(Continued from yesterday’s post.)
Preschool today is very different from the nursery school many of us went to as a small child. In his book, Miseducation: Preschoolers at Risk, Dr. David Elkind writes about social changes in the past several decades that have led to the more formal education of preschool-age children.
By all means, I do not think that many of these social changes in and of themselves were bad, but it seems that society doesn’t often think about the fact that the institutionalization of education in general, and preschools in particular, are relatively recent developments.
I could go on and on about this subject, but my main point is that what was once considered a necessity for mothers who had to work outside the home, has evolved into the norm and is now perceived by many as necessary preparation for kindergarten.
The idea that a normal, well-developed child needs special preparation in order to be ready for kindergarten strikes me as somewhat ridiculous. It’s kindergarten! If it is the case that a 5 or 6 year old child needs special preparation for kindergarten, then it seems to me (and I know this may not be a popular point of view) that something is terribly wrong with our education system.
I do believe preschool-aged children benefit from being exposed to all kinds of wonderful experiences, and encouraged to learn about what interests them (within parental guidelines of course). However, I do have a few concerns about focusing too much on education during early childhood.
First, it seems to me that as we enrich our children’s lives with one wonderful experience after another, we sometimes forget to let them have down time. Good chunks of “nothing to do” time is a stress-reliever, and a means of getting to know oneself. Time to one’s self is also necessary in order to reflect on and process experiences, and eventually glean lessons from those experiences.
Secondly, doesn’t it seem like the more we provide interesting and stimulating things for our children, the more they seem to expect every moment to be fun and exciting? And if it is not, they look to us to provide them with some new stimulation. In my childhood, an outing or special event, or a new activity, was an infrequent thing, and very special. I sometimes think we fill our children’s lives with so many “special” things that in the end not one thing is truly special. An eagerness to learn is one thing in our children, but a belief that the world revolves around them is quite another thing. The current “busy-ness” of today’s children (which is becoming common even among very small children) just seems to promote this sense that they are the center of everything.
Before today’s institutional schools were common, middle class children had simple childhoods, were taught basics by a tutor or their mother, and then the burden of occupying and educating themselves was on their own shoulders, not the responsibility of anyone else. I think education was more highly valued and more enthusiastically pursued then than currently, when a sense of entitlement has snuffed out the pleasure of working hard for, and achieving, an education.
My third concern is regarding the issue of attachment, which I’ll save for tomorrow. :)