School Readiness

The current study involved fifteen participants, all of whom were parents or guardians of preschool children. Pre-school, in this case, implies children who have not attended school yet. They could be in daycare or in any other form of childcare program that does not involve the formal education system. Most of these children are between 1 and 3 years old. The participants were randomly selected as a representative group within the population under investigation, thus, the need for considerations, such as gender, age, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and neighborhood among others. The main concern was connected to the amount of time that the participants had to spend with their children considering that they had to understand a number of issues about the child in order to complete the questionnaire. The participants were well distributed in terms of ethnicity, with Caucasian, Latina, Native American and African American, as well as Asian ethnicities being accurately represented. Moreover, despite the fact that there are many other ethnic groups in the US, the given five of them from the largest percentage of the population, thus, creating the potential for an accurate representation of the American family setting as related to the children’s school readiness.

Procedure

The participants were all parents with children between 3 and 5 years old. Since the study used a survey, the parents were actually contacted by email in order to obtain the consent for participation before the surveys were sent to them. Out of 34 potential participants requested, only seventeen responded. Moreover, two of whom were disqualified owing to the fact that they were working full time and, thus, barely had an opportunity to spend time with their children. The study specifically was aimed at understanding the role of the parent in preparing the child for school. Consequently, parents who did not spend time with their children did not qualify to participate. The survey questions were then sent and all the participants responded as expected. The two disqualified surveys, in this case, were justified by the fact that the parents had not yet started letting their children out of the house to interact with other children in a social setting. They took care of their children themselves and have not yet introduced them to any pre-K programs. It means that they were the only ones who interacted with their children and, thus, could not add any valuable information to the study. The other aim of the study was to identify how the parents defined school readiness. As a result, the only option to perform it was by involving parents whose children were already in a position to spend time out of the house and experienced attending a formal school-like setting.

Analysis

Once the questionnaires were sent back, the researcher had to code the responses in order to obtain the required results. The relevant themes, as shown in the questionnaire, included the family’s demographics, as well as the social, emotional, physical, and cognitive domains of the child’s status. It is important to note that the study does not focus on the ethnic and socioeconomic orientation of the children involved. The main concern is the extent to which a child is ready for school based on their relevant competencies while in a pre-K program.

Results

The participants required a certain amount of time to hand in their surveys, which was probably caused by the fact that they had been given a two-week period and most of them opted to attend to it at the last minute. A few of the surveys came a few days late but the analysis was started after all the consenting participants had submitted their questionnaires. From the responses on the surveys, the recurring themes can be analyzed under demographics, school readiness, social, emotional, physical, and cognitive domains.

The Demographics

Out of the 17 participants who had consented to take part in the study, only 15 survey responses passed the inclusion criteria. Out of the given fifteen, the registered demographics were as follows: 6 of the families reported being Caucasian, 4 were African American, 3 were Latina, 1 was Native American, and 1 was Asian. It means that the study managed to capture a good cross-section of the American population in relation to ethnicity. 3 of the parents interviewed were single parents, 1 was newly divorced and the rest were married. At the same time, 11 interviewed parents fall between the 18-25 years age bracket, while the remaining four were in the 26 – 49 years category. In relation to the income level, two of the participants were not comfortable disclosing their annual income. However, one family had the income exceeding above $75,000, 7 families were between $26,000 and $51,999, and 5 families reported having earned between $52,000 and $74,999, while one of them earned less than $26,000 in the past year. Consequently, considering the sample population, there was a family from the low-income category, lower-middle-income category, upper middle-income category, and high-income category. It is an accurate representation of all the income categories within the US. All the families spoke English at home, although the Latina families also reported using Spanish language. Most American families in the present day use English to communicate at homes as a way of ensuring that the child learns English as a first language to avoid the numerous difficulties of learning English at school as a second language. Eight of the parents surveyed in the study had their Bachelor’s degrees, while 6 of them had completed their GEDs or received High School Diploma. Only one parent reported having reached 10th grade as the furthest point in education.

