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Preschooler Lacks Interest in Schoolwork

Education Expert Advice from Peggy Gisler, Ed.S. and Marge Eberts, Ed.S.

Q: My five-year-old son is in pre-kindergarten. He lacks interest in any kind of schoolwork. I have been to his classroom several times and in my opinion, the teacher is excellent. She is patient and knowledgeable and has many interesting centers in her classroom. However, he seems to learn very little at school. Most of the time he does not pay attention to the teacher. I have been working diligently at home with him. He seems to learn his letters and numbers at a normal rate, remembers them for a few days, and then one day when he is asked, says he doesn't know them. But he may remember the next day.

He is very quick in other areas of play and when helping around the house. He catches on quickly to games he wants to play and seems to be a leader when he plays with the other children.

What can I do to help him retain the information he learns? Do I need to seek professional help? I would very much like to get this problem under control before he starts kindergarten. I will continue to work with him throughout the summer.

A: Your son may just not be as ready as some of his classmates for the academic activities of his pre-K program. It could just be too much, too soon. While some young children may truly enjoy an early excursion into the academic world, many find it boring or frustrating. Most just aren't ready to sit down and concentrate on academic work and are quickly turned off by workbooks and flashcards.

You will be making a big mistake if you try to turn your child into a scholar before he is ready. Enjoy the fact that he is quick in so many areas, and limit how much time you spend on teaching him letters and numbers. Learning needs to be fun for him. Use rhymes and interesting letter and number books to make learning more enjoyable.

Remember that your son learned to crawl and walk when he was ready. The same principle applies to the skills children need for school. Guard against pushing him to acquire skills before he is ready. There is absolutely no evidence that formal instruction at an early age has any lasting academic advantage. It may even do some harm. Force-feeding academics to preschoolers can even cause kindergarten burnout. Don't be too concerned right now about your son's knowledge of letters and numbers. It is still some time before he will enter kindergarten, and all young children do not know their letters and numbers to 10 on the first day of kindergarten. Almost all, however, will have learned them by the end of the kindergarten year.

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Peggy Gisler and Marge Eberts are experienced teachers who have more than 60 educational publications to their credit. They began writing books together in 1979. Careers for Bookworms was a Book-of-the-Month Club paperback selection, and Pancakes, Crackers, and Pizza received recognition from the Children's Reading Roundtable. Gisler and Eberts taught in classrooms from kindergarten through graduate school. Both have been supervisors at the Butler University Reading Center.


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