Thursday, June 9, 2011

Is Preschool Necessary? Academics (3)

{Continued from yesterday’s post}

The issue of attachment and how it affects a child’s ability to learn is something I’ve thought about a lot lately.  Dr. Gordon Neufeld makes a strong case for the importance of attachment in a child’s life in his book Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers.  I could write a hundred posts about the wisdom in this book, but instead I’ll just highly recommend that you read it for yourself if this issue interests you at all.

The Minds of Boys: Saving Our Sons From Falling Behind in School and Life, by Michael Gurian also speaks a bit about the relationship between secure attachments and learning.  Here’s a bit of what the author says regarding this issue: 

“Children with secure attachments are more likely to make learning gains for a biological reason : the organic mechanisms in the brain by which the brain learns require secure attachment in order to grow fully.” (p. 71)

(I wrote more about this book here, here, and here.)

Attachment (love, affection, and a sense of security in relationship with another person) is necessary for learning in small children.  And there is evidence that making and then breaking attachments can actually hinder a preschool / kindergarten-aged child’s ability to learn.  Of course if the children have learned to attach to other children instead of the adult present then they have an easier time, at first, with focusing on learning, giving credence to the idea that socialization via being in groups of peers is a good and helpful thing in a child’s education.  Dr. Neufeld spells out how this “peer-orientation” as he calls it, is actually detrimental to a child’s future healthy maturation, and causes all sorts of problems in parent-child relationships later on. 

Dr. David Elkind predicted in the 1980’s what affect the then-current trends in early education, and the accompanying stresses, would have on the preschool children of the ‘80’s when they became adolescents.  It seems to me that he was right on the mark (just look at the violence and aggression that seemed to erupt with teenagers of the nineties!):

[Speaking of teenagers in the eighties, those who were preschooled in the late sixties, or early seventies] “Teenagers today are hurried children and show primarily stress symptoms, the symptoms of being pushed too hard too soon.  My guess is that the teenagers of the nineties will be more neurotic than teenagers today.  They will show more obsessions, more compulsions, more phobias, more psychosomatic symptoms than do teenagers today.

…If we refuse to recognize what miseducation is doing to our young children, we will put a significant proportion of the next generation at risk for personality problems and for occupational mediocrity.”

As far as the attachment issue goes, my main concern is two-fold.  The first is the risk that M will become more peer-oriented than parent-oriented.  The second is the idea of M becoming attached to a preschool teacher, than having that attachment broken, having to re-attach to a new teacher in kindergarten, and so on throughout the elementary years. Yes, I know this is just part of life in our current society, but I’m not sure it has to be, or is therefore healthy for small children to experience.  Many European schools have teachers follow “their children” from one grade to another for several years in a row because they know this is healthier for the children and better suited to the goal of educational success.  And of course, having Mama be the teacher eliminates this concern altogether. ;)

A thought that just popped into my head (or flew into my funnel as M, lover of trains, says):  Remember Laura Ingalls Wilder and how she taught children of all different ages, all in one room (socialization amongst different age groups?  Oh my!), and how she continued being their teacher throughout most of their schooling years?  That is how school used to be, and I’m pretty sure it was a great system.  How did we get from that to this current shuffling of children from one teacher to another, while losing many of them in the crowd; focusing more on teaching methods and classroom control, instead of children’s individual learning styles? Efficiency may not be worth the toll it takes on childhood and secure attachments.

I’ll finish up tomorrow… I know you wait with baited breath. ;)

Have a beautiful day! :)

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