School Readiness

The children targeted in the current study were mostly of age group from 3 to 5 years old. It is caused by the fact that most school districts define school readiness as reaching 5 years for most children. The lower limit of 3 years, in this case, was used because it is the age at which most parents start allowing their children to spend time with other people who may not be family members or babysitters. 5 of the children were of age 3 years, 6 of them were of 4 years and the remaining 4 were almost reaching their 5th birthday. All of the three-year-olds were attending a pre-K program. All 6 4-year old children were in a pre-K school program, as well as the ones who were almost five years old. The participants in the study did not specify the names of the pre-K programs that their children were attending. They simply indicated public or private and it was noted that out of 15 children who were in a pre-K program, only one was in a public one. All the others were in a private pre-K program. The participants whose child was in a public pre-K program stated that they had not been informed about the skills their child required before joining kindergarten. The parents with their children in the private pre-K program had been informed about such issue except for the one parent who did not remember. Moreover, on the issue of definition of school readiness, each parent had a different opinion. However, they all agreed on a number of basic concepts. First, the ability to speak and understand when being spoken to was a major concern based on the fact that the children would have to be able to communicate with their teachers and classmates, while also understand what they are being taught in class. In addition, their ability to use the toilet on their own was considered important, since it would ensure that they are comfortable and confident at school. The children also needed to be able to sit still and pay attention, even for a short period of time at first. If a child is still extremely movable and cannot remain still, the parents agreed that they would not consider them as the ones ready for attending school. Another interesting theme that was recurring in the survey responses was the child’s ability to feed themselves. Children who still needed to be fed could have a negative experience at school and, thus, the ability to eat on their own is important before they start attending school setting.

Social Domain

All the parents participating in the study reported that their children can self-express within a group with the exception of one three-year-old child who can be considered not completely adjusted to the social setting. All the five-year-olds, three two-year-olds, and five of the four-year-olds were also reported to enjoy participating in group communication but the two three-year-olds and one four-year-old child seemed not to enjoy the group setting. All the children investigated for the purpose of the current study were also reported to be able to manage their impulses and could stand still or sit for as long as they had to. Only two children were reported to have a problem with accepting responsibility. One was a five-year-old and the other a three-year-old child.

Emotional Domain

All the parents reported that their children abide by the classroom rules. With regards to acting positively when completing assignments, it was noted that out of the 6 four-year-olds, only two were enjoying their assignments. The other four were reported not to act positively while completing their assignments. Four three-year-olds were reported to act positively, as well as three of the five-year-olds. Only one three-year-old and one five-year-old child were having problems with completing their assignments. Four three-year-olds were reported to use polite words, while the other child did not use them. Out of the 6 children of 4 years old, 4 were reported to use polite words, while the remaining two did not do it. Three of the five-year-olds also used polite words. In addition, all the children had friends.

Physical Domain

With the exception of two three-year-olds and one four-year-old child, all the children involved in the given study were reportedly able to trace letters. In addition, all the children, with the exception of two three-year-olds, were able to use small manipulative, such as cubes and puzzles. Two of the three-year-olds were still having problems using toilet independently, as well as one four-year-old and one of the five-year-olds had the same difficulties. All the children in the study were also reported to be able to build and construct using given materials.

Cognitive Domain

All the four and five-year-olds were reported to know primary and secondary colors but only three of the three-year-olds could distinguish them. In addition, all the parents reported that their children were curious and they always asked questions. The five-year-olds were reported to recall previous events. Only four of the four-year-olds were also stated to recall previous events, as well as the two of the three-year-olds. It means that 2 four-year-olds and 3 three-year-olds did not recall previous events. All the older children could recognize shapes and texture. Only the three-year-olds were reported not to recognize the shapes yet.

Discussion

School readiness can be defined based on the specific child’s contexts, especially regarding their family background. Most parents simply expect that a child would be ready for school after celebrating his/her fifth birthday (Riley, Scaramella & McGoron, 2014). The reality, however, is that the fifth birthday is only an age. There are many things that a child must be able to accomplish, if he/she is preparing for school. Being at home, the child may seem very competent in terms of how to play and communicate with his/her family members but within a social setting, things may differ significantly. The findings of the current study present a number of issues that will be discussed in the given section of the paper. They include the child’s social, emotional, cognitive, and physical competence in relation to the school environment.

The Child’s Social Competence

Social competence can be considered as a result of a number of factors. Nevertheless, for a child, the most important influences would be the parents and their friends. When the children are between 3 and 5 years of age, they learn much and form their personality. It means that anything or anyone around them is capable of influencing their social competence. Usually, parents are tasked with the role of helping the child to grow socially by interacting with them and teaching them the basics of their social responsibility (Anderson, Anderson, Kennedy, Wells, Chung, Jackson, Jones … Chung, 2014). The child, in this case, is expected to learn much regarding how to behave in the company of others. The main concerns of social competence in relation to the child’s school readiness include self-expression, the ability and willingness to participate, managing impulses, and taking responsibility.

