Career Planning in Preschool?! Of Course.
When I was invited to write for a bloghop about the topic "Beyond K-12: Academic and Career Planning" I scoffed. I did not feel like I had much perspective on the matter and assumed I would pass.
However, over the weekend my family attended an Open Studios event where local artists open their homes and their studios to the public to tour, learn, and network. By entering into the artist community and meeting and engaging with artists, I saw that every day is career day for young children and seeing it as such can help frame our view of the work/play they do and, in turn, the way we parent them.
They are People, Too
First we visited Anna's choice of artist, Monika Bunting, who works with encaustic. "Mo" took Anna's favorite piece down from the wall, explained how she made it, and invited Anna to touch it. Then she told us about her other job as a middle school teacher.
The brief encounter was set firmly in a relationship; the artist was communicating with my daughter in a very caring way.
Then we visited Mikey's choice of artist, Lee Heekin, who works primarily with wood and paint. It was in her studio, which was the garage of her home, that we really got a sense for her as a whole person. In addition to being an artist, she was a wife and mother. She invited my children to use her materials to make their own sculptures. As she talked with my children, answered their questions, and praised their work, her own son (the same age as mine) came into the group. He requested her help sorting his Pokemon cards, which happens to be a shared interest with Mikey.
The way she struck a balance between meeting the needs of her own child as well as my children emphasized to me that work is a part of life, not all of it.
Three Features of a Career
What I learned this weekend that pertains to career planning from a preschool perspective is that careers have three important features:
- A career is based on how a person contributes something valuable to the world.
- A person's work is situated within a community.
- The work ultimately leads to independent living.
I don't think it is too big a stretch to see how parenting preschoolers with respect and as playful independent STEAM learners can help to lay the foundation for these features of a career.
It's Never Too Early Be Valued
How to Value the Process
I said things like, "I see you are collecting all the same sized blocks. Here! I found another small one for you," and, "I notice that you are done working with wood and now you are drawing." By stating the obvious, I made it clear that I valued how they were working. They were working independently, creatively, and intentionally.
In all honesty, I said "Mikey, I like how you arranged different sizes and shapes. I also like how they are oriented differently - I can see some squares point forward and backward, others point side to side."
Family is a Child's First Community
Not only should preschoolers be learning self-care like getting themselves dressed, going to the bathroom, and putting their toys away, they should also be learning how to contribute to the functioning of the household. Age-appropriate chores like wiping up spills, clearing their places from the table, and helping unload the dishwasher not only help you take care of your home, they are practice for doing something valuable that helps the family function.
Beyond Family - The Community at Large
When children leave the house they have the opportunity to meet people who fill all sorts of roles in paying jobs. At stores they see cashiers, janitors, and stocking folks. They meet librarians, veterinarians, pediatricians, and teachers. They meet baristas, waiters and waitresses, and sometimes a chef. They might even get to meet musicians and artists. And don't forget a preschool engineer's favorite - the garbage truck or ice cream truck drivers!
All those people are working. They are making a living by doing something that is valued by society. And children are no fools. They can try it on to see how the job feels...they pretend to work in grocery stores, restaurants, and veterinarian offices. They pretend to work in construction, on the police force, and as artists. It is not just cute; it is imperative that a child has the opportunity to learn and develop a sense of self within his or her community this way.
Her First Job
A child's first job is to play. It might be as small as playing with her shoes to see if she can get them on and off her feet. Perhaps she plays with a wet rag to wash the table, floor, or counter.
As she grows, your preschooler will find inspiration outside of household work - playing as a grocery store clerk, a chef, or an architect.
Each phase of development is important, cannot and should not be rushed, nor held back. It is our job as parents to allow our children to do their work. By encouraging independence now, we can expect it to grow with the child, ultimately leading toward an independent working adult.
Start Working Now, Earn Later
- Give them opportunities to work independently. Try not to interrupt them. Give them the time and space to work on whatever it is that they are doing.
- Invite them to choose how they can contribute to the work of the household. (I have had more success asking, "What can you do to help me clean the toys up?" than when I've dictated, "Clean the toy room.")
- Use sportcasting - stating the obvious - to recognize their work and their accomplishments.
Because if they grow up with this kind of culture at home, their work ethic will carry them into the broader community.
No one should stress over worksheets so I wrote the guide for learning math from everyday life...because when the world is your classroom you are free to learn math that matters.
I love my partnerships!
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