"What is VPK?" asks an article in our city's magazine.

Pre-math, pre-reading and social skills.  How do I teach my child all this information before she enters kindergarten?  Many parents used to ask themselves that precise question not too long ago.  However, for the past four years, concerned parents have decided to enroll their children in what is called VPK, or voluntary pre-kindergarten education....VPK is free [that is, tax-funded]...regardless of family income.

Since the program was implemented, the results have been remarkable.  First, the program gives the child the opportunity to interact with teachers, that is, people other than their parents, in whose company they've been for most of their lives.  Their social skills improve as they learn to share, respect and communicate their feelings to adults and other children.  Second, it gives children the freedom to express their creativity, emotion and innovation:  They create cities from building blocks, show their feelings through paper and crayons and learn new ways to use everyday objects—a paper plate becomes a hat, a pipe cleaner becomes a coiled snake.  VPK also brings joy, happiness and excitement to the child's family—as well as the community—when our youngsters are seen developing their intellectual side and growing as individuals at an early age.

Precisely the skills and experiences which from time immemorial children have learned...at home.

I can accept that there may be a few aberrant families in which the children interact with no one other than their parents, have neither sibling nor playmate with whom to learn to share, and have no access to crayons, blocks, paper plates, pots and pans, rocks, sticks, furniture, blankets, and all the other paraphernalia with which children "express their creativity," i.e. play.  These children do, indeed, deserve all the outside assistance we can give them.  But if such families are not exceedingly rare, we are in bigger trouble than an extra year in school can begin to fix.  VPK is not a program for the extremely deprived; it is billed and funded as an important pre-kindergarten activity for every child.  It is presently voluntary, but kindergarten was once voluntary, too.  Technically kindergarten is still optional in Florida...unless you want your child to attend first grade, for which kindergarten is a prerequisite.

How much the world has changed in my memory!  Some for the better, some for the worse...but the trend away from home seems to me an evil one.  Our clothes are made in China and our meals in a restaurant; someone else mows our lawns and teaches our children how to play with blocks.  Is home no more than a place to sleep?
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, March 4, 2009 at 4:57 pm | Edit
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