Push Push Push to a Screeching Halt?

So in a world where testing is the end all be all, testing starts early.  When my boys were in HeadStart, they tested them within the first month of school and a couple times throughout.  See, they had to be ready for Kindergarten so they will rock the test in 3rd grade.

Many times, it seems that preK and Kindy kids are smarter than ever.  I know when I was doing my “pre-clinical” hours in the kindergarten classroom, it certainly seemed that way.  Half of the class were well above the goal levels.  They were writing full paragraphs of five or six sentences.  They were reading small chapter books.  They could tell you about a few presidents.  They could draw parallels between two works of literature! Seriously great stuff.  And then I did my time in the 3rd grade classroom.  They were exactly where you would expect 3rd graders to be, struggling with pulling key information from a paragraph, with learning half the multiplication table, with learning what a fraction was, and weren’t reading much better than the Kindergarteners were.

There are studies (the Moores document comparing hundreds of such studies) done that show that kids will be about the same level, if not further, than their same age peers in about a year without formal schooling prior to age eight or nine.  During those years from three to eight years old, they can be working on building real life relationships, having meaningful work to do in the home and community, following interests, and learning naturally while living life.

Though we are intentionally educating our children, informally and formally, prior to age eight, we do so very gently without neglecting all the important things outside of schooling.  And education is very important, but it is not most important.  Even if it were though, children could get so much more education from activities other than schoolishness.   Either way, the opportunities for young children to experience have value also.  If a child is spending five, six, seven hours on academics, they are missing out on all they *could* be doing.

And then it goes back to what the PURPOSE of those academics are at those young ages.  When considering the drawbacks, I have to wonder why we’d spend all that time doing formal academics at four or six, giving up all those hours of other opportunities, when it doesn’t usually lead to any real gains?

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3 thoughts on “Push Push Push to a Screeching Halt?

  1. I think maybe you are selling “informal schooling” short. If a child really has no schooling, they won’t be reading, they won’t be able to add or subtract, they certainly won’t be writing. Kids don’t learn these skills laying bricks or parked in front of a TV. Children I know who have never attended school do not ever learn to read or write–in any language–beyond their first names. They certainly aren’t keeping up with 3rd graders. What you are suggesting we do with kids before age 8 or 9–I think–really is “schooling” even if it is a very non-traditional kind of schooling. I don’t think we need to skip schooling, but I do think there is a benefit to expanding our view of what schooling is–and it doesn’t have to be sitting at your desk alone listening to a teacher.

    One reason we do require formal school for very young children is that some parents are better teachers than others. Some parents are simply not able to spend the time with their kids the way you can. They are working. Some don’t have very much schooling themselves, and don’t naturally think up the kinds of activities you are imagining. Young children don’t need teachers if their parents are good teachers–like you are. But we can’t have one set of rules for some children and a different set for others.

    • I appreciate your feedback. I most certainly *am* relying on a rich environment, strong relationships, and healthy habits. I actually cut this much out of a longer post I had in mind, deciding that it may really be three posts, not just one. I’ll definitely get into more at a later time 🙂

      • If it wasn’t clear, I think what you’re providing is, in fact, schooling. But that may be schooling at its best.

        I look forward to hearing more.

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