Developing Kids

This isn’t so much a blog post as it is a request for information.

As I’m not a qualified early childhood teacher of any stripe I’ve been wondering how to benchmark the Oh Waily children’s development.
This isn’t meant to say that I want to compare my kids with yours so much as I’d like to have some ballpark idea of what is normal and what isn’t.

For instance, I recall a friend telling me that the first week her son was at primary school he was bored stiff because they spent that time teaching the kids to count to ten.  Now I know that there is a great deal of variance in each child’s capacity, but Miss Oh Waily can manage to count to twenty without too much trouble.  Well, if you excuse the fact that the number 17 is sometimes absent without leave.  Miss OWW is 3 years & 3 months old – is this an average skill level for a three year old?

And as for reading, well obviously she can’t do that just yet, but we do regularly sit and read four or five books for bedtime each night.  Some of these picture books are 30 pages or more long.   Is that the usual length of story that a three year old has the ability to sit and listen to?  She seems to comprehend them after a few readings. (I read somewhere that kids need to hear the same story three times before it is all assimilated.  If I can find the reference I’ll post it later.)

I know we’re having a big “up in arms” about the introduction of National Standards here in New Zealand, but personally I can’t understand why this should be the case other than the extra workload it may produce for the teachers involved.   I haven’t actually heard any explicit detail of the arguments against it – just that there are people lining up to condemn it.
As a parent, personally, I’d like to know if my kids are doing okay.  I’d like to know where I might be letting them down by not giving them time and exposure to ideas that are useful and basic to support any ongoing learning they are to do.  And how do you do that without some sort of benchmark?  No benchmark, no objectivity, no idea.

Just as a matter of interest the idea of formal assessment is a relatively foreign one to Montessori.  This isn’t to say that the children aren’t assessed, they are meant to be constantly observed and notes are often taken regarding their activities.  This allows the introduction of new activities to stretch the observed child’s skills. But tests and similar forms of assessment are not generally found in this environment.

Anyway, what I’m after is links to a genuinely useful guide to what the average skills of a pre-school aged child is.
Feel free to give your own opinions on what you consider “normal” or “average” skill levels to be too.

Oh, and thanks in advance for taking the time to reply. 🙂

8 thoughts on “Developing Kids

  1. I have Mr 2, who is dynamite as you well know, and I often wonder the same things.

    He can count to 16 very proficiently, and with help he gets to twenty, but somewhere along the way he decided he doesn’t like 19 so he just plain ignores it hehe.
    I’ll often watch him playing, and he lines up toys, specifically to count them. So I know he is counting with no prompting whatsoever. He seems to make a game out of it.
    He recognises all of the numbers 0-9 but can’t grasp 10 and above by sight yet.

    He also recognises around half the alphabet.
    Not words, although he knows the letters make words.. he knows H O M and E mean home, but I don’t think he could read it as a word. Must ask him though… see what he says!
    But when we are doing things, especially when we are out, he seems to take great pride in pointing out familiar numbers and letters places….. like on signs. Or numberplates on cars. Or in magazines in waiting rooms.
    For a while I wondered if he was really recognising the letters, but now I’m 100% sure, as I don’t prompt him. We can be driving past a Hotel and he will yell out “Mummy H” and point to the sign. He will do that with a large number of letters.

    But colours are a weak point… He can identify red and green, but no others. Not without a great deal of prompting!

    He is also running on a SUPER short attention span.. nothing like your lovely lass. There is no way he could sit through a story and he hates when I try to ‘read’ a book properly. He refuses to allow books to be read page at a time in order.
    Although he loves books and has loads of them! He has his favourites beside his bed to read himself in the mornings!
    He will spend 10 minutes on books at a time, at the most, and his way of ‘reading’ is to skip randomly to pages, then he sits there and points at everything he can identify, and says what it is, then he points at things he doesn’t know and asks you what it is.
    We also play little games, like I look on the page for something, like say a ball.. and I ask him to find it. He enjoys hunting through the pictures for what I’m challenging him to find!

    Don’t know if all that helps you any… but that’s Mr 2!


  2. That’s interesting about your boy’s reading habits, Sharyn. Sounds a bit like mine, although he also likes being read full stories. Actually, though, he likes ‘info’ books, like picture encyclopedias of tractors or sharks for that reason.

    We in the UK are assessed and targeted to death. At the Star’s nursery they had all the development targets up on the walls. There must be a link somewhere, but so far the best I have come up with is this:

    The Star came up bang on targets for his targets (but no more) at around 2 except for a bit of a lag in verbal communication skills, which the nursery put down to his bilingualism. This cheered me up no end. Well, except for his not being a prodigy.


