are young children being pressured to undertake formal learning ?what happened to play ?

Charlie - posted on 11/06/2009 ( 17 moms have responded )

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Children as young as month old babies are being pressured by government imposed curriculum to achieve a standard set for them by adults , as many as 69 "learning goals " are being pushed on small children These cover writing simple sentences using punctuation, using the "phonics" system to attempt to read complex words and beginning to grasp addition and subtraction.

Children will be checked against more than 500 development milestones before they are five, including whether they babble and gurgle as babies.

As an early childhood teacher i have worked in a less traditional center that promotes creative thinking not compliance to achieve , to "tick all the right boxes ".

Pushing young children often results in them becoming frustrated or anxious and for those children who do strive to over achieve (yes there are over achievers even at 3 ) they often find themselves bored at school level as they have been pushed past the level of education being presented .

A strict curriculum cannot work as each child is different and learn in different ways you cannot pigeon hole everyone .

The bigger issue is that while children are being pushed to achieve they are missing a vital part of their childhood , play .

Remember we are talking about under 5 's .

And i know Ive heard parents say " we don't send our children to school to play we send them to learn "

Yes that's right you send them to learn , what they don't realize is that their children ARE learning through play .

Jimmy isn't JUST building with blocks he is using math skills by grouping, adding, subtracting and eventually multiplying with blocks , he is developing skills in design, representation, balance and stability.
He is also making early experiments with gravity, balance, and geometry as well as enhancing his creative and physical development not to mention allowing opportunity to work as a team and develop those social skills .

Amy isnt JUST painting pictures she is developing the needed motor skills that will help prepare them for the writing skills that they will need once they reach school , she is expanding her vocabulary by naming all the colours used and describing the way she paints eg:" i use big swishes " as well as having great effect on the aesthetic development , creativity, and self-expression.

My point is EVERY SINGLE time your child " plays " they are using and developing the skills they require without being pushed , prodded and pigeon holed .

All of the children we nurtured through creative thinking and allowing them to learn "outside the box " have gone on to excel at school and continue to have a passion for learning on their own free will , because learning to them doesn't have to a " task " or "ticking the right boxes" or repeating A is for apple like a parrot , learning is fun , its exciting .

Personally i am appalled at this push to make children smarter , faster , stronger before their time to me its a stolen childhood .

What are your opinions ?

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Ava - posted on 11/09/2009

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Here's something that some people don't understand. Hard education at a young age is -important-. Babies, starting before actual birth, but especially afterward, are at their pique for learning. They are firing millions of bits of information a second and making 'synapses', or connections in their brain. If you introduce a baby to a foreign language young, they will always have a knack with that language when they're older. If you wait until they're older when their brain has slowed down and is not as receptive to learning, then you have a problem. Now, the PROBLEM is that the way learning is imposed is very robotic. Children learn best -through- play. You could teach a young child under 5 basic math, geometry, algebra, and some concepts of calculus in a matter they'd comprehend if you did it through play and not through paper work. That 'Your Baby Can Read', other than triggering the synapses and neurons to fire and sitmulate learning by causing audio, visual, and vocal stimulation all at once, ALSO help children learn because it's -fun-. A child has to be INTERESTED in what they're learning to learn. My father had me interested in Plato before I was 10, because he used to read me his interpretive version of Atlantis to me before bed, or Socrates' Apology reworded in a funny way. He would read me books that interested me on a child level, -and- stimulated more superior thought at the same time, like The Little Prince was a book I read a lot when I was younger. The basic issue here is that learning is approached in the wrong way, but YES, play should not be SUBSTANCELESS. Use play time to teach your kids something, and reward them for learning and retaining that knowledge.

?? - posted on 11/08/2009

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I would like to parrot Laura and Amie.



Play is essential. Playing in most cases, I have seen, leads to children learning more, sooner, better, easier than other more... strict, forced methods. But again, we all learn differently and there are some children that THRIVE on the structured, stricter, forced methods. Even so, playing is still essential.



Babies are only babies for so long, children are only children for so long - the strict, dedicated learning practices can be taken advantage of later on in life (teens) when the benefits of the learning and structure are more important (college testing, occupational needs, etc) than using your imagination and learning with your heart as much as your mind.

Charlie - posted on 11/08/2009

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Cambridge university actually has research suggesting children shouldn't start school till 6 years old and play is vital to children in the first 5 years .

I will find out more as i just heard about this , this morning .

