For $1,000, Santa Monica is prepping its children for kindergarten, because some of the parents there think that nothing says prepared better than preparing for the class that is supposed to prepare you for school.
Unfortunately, for children of wealthy families, parents think they have to prep their kids to get into the $25,000 prep schools. Twenty-five thousand for kindergarten. It’s hard to believe.
It isn’t just Santa Monica, and it isn’t just the wealthy. Young children are being pressured more than ever before to learn earlier than ever before. Learning is the goal, not the child’s well-being.
Poor preschools are much about this prepping too, only poor children will go on to attend often punitive charter schools. The fabricated urgency for preschool is more stark for children in poor preschools. Children who live in poverty might have other trauma outside of school as well.
But wealthy children experience their own kind of hell. Not as bad as children who live in poverty, but a hell of a different sort nonetheless.
The activities for Santa Monica children look like fun. But there is motive behind every activity. Everything is structured so children will learn.
I especially cringed when the video showed small children holding up the months of the year. I wonder if children get a break to think on their own. Do they get to initiate their own play ever?
Parents are trying too hard to ensure their children learn skills. There’s nothing natural about it.
For years we’ve mocked the stereotypical parent who, at the neighborhood playground, frantically asks questions about the best preschool. Yet, here it is 2016, and that parent is alive and well and living, not just in Santa Monica, but around the country.
There seems little concern that pushing children to learn in such a structured manner will have repercussions.
Think how a child must feel if they don’t yet grasp the concepts presented. What must it be like to be put through one activity after another and not understand?
I predict an increase of children in the next 5 to 10 years who show up with a variety of learning disabilities. It will happen two ways.
- School officials and parents will incorrectly believe children have learning disabilities because they are not performing above where they think they should be performing.
- Or, children will actually develop learning problems because they were pushed to academically perform before they were ready!
For example, already, kindergartners are expected to be reading. With this prep program, children are getting guided reading. Yet, reading used to be a skill learned a year, even two, later.
We know there might well be repercussions, yet some parents buy into the notion that the earlier their child reads, the better off they will be.
So reading is pushed whether a child is ready to read or not. Reading becomes a chore–nothing enjoyable.
It isn’t that parents shouldn’t provide learning tools and set up opportunities for children to learn. Put out the paper and paints! Read lots of stories! Let children pick out books of interest in the library or bookstore! Take trips to museums and parks!
But children should also be given time to play on their own. In fact, much can be gleaned by watching children play. Children will tell you what they like if you let them. Children should be trusted more.
Time and time again we are reminded of the value of unstructured play. Here is the most recent article about the increasing “play gap” by early childhood specialist Nancy Carlsson-Paige. I think it provides lessons for all parents.
When every minute of the day is structured, children don’t get a chance to use their brains to think on their own. When everything is done for them, they just follow what they are supposed to do and never give their noggins a workout.
Children have serious ideas, and while their make-believe worlds might not make sense to us, they are meaningful and important to them.
These parents need to quit pushing. They need to let their children be children.