Thursday, January 08, 2009

Off She Goes ...

... to playgroup, or as she insists on calling it "playschool". I'm not entirely sure what the American equivalent is, but guessing that Mother's Day Out is the closest. Playgroups take children from the age of two and a half up to four. Sessions last 2 1/2 hours, and children can go for up to five sessions a week, according to age - at Cherub's playgroup, under 3s are limited to two sessions a week, though Cherub is only going for one morning. For over 3s, playgroup places are government funded.

Playgroups are part of the state "early learning" educational system, so are supervised by inspectors and have to follow whatever the National Curriculum dictates. The idea of a "National Curriculum" for two year olds makes me want to scream ... but I have to admit that although I was very dubious initially, the new Early Years Stage that has just been introduced seems to have got a lot right. Essentially it is very similar to what I would expect to do at home for preschool. Learning is all supposed to be play based, with the children having free choice of what they want to do. The playgroup leaders have to observe the children, and spot opportunities to use the children's chosen activities to develop various aspects of learning. They are trying to replicate the sort of thing that happens naturally at home when parents are tuned into their children - so, for example, a child might choose to play a game which could then be used to encourage sharing and taking turns, to teach counting, or colours, or matching, and so on. As I understand it the helpers can suggest and encourage children to try activities, but not direct (no "you must play a game now"). This new "curriculum" is great for the children, but very hard work for the adults working with them, who not only have to tune into the individual needs of many children without having a parent's intimate knowledge of them, but have to document everything in minute detail.

Little Cherub loved her first session yesterday - all those lovely toys! She is very timid with people she doesn't know, but because K-next-door was there she was quite happy for me to leave. She won't have anything to do with any of the other adults yet, and if it wasn't for K working there I doubt we would have considered playgroup until she was older. She spent quite some time pottering in the home corner, played with dinosaurs in the sand and with the dolls' house, made a pasta necklace (of which she is very proud), fetched her own snack and cleared away afterwards, played a board game with K and some other children, and trotted out at the end very pleased with herself and asking to go again.

And as for me, I had two hours alone at home in which to start picking up the threads of my long ignored book. Happiness all round!


Shari said...

Wasn't she just a baby yesterday? How did she grow so fast?? Beautiful picture! And I love the wintry new look of your blog.

Sandra said...

Awww she's did she do today?

Isn't it great to have time alone at home without kids and hubby around? LOL

Karen E. said...

I love the winter look, too, and especially love that adorable picture of Little Cherub.