Making Your School Decision – Part 5

Believe it or not,

I thought A LOT about this “series.”

My intentions were this – let’s dive into a highly sensitive topic – and hope we can help at least ONE STRESSING MOM! That’s it – save someone the hours of worry that I had or give someone some extra tools or tips in their pocket as this decision approaches.

I pray that this week has given you many sides of schooling to think about, but I know it doesn’t even scratch the surface of options and kids and scenarios. Oh hooray for a God who knows the best plan and that can be trused with every detail of our lives.

I thought we’d end with the best perspective our schools have to offer – THE TEACHER! Enjoy some beautiful wisdom and insight on the topic of Kindergarten readiness and learning from Ella’s sweet teacher this year.

Part 5, “Let’s Play!”

By Susan Dodgion


God has blessed me with 44 years in the classroom and He has always guided me to private and parochial schools. I have shared my classrooms with close to 1000 little people! Many of my former students are Moms and Dads now. They have followed paths to a variety of professions and careers. I am very often told that their favorite times spent in Kindergarten revolved around learning through play activities.

Children learn through play!

I feel strongly about the topic of play in the lives of young children.

Please keep this in mind as you ready your child for a formal school experience and ponder your school choices.

Children learn through play…play is their work.

Many of my colleagues in early childhood education (and I) have noticed a trend over the past 5-10 years to push Kindergarten academic expectations down into preschool programs. The concern here is that these standards may not be developmentally age appropriate for younger children.

Hands on play, discovery activities and less structured tasks are best practice for little ones. There are a number of readiness skills that should be mastered before introducing those that are higher on the developmental ladder.

Learning through play is a gift to our children that should be considered as we plan readiness programs for our little people.

As our 5 and 6 years olds move forward into Kindergarten the need for movement, the use of manipulative materials, and unstructured Centers’ time should be a guiding force in establishing the program.

Free play both indoors and out aids our students in learning problem solving skills, self-control, and a strong cooperative spirit.

Unstructured play helps to encourage creativity, curiosity and empathy for others. And besides that it is so much fun to observe! There is nothing more fun on the playground than watching 4, 5, and 6 year olds run in circles over and over or play wheelbarrow with buddy.

I was amazed to recently find that some of my Kindergarten students had arrived at the Kindergarten level never having finger-painted. And I was really taken back when a group of my students reported that playing with play dough was too hard!!!

Sadly, I have observed over the past few months that the play activity in our Home Center is lacking in creativity and spontaneity.

Many of the classroom centers that have historically been the most popular are now overlooked or bypassed.

Can you imagine the Lego center being ignored? That’s unbelievable…

Last week I placed an old touchtone phone in our Home Living Center with a few other props. After several inquiries as to what it was the children immediately became intrigued with this new “toy.” Within 2 days the popularity of this classroom area had increased and a group of 10 students gathered there to engage in a delightful buzz of activity. They were busily working as a team to plan a party, prepare food, tend to the baby and fold the laundry. The conversation was imaginative and fun to hear. The play situation and way in which the children interacted was delightful…I almost stood up and cheered right then and there!

Unfortunately, our children have become accustomed to having an adult plan their play adventures and depend on that guidance and structure.

They are so excited when they realize that they are very capable of devising their own playtime situations.

Raising 21st century children is most assuredly a challenge, but we owe it to them to allow them opportunities to be more independent, self-confident and inventive.

God has shared these little treasures with us and expects that we will handle them with care, but allow them to learn and grow with love, empathy for others and imagination!  – Mrs. Dodgion


Oh, thank you Mrs. Dodgion! I couldn’t agree more and I love how she truly challenged our group of parents at the beginning of the year to read to them and let them read. To let them play and get sleep and turn off tv/games. To create things and use their imagination. I love that their recess time isn’t dictated and they have to come up with things to do.  

I did think Ella had to master some serious academic skills coming into that school and it was so assuring to know she was looking for kids that know how to use their minds and think on their own. I went to the park alone the other day and Larson was SHOCKED that I wouldn’t “play with her.” I did want to see how long she could find things to do without me and without her sister. Of course, it was only a few minutes but a good exercise. I too love that bonding time for me/Larson to swing together and discover nature and talk and teach as we walk along the raod. I find her insights so interesting and love others perspectives. Let’s give them the gift of imagination and us the freedom that every minute is not our responsibility. Whew! 








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