8 October 2013
Posted by DAVID BC TAN under: Child Development.
David Elkind’s books have had an influence on me ever since I happened on his writings in the late 90s. Books such as The Hurried Child, All Grown Up and No Where to Go, and Miseducation and the more recent one The Power of Play, each had an influence on my own thinking as a parent and homeschooler. Here’s an excerpt from an article on the culture of play that was first published in 2008.
CAN WE PLAY?
By David Elkind
PLAY IS RAPIDLY DISAPPEARING from our homes, our schools, and our neighborhoods. Over the last two decades alone, children have lost eight hours of free, unstructured, and spontaneous play a week.
More than 30,000 schools in the United States have eliminated recess to make more time for academics. From 1997 to 2003, children’s time spent outdoors fell 50 percent, according to a study by Sandra Hofferth at the University of Maryland. Hofferth has also found that the amount of time children spend in organized sports has doubled, and the number of minutes children devote each week to passive leisure, not including watching television, has increased from 30 minutes to more than three hours. It is no surprise, then, that childhood obesity is now considered an epidemic.
But the problem goes well beyond obesity. Decades of research has shown that play is crucial to physical, intellectual, and social- emotional development at all ages. This is especially true of the purest form of play: the unstructured, self-motivated, imaginative, independent kind, where children initiate their own games and even invent their own rules.
In infancy and early childhood, play is the activity through which children learn to recognize colors and shapes, tastes and sounds—the very building blocks of reality. Play also provides pathways to love and social connection. Elementary school children use play to learn mutual respect, friendship, cooperation, and competition. For adolescents, play is a means of exploring possible identities, as well as a way to blow off steam and stay fit. Even adults have the potential to unite play, love, and work, attaining the dynamic, joyful state that psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls “flow.”
With play on the decline, we risk losing these and many other benefits. For too long, we have treated play as a luxury that kids, as well as adults, could do without. But the time has come for us to recognize why play is worth defending: It is essential to leading a happy and healthy life.
To read the rest of this article go here.
12 May 2010
Posted by DAVID BC TAN under: Books.
For some odd reasons, searches for “Raymond Moore’s book The Hurried Child” find their way to this blog. Well, I thought I ought to do everyone a service by correcting an unfortunate error:
David Elkind wrote The Hurried Child
Raymond Moore wrote Better Late than Early
I suppose people get these authors and their books mixed up because they appear to share similar ideas about not hurrying a child before her time, and these experts get quoted a lot.
Dr David Elkind has written a number of books (Miseducation, All Grown Up and Nowhere to Go, The Power of Play, etc) that explores almost similar themes and his books have had considerable influence on my thinking as a homeschooling parent. Dr Elkind isn’t a homeschool advocate per se, but he believes a child is put at risk if she is schooled formally before she is developmentally ready – that would be around 7 or 8 years. It is unfortunate that Dr Elkind’s voice continues to be drowned by the cacophony of peddlers of early learning methodologies and systems.
Dr Raymond Moore on the other hand is arguably one of the earliest pioneers and advocates of the homeschooling movement. Together with his wife Dorothy, Dr Moore authored research that pretty much launched homeschooling as a viable and credible alternative to formal education in schools. The Moores themselves believe a child should begin formal education around 8 to 10 or even 12 years. Their books ( including School Can Wait, The Successful Homeschooling Family Handbook) have become favourite go-to tomes for homeschoolers the world over, and their Moore Formula for home education has assisted many families who chose to educate their children at home.
6 October 2009
Posted by DAVID BC TAN under: Child Development.
The child’s play is important in his development.
As a matter of fact, play for the small child is his work– a means of achieving
better and better skills to do the things he sees older children and adults do.
Raymond & Dorothy Moore (Better Late than Early)
IT WAS OUR OLDEST SON’S FIRST VISIT TO THE DENTIST, and there was a form to fill. He was 5 years old. When it came to the part that said OCCUPATION, Mom told him the word meant a person’s job or work. Without any hesitation he said, “My job is to play.”
Wisdom from the mouths of babes, as they say. Few people would object that children are meant to play and almost all experts agree that play is essential to their development. Without the benefit of playschool or kindergarten, our two boys played endlessly – by themselves, and with kids who occasionally visited.
They pulled out their buckets of Lego, emptied them on the carpet, built things, and knocked them down with glee. Whatever they could lay their hands on were transformed into fortresses and castles, props for tales of adventure and epic battles, interplanetary spacecraft, and improbable mazes or bridges for marbles and toy cars doing an Evel Knievel.