  3. That’s interesting about your boy’s reading habits, Sharyn. My son is much the same, although he does like the occasional story. I don’t know why I am surprised that other kids have the same behaviour patterns as mine. Fond mamas and all that.

    We are assessed and targetted to death in the uk and I know the nursery the Star went to at around 2 had development goals for each age, even the babies as they were posted on the wall and they gave me a pack with the Star’s assessments when I left. He was bang on target for his age in everything except verbal communication, where he lagged a bit. The nursery thought it was his bilingualism.

    The closest I’ve found so far is this, but I’ll keep poking around:

    Apologies if this posts twice. I think I lost the first version, but you never know.


  4. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a pre-schooler, so I can’t comment other than what my nieces and nephew have been doing which sounds around about the same as your little Miss. My niece has been writing her name for a while (she will be 4 next month) and mum and dad, and got sick of writing dad so asked how to write “Kirk” instead (daddy’s name, naturally).

    I do remember C’s first week of school and he loved it due to the newness of it all, all the new people he got to meet the new experiences etc. He could read and write before he got to school but there were still new things we hadn’t covered, new books to read etc. I would have been quite surprised if they spent the whole week only learning to count to 10!

    I agree about national standards. My big fella is in his last year of primary school and over the year we have been given an indication of where he is placing in regards to children in his year. I too am not aware of the arguments for and against, but as a parent, I find this information valuable.


  5. Thanks for your comments ladies.
    As expected each little one is unique and their own personal interests come through in what they learn, how they learn and when they choose to learn it.

    @Sol – thanks for the links. I am particularly interested in the EYFS and will take a good look through the website. Then I think I’ll try to see if I can find our Min of Ed’s equivalent for the controversial national standards. I think it might all make interesting reading.
    Also, when I was reading about the benefits of bilingualism I seem to recall that there were two schools of thought – it slowed down the verbal skills a bit, and it didn’t. Just like “Experts” – one says one thing and another says the exact opposite !! But there were just a ridiculous number of upsides that I thought, “if it slows down a bit, who cares – the internal brain wiring advantage just outweighs it by so much”. Especially good for you since your second written language is completely different – apparently that is a bigger bonus than just learning a language using the same old alphabet.
    I am completely envious, being a monolingual (with smatterings of high-school French) is such a disadvantage. 😡


  6. I knew there was something I meant to come back and ask.

    Is it quite uncommon then to send kids to nurseries before they start formal schooling in NZ? Or is it that you don’t have formal assessments yet?Because the free provision starts at 3 here (15 hours a week), so of course most people dip their toe in at that point and then, here, you start getting feedback about their progress along the bell curve.

    Of course, we do start the schooling thing early here. Our government doesn’t trust parents to be able to do it at even a basic level themselves.


  7. Hi Sol,
    I’m probably not the best person to answer your question, but here goes…

    I don’t think it is uncommon, but up until a short while ago there was no subsidy for childcare. We now have “20 hours free” for 3 y.o.+ which is a fallacy since depending on where you live there are “optional” fees to cover the gap between the actual funding and the actual cost of running the centre.
    We have many words and variations on nurseries here – daycare, kindy, kohanga reo. They are all different – different styles of looking after the kids and with different structures and goals – some are commercial enterprises, some are volunteer based and some have specific aims. Kohanga reo literally translates as “language nest” – so it’s about keeping the Maori language alive and in everyday use.
    To my knowledge (and other Kiwi ladies, please feel free to correct me) the vast majority (if not all) do not have any form of appraisal. The Montessori place I chose maintains a record, including photos, of what each child does. Miss Oh has her own writing book, she brings home the odd thing that she makes and the teachers are always out with the camera when the kids do interesting things. It’s not a “formal” assessment by any means.

    Then again this is a society that has become so PC that the idea of keeping score in little one’s sports became a no-no. A number of high profile senior schools also took umbrage with the new assessment programme implemented by the Min of Ed a few years back (NCEA) that they have become International Baccalaureate schools.
    And having seen the NCEA results from early on in the piece, I can see why they would. The report cards that I’ve seen only show what bits of a subject that the child has passed. (Achieved, Merit, Excellence) There is no way to compare one child with Merit against another – it was an amorphous blob of a category. The classes taken and failed were in small print on the back page !!

    The first time I saw these was also the first time I began to think about what we would do when Miss & Master Oh grew up – private school or one of the high reputation public schools was suddenly looking more attractive as they didn’t have a problem letting their kids know exactly how they were getting on.
    Like the kids don’t know who’s good at what !! Honestly some of these PC people think kids are blind, deaf and stupid !

    Anyway, I’m not sure that this has answered your question.
    It certainly turned into a bit of a rant about the NCEA system. :O
    Oh, and we start the little ones at school here just after they turn 5 and they are meant to be enrolled at the latest by 6.


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