Early Childhood: A Curriculum for the Under Threes

Introduction

Various stages of life are associated with education and have traditionally been the period between the age of pre-unit class up to the age one attains a doctor of philosophy award. The various curriculum has been developed to ensure the correct learning process of the correct material at the correct stage of academic development and intellectualism. Very little attention has been given to academic considerations for children who are below the age of three years. Research that has been carried out by various scholars has shown a very strong relationship between the age at which a child is introduced to academic education and the way he or she performs in his or her later years of academic life. This relationship has led many parents to start admiring the education for their children at that age. This paper will evaluate a curriculum designed for the education of children who are at or below the age of three years. It will first introduce the concepts of a curriculum, and then analyze the contribution of such a curriculum to the policy makers, the under-threes themselves and to the parents of such children as well as to the staff of centers where child care is done. It will then discuss the elements of various education curriculum for children under three years and then highlight some problems that may be inevitable during the process of implementing the curriculum especially when teaching. A conclusion will then be drawn based on the discussion made.

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A curriculum refers to a written of the way education is going to be carried out. In the case of a curriculum for children under the age of three, the curriculum includes setting goals that will lead to the learning and development of children, the experiences by which they will achieve the goals, the roles of various people like the parents and the staff in ensuring that the predetermined goals are met and also the materials that will be needed to support the curriculum implementation (Schwithart 1993). Childhood is a concept used to refer to children who are not psychologically mature and in this context, it will be used about children under the age of three.

Rationale for a curriculum for the under threes

Several reasons have been used to justify a curriculum for under threes. The reasons for such curriculum also explain why it has grown in its popularity especially among the current generation and in the recent past as compared to some period like about 50 years ago (Roopnarine 2000). For one, there has been an increase in demand for under three education curriculum because such programs have proved to bring tangible success in the early development of the children in accordance to the expectations of the parents and the staff at child education centers. Second, the curriculum has provided, unlike the child lifestyle before, for plenty of play time for children which assists them in fast learning. It has also been the wish of mothers that their children may stay healthy concerning all aspects of life such as spiritually, physically, socially and emotionally. The curriculum for the under three provides all these benefits and should be encouraged among parents because it will help in development of a healthy young generation (Powell 1987). The curriculum has come as a big relief to mothers who despite having several responsibilities at home have also to care for their children.

The curriculum has also considered the way children generally grow and has gone to the detail of addressing individual needs of each child. It recognizes the difference in the way different children grow and respond to the environments. The curriculum has come to serve all children irrespective of their social status. Various approaches provide the children with opportunities to actively and interactively learn while others allow the children to be passive in the process learning and yet other curriculum combines more than two curriculum (Marcon 1999). This is very much welcomed because it leads to increased learning for the children which is the desire of the parents and staff.

To parents who are working. introduction of the curriculum at baby day care centers is a relief to such mothers. The mother has been relieved her duties to attend to and educate her children right from very tender age, but she has confidence that her baby is under safe hands because the curriculum stipulates what should be done to the baby and what should not be done. People had lived for a long time without having known the best way for setting a firm foundation for their children from which their subsequent academic performance will largely depend on. Through research, it has been established that the better the academic base is set during early years of life (under 3 years), the better the child is likely to perform at higher levels of learning (Goffin 2001). This has led to very much appraisal of the early childhood curriculum by most parents and staff at child care centers.

Various curriculum for the under three’s

Charter house Pre-School Group Curriculum

This curriculum is developed to provide for adaptations to any changes in children’s needs and to keep updated with development in the curriculum under current use. Under this curriculum, a framework has been developed to encourage all children under the age of three to become competent learners. The children who have attained the age of 3 also are subjected to the foundation stage of learning until they join pre- school (Epstein 1996). Their learning is promoted by use of six early learning goals. The six goals address six areas of learning and child development. First, we have Social, personal and emotional development of the child whereby the child learns how to work and play happily in a team made of non- family members (fellow children). This is aimed at producing a well balanced child and is covered by subjecting the child to aspects of social, personal, spiritual and moral development such as respect to others and his/ her environment ( Shwinhart 1997). Second, the children are taught on how to speak, read and to communicate through well structured framework for language development. Their competence in listening and talking for different purposes and situations is built. Third, important aspects of mathematical understanding and knowledge of numerals are covered by use of practicals activities and the language already known. Fourth, children are developed with skills and understanding of the world by being encouraged to participate in different festivals, cultures and believes. This prepares a foundation for further development of skills and knowledge in science, geography, history, design, IT and communication technology. Fifth, the curriculum considers physical development of the children where their skills in movement, coordination and awareness of both the indoor and outdoor environments are developed to ensure the children have a positive attitude, as well as an actively health life. Finally, the curriculum framework has provided for creativity of the 3 year old or less by encouraging creativity in the way the children express their feelings, ideas, imaginations and during communication.