When they were a little older, I remember how they would pick a CD, choose a theatrical score, turn the volume up, and argue if the soundtrack was appropriately triumphant or tragic for the drama played out with their toy soldiers. If they were not at their board games or making things up, they were scrambling in the playground and clambering up monkey bars. After they learned to swim, we couldn’t keep them away from the pool. Often theirs were the only chatter and laughter you would hear because everyone else would be at school.
I can imagine why our boys were the envy of their relatives and neighbours. They inhabited a kind of Neverland without schoolmasters looking over their shoulders or a report card dangling over their heads. It needs be said that far from resembling Toys-R-Us, our home was relatively deprived – all our children had were a few board games, several buckets of Lego, a mixed-bag of plastic toy vehicles, soldiers and figurines (the PC came later, but that’s another story!).
Like all children, what they lacked in an abundance of stuff, they made up with a lot of imagination. All we parents did was to provide the necessary space and time, and also play with them. Tragically and despite our effusion of warm feelings at a child happily playing in a world of his own, more and more parents are beginning to have second thoughts.
Today increasing numbers of anxious parents are resorting to competence programmes to give junior a leg up. The proliferation of preschool courses to build a superkid or a superior mind are staggering. More troubling is the fact that the loss of childhood is uncritically accepted as a necessary price of academic advantage and social mobility.
David Elkind, the author and professor emeritus of Child Development at Tufts University calls this miseducation. Parents have been misled and misinformed, he says. In fact the eminent doctor concludes that all this hurrying is never about the child and all about the parents. Unfortunately much of the pressure put on young children is often a projection of adult insecurity and parental competition.
Infants and young children are not just sitting twiddling their thumbs, waiting for their parents to teach them to read and do math. They are expending a vast amount of time and effort in exploring and understanding their immediate world. Healthy education supports and encourages this spontaneous learning. Early instruction miseducates, not because it attempts to teach, but because it attempts to teach the wrong things at the wrong time. When we ignore what the child has to learn and instead impose what we want to teach, we put infants and young children at risk for no purpose.
David Elkind (Miseducation: Preschoolers at Risk)
I think we are not saying a young child should therefore forego any form of competence or academic instruction. It just means one has to take note of a child’s readiness and consider if any activity is developmentally appropriate. I’ll have more to say in a later post.
Here are two child development authorities whose books had a profound influence on my journey as a parent and a homeschooling father. You can’t go wrong reading their books. Check them out:
Dr Raymond Moore and his wife Dorothy wrote the landmark book Better Late than Never and practically gave a new push to the homeschooling movement. Dr Moore passed away in 2007 while his wife Dorothy passed away in 2002.
16 July 2002
Life is rushing by at such a furious pace it’s too easy for families to be swept along unawares. I am referring to the way we swallow wholesale the arguments for globalisation, technology, and education enrichment programmes. We dignify some of these ideas with false claims about accelerated learning, and justify our anxieties by saying we merely want our kids to realise their ‘full potential.’
All too often, in our hurry to make their growing-up years special, we unwittingly conform to the ways of the world, and rob our children of the simple joys of childhood. What’s wrong with ‘normal’ then?
I think of my own carefree days as a young boy in Alor Star hunting down caterpillar and cicak in the garden. As a preschooler, my parents put me through a Chinese language kindergarten that strangely, left no lasting impressions. I remember however, sitting on the kindly principal’s lap, in tears, and nursing a bump on my head, deservedly perhaps, for standing in the way of a missile launched by a fellow student.
My father was a civil servant who knew nothing about overtime, but had the sense to take his family on day trips and picnics now and then. Didn’t read much to us too, though he blew the harmonica when the fancy struck. But we lived in a home with books, encyclopedias, magazines – TIME, LIFE, Finding Out – and sibling and friends who resisted any attempts to band together as the Five Find-Outers or Secret Seven. We didn’t travel, but I constructed my own worlds – SimCity, without computers! – maps of make-believe island cities with their own topography, climatic conditions, oceans, military and industries.
Today, the load of activities we impose upon our children is simply astounding – so they can come out of their shyness, improve their memory, or simply for the sake of ‘exposure.’ Music, dance, kumon, language, IT, reading competence, art, drama, karate, etc. Even if these kids don’t know what hit them, I know what all that makes me feel – deprived. How odd that when many of us started to homeschool,it was to provide an environment that encourage self-directed learning at a child’s own pace.