Isobel - posted on 11/08/2009

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We do not have PWIM...though it sounds cool, we have the borrow a book program, where the kids bring home a book that's at their reading level every day. We also do not have teacher's assistants either. We do have a cap of 20 students per class for grades under 4, and usually there are parent volunteers to help the teachers.

ME - posted on 11/08/2009

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I've recently read a lot on this topic, and I agree with most everything that's been said here. Pushing very small children to do things that they don't enjoy, or don't want to continue is inappropriate! That said, children play in different ways. When I was 5 and my sister was 3, we played school (I started KG at 4 yrs, and LOVED school and reading); I taught her to read, and we read the whole Little House on the Prairie series together over the next year or two. She read them independently (yes, really, at three years old), and we pretended to be Laura and her sister Mary when we played sometimes as well...My sis is brilliant, and currently a writing and critical thinking instructor at a University in Chicago. No one FORCED us to do these things tho...we did them because they were enjoyable to us...we continue to be avid readers to this day! My son LOVES books, and rather than buy him new books all of the time (tho he does have more books than ANYTHING else), we do different things with them...like spell out words, count similar objects, let him pick out the objects that he recognizes...He knows SO many things that other 22 month olds don't know...Not because I force him to learn them, but it's just sort of happened because it's what he LOVES to do. I'm happy that it's one of the things he loves to do (particularly with me), but I'm also proud that he can throw a baseball overhand across the room to his dad and catch it when his dad throws it back; and, I'm proud that he seems to have a WONDERFUL sense of humor and jokes around with us all the time! Well rounded kids can be good at lots of things, and they can be intellectually challenged while they play. This, I guess, was the point of the thread tho...when we allow our kids to learn about the world through their play, we allow them to be children in the truest sense of the word!

Amie - posted on 11/07/2009

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Um reading through a few of these posts something has come to mind...

Does the states not have teachers aides in every classroom? My kids school does. There's a minimum of 2 per classroom and goes up to as many as 4. It helps take the load off the teacher and helps keep the classrooms on task.

Amie - posted on 11/07/2009

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Quoting Laura:

what's PWIM? We may just have different letters :)


Picture Word Inductive Model. It's a new way of teaching the kids to read. They use posters and the kids pick out things and name them from the poster. The teachers then write it down for them. It's learning words by associating them with the picture. It's actually done quite well here. They still use phonics and other methods but the PWIM program has become their main source for Language Arts/English/whatever the schools out there call that class. LOL!

[deleted account]

Yay, No Child Left Behind.



Another problem is the lack of well qualified staff for early daycares and understaffed school systems. But as long as millions of dollars of education budgets are spirited away for politicians' pet projects and teachers remain underpayed, classrooms remain underfunded, and how well children test determines whether the school is "good" or not, our education system is going to remain problematic.



If we restructured the school systems and reallocated funds to provide better staffing in kindergarden and first grade classrooms, I think we could not only encourage more creativity (it's hard to do crafts with 20 kids and 1 teacher) but identify learning problems and how to deal with them much earlier, thus creating students who are more successful in the long run.

Sharon - posted on 11/07/2009

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Play is ESSENTIAL!!!



I wish teachers taught more through physical re-enactments than just "read pages 3 - 10 and answer questions 1 - 8, answers are to be found in the highlighted paragraphs.."



I'm not kidding!! Thats how they do homework. Even when I was a kid I knew that was wrong. I have this great vocabularly because I had several english/writing teachers who SHOVED vocabulary down our throats. 10, 15, 20 words spelling, definition, usage in a sentence.



My two boys? had none of that. My daughter now has a teacher who does that and I'm glad. The boys have a larger than average vocabulary because of me. Because they like to read. My daughter is surpassing both of them when they were her age because of her teacher and her enjoyment of reading.



I think we all want our kids to be the best & brightest. I, for sure, would not want my child to be the stupid one in class. Although I have to say I don't think there are any stupid children. Just kids that need to be taught differently and aren't.



::: sigh ::: I have this idea of kids leading themselves to their natural paths through their own interests. Although I think most kids these days would lead themselves to careers in video games if left utterly to themselves.

Amie - posted on 11/07/2009

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Quoting Laura:

I feel pretty lucky that learning through play is not only accepted but heavily encouraged where I am. There are a few moms who believe that they can "create" a genius, but here, they are the exception, not the rule. That being said, we do have standardized testing to make sure our children are "making the grade" in a few particular grade levels. These are in place to make sure that ALL schools are providing the education that they are supposed to. It's almost more like testing the teachers through testing the children if that makes any sense.

