A reason often given for the trend toward early schooling is that such experience gives a child opportunity to learn how to get along with others. Several questions should be raised about this presumed benefit of early schooling. What is the evidence that these children actually do get along better? What kind of socialization should they have? Do we want them simply to make many acquaintances? Or do we expect them to develop concern and consideration for others and respect for older people? What do we really mean by “getting along”? Are these values really best developed in a crowded situation, where a child has relatively little attention from an adult whom he can use as a pattern?
Probably the greatest single goal of early childhood education should be to build in children a sense of their own worth as persons. The child must learn to feel that he is needed and valued by those about him. This is one of the richest gifts his parents can give.
We must realize that the child who is required to learn things before he is ready may quickly tire of them. Or he may become anxiety-ridden and so frustrated that he will not try at all.
In principle, a young child, given reasonable freedom and personal guidance, develops better outside the classroom than within it. This is particularly true of the first 8 years or so.
Countless studies, particularly those by University of Rochester psychologist Edward L. Deci, have shown that kids and adults alike—in school, at work, at home—lose the intrinsic motivation and the pure joy derived from learning and working when somebody takes away their sense of autonomy and instead imposes some external system of reward and punishment.
Imagine a five-year-old child whose current passion is building with Legos. Every day she spends up to an hour, maybe more, absorbed in complex construction projects, creating farms, zoos, airplanes, spaceships. Often her friends come over and they work together. No one assigns her this project. No one tells her when and how to do it. And no one will give her creation a grade. Is she learning? Of course.
We don’t teach little kids how to talk or walk or understand the world. We simply put them in nurturing situations and let them learn on their own. Sure, we impose certain restrictions. (“ Don’t walk in the middle of the street.”) But we don’t go crazy. (“ Please practice talking for forty-five minutes until a bell rings.”) It’s the same for home schoolers. Kids can become agents of their own education rather than merely recipients of someone else’s noble intentions.
In the typical school, children often aren’t permitted to move unless a bell rings or an adult grants them permission. And except for a limited menu of offerings in high school, they generally can’t choose what to study or when to study it. Home schoolers have far greater freedom. They learn more like, well, children.
Question: When was the last time you spent all day in a room filled exclusively with people born +/–6 months of your own birth date?
In my talks at early childhood centers and in numerous letters and e-mails from experienced early childhood professionals, I hear the same sad story. The pressures for testing, homework, and the elimination of play are unrelenting. Too many of our best early childhood educators are leaving the field because they cannot, in good conscience, engage in the age-inappropriate practices they are being forced to impose on young children.
…the nonverbal messages we send can matter more than what we are saying.
Confirmation bias = hunting for information that confirms our initial assumptions (which are often self-serving).