With the huge focus the last several years on teaching babies and very young toddlers how to read, I think there are many parents out there feeling inadequate if their preschooler isn’t already breezing through books. Our culture tends to equate education and accomplishment with worth. If a child is “behind” most of the other children his age, it is often seen as an indication that something is “wrong” with him. In many situations, the child is treated as though he has failed.
I am concerned about this mentality. Yes, when a child has real developmental delays, they need to be addressed. My concern is with assuming that just because we *can* teach a very young child to read (or whatever other developmental milestone), that it means that we *should*.
From the time a baby in his mother’s womb becomes aware of his surroundings, he is learning. Motion, light, sound, touch… before he is even born he is learning. Learning through experience continues and should be encouraged and enabled by parents. Time should be taken to explore with them, answer questions (endless, precious questions!) and experience the excitement of learning new things with them. This type of learning is an awareness and study of the life happening around a child. Formal education is another animal, entirely.
I’m not necessarily talking about preschool and kindergarten, though they are part of it, but also well-meaning parents who are trying to give their children the best start by drilling them with facts. A three-year-old who is made to sit down at the table and drill alphabet flashcards is learning to hate to learn (unless this is something that he initiates because it is fun for him). If a young child is capable of learning something and has an interest in doing so, by all means- teach them. Make it fun and don’t push and pressure if they lose interest. Formal teaching becomes a problem when it’s not about learning and loving to learn, but about accomplishment and worth.
It takes hours, days, weeks, months and years longer to teach a child something he isn’t ready to learn. Why not just wait? If a three-year-old must be drilled for hours a week on the names and sounds of letters, he isn’t ready to learn them. Why not wait until he’s five or six or even seven and teach him when it will be easy and fun? Why not postpone learning in each subject until it can be done when a child is developmentally ready to learn it quickly and easily?
As parents, we love our children and we want them to succeed. In that loving desire, we can so easily become convinced that what is “best” for them is that they learn as much and as early as possible. After all, we don’t want them to be “behind” the other children their age. Being accepted by their peers becomes more important to us and to them than learning well and loving to learn.
Teach It Faster
So many parents (especially homeschooling ones) complain about their kids being bored or frustrated or confused by what they are supposed to be learning. Instead of wasting all those early years on misery, why not teach them about real life (how to cook, clean, garden, camp, build, etc.) and postpone the book learning until they can breeze right on through it and love the feeling of accomplishment?
By the same token, when you run across something that they really love and excel in, don’t feel pressured to hold back until they are the “right” age for learning it. Do you have a math whiz? Nourish that passion! Provide advanced learning materials when it’s appropriate. If you homeschool, that is easy to do, but if you don’t, don’t feel like your child is stuck with fourth grade science when she could easily do sixth grade. Supplement their formal education with whatever they need.
Focus On The Goal
Our goal for our girls is that they learn how to learn and that they love to learn. Yes, there are important things that we want to teach them in each subject, but not at the expense of the joy they have in learning. We take advantage of all of their natural curiosity, discover their interests and nurture their passions. That is so much better than being able to boast about them being “ahead of the other kids” or “getting straight A’s”. Those things won’t matter when they are grown, but loving to learn can last a lifetime. 🙂
If you’d like to learn more about our vision for homeschooling, here are some more posts.
- Our Homeschool Philosophy
- Teaching Younger Children
- Teaching Older Children
- Homeschooling Methods and Resources: Part One
- Homeschooling Methods and Resources: Part Two
- Growing Home: Teach Me Tuesday
- Mercy Ink: Heart&Home
- Cornerstone Confessions: Titus 2 Tuesday
- Teaching What is Good: Women Helping Women
- Deep Roots at Home: EOA
- Women Living Well
- A Wise Woman Builds Her Home: Wise Woman Linkup
- Raising Homemakers: Homemaking Linkup
- WholeHearted Home
- Our Simple Country Life: Hearts4Home
- A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa: Simple Lives Thursdays
- Rediscovering Domesticity: Thrive@Home
- Intentional Me: Thought-Provoking Thursday