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35 Chapter 3 Curriculum Many of the immigrant parents in our focus groups expressed appreciation for the quality of the toys and play opportunities available to their children in a U.S. preschool, some noting that the early childhood education settings in their home country often lacked such resources. As an immigrant mother from Guatemala said in a focus group in New York City, “Back home, there was nothing to play with in the classroom. Not like here. No toys or paints.” Nevertheless, in spite of their appreciation for the way a play-­ oriented curriculum created a welcoming atmosphere for their children, in our focus groups the great majority of immigrant parents expressed a concern that the curriculum was unbalanced, with insufficient emphasis on academics. For example, Mexican mothers in a focus group in Mesa, Arizona, made these comments on the video they had just watched of a day at Solano Preschool: Mother 1: I liked the bilingual teaching they had. However, it seemed to be that it was low academically. Mother 2: It was all about playing. All. Mother 1: I would say, most of all it was about singing. Mother 3: Well, yes. But they are little. First they have to understand little by little, don’t they? Like my child. With him, play comes first. He knows some things, but not at the level of being at school, where he’s learning now. He knows his name, he writes it and all that. Mother 4: I think that there has to be a balance. Interviewer: A balance between what? Mother 4: Between education and play, equal parts I would say. Tobin_Book.indb 35 8/27/2013 3:41:08 PM 36 Children Crossing Borders Mother 1: I would say maybe something like 20 percent more education. Mother 2: Yes, it seems that it’s not balanced. I think that everything has to have some percentage of balance, because just playing is not okay. There’s a purpose to send them to school, right? In some of these discussions, parents expressed a sense of loss for the more academic kind of preschool program their children would have been experiencing had the family not emigrated to the United States. For instance , a Mexican father in Phoenix said: Father: In my opinion, the school in Mexico is better. Interviewer: The school is better? How so? Father: Because a child there, he can do multiplication like this [pointing to his forehead], using his mind. And here they don’t. A Sudanese mother in Iowa City made similar comments: In my country in Sudan, the system is towards the child has to learn to read and write and academics more than anything. ABCs and like things like that. It’s not like [there’s] a wide variety of things to do. But it’s still, the child is free, like in a way the French children in the video, they go out on the playground and play, and they come back in and work. This mother was commenting favorably here on the video she had just watched of a day in the school in Paris. The video showed children doing writing worksheets, which were checked by the teacher, and then going out on the playground, where they played freely, even wildly, with little adult mediation, in contrast to the U.S. video, which showed teachers doing more supervision of children’s play, both indoors and on the playground. In each focus group we asked: “What do you think about the balance in the video you just watched between play and reading and mathematics?” Some parents liked the balance of play and academics in the Solano video; the great majority said that they would have liked to see the balance tipped more toward academics; no one said that they would have liked to see more play and less academics. This perspective, as we show later in the chapter, is in stark contrast to that of the American teachers who watched the same video and responded to this question by criticizing the Solano Preschool for not having more unstructured play and fewer teacher-­led activities. Most immigrant parents answered our question about balance with exTobin_Book .indb 36 8/27/2013 3:41:08 PM Curriculum 37 plicit requests for more academics, as in this discussion with a group of parents at the Islamic School in Tempe: Interviewer: What do you want? What’s the right balance between play and reading and math, and numbers...


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