In my haste to publish the last post on defining school readiness, I missed some of the salient points of school readiness as defined by Vygotsky which I felt were interesting because they differ somewhat from the traditional considerations regarding a toddler’s readiness for school.
What were Vygotsky’s views on school readiness?
Vygotsky believed there were two aspects to school readiness:
- The social situation as it relates to the cultural practices of schooling and the expectations associated with the role of the child as a student.
- The child’s awareness of the expectations and the ability to meet them (in other words, as we discussed in the previous post on school readiness, the ability to receive instruction)
What I thought was particularly interesting was Vygotsky’s view that children developed school readiness in the first few months of elementary school through interactions with teachers and other students. He believed that such interactions were necessary in order for a child to develop the awareness of expectations from school. School readiness did not develop prior to the entry into school but rather when the child begins to attend school.
In a way that helped to alleviate some distress I have been experiencing with regards to having sent Gavin to school earlier than I was comfortable with. If I had thought that waiting for him to be older and more mature would mean he would be more prepared for school, I might have been waiting in vain.
Regarding school readiness in terms of a child’s accomplishments and abilities, Vygotsky believed that mastery of certain developmental tools, self-regulation and the integration of emotions and cognition can assist a child in developing the “readiness” for school. For Vygotsky, it was the level of cognitive function rather than the quantity of skills and concepts that a child has that is more important for development school readiness. In other words, it is the child’s ability to learn intentionally rather than the ability, for instance, to count to a hundred, that facilitates the child’s adaptation to school, because it is the cognitive abilities that facilitates the child’s learning process later.
Most important is that child’s motivation to learn formally – where a child can learn in a situation where the outcome of learning is not necessarily tied to their interests or desires. Such motivation requires a child’s curiosity, the desire to learn how to do new things and meet the expectations of school. Young children are generally only interested in learning things that suit their own needs and desires. When they are able to shift that focus so that it is in keeping with the school’s objectives, then only have they achieved school readiness.
This information probably seems rather irrelevant but I thought it was important because a child who resists being taught (as Gavin often does right now unless it is of interest to him or if it meets with a particular desire of his) will be wasting his time being in a class room. My interest, particularly, lies in the ability to help a child develop school readiness and the willingness to receive instruction. It doesn’t matter how bright or intelligent a child is – if he refuses to be taught, he will fall behind and any precociousness the child might have exhibited in their early years is moot.
The goal is not to have the brightest and most intelligent child, but one who is willing and eager to learn. If a child truly has the desire to learn, he can achieve anything, even if he is below average.
- Defining School Readiness – How do you know if your child is ready for school?