Many parents feel pressure to send their children to preschool. With a “village to raise a child,” a Zero-to-Five Plan,i and a growing desire for daycare, preschool has become the popular answer. Today, over half of America’s three and four-year-olds attend preschool,ii higher if private preschools are included,iii compared with just 10 percent in the 1960’s.iv This isn’t just the by-product of more working moms; nearly half of all stay-at-home moms send their kids to a prekindergarten program.v WV public school preschool programs are now offered for four year olds, and plans are in the works for our three year olds. Parents are worried that their children may not be able to compete academically by the time they are five. So preschool attendance grows by leaps and bounds. But is it effective?
Current research resoundingly says, “No!” This is not a good idea!
A quick survey of research on preschool reveals a startling fact: starting academics too early can hurt a child!vi It is true that preschool academics increases test scores at early ages,vii and these research results fuel the preschool agenda. But the rest of the story is much more compelling. Those early benefits disappear by 3rd to 5th grade so that test scores at those ages are identical among children who started schoolwork early and those who didn’t even start academics until age 8!viii In fact, there is research that indicates that the early academics causes burn-out by about 3rd grade, and the children from preschools actually fall behind their non-preschooled peers.ix Our recent decades of early education have not improved our educational outcomes by high school graduation. The end result is increasingly dismal.
So as American culture catches the preschool bug, more and more young parents are considering homeschooling when their children are much less than 5. This is quite an opportunity given the outcome of the preschool agenda, for the strength of homeschooling is not in taking public school and bringing it into our homes. Rather, its strength is in finding success outside that government education box! Schooling at home is not nearly as beneficial as home education. Whereas schooling has a goal of completing a grade (“What does Johnny need to know for first grade?”), education has a goal of preparing the child for life (“What does Johnny need to learn to become a responsible adult?”). The latter encompasses many things including knowledge, but also character such as honesty, diligence, obedience to authority, and a joyful attitude.
We all know that a small classroom size and one-on-one instruction is the ultimate in education. Home education offers both! Expensive private schools offer enrichment programs like field trips, hands on gardening experiences, and guest lecturers. A family can offer these things on a regular basis. The up and coming educational model involves hands-on learning with a mentor: the very thing that comes naturally at home.
Homeschoolers have defined a highly successful model of education that involves daily life in the home: making dinner, raking the yard, counting the cookies, dividing the pizza, reading aloud, going to the zoo, and discussing the sermon. Homeschoolers interact with the grocery clerk, the UPS delivery man, and the neighbors. They go to the Capitol for Homeschool Day and write to their congressmen when their parents explain a legislative threat. They take their music lessons when their teacher is fresher and not as heavily scheduled (during everyone else’s “school hours”). They study subjects at their own pace, advancing rapidly in their strong subjects and mastering the weak areas. Mom doesn’t write a 70% in the grade book and move on; she continues to teach the other 30%! She knows what every student in her classroom is doing and what he or she knows.
It’s no different before age 5. The same natural approach that enables parents to teach their baby to roll over, sit, crawl, walk, and understand the English language continues to work very well for colors, numbers, and letters. We’ve been told that we can’t do this at home, but the research doesn’t concur! “Preschool” at school does not work. Home education does!
A full “curriculum” is not needed in these preschool years. A formal sit-at-the- desk-all-day program is exactly what we don’t want to do. An educational environment and lots of parental involvement is how learning flourishes in these early years. Learning happens naturally when three and four-year-olds are incorporated into the daily life of the family.
Sure, this takes time and sacrifice. Parenting is certainly a life-changing endeavor. It encompasses everything and challenges our selfishness. But it is a blessing and privilege! Parenting enriches life, is the best teacher, and brings the greatest joys. It helps us understand our own heavenly Father. Truly… children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. …How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them!*
*From Psalm 127
vi Pellman M.D., Harry “Pediatrics for Parents” http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0816/is_1994_Dec/ai_16933079/
vii http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/B6VB9-4KCRSM8- 1/2/eb214bca8414f4b1b4c44679dcf84f86
viii Shikha, Dalmia & Snell, Lisa “Protect our Kids from Preschool” http://online.wsj.com/article_email/SB121936615766562189-lMyQjAxMDI4MTI5MjMyNjI2Wj.html# See also the overview of studies by Raymond and Dorothy Moore at the Moore Foundation. Plus http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_briefs/RB9082/RAND_RB9082.pdf