The FUMP teachers and staff attended a seminar by Dr. Leonard Sax. It was a lively presentation that left us with many things to contemplate. His seminar covered a multitude of topics, especially how children should NOT be rushed into early academics. Read on for more information.
One of the changes that we have seen in recent years is the push to start academic learning for children at younger ages. Most of us attended preschool or kindergarten and our days were spent making mudpies, listening to storytimes, and learning to get along with our classmates. The tide began to turn when the 1983 study entitled, “A Nation at Risk” was published, which characterized America’s schools as failing. It is Dr. Sax’s belief that A Nation at Risk sparked the new push for formal learning for younger children.
Thirty years later, children as young as 4 are expected master skills such as reading, writing and numeracy long before they are able to grasp the meaning behind such concepts. There is NO evidence that an earlier start to formal education yields better outcomes. As he phrased it, learning literacy and numercy for young children is based on “dogma, not data.”
However, academic trajectory CAN be predicted based on the child’s attitudes and beliefs about school when measured at the ages of 3-6 years of age. A child’s beliefs about school are certainly shaped by their early experiences and if the expectations are beyond their capabilities, negative attitudes can form and endure throughout a child’s academic career. Further, such disinterest is resulting in increasing diagnoses for Attention Deficit Disorder.
Dr. Sax’s lecture covered the topic of best learning environments for young children. He discussed the importance of experience-based learning for children under the age of 7. Most of us spent our younger years catching tadpoles to learn about the living world around us. Now children are expected to watch a video about tadpoles, and it is considered to be a viable substitute for learning. He strongly encourages parents to seek out schools who have a commitment for active, experiential learning for young children.
Of course, my space here is brief, so if you are interested in learning more, please check out Dr. Sax’s books: Boys Adrift, Girls on the Edge, and Why Gender Matters. Within these particular books, he shared both the latest research on current education models and how they are failing today’s children.
Interested in FUMP’s thoughts on this topic? Check out our blog post THE FUMP EXPERIENCE, which summarized the parent meeting regarding our prekindergarten program and our approach to kindergarten preparedness and academics in the classroom.