Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Early Academics

In conclusion to my previous post about Pre-Schooling, I'd like to share a few good bits of advice from experienced home schooling moms who would ask you to consider carefully before launching into early academics with your pre-school aged children. 

Can you start academics before age 5? Should You?

"I have no doubt that you can teach your children academics before they turn five. The important question is, should you? I would suggest that the answer is "no" for two reasons.

First, just as a ballet dancer who starts dancing on her toes when she is too young will ruin her legs; just as a pitcher who starts throwing fast balls when he is too young will ruin his arm; so also a child who starts academics too young will often ruin her eagerness for learning. What was fun when she was three and four has become drudgery by the time she is six or seven. Then you have to fight to make her willing to learn, the rest of her schooling.
I'll admit that this burn-out does not happen in every case of early academics, but considering how commonly it does happen, are you willing to take that chance, considering how much is at stake? And surprising though it may be, you're not gaining anything by starting early. Research shows that whether a child started reading at three or at six, their reading skills are about the same by the time they are nine. Education is a marathon, not a sprint. What would happen to a marathon runner who sprinted the first mile?
Second, imagine a builder who does not take the time to build a solid and true foundation under a house. After all, what his customers want is houses! What do they care about a pile of concrete in the ground where no one will see it? What will happen to that house without a good foundation? (Some of us have lived in houses like that one!)
There is a season of preparation and a season of progress. But if you hurry through or skip over that season of preparation, then you will not have as solid of a foundation laid when that season of progress arrives."
~Paula H. (1) 

For more on this, I recommend reading the article "Much Too Early," by David Elkind, PhD (author of Miseducation: Preschoolers at Risk )  and the post Pre-School and Kindergarten: Too Much Too Soon

Put First Things First

You asked, "shouldn't I be doing more to prepare my 4-year-old for school?" What you are doing now is much more important than any academic curriculum. Please relax and know that you are laying the foundation for many years of enjoyable and successful home schooling by concentrating on character, discipline, and order during these early years. If you wait two years to begin any formal education and just work on developing obedient, cheerful children and a spirit of cooperation in the family, you will be light years ahead of the family who begins academics at age 4 but has little control over the children.
Rest in the season in which God has placed you. Do all the research necessary for you to make good decisions about academics, but please don't "jump the gun" and shortchange the current season.
~Cathi (1)

Early Academics Aren't a Remedy for Character Problems

"Some say, "But my preschoolers are so much happier if they have workbooks to do." Regarding early academics, just make sure that through the preschool years, child training comes first! Remember, it's not a readiness issue. The child may be developmentally capable of doing something; but the important question, in light of all the research which shows that an early start does not translate into anything except possible burnout, is "What else can my child be doing with his time that is more valuable at 3, 4, and 5 that WILL translate into a richer life?"
If your child needs several hours of academic activities or even constant input from you during the day in order to keep him from being bored and whiney, then this is a much bigger problem than whether to teach him to read and write at 3 or 4. Providing schoolwork may just be masking character issues which need to be addressed before school age. This is one of the reasons I am against early schoolwork--it gives the child and parent something to focus on other than those things which should properly be taught during those years. When a child is whiney and bored, he needs to be taught how to find acceptable activities, how to entertain a younger child, how to wait for Mom's attention, etc. Am I making sense? Providing structure can be helpful, but not if it is a "remedy" for character problems. Schoolwork is the easy way out."

~Cathi (1) 

What Should I Be Doing With My 3-4 year old?
Visit my Pre-Schooling Page to find out the very best things you can be doing to lay a gentle learning foundation for your child! I also recommend reading my Teaching Children How to Read post which cites evidence and statistics showing that "earlier" is not always "better." 

Work Cited:
1. Home Schooling 3 and 4 Year Olds.
2. Susan Lemons. What Should a 4 year old Know?

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