In today’s world, it seems everyone here in the U.S. is pushing to start your child early in school. Some feel a parent should start some type of formal education even before the age of three. Yet, is that the best for our children?
I cannot count how many times there are questions on the homeschool list about ways to start school with a child who is 2 or 3 years old. I’m not sure why there is such a desperate need to get started on learning — or I should say formal learning — today.
I remember when I started kindergarten. It was expected I might know how to count to 10 and maybe know my ABC’s. I was not expected to know much more than that, except maybe my basic colors. Today’s 5-year-old starting kindergarten is expected to already know numbers, letters by sight, and even some basic reading words. What is the hurry? Are children graduating knowing more than we did in the past?
In reality, our graduating seniors know significantly less than 12th graders even 50 years ago. Our college entrance exams (ACT/SAT) have been “dumbed down” in order to keep the statistics high enough. So why rush in beginning formal education?
There are important reasons why not to start. I will start by sharing the first one that comes to mind.
As SDAs, we are given wise counsel not to begin formal education until a child is 8 to 10 years old. For boys, I would suggest formal learning later is better. We have wise counsel from Dr. Raymond Moore also, in his book, Better Late than Early.
Other countries such as Denmark and Finland delay their children’s entrance into formal schooling. They do have some early pre-school programs, but they are play-based and child-centered. This means the child is allowed to play and learn instinctively in a natural manner. THIS is how our children learn and how the brain best develops. This type of play-based early education is what builds better brains and better learning skills in later years.
Research has also shown that children who delay formal schooling have less behavior problems. They are better able to sit and focus when their bodies are ready for learning. Early formal schooling has not shown any advantage in later reading scores.
I realize that in today’s world it is often necessary for both parents to work. Daycare costs a good deal of money. If we can send our children to school earlier, it is less money out of our pockets. Is it worth it in the long wrong? And, we are choosing to homeschool, so this “save money” reason to send to school early is not even considered.
Another argument for early education is the effect of poverty on child development. This is the stated reason for Headstart program. Some use the reason that children with bad parents need to be in the school system so they will not be penalized academically. Again, neither of these would give a cause for those homeschooling. I’m hoping for those parents who need help in improving parenting skills that they will seek help.
Do we feel our children will be behind if we delay formal education? At the end of this article, I’ve listed some of the research on the benefits of delayed academics. Hopefully this will help a parent give a good reason if they do not simply wish to follow the counsel we have been given more than a hundred years earlier, in addition to Dr Moore’s research.
I wish to share a bit of my own personal experience with my youngest. Even though I had read all of Moore’s books and EGW’s recommendations, I had a child that was born with some challenges. I thought this warranted the need to begin formal education early. Yet, no matter what I tried, nothing was learned. In fact, the early push produced nothing but frustration and anger.
After I wised up and decided to wait, I began some formal education about age 8. Things were moving slowly, but I did not push. He did not learn to read until age 10. I had all types of professionals threatening me with legal action because I was not putting my son into public school and he was “behind.”
By the time he graduated, he had learned the basics and had developed a more well-rounded education than many of his public-school friends. Nothing was pushed. We tackled topics when he proved ready for them. Delaying formal academics allows your child to learn when they are ready, not when the public says they should be ready.
Each child is different. Those who are wanting to learn to read at 4 should be allowed to do so IF THEY ARE LEADING. Teach by informal methods, using games and fun activities. By keeping learning fun in the early years, the child will develop a love of learning that will extend their whole lives.
A closing thought is in reference to an article I read about the gifted/talented. We lose many of our G/T children by pushing early formal learning. By allowing our children time to play and learn naturally, we foster the brain’s ability to develop more synapse connections and increase creative thinking.
We homeschool our children so we can help them become all that God wishes them to be. I hope each parent reading this today will realize that it is not important to “keep up with the Joneses” in our teaching. Allow our children to be children. They grow up fast enough.