During the last several months I have seen many articles on the need for "Education Reform." Clearly the public education system is not as good as it should be and there are changes that need to be made. I personally am of the opinion that no matter how many changes are made there is nothing that is going to "fix" public education. It cannot be fixed because that is not the way children are meant to learn. One of the things that concerns me though is the growing trend to push children into "formal" learning at younger and younger ages. One of the articles I read talked about the need for more Head Start programs at earlier ages with more formal learning. They already take them at 3-4 years old how much earlier can you get? People were disgusted that the children in these programs were not sitting down and learning anything. Instead they were able to play for 3 or more hours a day. Does anyone remember when Kindergarten ages (5-6) was nothing more than a half day of playing? 3 and 4 year old children should spend their whole day playing.
Even in church I have noticed that people are sending their children at younger ages to Sunday School. I teach a Pre-school Sunday School Class geared for 4-5 year olds with short lessons and a fun craft. Lately, we have been getting children as young as 2 because they shouldn't be "wasting" their time playing in the nursery. They need to be learning something.
I don't think that children at these ages require any kind of "formal" learning. My children all learned to walk, talk, feed themselves without me ever sitting them at a table and telling them how to do it or giving them a worksheet on it. The best way for children to learn is by observing what is going on around them and through their play. Anthony (3) knows all of his numbers 1-10, alphabet, colors and shapes but I never sat him down and taught it to him. He learned by listening to me read and by playing with him. I remember when Nick learned that if you mix white and red it makes pink. I could have sat him down and taught it to him, but instead he discovered it by himself when he mixed ranch dressing with ketchup on his dinner plate and he was delighted with the discovery. If we continue to push children at an early age, all of their love of learning is going to disappear. Instead, learning is going to be for them part of the boring monotony that many of our older children face every day.