I am certain you have heard that kindergarten is what the first grade used to be. I would go so far as to say that kindergarten is more than first grade used to be.
A child is born with essentially a blank brain ready, willing and eager to learn. Until recently we did not think it was necessary to begin cramming as much as possible into it by the age of six.
Our local newspaper recently had an article discussing early childhood education. One conclusion various studies have reached is that the advantages children achieve with early learning (think pre-school) level out during the elementary years.
Many states either already have or are in the process of implementing state supported pre-school. Pre-school is the current cure to the United States’ perceived decline in the world’s educational standings. Our educational standing is another topic I will attack, but not today.
Pre-schools began appearing, mostly in churches, in the 1960’s. What began as structured group play with education has evolved into early education with play. Pre-school is a positive experience and does prepare a child for the rigors of formal education. A child entering kindergarten, who has not attended pre-school or whose parents have not provided enrichment in the home, will be challenged entering school.
Having said that, however, I cannot help but wonder if we are teaching too much too soon?
During their early years children develop at such different rates. Once born development continues. Obviously, children born into a home where there is no stimulation are not going to develop as well. Those children who enjoy positive, educational stimulation will do better. But children in the same home with the same exposure may not develop in the same manner or at the same speed. That’s okay. The vast majority of children will learn on their own time table.
But the “government powers that be” just cannot help themselves. Under the guise of wanting to provide an educated work force, they are pushing more and more formal education down to the very early years. Children, being little sponges, will soak it up. But if the learning levels out in a few years, is it really necessary to begin creating opportunities for failure at ages four or five?
I truly enjoy tutoring younger children. They are eager, and my glee when they “get” something is very rewarding. At the same time I’m concerned about the parents – and children – who are already stressing because “they are not doing as well as an older sibling” or are behind the kid next door.
Side note – this reasoning does not apply to those children who may have diagnosable learning disabilities. For them the earlier problems can be identified and addressed, the better.
The majority of children will learn what needs to be learned in their own time. Some will learn their letters quicker than others. Some will be quick with numbers. But they will learn. Do we really need to push four year olds into formalized learning? And worse yet – formalized learning that is overseen by the federal government!