Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Preschool Pressure

It truly is sad that preschool has become an area of increased social and educational pressure.  While I was at a department store this past weekend I heard one well off mother asking another - "Do you send your little one to Royal Learn*ers?" As if it is a status symbol.  Where are we going with this?  What happened to the good old days when parents helped their own children learn their letters, sat down on the floor and colored with them, taught them how to work, how to tie their shoes, and how to get along with their siblings.  Now we think someone else should teach our precious little ones these absolutely invaluable life lessons. But why?  Are we like the ladies in the store - is it a status symbol for us - are we just too busy - or are we just lazy?  Whatever reason, it is a sad result.  I see children in preschool who are nervous, anxious, who cry for half the morning, who refuse to use the restroom at school, or who bite their nails.  All of this before the age of 5? Like Robert Fulghum children learn all they need to know by Kindergarten, but for some reason I DON"T THINK stress and anxiety should be one of them!

Now don't get me wrong... I am not saying that we should not teach our children before typical school age. No - Not at all.  It is just the PRESSURE on the little ones to perform that is so wrong. It is obvious that there are some children who are ready to be challenged with various preschool activities at very young ages.  Most of my girls were able to color in the lines, cut with safety scissors, and draw prewriting symbols when they were 2. In almost every situation the girls did this without my prompting.  They just "wanted" to color, cut, and draw.  So, I provided the means.  With each of my children, I have taken the stance that I WILL NOT PUSH them in preschool. My two oldest girls did attend PreK at the Christian school that I Administrated.  They were NOT at the head of their class.  They were NOT the super star readers. The teachers would often pull me aside and say they needed extra work in this or that area... not trying to be a "rebel", but I just did not make PreK a big deal.  If they got it - good. If they didn't - well, then they just weren't ready.  The whole idea is to "introduce" the child to "pre" school activites or things that would develop "readiness."  Just give them the opportunity.  I did the same things with my son that I did with the girls, and guess what?  He could not even hold a crayon correctly until he was almost 4.  He wanted NOTHING to do with coloring or writing... BUT he enjoyed books and building things with blocks.  Different, but still good. No pressure to make him write every day - just an occasional "You want to color with mommy?" More often than not - I got turned down - but he would occasionally join me in a coloring session.  All this to say, that "pressuring" a child will not get results - just stressed out - "pressured" children.

The abuse of the parent's responsibility to give their children the "opportunity" to learn is what has caused our government to increasingly "push" PreK.  Many parents, like we mentioned before, are just too busy or just don't care.  This is a disservice to our children.  Their little minds should be challenged - not just set in front of Barn*ey or some other cartoon.  There is so much that they can do - these little people are absolutely amazing!

The "pre" school child should also be given the opportunity to develop responsibility as well. This is achieved by giving them duties or chores around the house. (Again - we see... it starts at home!) We know that the national standards want our children to be learning their letters, numbers, pronunciation, speaking in complete sentences, their colors, and how to behave socially.  But there is so much more to child development. What about instilling them with good work habits?  or is that a dirty word in today's society?  Did you know that a Preschool child can clean their room - wash their own hair and body - set the table for dinner - clear the table after dinner - gather up their dirty clothes and put them in the basket - separate dirty clothes for washing into piles of darks and lights and whites (helps practice colors) - put away their own clean laundry into drawers - the list goes on and on.  A child has purpose and meaning when they are given doses of responsibility appropriate for their age.  What did children do 100 years ago? You better believe most children worked as hard as some adults do today. What did they learn? Latin, logic and rhetoric along with LOTS of readin', ritin', and rithmetic were common 100 years ago - did you know that most of our country's "Founding Fathers" could speak Latin fluently?? What kind of people did those children grow into? WOW...these were the adults that made American the Christian country that we were so proud of.   My thoughts are...  why are we trying to reinvent the wheel?             The way we raised children 100 years ago.... hmmm... did it work better than pressuring them into preschool when they are still babies?

Whether your children learn at home or at school they really do learn almost everything they really need to know before they are 5.  Robert Fulghum's short essay is wonderful....

-Share everything.

-Play fair.
-Don't hit people.
-Put things back where you found them.
-Clean up your own mess.
-Don't take things that aren't yours.
-Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.
-Wash your hands before you eat.
-Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
-Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
-Take a nap every afternoon.
-When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.
-Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
-Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup - they all die. So do we.
-And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned - the biggest word of all - LOOK.
Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.
Take any one of those items and extrapolate it into sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your family life or your work or government or your world and it holds true and clear and firm. Think what a better world it would be if we all - the whole world - had cookies and milk at about 3 o'clock in the afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments had as a basic policy to always put things back where they found them and to clean up their own mess.
And it is still true, no matter how old you are, when you go out in the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.


  1. robert fulghum was, is and probably always will be one of my fave authors! i used to have all his books but have misplaced them through the years (and a few moves) - i think my favorite story is the one about the raccoons under the house - "why isn't love easy? i don't know and the raccoons don't say." love it!
    this is a great piece by you about the pressure on preK kids these days - i think it extends into schoolage in many ways as well - many kids do not easily learn to read until 7-8 years old but in the PS school system they are pressured to learn earlier - different kids learn different subjects at different rates - learning should not be as "cookie cutter" as it has become :-)

  2. I had a poster of the graphic I used in this post - on my door the first year I taught 1990... I really like his stuff too... Hillarious truth!