Wednesday, September 17, 2014

They Don't Need No...

Your 2-year-old doesn't need to go to school:

Yes, 2-year-olds need to be properly nourished and stimulated by their caretakers, but this can happen just as well outside a classroom. Many parents, especially the sort who decide to read this article, are capable of giving toddlers everything they need to grow into intellectually curious and emotionally secure children.

"A lot of parents are operating under the mistaken belief that if school is good for 3-year-olds then it must be good for 2-year-olds too," said Tovah Klein, Director of the Barnard College Center for Toddler Development and author of the recent book How Toddlers Thrive.

Klein and other early childhood experts I spoke all agreed that 2s programs can be a perfectly fine addition to a toddler's schedule if the scheduling and costs create no inconvenience for the family. But they were also insistent that not sending your child to one doesn't cheat them or compromise their future.

The main things children need are love, a chance to socialize with other kids, and conversation. The latter is crucial, and study after study demonstrate the ways in which children who aren't spoken to enough have lower IQs and perform worse in school. There is a whopping 30-million-word gap between poor children and those from professional families. And boys are often spoken to less often than girls. So, yes, a 2s program could have benefits for lower-income children, who perversely are less likely to attend one. But for middle- or upper-income children, it's probably not going to make a difference.

It might even backfire. Some 2s programs, the sort that focus on academics and appeal to those parents who think that the first step to Harvard takes place in diapers, might actually have an adverse effect.

"There is a long history of studies in developmental psychology showing that it is harmful to push children into academics too early," said Barbara Beatty, professor of education at Wellesley and author of Preschool Education in America. "Kids need to have lots of time for exploration, and if you push them too early they are going to be shortchanged." In short, Beatty thinks parents of young children should put down their flashcards and take their kids for a walk or play with them.

The mere fact that an article like this is even written or that people are actually wondering if their TWO-YEAR-OLD needs to go school is a sad indictment of where our society is at when it comes to education. Personally, I would take this much farther and ask if your three or four or even five-year-old really needs to go to school either.

This obsession with the earlier the education the better is not validated by studies and some countries with far better educational outcomes than the United States don’t formally send their children to school until age seven (gasp!). If you have a stable home and can provide a good environment for your children to interact and learn in you don’t need to worry about whether they will fall behind because they don’t start school “soon enough.” They’ll be just fine.