It’s not rocket science – it’s preschool!

My first nursery report for my son said ‘distracted easily – disruptive – can be heavy handed with his peers – and also listed all the things he could/couldn’t do – like identify colours. It left a bad taste in my mouth for a two year old. Cos if it said, sits very still, compliant and knows his periodic table would that sound any better for a toddler? It was the start of me questioning other things – like the fact that this nursery had a small play area but no space for the children to run/wander etc. The rooms were on the small side and while very nice to look at seemed more catered to girls who sit playing with dolls than boys.  And all this for a tidy $1500 per term for 3.5 hours a day.

I’ve seen people commenting on early education online saying they can’t bear people who say they homeschool when the children are under five as if there’s really nothing to say about that. Don’t these same kids go to nurseries or schools? Isn’t there a huge body of research dedicated to early years education? Don’t some of these schools cost nearly $40K per year not including the extra curricular activities you might want them to do? Seems like there’s something to talk about – sorry if the pictures of playdough and cardboard crafts bore you!

On the other hand I do sometimes wonder why we have needed so much research and science and disappointed parents to tell us what we already know to be true – kids under 5 should be playing with playdough and cardboard, making a mess, getting wet, doing chores, dressing themselves and talking and being read to and being exposed to the real world gradually and positively. It doesn’t seem like rocket science – why make it so?

I admit I worry that they are learning things in nursery that my son isn’t. But of course they are! And vice versa. And it’s likely preschool kids are going to do better on standardised tests because that’s where their learning is focused. There’s no point me homeschooling if I’m gonna cry that my son is not going to ace those tests. Nurseries and preschools here mostly teach children to sit still and take direct instruction (and grade it like it’s a subject) even though the research is pretty clear that this is diminishing children’s creative ability. Children need to PLAY – some more than others, kids are individuals and some of them do actually dig sitting still and reading but even they need to do a lot more playing than they need to sit still and learn. They need time to have conversations with adults about what they are doing and they need to do it outside of a printed list of adult expectations about their general knowledge.

Actually if you talk to teachers, most of them want to do more play but they are terrified of the parents howling to them that their kids can’t read by 5 or won’t get into the Ivy League school that they (the parents) have set their heart on. Parents come with their own educational baggage and ignorance and prejudice. They really need to go examine those rather than pushing teachers to go against recommended wisdom. Parents either don’t know or don’t want to know about the education that will make their kids into well rounded individuals. They still want to teach rocket science to preschoolers.

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