"Defending the Early Years"
There is a lot to learn from how early childhood education really works. Children learn while playing. Of course, this is no different from a chemist who pretends to be working in a laboratory, but is actually enjoying the quest for a greater understanding of how protein and peptide structures define their function. It is no different from trying to figure out how basic education ticks and understanding its challenges and problems when one is immersed and dedicated to this issue. Working with dedication and interest is no different from playing. Playing requires engagement. In so many ways, playing is imitating life. In fact, playing is life. What makes an activity different from playing then? The answer to this question lies perhaps in one of the lessons I have learned with my son. It is about the cubs of wild cats:
|Above captured from|
University of Minnesota, Lion Research Center, "Daily Life"
|Above captured from|
Africa Inside, "Cheetah Cubs get Cheetah Hunting Lessons from Mom"
Short-term costs and correlates of play in cheetahs
What sets "play" from other activities is low risk. In human games, scores are kept and there are winners and losers, but with children, these scores are not supposed to matter much. What is important is participation and simply having fun.
For this reason, it is troubling to hear, "Every reader by Grade 1", or other policies that may seem appropriate and ideal at first, but may actually be detrimental to child growth and development. This blog has more than fifty articles posted on early childhood education and it is of concern when I receive comments from parents who are proud to cite that their children can read at the age of five. Learning to read is very important. In fact, it has been pointed out in this blog from research that reading in Grade 3 is correlated with later academic success. This, however, does not mean that learning to read at age 5 is necessary:
Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post recently posted on her blog an essay written by Geralyn Bywater McLaughlin, Nancy Carlsson-Paige, and Diane E. Levin of Defending the Early Years (DEY). DEY is non-profit with the following goals:
A disturbing shift is underway in early childhood classrooms around the country. Many classrooms, especially those that depend on public funds, look more and more like classrooms for older children where standards, testing, and accountability rule. Federal and state mandates are pushing academic skills and testing down to younger children, even preschoolers. These days, there is less and less emphasis on promoting child development, active, play-based learning, and hands-on exploration for our nation’s youngest learners.A lioness does not bring her cubs to hunt for a cape buffalo. There is no reason why humans should do differently.