Which simply begs the question: who’s setting the pace now? It’s all very good fun (if you can afford it), and I’m certain our kids do have a great time all in, but what’s it all about?
David Elkind, Professor of Child Study and Senior Resident Scholar at Tufts University, calls it ‘miseducation.’ With reference particularly to preschoolers who are hurried to master skills way ahead of their age, Dr Elkind warns that when we start them on a regiment of academics, swimming, gymnastics, or ballet before they are ready, we are courting disaster:
“We put them at risk for short-term stress and long-term personality damage for no useful purpose. There is no evidence that such early instruction has lasting benefits, and considerable evidence that it can do lasting harm.”
He goes on to add that all this hurrying is really about us, never about our children. It’s all about getting a leg up over and above the competition isn’t it? Social pressure dressed up as holistic education.
Sadly, we forget Jesus’ words to his disciples when questions about greatness arose: “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” There is something wrong when we spend so much time and effort doing the reverse instead, manipulating and molding compliant children to change and become like us, miniature copies of grasping, fretful, insecure adults.
I am not saying that any of these great activities are bad in themselves. But we certainly need to stop being pushy, see that our children are indeed ready or interested, and that we’re not unconsciously compensating for our own adult needs. Speed kills. If our children are in danger of miseducation, it’s time to slow down and review life in the fast lane. For our children’s sake, and for ours.
By David BC Tan
July 16, 2002
21 February 2002
Posted by DAVID BC TAN under: Child Development.
In the course of the new year, we have had the opportunity to meet with new homeschooling families, either in their homes or in ours. Like most eager homeschoolers taking the first steps into an undiscovered country, conviction is usually greater than confidence. That could just as well describe our own state of mind when we took the plunge ourselves all those years ago.
It’s not unusual to feel these unequal tugs of anxiety and enthusiasm (even now, I may add). And depending on which side of the bed your child got up, homeschool is either the best decision you’ve ever made, or the most reckless! More so when your children are preschoolers and under 7.
Then there’s the simmering conflict: how much of study and play should one incorporate into a child’s routine? One of our boys used to say, “a child’s work is play,” which is exactly what Maria Montessori would say, but then, what did she know about the IT Revolution in the 3rd Millennium? If it’s up to the hundreds of kindergarten proprietors in the country, the earlier a child begins school, the greater the advantage. Hurry, hurry, no time to lose. And don’t just stop there – put them on a course of Computers, and Creative Thinking Skills (whatever that is!).
On the other hand, homeschooling’s elder statesman, octogenarian Dr Raymond Moore, thinks that such accelerated learning is a sure recipe for fatigue and stress in children, even serious harm. Start formal education later, he says, preferably around 10 to 12 years. “…the young child needs the early years for a normal blossoming period before he is ready for any serious approach to the skills of reading,writing and arithmetic. “ (Better Late Than Early)
His words follow those of famous Piagetian Dr David Elkind, Professor of Child Study at Tufts University. His book “The Hurried Child” (3rd edition) is a hard-hitting and well-documented indictment against institutionalised early childhood education (including industry and media forces) that only projects the parent’s need instead of a child’s inclinations. “Young children have limited powers of adaptation, which are sometimes exceeded by the pressures of adult scheduling,” he warns.
On the other side of the fence is Richard Fugate, the well-known writer and publisher of homeschool curricula. His book, “Will Early Education Ruin Your Child” is a scathing rebuttal of Moore’s ideas (and his theology). “There is no reason that many children, beginning phonics at four, five, or even six, shouldn’t complete high school requirements by 13 or 14 years of age without undue pressure or strain on parents or child. Homeschoolers should be at least one year above their public school counterparts…” He is however careful to clarify that he opposes any “super baby” type of teaching methods, and is merely challenging the position that early formal education is harmful to the child.
So much for the debate. What’s a simple Mom or Dad to do about controversies like this?
I would say, examine your motives first. Are you exerting adult pressure on Junior just to keep up with the Joneses? Are you egging him on to compensate for or validate your own person?
Second, know your child and decide what’s appropriate to his age and what matches his pace. Some basic skills such as reading, writing and arithmetic are important, but not every child need or will grow up an orator, a doctor, or a poet.
Finally, seek balance and put God’s desire for your child (and for the family) first. As much as we parents love our children, we can never outlove our Heavenly Father’s love for them. And as important as it is to start right, it is finishing well that matters most of all.