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Birth to three matters framework

This is a curriculum framework designed to support children while they are in their earliest ages, specifically between the period of birth and up to 3 years of age. This framework considers the fact that nursery teachers, nannies and other child care givers spending time and working to care for under threes under different set ups that have different opportunities ( Reggio 1997). The framework ensures the under threes are supported, informed, guided and helped to over come challenges that are unique to each child. The curriculum is designed to ensure that babies are developed in to toddlers and eventually in to pre-schoolers. They are assisted to become strong, skillful in communication, competent in learning as well as being healthy. It considers four overlapping stages of child development. The practitioner taking care of the child introduces the child to play with a well chosen play item and supervises as the child enjoys the play in a safe environment. The child is allowed uninterrupted tome of play either alone or with other children of her/ his age. Different play resources and structures are encouraged. This framework is a very excellent link to the foundation stage of child development, hence it can allow developing learning activities for children at under three and children at foundation stage simultaneously (Greenberg 2001). It is aimed at bringing up the children under the environment of love, care, stimulation, time to play and a variety of experiences.

Curriculum in Early Head Start

This curriculum is designed also for the children under three years of age. It is based on philosophies adapted from common beliefs of both the parents and staff of institutions offering care for under threes. It aims at attaining what the parents and the staff perceive as the children’s healthy development and overall well- being. The program offers services that are either provided at home or care centres or both. The set of materials such as planned experiences, play equipment, and participation of both the parent and the staff should complement the goal of this curriculum and should also be individualised to address specific needs of each child in the program. However, since the program does not address all health issues and does not completely comply to the Program Performance standards, it should be updated. This is because the beliefs of the parents and the staff are not a written plan as required by the program performance standards (McBizzel 1995). The program recognizes individual need differences among different children, respectful relations of staff / parent to children and children to staff/ parent among other things. It also stresses the point that when children are more young, the care is mainly concerned with routine duties to the child and as the child becomes older gradually, more planning is focused on the activities of the child rather than on routines. An early head start program should consider several issues when designing its curriculum. Among these considerations is what the philosophy of the program is and whether the philosophy is related to the children services being offered. Second is what the major goals of the program that drives the education and services to below threes are. Such goals may include to offer support to parents in their roles of bringing up responsible children and to ensure overall development of the children under conducive and safe environments. Third, it should consider how parents are involved in developing the goals and philosophies of the program. Fourth consideration is the way the pre- determined goals are developed and the channels of communication during the development of the goals and finally is a consideration of how feedback from parents is gathered by staff members when they visit homes or through conversations during, before and also after center based child care experiences ( Louise).

Developmentally appropriate practices

This framework is also referred to as the constructivist curriculum. The point of argument for this framework is that the explorations that are initiated by the child itself but with the influence and the guidance of the parent or adult guardian is the most appropriate way a person can support the learning process of a child Under this framework, the child plays an active role to his or her learning and the curriculum assumed by the proponents of this argument is itself active and interactive. The constructivists perceive young children as actively constructing their knowledge. The major goal of the constructivist curriculum is to provide children with ample opportunities of interaction so that they may construct their knowledge (Marcon 1999).

Academic curriculum/ instructive

The word ‘academic’ is adopted to refer to the parts of curriculum of early childhood that is aimed at assisting the children to master the basic numerals and literacy right from the tender age of as low as below three years of age. From the instructivist point of view, the young child depends on the instructions he or she gets from the adult or staff in academic knowledge and skills that are necessary for firm foundation for later achievements in academics. Those in support of this curriculum puts the children to play a passive role of internalizing the knowledge and practices that has been transmitted to them by their staff and parents. They eventually adapt to this systematic way of literacy and counting skills (Marcon 1999).

There has been growth in popularity of the academic curriculum for the last few years among children aged three and below. One factor is the growth of more demand and more expectations that kindergarten programs prepares and ensures that the children are always ready for the next grade in academics. Another factor is that traditionally, significance is given to play as a natural way that young children use to learn and may seen non-urgent today than how it was perceived about 5 years ago when play opportunities were less available for most children than today, especially in the home compound or any other place away from school. The academic curriculum consists of academic tasks that are structured carefully, put in sequence and de-contextualized bits of information that require instruction by a well-informed staff or knowledgeable adult. These tasks include exercise tasks, academic tasks that address the skills and knowledge the children are less likely to learn under their discovery. The tasks revolve around how to memorize symbols, lists of names, how to answer oral questions correctly and routine practice of good tasks, and also routine avoidance of wrong tasks.