Self-Expression

It is the role of the parent and the pre-K program to teach the child about self-expression. It is caused by the fact that once the children join school they have to know how to express his or her self. Being at school, children have to communicate with their peers and their teachers, if they want to benefit from the learning contexts of a school setting. Therefore, a child who is unable to express his or her self may not benefit much, if he/she starts attending school. In other case, they would feel uncomfortable and may even be mocked at by their colleagues. Self-expression is, thus, mandatory, and if the children are unable to express themselves then they will require additional help in their pre-K program. In such case, an effective pre-K program should be the one that helps build the child’s ability in self-expression (Anderson et el., 2014).

Willingness to Participate

Participation is an indispensable part of the learning process and children who participate in class are more likely to learn than those who do not. In some cases, the willingness to participate can be associated with the willingness to learn. Consequently, children who participate in class probably do it due to the fact that they are enjoying the lesson or they simply like the subject being taught. On the other hand, children who are unwilling to participate could simply be disinterested in the whole concept of being in the given class. In measuring a child’s school readiness, the child’s willingness to participate in class is an incredible indicator of whether that child wants to be at school or not (Ma, Nelson, Shen & Krenn, 2015). Children who are unwilling to participate need to be encouraged to appreciate the importance of school starting from their pre-K programs. It will help them concentrate and participate in their lessons by the time they join school.

Managing Impulses

The school system is mostly based on rules than on anything else. School children are expected to know when to do things they want to do unlike at home when they can do anything at any time. If the children are unable to manage their impulses, they are likely to cause distractions at school and even have problems with their teachers. Therefore, it is extremely important for the child to be able to manage his/her impulses and understand when he/she is required to stand still, to sit, and even to speak. Moreover, the ability to manage impulses may be learned from home but a pre-K program would definitely help. Without being too formal and strict, such pre-K programs prepare the children for their time at school by trying to instill discipline in the management of impulses (Daley, Jones, Hutchings & Thompson, 2009). After some time practicing at the pre-K program, the children should understand that they might have to sit down for a lesson and avoid causing disruptions by talking loudly or moving around too much. Going to school without such capability will limit the child’s ability to learn, as well as result in misunderstandings and troubles with the teachers.

Taking Responsibility

In most cases, studying process involves making mistakes and learning from them. At school, children are often scolded for their mistakes as part of the process of correcting their thought processes and teaching them the right things. Therefore, mistakes need to be accepted and worked on for better outcomes. Before going to school, it is important for the children to understand the importance of taking responsibility for their actions whether good or bad. If the child cannot take responsibility, he/she will feel victimized at school denying his/her role in the learning process (Ma, Nelson, Shen & Krenn, 2015). The child may also develop a fear for participating in anything, since he/she does not want to make a mistake and be scolded or punished. If a child does not learn to take responsibility then he/she cannot be considered as school ready, meaning that the child still has not grasped the basics of how the school system works. Mistakes are part of the learning process and acknowledging them will make attending school easier and more beneficial for the child.

Emotional Competence

In addition to acting responsibly within the school setting, it is also important for the child to be able to interact in an appropriate way with his/her peers and teachers before going to school. Generally, it was noted that a major indicator showing that a child is ready for school is the ability to enjoy the school and the colleagues. Children who are emotionally incompetent to join school would not only cause problems for their peers and teachers but also for themselves considering that they will be isolated and unable to make friends easily (Daley, Jones, Hutchings & Thompson, 2009). The four important markers that parents are expected to use while evaluating their child’s emotional competence include the child’s attitude towards school rules, assignments, the use of polite words, and ability to make friends.

Classroom/ School Rules

Being at home, it may be noted that there are not many rules that the child has to abide by. They can walk around, talk and play as much as they want except for special cases, such as meal times and when they have to sleep. It means that they are not used to being expected to sit still or to stand up only when it is necessary. The whole idea of joining a pre-K program is to help the child prepare for the school system (Walker & MacPhee, 2011). It means that the child should start understanding the classroom rules and what is expected of them while being at school. School readiness, in this case, is measured based on the child’s ability to understand and abide by the classroom rules, since the school system may become a problem for them, if they join it without having a prior experience in the setting. If it is difficult for the children to start following the classroom rules, they are likely to have a negative experience at school.

Completing Assignments

Every schoolchild has to deal with assignments from the start until they finish their studies. For starters, assignments can seem extremely boring and it is expected that the children will not enjoy them once they become engaged in the school routine. In preparing the child for years of assignments, it has to be noted that one of the most important measures of school readiness is the changed attitude towards the school tasks. It may not be practical to expect the children to be too enthusiastic about the assignments but they need to exhibit some level of positivity. Enthusiasm, in this case, may actually be an indication that the child has not yet grasped the whole concept of school. The initial excitement of having assignments is common but it reduces with time and the assignments become a bother soon. Consequently, the task is to reverse the child’s attitude and help him/her start appreciating the assignments as mandatory parts of their learning process (Walker & MacPhee, 2011).

