If we go on for a bit on the subject of young children’s education, I’ve heard a kindergarten teacher tell me that daycare is good for children because it “serves as good preparation for kindergarten”. Kindergarten, in its turn, is supposed to serve as preparation for school, while school is meant to prepare us for real life. But does it succeed? Does it really? For how many children, does school really broaden their horizons? How many succeed thanks to school, and how many despite it?
I’m not sure if you get my line of thinking, but to me it seems as though I’m told “they’ll be herded and segregated into neat little age groups anyway, so it’s better to begin while they’re young”.
Yes, of course if a child grew up freely at home for the first three, four, five years of his or her life, it will probably be more of an adjustment for him or her to get used to the structured environment of school. The question is, how much structure is really good for the little child (my opinion: not much) and how much of it is the default option because no school can ever provide enough of the much needed one-on-one time with each child? For how many children, it would have been far better to grow up at home with their parents until a much later age than is considered “normal” nowadays?
Around here, most babies are entered at daycare centers at the age of just a few months (maternity leave is 3 months), and it’s considered highly unusual to keep a child at home beyond infancy. But just a generation ago, it was common for children to remain at home until the age of three. And generations before that, children were brought up at home until much later. Then some of them eventually entered into structured schooling, and some didn’t.
There isn’t one answer. There isn’t a one and only possible way to learn, to grow, to become an accomplished adult. I’ve been accused of trying to vilify schools, which is the last thing I intended to do. I know many school teachers I have a high respect for, but schools have many shortcomings, the chief of which, in my opinion, is wasting of time – much precious time, which has to do mainly with the size of classes. You essentially cannot conduct a lesson to a group of 30 children without a lot of time being wasted on discipline problems and irrelevant questions, and that’s a great pity, because the younger a child is, the shorter is his/her attention span.
This in its turn leads to boredom, wandering of attention, and ineffective learning. Often, children are so put off by their lesson subjects that they develop a lifelong aversion to fascinating discoveries and wonderful world-renowned authors. I, for instance, love Chekhov, but there were a few stories by him that I could never bring myself to re-read, and didn’t understand why, until I remembered those were the ones they presented to us in school.
I suppose this has to do with the way of presenting the material, and this can improve, but somehow it seems to me that when learning in a large group at a young age, we are often destined for mediocrity, because schools have it as their goal (perhaps must have it as their goal) that everybody learns at least something, which makes it more difficult to attend to those who learn more quickly (and thus soon begin fidgeting in their chairs from boredom) or more slowly (and thus soon begin to feel stupid for remaining behind).
I’ve heard school teachers proudly tell that their school has become a mini-university, but in my opinion, this is a matter where we should be very cautious. Four-graders don’t need a university; they need a lot of time for individual learning, developing their imaginations, and getting to know themselves as persons – and just being healthily and freely active out of doors.
So, again, I have no answers yet. Perhaps I never will. But I’m trying to think outside the box, step by step, as I walk hand in hand with my little children and enjoy every moment of their amazing development. So far, I have seen that home can be a vibrant, friendly, and professionally speaking, very stimulating learning place.