Too Soon to Test?

Rethinking Preschool, Kindergarten & a Push for Homeschool Testing

How wonderful – and overwhelming – it can be to figure out what’s best for our littles! We can lose sight (or want to lose sight) of the fact that parenting is a full-time endeavor. Practically from the time they’re born, we’re warned not to keep them home too long! The assertion? By the time they are three or four, children need formal education and socialization that they just can’t get at home. While daycare still seems truly optional, preschool increasingly does not. An entire business was birthed to convince us of its necessity. Except it isn’t true.

A recent article in Psychology Today confirms what so many other studies have found: early academic education can produce long-term harm. I highly recommend that article to parents who wish to give their children the best academic start. While preschool is the expected given these days, a combination of free and guided play is shown to be the better foundation. In fact, teaching that learning is fun may be the most important thing you can give your child in his early years. Learning just does not equal “school.”

I hear parents decide to do preschool because they are very concerned about the social skills of their five-year-olds – as if they have little time left to develop social skills. Yet our children are not expected to be socially mature at age five, especially our boys. If we relax, they are likely to develop best given time plus good family-based opportunities.

As a former pediatric physical therapist, I can’t recommend early play-based exercise and education highly enough. I’m not advocating that parents leave their children totally to their own devices, but rather to provide the best kind of early learning environment at home. I’m also old enough to remember the wonderful Focus on the Family interview between James Dobson and Dr. Raymond Moore, author of Better Late Than Early and advocate for developmentally-sensitive early education. The CHEWV website not only links to that interview – which, by the way, helped birth the homeschooling movement back in the 1980’s – but also provides practical help for early education.

Finally, sometimes West Virginia homeschool parents push kindergarteners and first graders before they’re developmentally ready for one reason: the homeschool law’s assessment requirement. But that is neither a good nor necessary reason to get nervous about academics! Students actually do not have to be assessed prior to compulsory age, which doesn’t kick in until age six (unless a parent enrolls them in a public program early.) And certified teachers who understand early childhood development are available for portfolio help and review. So it could be wise to delay formal testing until 3rd grade or beyond rather than push a child too early in order to prepare for testing.

When choosing a good academic start, perhaps we should start with the academic research! That will allow us to relax and learn what really works: parental involvement and developmentally appropriate activities specific to your child. First, listen to the interview with Dr. Moore. His findings are timeless. Then for practical help, start here.

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