Polite Words

Within a school setting, using polite words can help a child avoid many conflicts and bad situations not only with the peers but also with the teachers. A child is known to learn how to communicate with others based on how people at home communicate amongst themselves and with the child. It means that if a child has not yet learned to use polite words, it can be related to the family setting. The pre-K program helps by teaching a child the importance of polite words within a school setting. The idea is to ensure that the children can interact with other children and with their peers without creating conflicts (Henriksson, 2012). As a result, polite words are a basic component of the child’s learning process, and if they are not able to communicate using such words, they are not likely to fit into the larger school setting with a great number of different peers and teachers to interact with. Consequently, the point here is that the school setting is a breeding ground for conflicts and part of being school ready deals with the ability to navigate with minimal interaction problems by using polite words to avoid being rude.

Friends

If a child cannot find friends, he/she is likely to have a negative experience at school. It is mainly caused by the fact that schools often display social expectations in terms of the interactions between the students. The children should be able to interact productively with their peers, to build and maintain friendships, and be able to thrive in the collaborative environment of a conventional classroom (Henriksson, 2012). It explains why many parents become concerned when their children are unable to find friends after they have started attending the school. The reality is that making friends is something that the child has to learn while being in a pre-K program. Their inability to socialize and make friends before joining school can result in problems with their transition into the school systems where friendships are considered significant to fit perfectly. The children who cannot find friends at school often dislike it because they are always alone, while their colleagues have friends to play and learn with.

Cognitive Competence

A children’s cognitive development is important when determining their school readiness. It is caused by the fact that competence determines their capacity and readiness to learn. Most parents may assume that the whole point of taking the child to school is to make him/her start learning. It may be true, but the children need to reach a point in their growth where they can actually learn the things that are being taught at school. Pre-K programs seek to teach the child a number of basic concepts, such as identifying shapes, holding a pencil, recognizing colors or even reading the alphabets. At the same time, if the children is not yet interested enough to learn the things provided at the setting, they cannot be considered as school ready (Andrich, Hill & Steenkamp, 2015). The main themes to be examined by the parent include colors and shapes, curiosity, and memory.

Colors and Shapes

The ability to identify colors and shapes is considered as a basic indicator that the child is ready to go to school. Consequently, learning colors and shapes is the simplest form of learning that the child can be expected to accomplish his/her task in relation to the school system. In order to measure the child’s school readiness, the parents should try to establish whether the child can recognize the primary and secondary colors and whether they can recognize shapes like circles, rectangles, and many others (Henriksson, 2012). The significance of the colors is undisputed but the shapes, on the other hand, would have to be explained. The ability to learn and remember the shapes is a sign that the child’s mind is developed enough to process and store information that will be learnt at school. As a result, a child who is unable to learn shapes and colors cannot be presumed as school ready. The main role of the pre-K program in such a context would be to help in developing the child’s mind until he/she is able to remember colors and shapes.

Curiosity

Curiosity is a basis of a learning process. It indicates the child’s desire for knowledge. Such curiosity makes a child interested in exploration and learning (Portilla, Ballard, Adler, Boyce & Obradovic, 2014). Before a child becomes curious, it is very difficult to make them learn anything. The curiosity generates the need to learn new things, to explore new information, and generally improve the child’s level of knowledge. Sometimes, the lack of curiosity could be an indication that the child is not ready to learn new things. It could be a sign that the child is still limited in his/her context and, thus, cannot reach high results in a school setting. Children who are not curious feel disinterest in everything that does not seem familiar. Therefore, it becomes very difficult to introduce anything new to them. They would prefer avoiding anything that is not known to them. Within the school setting, such child would tend to avoid practically everything that is supposed to be introduced to them when they finally join the school. Moreover, while some children are naturally curious from an early age, others would need to be encouraged.

Memory

A child’s memory is known to be very limited in capacity during the early stages of development (Portilla, Ballard, Adler, Boyce & Obradovic, 2014). It explains why children experience difficult times remembering things when they are sent or when they are told not to do them. As a child grows, his/her memory capacity increases to the extent where he/she can remember things he/she is told to or the things they see. Once a child starts remembering things easily, he/she can be considered school ready. Nevertheless, when the children are still struggling with previous events and they can barely remember what occurred in the morning or the previous day, it would be very difficult for them to learn anything. Unlike in the pre-K program, teachers at school may not have time to repeat the same things for the child to learn. It results in the fact that the child will fail to learn something new in the long term. Therefore, the best time for a child to go to school would be when he/she has developed the capacity to remember things that have been seen, heard or learned at the pre-K program. Consequently, the only way to ascertain that the child can learn at school is to ensure that he/she can remember the previous events.

