The Truth: Early Academics?!
Until the last 40 years or so, most children weren’t introduced to the alphabet (in a formal lesson type of way) until Kindergarten. Nowadays, many children are taught the alphabet in preschool—or even before (as toddlers.) The end result has not been encouraging: The more the public schools demand of young children, the worse America’s children do—academically and otherwise. More and more children are being diagnosed with learning disorders; many developmental experts believe this is due to the “push down” in curriculum combined with a lack of time for play and other more traditional preschool-type activities. Why would we, as homepreschoolers, want to follow that model?
Perhaps we’ve only heard one side of the argument.
The truth is, not one single study that has shown that early academics are beneficial to young children. There is no proof that learning to read earlier is better than learning later. However, there is considerable proof that early academics can cause harm. But don’t take my word for it; read the articles below for yourself. They are worth your time.
Resources about Readiness:
“Moving up the Grades: Relationship between Preschool Model and Later School Success”, by Rebecca A. Marcon, University of North Florida
Important points: “Children whose preschool experience was child initiated faired better than peers in the transition from the primary to the later elementary school grades. Not only were their overall grades following the transition significantly higher, their school performance improved or held constant in all but two subject areas (music, social studies) despite increased academic demands of the next grade level.….By the end of their sixth year in school, children whose preschool experiences had been academically directed earned significantly lower grades compared to children who had attended child-initiated preschool classes. Children’s later school success appears to have been enhanced by more active, child-initiated early learning experiences. Their progress may have been slowed by overly academic preschool experiences that introduced formalized learning experiences too early for most children’s developmental status.” Read the entire article HERE.
”Academics, Literacy, and Young Children,” Childhood Education, Spring 2000, by Elizabeth M. Nel:
Important points: “According to Elkind (1987), academic learning fueled by motivation other than the child’s innate interests constitutes miseducation. It puts a child at risk for psychological damage (Werner & Strother, 1987); what is worse, it is apparently for no good reason, since the benefits of early reading instruction are relatively insignificant.
…Therefore, with respect to literacy, developmentally appropriate preschool academics do not involve formal reading instruction, but rather they promote print awareness (Kontos, 1986) by exposing young children to letters, words, and numbers in meaningful contexts (Lesiak, 1997).
…Reading to children is one of the best ways to model literacy skills (Bus, Van Ijzendoorn, & Pellegrini, 1995). Reading should not be limited to a set storytime, but rather should be shared with children throughout the day.” Read the entire article HERE.
“Rush Little Baby: How the Push for Infant Academics Might Actually be a Waste of Time-or Worse”, by By Neil Swidey, October 28, 2007, The Boston Globe
(Watch the video, then scroll down for the article. It’s long, but worth the time; and it’s not only about infants.)
Important points: “A classic study in the 1930s by noted researcher and Illinois educator Carleton Washburne compared the trajectories of children who had begun reading at several ages, up to 7. Washburne concluded that, in general, a child could best learn to read beginning around the age of 6. By middle school, he found no appreciable difference in reading levels between the kids who had started young versus the kids who had started later, except the earlier readers appeared to be less motivated and less excited about reading.
…‘Many efforts to teach a child to read before 4 or 5 years of age are biologically precipitate and potentially counterproductive for many children.’ The danger in pushing reading too early, Wolf says, is that, for many children, we may be asking them to do something for which their brains are not ready. “You run the risk of making a child feel like a failure before they’ve even begun,” she says. And while the gains from early reading may fade away, the damage from being tagged a slow kid at a young age has the potential to be permanent.
…..Study after study shows the best thing parents can do for their children is give them a nurturing, rich, vibrant environment, reading to them often and exposing them to lots of language in organic ways. Reading books out loud is most effective when the parent uses the words on the page to help the child make connections to his or her own world.
…As long as parents are exposing their children to a nurturing, vibrant environment, reading to them regularly, and speaking with them intelligently, they should feel free to put the flash cards away.”
Read the entire article HERE.
Relax and enjoy the preschool years! Follow your children’s lead when it comes to early academics! Watch your children for signs of interest and natural learning, so that you neither push nor hold them back. Find the balance.
For more information about early academics/readiness, see the tab, “Readiness”, the tab, “Important Links”, and my archived posts on readiness.
© 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.