My Mom used to tell me that I was not too crazy about starting school as a kid. In fact, she had to force me to attend kindergarten because I was about to turn 6 the next school year! “You loved playing and watching TV too much,” she said. By the time I was enrolled, I could read and write as good as those enrolled a year earlier – with an extra full year of playing to boot! Ha!
Because it worked for me, I hoped the same for my daughter. I didn’t start formally homeschooling her until she’s 5, but I did teach her how to read and write when she was 3 ½. I had her join playdates, practices classes, and summer school to prep her for formal learning. I must say that I didn’t take my time; I let her have hers. If she doesn’t feel like doing it, we skipped it. It’s fine.
While almost-school age children learn in different paces, the truth is that they are all in a developmental stage that should not be pushed and pressured. Sadly, because the society we live in today is in fast track via technology, we sometimes unknowingly expect too much from the little ones. Along with great expectations come these dangers:
- Thinking the child has a developmental delay. According to a study by Harvard, children today are labeled with a reading delay when they are not yet proficient readers at a certain point in a school year. Parents and teachers rarely notice that the problem is early schooling and not the child. What’s worse than blaming the kid for being too slow compared to his classmates? Prescribing interventions like remedials and tutorials so he can be caught up with his peers. As an effect, the little ones miss on important milestones they could have reached during playtime and exploring the outdoors.
- Feelings of anxiety, confusion, and inadequacy. The learning overload and early literacy can stir negative emotions. At a tender age, kids will feel frustrated with themselves simply because what they are taught at a quick pace is above their developmental capability.
- Misdiagnosis and ADHD risks. 3 to 4 year-olds are at a stage where they explore their motor skills and surroundings. It’s normal for them to be unable to stay put for prolonged periods and pay attention to lengthy discussions. We might deem this as a lack of focus and interest, but it’s actually age appropriate. This misconception leads us to believe that when they’re not listening to teacher and wriggle too much in their seats (as an attempt to behave), they have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or ADHD. There is some truth here though. In the same Harvard study mentioned earlier, kids who start out as the youngest in their class are at a higher risk of getting an ADHD diagnosis.
The list could go on but it all boils down to this: what are our convictions in enrolling the kids early on – is it because of pressure that kids his or her age are already starting school? The belief we bore a prodigy who needs to be mentally nurtured ahead and with advanced lessons? Keeping them busy so we can focus on chores at home?
No need to feel condemned though – if you have enrolled your children ahead, you can still help them thrive in a pace and environment where learning is not rushed and achievement-centric. Support your kids with the learning styles that’s unique to them. Avoid comparison, name-calling, and putting so much stress beyond what they can bear. Life’s no rush – the things they can’t comprehend now can wait, but their childhood can’t!