Physical Competence

A children’s physical competence determines their ability to participate in school activities. It would be very difficult for a child to go to school, if he/she is unable to use toilet independently or to trace letters in order to learn how to write, or even to play with puzzles and building blocks. All these exercises are a part of the child’s growth process and they are meant to make the child competent within the school setting. Children who are unable to meet any of these requirements are likely to have certain problems when they go to school. It is caused by the fact that most of such activities are part of the school curricula and the child will have to participate, if he/she wants to enjoy the whole learning experience (Ready, 2010). The child’s physical competence greatly affects the ability to fit in and enjoy being in school, thus, enabling a better learning experience. Children who are unable to use the toilet independently generally find it difficult to go to school, since they will not have their parents or siblings there to help. Moreover, it may be very uncomfortable to ask a teacher or another student for help. A child’s physical competence will, in this case, determine, if he/she can be sent to school regardless of the age. A five-year-old who cannot use the toilet independently is just as challenged as the three-year-old who cannot do it. It means that both children would not feel comfortable at school. Therefore, age is not a crucial component in evaluating a child’s school readiness. As a result, the parents should analyze the children’s limitations and their implications to assimilation into the school system. If the limitation will pose too much challenge, then it would be better for the children to remain in pre-K, where they can learn how to deal with their specific development challenges.

Each of such competencies plays a role in ensuring that the child will fit into the school system. They help either to make the child more comfortable or to make the learning experience easier and more fun for the child (Petersen, 2012). In each context, it is important to appreciate that children may not develop at the same pace. While some three-year-olds show high levels of relevant competence, there are other five-year-olds who have difficulties with concentrating on their assignments or who are unable to find friends among other important competencies. Therefore, instead of relying on the set age-based standards for determining school readiness, each parent should evaluate their child’s competencies from an individualistic perspective to ensure that they are not keeping the child in pre-K unnecessarily or sending his/her to school prematurely. Regardless of the context, the children should start attending school when they are capable of staying there without parents.

Implications

The current research was aimed at establishing what parents should pay their attention to in the process of determining whether their child is ready for school. The participants were all parents whose children were in a pre-K program and, thus, being prepared for school. Generally, the American educational system presumes that being school ready is mainly connected to the five-year-old children (Chien, Howes, Burchinal, Pianta, Ritchie, Bryant, Clifford… Barbarin, 2010). However, the reality is that sometimes it requires much more than simply turning five to be ready for school. The findings in the study indicate that the parents should pay attention to the child’s social, emotional, cognitive, and physical competence in order to determine the level of school readiness. The implications of such findings can be discussed based on how children will be joining the school, as well as on the definition of a good pre-K program. Having established that school readiness is not mostly connected to age, the research outcomes should affect the way parents decide to take their children to school. Initially, parents wait until the child is five years old and then they just expect the child to fit into the school routine automatically. With the information presented in the study, it can be expected that parents would pay more attention to the learning expectations associated with the pre-K programs that their children attend. Instead of simply making the children attend any of available pre-K programs, parents have to ensure that they are receiving the appropriate kind of preparation to join the school.

In addition, a good pre-K program should be defined based on how much it helps with the child’s critical competencies as highlighted in the given paper (Petersen, 2012). In contrast to a place where children go to play and make friends, a pre-K program should be a place where children learn new things and test their development with the relevance to their school readiness. In such case, the challenge is that the children do not develop at the same pace and, sometimes, a three-year-old child could be just as school ready as a five-year-old child. Consequently, the pre-K program should provide an opportunity for the children to be evaluated based on their competencies and not on age. Understanding the child’s development level in relation to the expectations of the school system will ensure that the children are not left in pre-K when they could be at school already. The age system is too general and, thus, fails to account for the specialized development patterns that different children experience. With the findings of the given study, pre-K programs can consider promoting children based on their competencies rather than waiting until they are five before they can join the school. Some children may be held back for too long and finally they can become frustrated with the system long before they start attending a kindergarten. The children involved in the given study were very competent in almost all areas but they all were still in a pre-K program probably as they did not reach the age of five yet. It means that they have the potential to start and continue school successfully. Nevertheless, they will have to wait longer unless their parents decide to remove them from the program in advance. The American educational policies limit the younger children from joining school before their fifth birthday but with the relevant information provided in the current study, parents should be able to send their children to school as soon as they are ready for it regardless of their age.