Common Preschool Myths Debunked, Part 2
Posted by homeschoolmentormom on April 8, 2010
Myth #4: The Importance of early (formal) academic education. Everyone knows that “earlier is better,” right? In our competitive world, anything we can do to give our children an “advantage” is a good thing. Besides, why not take advantage of all that brain development?
Truth: Earlier is not better. The idea that we have to teach our preschoolers academics in order for them to “succeed” in school later is an idea promoted by the public schools, because of their inappropriate pushdown in curriculum. It is not supported by any of the research coming from the academic world.
Developmental research has proven that in general, (most) young children are not developmentally ready for formal academics–and that early formal academics can even be damaging. Some of the dangers include:
~The tendency to overlook other, more developmentally important activities in favor of an academic emphasis.
~Dr. Raymond Moore, in his books, Home Grown Kids and Better Late Than Early states that young children who spend too much of their time doing workbooks or other intensive/close-up work increase their risk of becoming nearsighted (eye strain/damage)
~ Many experts believe that early formal academics increase children’s risks of developing learning disabilities–including ADD and dyslexia.
~Children who start formal schooling very young often “burn out” on academics just when they should be getting excited about learning.
~Parents who try to teach formal academics to young children often face a difficult task, increasing the likelihood of parental frustration and possibly burnout.
You should also know that:
~Studies have shown that any academic advantage or gains your preschooler might make will disappear by the third grade (so what’s the use?!)
~It is true that young children are learning all the time; they seem to be learning “like sponges”. But research has also shown that young children’s brains work differently than older children’s /adult’s brains do. Young children need more hands-on/real life experiences than older children do if they are to make sense of the world and internalize the meanings of symbols (things that stand for other things, such as letters, which stand for sounds, and numbers, which symbolize amount.)
I want parents to be aware of the research on this issue, and “tread softly” (i.e., proceed carefully.) I’m not putting down the parents who decide to teach their young ones to read, but I do worry about the trend and I don’t want all parents to think that because some people do, everyone else should, too.
Finally, remember: There are always exceptions to the rule. Some children are ready to begin phonics/reading at a young age. Even if they are, though, I think it is wise to ask ourselves—is learning to read the best thing for them? Just because they can learn phonics/learn to read/do math–should they? Are there other, better ways to spend your child’s time? Are the benefits worth the risks? Will early reading offer any long lasting benefits? You must decide for your children.
Dr. Ruth Beechick, in her book, the Three R’s, talks about a study that was done to settle the issue once and for all. It was done by a school district. They had two classes of Kindergarteners. In one class, they focused on early academics: Phonics, reading, math, workbooks, etc. In the other, they took a play based approach. They did no formal reading lessons at all. Instead, they read to the children, played with science (learned about nature, played with magnets, melted ice, did real life and play activities.) They assessed the children when they were in the third grade to see which class was doing better. The result: The “play-based” Kindergarten children were doing better! They learned to read later, yes—but they learned to read more quickly and easily than the “academic” children did. They had higher reading scores and better vocabularies than the “academic” children did, too, because they had spent more time living “real life” and doing/talking about ‘real things.” …Earlier is definitely not better.
~~To find out more, see the tab, “Readiness”; see the tab, “Important Links” and scroll down to “Readiness”; see the tabs, “Preschool Goals” and “Goals for a Balanced Mom”; see the tab, “My Articles” (What Your Preschooler Really Needs, Why I Flunked Kindergarten, Preschool or Kindergarten?); see my posts archived under readiness, especially “The Truth About Early Academics.”
This post contains excerpts from the book, “Homepreschool and Beyond”; used with permission. © 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.