Preschool: Dissenting voices
I AM SURE IF YOU DO A QUICK SEARCH ONLINE you will no doubt come across a number of papers and research that support universal preschool or kindergarten. Whatever the views may be, you will want to know that there are dissenting voices in the debate. And these conscientious objectors are by no means fringe loonies. My own position is that parents should resist the siren calls of preschool as far as possible, until and unless no other option is available to them. Perhaps you are all for preschool and kindergarten, thinking an academic headstart is what your child needs desperately. The question to ask is, is your child ready? Here are some excerpts to help you reconsider your decision. Although the context may be the contentious US education scene (then again, most countries have contentious debates over education don’t they?), but the principles and arguments have local applications. Do go to the links to read the full articles.
- Education and the Brain:A Bridge Too Far
By John Bruer
Dr John Bruer looks at neuroscience research and how they are often misappropriated to support education practices, particularly early learning. 13-page pdf document. Read or download the whole document here.
- Much too early!
By David Elkind, Ph.D
Why, when we know what is good for young children, do we persist in miseducating them, in putting them at risk for no purpose? The short answer is that the movement toward academic training of the young is not about education. It is about parents anxious to give their children an edge in what they regard as an increasingly competitive and global economy. It is about the simplistic notion that giving disadvantaged young children academic training will provide them with the skills and motivation to continue their education and break the cycle of poverty. It is about politicians who push accountability, standards, and testing in order to win votes as much as or more than to improve the schools.
The deployment of unsupported, potentially harmful pedagogies is particularly pernicious at the early-childhood level. It is during the early years, ages four to seven, when children’s basic attitudes toward themselves as students and toward learning and school are established. Children who come through this period feeling good about themselves, who enjoy learning and who like school, will have a lasting appetite for the acquisition of skills and knowledge. Children whose academic self-esteem is all but destroyed during these formative years, who develop an antipathy toward learning, and a dislike of school, will never fully realize their latent abilities and talents.
If we want all of our children to be the best that they can be, we must recognize that education is about them, not us.If we do what is best for children, we will give them and their parents the developmentally appropriate, high-quality, affordable, and accessible early-childhood education they both need and deserve. (Read the full article here)
- Early Schooling … An Idea Whose Time Has Gone?
By Cheri Fuller
The foundation stone of the child’s personality is his or her relationship with parents, especially the mother. If the child forms a secure attachment relationship with his parents, he will, according to John Bowlby, well-known British psychiatrist, form a positive internal working model of himself, his world and his parents. (Bowlby was concerned about the parent-child bond especially through age eight.) He will be a cooperative individual as he grows up, possessing high self-esteem.He will be able to trust others.  He will have a foundation for school success. Other leading researchers are alarmed a the movement away from mother and the home. Why? Because too early placement of young children in school may place limits on their ability to make full use of their developmental potential by damaging parental attachment.
Psychologist Jay Belsky of Penn State University, a day care researcher for more than ten years, suggests that early day care places the child at risk emotionally, particularly in his social relationships.
One of the most widespread sources of childhood stress is the increasing separation of children from their parents at young ages. “Declining parental attachment is an extremely serious risk to children today. The verdict of enormous psychological literature is that time spent with a parent is the very clearest correlate of healthy child development,” says Karl Zinsmeister, Adjunct Research Associate at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. When young children go into extensive non-parental care, he says, many of them will suffer emotional and intellectual harm with symptoms including low self-esteem, increased aggressiveness, weak child-parent bonds, poor social skills and poor academic performance.  (Read the full article here)
- Better Late than Early
By Raymond and Dorothy Moore
(Taken from their book, Better Late than Early)
In view of research findings on children’s needs and on the performance of preschools and care centers, more and more people are asking questions about early childhood education. Dale Meers, a Washington, D.C. psychoanalyst and researcher, was once an avid proponent of early schooling. But he now questions providing day care for all children simply because it is needed by the disadvantaged. He asks if we would give methadone, the drug cure, to all adults simply because it is needed by addicts. Other early childhood specialists are modifying or reversing their blanket endorsements of preschool. The consensus of scientific evidence on the home versus the preschool is clear for the majority of children. They receive a better foundation for future development and learning from a secure and responsive home environment in which understanding parents are the teachers. Thus, before enrolling a child in the local preschool or care center, one should ask if he will clearly be better off there than at home. (Read the rest here)
- Why I homepreschool my children
By Susan Lemons
I believe that no “educational toy,” “preschool program,” or “expert preschool teacher” can provide the love, individualized attention, and discipleship training that loving parents can. I know this from first-hand experience—I used to be one of those “expert preschool teachers.” When I was on playground duty, children would gather around me to talk or be held. I loved those children; but that love in no way compares to the love I have for my own children. After the first of my four children was born, I realized that as a preschool teacher, I was nothing more than a poor substitute for Mom. Those children weren’t gathered around me because I was such a wonderful teacher; they were simply longing for attention—from anyone. They were literally starved for the kind of time, love and attention they should have been receiving from their own parents. Much of their day was spent in loneliness and confusion.I recommend homepreschooling, but it’s not my desire that anyone look upon me as an “expert”. My family is not perfect; I am NOT a perfect parent. In fact, much of what I have learned has been because of mistakes, bad judgment, and personal or family struggles. Our family does what every family has to do: We rely on God for the outcome. We ask the Lord to give us HIS strength. We cling to God’s promises that God will not let go of one of His lambs; that our children will not depart from the ways we have taught them—from God’s ways. (Prov., 22:6; John 10:28; and Isaiah 54:13.) (Read the rest here)
- It’s child’s play
The young often learn faster and deeper during playtime
By Rachel Goodchild
We all want our children to be successful, focused and doing well at school so that they study, learn and then get a great job, or become an amazing business owner.With that in mind, it is easy to focus on structured learning as more important than anything else in getting there. However, children often learn faster, and more deeply when they are learning during play.There are essential mental, social and physical skills your children best learn through play that greatly impacts their ability to grasp concepts during formal education.
One of the best things you can give your children is time, space and the opportunity to explore without too much intervention from you or another adult.
This is not to say you leave them alone for long hours. But if you have children under three, then it’s good to let them explore without having to direct their play.
Collect a box full of interesting (and safe) objects for them to explore. This may include some large leaves, flowers, shells, stones, perhaps an empty tissue box, a paper roll, a set of old keys and a packet of pegs.
Clear an area on the floor, and place the box in the middle and let the children explore and experiment with the objects.
The key is to let them discover attributes on their own. While they do this, they are developing skills in problem solving, fine and gross motor skill development, exploring their own boundaries and learning cause and effect. They are also learning the benefit of independent learning.
This type of play is called Heuristic play and is a popular method in early childhood centres around the world.
(This article first appeared in The Sun 6 April 2010. Read the rest here )
- Debunking the Myths
Dr John Bruer, (president of the James S McDonnell Foundation of St Louis, Missouri, and author of The Myth of the First Three Years), responds to claims that early childhood experiences effect early childhood brain development: What little direct evidence we have – all based on studies of monkeys – indicates that these claims are inaccurate. … The rate of synapse formation and synaptic density seems to be impervious to quantity of stimulation. The rate of synapse formation appears to be linked to the animals’ developmental age, the time since it was conceived, and to be under genetic control. It is not linked to birth age and amount of post-natal experience. Some features of brain development, including the rapid burst of synapse formation in infancy and early childhood, rather than being acutely sensitive to deprivation or increased stimulation, are in fact surprisingly resilient to them. Early experience does not cause synapses to form rapidly. Early enrichment environments won’t put our children on synaptic fast tracks. (Go here for article)