Parental Anxiety Over
What's the Rush?
Q. My neighbor brags about all the things her child is able
to do because of the expensive preschool he goes to every day. He's in to
computers and all that, and can write his name and do worksheets. Meanwhile, our
preschool is at our church and is held just three times a week for just a
couple of hours. There's no computer; there's just a sandbox and a guinea pig,
stuff like that. Our child is 4 and isn't even close to knowing how to read and
write. Are we failing our little boy?
A pox on all those anxiety-producing "experts" who have
gotten parents to believe that preschoolers need to be drilled in their math
facts with flash cards, looking at worksheets with polysyllabic dinosaurs'
names and being expected to "read" them, and writing in cursive before the
first day of kindergarten or they'll lead a lesser life. A pox!
Don't ever compare children, not in the same
family, and not in the same school. The baby who walks and talks late tends to
be the most thoughtful, intelligent, and kind adult. The child who seems
dominant in preschool play because of early verbal ability tends to get
eclipsed later on when a shallow grasp of simple command words doesn't cut it
in history and science classes.
But yes, there's a lot of parental anxiety over
student progress, even in the sandbox stage. But there shouldn't be. Relax!
Enjoy your child's childhood! Watch expectantly as your child develops at his
Here's a great quote that ought to be gently shared
with parents such as you describe:
All kids are gifted; some just open
their packages earlier than others. -- Michael Carr
Over and over again, the studies of preschool
"education" programs show that any advantage whatsoever that these drills and
"classes" might give to little kids completely vanish by about third grade. Any
benefit of all-day kindergarten is erased within a year or two, as well. By
mid-grade school, you cannot tell the difference on classroom performance, test
scores, behavior, or any other measurement, between a child who came to school
"prepackaged" with expensive preschool "jump-starts," and the one who pretty
much spent the preschool years in the sandbox.
Actually, the only prerequisite to true academic
performance on down the road is a preschool child who knows how to behave: how
to sit still, how to be quiet, how to share, how to ask "please" and say "thank
you," how to deal with a bully, and how to trust and enjoy adults and other
The bottom line is, it's never OK to push
intellectual drills or put pressure on young children to get into academics
prematurely. Putting them onto computers, or using TV as a "teaching tool," are
especially bad practices.
But it's ALWAYS a great idea to observe them and
listen to them, and if they're asking for books and writing materials, to give
them the age-appropriate tools for learning without any pressure or
Here are some great ideas from the book Read to Me: Raising Kids Who Love to Read,
by Bernice E. Cullinan:
Infants like action nursery rhymes; love to listen to nursery
songs and lullabies; love listening to Mother Goose verses as they are rocked; love
to see babies in books; imitate actions of children in books; participate in
the sounds of animals in books; parents should note "The Three R's" for reading
to young children: rhythm, repetition and rhyme
Toddlers like to read the same books over and over; can repeat
Mother Goose rhymes by heart; like short, rhyming stories; like large, clear,
realistic pictures; like to name objects in books and magazines; like bathtub
books and toy books
Preschoolers play with language and nonsense sounds; love to say
repetitive phrases from books along with you as you read to them; love to fill
in the gaps when you purposely leave words out; may create an imaginary friend;
are fearful of the dark and strangers; like simple folktales but may find fairy
tales too scary; struggle for independence; increasingly use words to express
themselves, rather than behaviors
Homework: Book, "Endangered Minds," by Jane
Healy (Simon & Schuster, 1999), especially as a warning against technology.