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Tuesday, March 22, 2005

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How will children benefit if they are forcefed learning at a developmentally inappropriate age? I've been pondering this myself, and drafted a too-lengthy comment to your post. Instead, let me reply with a post on my own blog. I think this is a very big issue.

I am similarly befuddled by the British approach. Evan was born in Cardiff, and I have stayed in touch with most of the women from my favourite Welsh 'mothers' group' - we exchange cards and news for Xmas and the kids' birthdays, and the occasional email. I was flabbergasted when a pile of cards arrived for Xmas last year, each one saying how the not-quite-four-year-old in question was going to start school some time this year. Like you say, I just can't get my head around it! It seems SO young to me. Thinking of Evan in particular, I wonder about the social side of starting school at that age as well as the merit (or otherwise) of starting 'academics' at age 4. Socially, Evan is just learning to cope with the big world of pre-school, and I think he wasn't ready for even this much before the age of 4.

I also feel sad from the parents' perspective. Several of the Xmas cards I received contained wistful comments from the mothers about just how fast their child's pre-school years had gone, and how much they were going to miss them when they started school. I anticipate feeling the same way this time next year - I can hardly imagine having a whole year of our pre-school days taken away. One whole year less to hang out in the park on your days home together - how sad!

Schools and Gypsies: Little known fact - Miss Barbara Cartland who is so reviled by everyone - used all of her social clout to pioneer schooling for gypsy children, who previously, had fallen through the system. Onya Barb.

I'm amazed by this too. If my failing memory serves me well, I started school at 5 in Britain though I have no idea any longer of what it was like. Now in Germany, my initial reaction to children starting at six was "taking their time, aren't they." But having witnessed my eldest son start school at that age it seems ideal. He started in September. By Christmas he was reading. At that age they take off and fly so quickly. Some eager parents enrolled their children a year earlier but we so often witnessed that these are the ones that had problems and made problems. Partly it's their inability to cope with academic work but also, as the BBC article points out, they have a problem with self-esteem. Do other counries worry as much about the comparive PISA tests? As Germany came off so badly (especially compared to Britain), there is now much pressure to start schooling earlier. But to what end I wonder? Quantum physics at eight, perhaps?

David wrote: "but we so often witnessed that these are the ones that had problems and made problems."
I saw this myself the other day, while helping out at school. I had the youngest child in the class in my group - he started school at 4 and a half. He acted up all through the reading activity - constantly trying to distract other kids, deliberately falling backwards off his chair, etc. He's a smart little boy from a middle class family - I say that in order to make the point that I think his age is a major factor in his behaviour ... he's missed out on a year of playtime and he's also had to try and keep up with kids who are substantially older than he is.
One of my brothers was sent to school at 4 and a half too and struggled with schoolwork for most of primary school. My parents learnt their lesson and didn't send me till I was five and a half. (In my state, you have to be in school by the time you are six.) The trend here seems to be to keep children back as late as possible, although on the bottom end of the economic scale there is pressure to send kids to school early in order to cut childcare fees.

this is a good point, susoz. i think many parents (including myself, i must admit!) sometimes overlook the possibly detrimental effects of introducing schooling at a very young or too young age. in the rush to get the kiddies off to school so that mummy/daddy/carer can go back to work, and/or in the effort to give children the advantage academically these drawbacks can be easily overlooked.

food for thought!

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