My kids teachers continually tell us to read to our children, not to worry about their grades at such a young age, and most of them incorporate play into most learning activities in the classroom. :)


I feel the same way Laura!



In our kids school here they have a count going for the kids. LOL! They send home sheets for the kids to fill out of all the books they read at home, with a parent or without. (the count is somewhere over 20,000 they started the program 2 years ago) It starts in Grade 1 though it is encouraged in pre-K and K. Our kids are natural bookworms though so we're not overly concerned about it. Even our toddler has a huge interest in books.



School is a lot funner then when I went too that's for sure. I remember homework in school, my kids homework consists of picking a book to read and their weekly spelling test word sheet. /:) How unfair is that? LOL!



Oh as a fellow Canadian, are the schools out there doing the PWIM program too? Ours started doing it 4-5 years ago.

Esther - posted on 11/07/2009

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I could not agree more. I think play is critical and I think people (apparently governments included) want kids to grow up too quickly and are pushing them too hard. I'm currently re-reading "Einstein never used flashcards" and it discusses just this subject. I highly recommend it.

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The sad reality is that in America, the No Child Left Behind Act mandates a prescribed set of learning goals and objectives that must be mastered by the end of each grade level. Each semester, kids are tested to see that they are or are not meeting these goals. Therefore, a lot of the fun part of school has been removed from the school day. Ever step foot in a Kinder classroom lately? Lots of heavy academics. It's a never ending battle about removing the fine arts and even foreign languages from the schools and it is a huge concern for parents. But, unless the laws change I doubt the schools are

Isobel - posted on 11/06/2009

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I feel pretty lucky that learning through play is not only accepted but heavily encouraged where I am. There are a few moms who believe that they can "create" a genius, but here, they are the exception, not the rule. That being said, we do have standardized testing to make sure our children are "making the grade" in a few particular grade levels. These are in place to make sure that ALL schools are providing the education that they are supposed to. It's almost more like testing the teachers through testing the children if that makes any sense.

My kids teachers continually tell us to read to our children, not to worry about their grades at such a young age, and most of them incorporate play into most learning activities in the classroom. :)

Charlie - posted on 11/06/2009

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Finnish children actually don't start school all together until the age of seven its a great example of how children left to play and experience childhood fair better in the long run .

I honestly cannot understand how your SIL does it , it seems like so much extra stress than necessary .

And yes most children who appear to be ahead of everyone else in early childhood more often than not end up at the same level by the time they are 7 , some continue to excel most level out .

As for holidaying during school term i couldn't agree more i was taken out of school in primary school and high school to go overseas where i attended school ( just ended up staying longer than planned so school was a must ) in what would be considered third world .
I learned the most invaluable life lessons from those experiences , things no school could teach me.

Jodi - posted on 11/06/2009

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Loureen, I am in total agreement with you. I have to admit, I see questions from mothers about this like "my kid can't read and he's 3", "what do you think of Baby Can Read", and that sort of stuff, and I feel like shouting, "Just let him be a kid!!!".



I watched a professor discussing this on Sunrise the other morning, and his comments were that in countries with the highest literacy rates (eg Finland), they don't start formally teaching them to read until they are 7. Why is it that parents feel the need to compete by saying "my son/daughter" learned to read by the time they were 3, look how smart they must be"? I think there is far too great an emphasis on academic learning too early. Creative play is SO important to the development of their personality, their confidence, and their self esteem.



I have a sister-in-law who has all 3 of her kids enrolled in everything you can imagine. Their days are structured to include martial arts, art classes, ballet, soccer, swimming lessons, gymnastics. I have to say I feel tired just thinking about it. Those children (aged 3 to 9) have some scheduled activity every afternoon after school. They don't get to come home and play. Even the 3 year old has her life planned out for her. Whatever happened to unstructured play?



I recently read something on this, and what many of these issues are doing is creating the most stressed generation of children. Depression has been diagnosed earlier and earlier in children, and there are reports of depression and anxiety disorders in children as young as 5. These children struggle with confidence, and in the end, it often backfires. Your children will not end up any smarter by starting them earlier!!



Sorry, I could rant forever about this one too. I think if I hear my sister in law complain one more time about having to sit through gymnastic trials for 3 hours, and how tired and cranky her children are, I will snap at her.



As a side note, I also believe in taking your children out of school term for a family holiday (did it this year) because there are many differennt types of learning, and it does not all need to be academic. Not going to be quite so possible in future years with my son starting high school next year, but I bet I can still make it happen!!

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