanding among the public about best practices for young children. There is a tremendous generation gap between those of us who remember playing unsupervised by adults in our neighborhoods and today's children who are under consistent adult supervision while they grow up with all of the advances in technology. We need to work to understand their world and their needs. At the same time, we need to educate parents about what approaches will actually serve their children well in the long term.

How do expectations influence young children's learning experience, and what can parents and educators do to make their expectations for these children more realistic?

We need to intentionally and carefully set expectations so that children have a new level to reach toward while not feeling defeated all the time. We need children to want to explore, discover and learn new things.  Our expectations set the stage. We must ensure that we provide enough support and intellectual stimulation so that the children do what comes naturally - strive to add to their knowledge. At the same time, we cannot have expectations that are so far above their developmental abilities that they always feel wrong or incapable. It is through appropriate expectations that children discover the wonder and sense of accomplishment of building their skills while they develop a positive sense of self.

How do you recommend teachers change their teaching styles to more intentionally promote pro-social behavior?

Teachers need to do what may be the opposite of how they were raised and educated-they need to include their students in the process of learning about socialization and behavior. Children learn best when they are participants in the lessons and that includes lessons about pro-social behavior. Teachers need to give choices, guide problem solving & critical thinking and have consistent, appropriate expectations & boundaries. We need to model the respect and kindness we are trying to teach and remember that pro-social behavior is taught.  

 

Could you speak to the importance of play in child development, and how educators and parents can promote this activity to the benefit of their students and children?

Play is essential to the young child's learning process. When any human being, young or old, is engaged in and enjoying an activity, that person is more open to exploration and expanding knowledge. Play needs to be the catalyst for introducing new concepts. Educators and parents need to observe the children while they play and pique their curiosity by infusing added information. Based on what the children are doing, we can infuse new vocabulary, add knowledge of science or encourage language development. We need to ask questions as much as or more than we make statements so that the children need to think and consider. Think about the best educational experience you had - it was likely not when you were completing a workbook page.

Learn More about Teach the Whole Preschooler

Acknowledging that there isn’t a quick fix, Teach the Whole Preschooler will guide readers to lead classrooms that intentionally promote a love of learning, positive self-image, and pro-social behavior that values the perceptions, thoughts and emotions of our youngest students. Through humor and relatable stories, Teach the Whole Preschooler provides new ideas, helpful hints, and strategies for a more effective experience for teachers, students, and parents.