When does learning begin?

Better Late Than Early?

We all want our children to be happy and healthy.  Additionally we want them to grow up to be successful adults.  Successful adults with good jobs and stable economic futures.  We want them to be highly educated and well rounded.  Parents want the best for their kids.  And education is the key to this happiness.  A great education gives our children the head start they need to leap into successful lives.  Education is an essential part of any good life plan.  So what is the best?  And why do many kids struggle and fail?  Most parents agree that private education is the way to go.  College prep is the key to college success.  Academic challenge is the only way to turn children into successful adults.  And in order to achieve this level of academia, children are starting earlier and earlier.

 

Most private schools promise academic excellence which translates into success in adult life.  Children in these systems start learning as early as two years old.  The expectations for these children include reading early and math skills by first grade.  This path seems to be the most effective way to give our children a prime opportunity for the educational needs required for lifelong success.  But what happens when our kids don’t respond to this system?  What do we do if our children are not meeting these expectations?  How do we raise babies that are labeled “late “or “slow” or “falling behind” to become successful?  As a parent hearing these terms can make us feel like we failed them.  Somehow having a lovely bright child marred by the label “slow” means they are cursed to life of fast food jobs or retail.  Having your child labeled as a “late developer” creates a great deal of fear and pressure on both parent and child.  This pressure is usually met with a litany of  intense tutors and educational programs in addition to traditional schooling.   The key is to push these late kids to catch up.

 

But what if the label is wrong?  What if the system is wrong?  What if your child is perfectly capable of that excellent education and that picture perfect life we all want for them?  What if the key isn’t a highly intense series of tutors and programs?  What if pushing harder is actually making everything worse?

 

Finland is consistently ranked the best educational systems in the world.  How? They teach all grades and abilities in one large room, rarely have homework, and usually test once later in the teen years.  Compared to US educational systems this is basically insane.  But it works.  These children have greater analytical and cognitive skills than most American students.  Finnish children are more capable of detailed critical thinking methods. Why?  What makes these students become better prepared adults with so much less education?

 

Dr. Raymond Moore has written many books about homeschooling and learning techniques.  The most well known of these books is Better Late Than Early.  Dr. Moore was a well respected expert in the home school movement.  Some claim Dr. Moore launched all home schooling movements and credit his lobbying for the existence of governmental acceptance to home school programs.

 

Dr. Moore found that 70 percent of all students presenting with behavioral problems that interfered with learning were subjected to early learning pressures.  Over 7,000 studies, including several headed by Stanford University, were conducted and showed that children that remained in happy homes out of the school system until age ten succeeded academically often far past children their own age.  These children had access to self directed learning until the ages of 8-10, then returned to a class environment with similarly aged peers.  Within a few months the stay-at-home children caught up and eventually surpassed their classmates on academic levels.

 

The significant difference is that these children achieved the same, and in most cases better, academic success as their peers but stay at home children did so with no anxiety or behavior issues.  Children that were allowed to develop longer at home in a happy environment became lifelong learners that love education and seek it out more than those that are enrolled in a traditional educational system.  These children seek to find the why and the how versus traditional education students which seek the correct answer based on testing standards and work from a memorize aspect rather than a learning aspect.

 

So how do you know when a child is ready for traditional classrooms?  What are the developmental signs to look for?  What needs to be on the checklist?  Well the first thing is that there is no checklist.  Children do not work on schedules or from bullet points.  They are kids with individual needs and personalized learning styles not programmable robots that can be fed data and respond on command.  If you know your child and know your ultimate educational goals then knowing when formal education is needed  becomes clear.

 

The most important aspect of learning is the ability to reason.  To think things out.  To see solutions and work the issue until they are reached.  Analysis, critical thinking, problem solving – all things that make for a good adult.  Previous generations called this common sense.  Before a child can be expected to learn the fundamentals of the three R’s they must be ready to think.  Most believe that a child needs to know how to follow directions, sit still, play well with others but what does any of that have to do with loving the art of learning?  So, is it better to allow a child to develop and revel in natural curiosity before teaching them the alphabet?  Children that can see the endless wonder of the world will continue to seek it.  Having a sense of what comes next, consequences, and results are not just for discipline.  These skills make for amazing learners.  Once a child can use logic and has a deep sense of logical thought they are ready to challenge that  aspect of learning.  After all,  literacy and math are basically finding and using logical patterns.

 

Parents all want their children to succeed.  Even if it is in fast food jobs or retail.  If my Suzy is a waitress, then I want her to be the best darn server that establishment has ever known.  And I will be proud.  But just in case Suzy is going to be a lawyer it is more important that she can reason and use logic than it is she start school at two years old and read by four.  This could give her the developmental edge over her peers she will need to carry her into the Supreme Court.

Do you agree with this philosophy? Have you experienced different?