- If online school is acceptable for K-12 students, why not take advantage of virtual classrooms for younger children? That’s what some parents are doing in hopes of equipping their preschoolers with academic skills while avoiding the high costs of private preschool, according to a PBS News Hour report.
- Online preschool programs, such as those provided by K12 Inc. and Time4Learning, as well as some free programs, can meet the needs of families living in areas where public preschool is not available or of those who prefer to homeschool.
- While some of the online programs may very well be aligned to early learning standards and give students adequate practice on basic math and literacy skills, experts say that a virtual program is unlikely to replace a high-quality, center-based preschool experience.
Kindergarten readiness means much more than just knowing letter sounds, how to count to 20 and a few other facts about the world. As the emphasis on the importance of early-childhood education as increased over the past few decades, some experts have also stressed that because children have such wide-ranging skills and abilities when they enter school that it’s just as important for schools to be ready for children as it is for children to have some early academic knowledge.
Kindergarten teachers have also noted that being able to listen to others, take turns, taking care of classroom materials and knowing how to put them away, sticking with an activity, attending to personal needs and knowing how to ask for help are just as important as early reading and math skills. Initiatives such as summer transition programs, early-learning programs in libraries and museums and other community-based opportunities can help children develop these skills if they haven’t spent a lot of time in formal learning programs before kindergarten.
The fact that online preschool programs exist is important for school leaders in a couple of ways. Administrators can make families aware of such options if they can’t get a spot in a preschool program. It’s also important for educators to be aware that some children might be entering their classrooms with this new model of early learning and might need additional support developing social skills and interacting in a group.