Wednesday, November 07, 2007

early education article

Rush, Little Baby
How the push for infant academics may actually be a waste of time - or worse


Anyone seen this Boston Globe article? A friend and fellow mother of early readers sent me the link.

Here are some tantalizing quotes that I hope will lure you read it (even though it's long) so we can all discuss :-):

"Temple University psychologist Kathy Hirsh-Pasek and two colleagues compared children in academically oriented preschools with those in socially oriented preschools. At age 5, those in the academic group knew more numbers and letters than their counterparts in the social group. But those gains faded away by around the first grade. And the kids from the academic preschools were observed to be less creative and less enthusiastic about learning."
...
"Carleton Washburne compared the trajectories of children who had begun reading at several ages, up to 7. Washburne concluded that, in general, a child could best learn to read beginning around the age of 6. By middle school, he found no appreciable difference in reading levels between the kids who had started young versus the kids who had started later, except the earlier readers appeared to be less motivated and less excited about reading." ...

"Across four years, the average child from a professional family would have heard nearly 45 million words spoken to them, the average child from a working class family, 26 million, and the average child from a family on welfare, 13 million. That means that compared with the affluent child, the poor child would be starting school with an astonishing deficit of 32 million words of language experience." ...

"In eight seconds, she flips through seven cards for seven composers, from Frederick Delius to Maurice Ravel, before beginning a longer riff extolling the genius of Claude Debussy and his "Sunken Cathedral" masterpiece. Her students, four boys and four girls wearing lavender overalls or jumpers and bearing familiar names like Isabel and Benjamin, listen attentively. They range in age from 5 down to 2 1/2." ...

"...Hirsh-Pasek argues that this heightened push for early learning might even slow down normal brain development through a phenomenon known as neurological "crowding," where information jams up the synapses in the brain that might best be reserved for more creative tasks in later years."

4 comments:

ML said...

Whew! I feel so much better now...

Auntie Lee said...

I think I posted a comment but it is not up. Strange. I will try to recapitulate (not that it is important).

I have not read the article but the information is not new. Here in Europe, early education has been a norm for decades. Children start pre-school at 2 and kindergarten at 4. They have found that by the time children are 6 or 7 , those with the early education do not have an advantage to those who did not have it.

That said, when I was in Maine last summer Gram was working every day with little Sean to get him to learn certain things. Evidently if he did not know the alphabet and write his name he would be put into a lower group. Parents are put under a lot of pressure. Seems like an oxymoron to me. If they already know everything why go to school? If children catch up quickly why the pressure? Seems like the schools need to re-evaluate their possition.

Like other Dutch kids mine started school at 2 years old. I think for them it was a good thing but not for 'book' learning but for social interaction. Paris was a first child and since I have no family here he had no one to play with. He also needed to learn doing things with others in a group and being away from Mom. Megan as a second child, already knew this stuff but for her she just jumped in like a bull. She loved the whole 'making friends' thing and felt very grown-up. By the time they were 4, going to kindergarten full-time was a normal progression.

ave said...

I think there are several reasons that parents may push their kids into school at an early age. Around here I've heard women say that they felt apprehensive about sending their child to kindergarden, but wanted to save money in child care so they were going to send them anyway, (ready or not). Sometimes I wish Lmx was going to kinder class because he gets bored and naughty, (this is my fault though).

Auntie Lee said...

I think school is good for kids that are really busy. P. was also a busy kid. Like I said before, if you don't have family or friends around with lots of kids who daily play, where else are they going to get the interaction?

I think it is just the dynamics of a modern lifestyle.