Other curricula suitable for the under threes include creative curriculum, developmental interaction approach, scope curriculum, and Montessori curriculum.

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Contribution of a curriculum for the under three

There are numerous benefits of a curriculum designed for children under the age of three. The benefits are to the parents of the children, to the children themselves, and to those who make policies to govern institutions for child care and education. Home school parents who play the role of child-teacher have been greatly assisted by the program by obtaining a sense of security. This can be explained in such a way that most parents have trusted their works when it comes to the care of their children. But most know very little about how the care should be done. The introduction of the curriculum has relieved most parents of the doubt of whether they were doing the correct thing in terms of training and education for their children at various staged of development. When they have correctly followed the curriculum, they at least have something to show of their children. Mothers truly require quality resources to ensure an environment that is conducive for their children’s learning. What they need to do at various stages is clearly outlined in the curriculum. This has also helped the children develop confidence in what they are being trained because what the staff at child care centres train them is what their mothers emphasize when the children return home later in the day. The children also benefit by getting diverse knowledge through child stories that ignite the passion for more literature and more learning. The curriculum helps the home school parents to save time and have a simplified life. Mothers take it as their responsibility to ensure that their children are continuously learning. They many roles to play such as mother, wife to husband, as home maker, as a friend to the neigbours, as a servant at her place of work on top of being a teacher to her children who are under three. the curriculum is a relief to such kinds of a mother because she will not waste so much in outlining a lesson plan for her child. After all, they have been outlined daily in the curriculum. She knows when to teach alphabets, numerals, and when to allow children to play. The curriculum have also made life for mothers less complicated because the provider of such curriculum gives after sale encouragement and support as the mothers continue to use the curriculum and make any clarification on any difficult issues. They have also given directions to an on line forums where you can interact and share ideas with other parents using the same curriculum for their children as you. The benefits to children can be highlighted when apart from the provisions of a learning curriculum, the curriculum also provide for free time when parents are advised to let the children pursue their interests provided it is safe to do so. By this way, the children end up learning so much information. The curriculum provides very quality learning resources for the children and the children will likely learn the right content. Since pre- school curriculum provides a very firm academic foundation for the children, most children who have first gone successfully through the curriculum have subsequently performed very well in the higher levels of education and got the motivation to excellently perform in higher education academics. The curriculum has also helped mothers to save time they could have used in research and such time has been concentrated in focusing about the children’s welfare. The pre- school curriculum has also provided the children with readiness in joining school ( Katz 1989; Jacobson 1996; Judy 1998).

Several factors may account for increasing pressure to introduce children to academics (e.g., in literacy and and unlike their counterparts who did not have curriculum that provided for play at home about 5 years ago, the children of today are enjoying the play sessions provided in the various curriculum.

Since the way a framework for a given curriculum should be clearly outlined in a written form, the task of Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP) are reduced to its advantage because by the way a curriculum has been written, it is very easy to detect those which are appropriate and those which are inappropriate for teaching young children, regardless of the type of curriculum being reviewed. The activity of detecting the correct and the wrong curriculum would have taken the DAP more time if it was not written in a simplified form which is standard. I is also easier for parents to compare different curriculum before choosing the best one for their children. This is also due to the simplicity of curriculum as required by the standards (CLS 1983).

Problems with implementing a curriculum for the under three

A few problems are associated with the process of implementing a curriculum designed for the children under the age of three years. First, the method used may under emphasize and under value the curriculum that addresses intellectual development of the child. The method of implemending should be designed such that it will cater for academic, experience and intellectual development.

Another problem may arise if the implementation method does not comply with the set standards. If the designing of the framework was faulty and substandard, it should not be expected that the implementation of those faulty frameworks will be without fault itself. Another problem may occur if the correct materials stipulated in the framework are not used (Gardener 1942; Beneke 1998).

Conclusion

There has been an increase in the prevalence of early childhood curriculum for children because of the benefits derived. Various curriculum have been developed to address the educational need of very young children. The developing of curriculum framework has been standardized and has to meet a pre- set criterion. A few problems are associated with implementation but the overall benefit is desirable.

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