Early Education

Good parents want their children to succeed. They are competitive to a fault and seek every advantage they can afford. Since neuroscience has contributed to popular ideas about brain development, some parents are focused on “assisting brain growth” in the children with toys, video games, and early education programs. Few pay attention to the food their children eat, even though food is an important determinant of brain development. Some parents appreciate the importance of quality home life and the basic features of nurturance that tends to produce healthy, happy children. Loving parents who feed their children correctly and who interact the most with their children at home will have the best results.

In Canada, about two thirds of mothers with children under six years of age work part time or full time. They delegate care of the children to professional caregivers and may feel better if daycare programs have educational content. Working parents continue to depend on schools to care for their children for many years.

Unfortunately, daycare can be an expensive and negative experience for both children and their parents; it depends on the adults who run the daycare. A Berkeley-Stanford study of 14,162 children in kindergarten, reported that early child care suppressed children's social development, self-control, interpersonal skills, and motivation. The worst affected were children who attended learning centers before age 2. Children from poor families had a small benefit in language and math skills (8% higher than stay at home peers.) Children from the highest income families exhibited the most negative behaviors.

Gulli suggested:” Parents, it seems, should also be thinking about how they will be affected by putting their kids into early learning or daycare centers… parents are worse off since the child care program came into play. Mothers of children in daycare are more depressed than their average counterparts. More of them report hostile or "aversive interactions" with their kids. And there is a significant deterioration in marital relationships. None of this is good for children… the pressure parents put on kids reflect the pressure they feel themselves. “

In Europe the age of starting formal education varies from five years in England, Scotland, Walesto seven years Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania. Several countries favor a 6 year start ( Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark , France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Irish Republic, Italy, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden).Pugh, in an English review of the starting age stated;"

It's a balance between children-initiated and adult-initiated learning.. four and five-year-olds could be "turned off" if they were made to follow too formal a curriculum, too early on." The idea is that less formal, play-based learning is more enjoyable and more effective for younger children who learn spontaneously if they are having fun and opportunities to learn skills are available. A mother from Holland stated:" I went through the English schooling system but my son has had the Dutch system that begins at six with formal lessons. Between the ages of four and six it was learning through play. The children don't even realize they are learning. Social skills are a lot better for children here, they learn to share and help."

While I advocate learning through play and value the social education of young children more than teaching them reading and writing, it is obvious that generalizations about early education are bound to mislead. The issues are many and the range of variables is great. There are no meaningful measures of the quality home life in the assessments of early education. I doubt that any school can provide the basic features of nurturance that produce healthy, happy children. Let me repeat -- parents who feed their children correctly and who interact the most with their children in a friendly, cooperative home will have the best results.