Early academic training harmful in long run

As the summer winds down, I’ve seen comments from parents of children with developmental delays, commenting with surprise at the gains their children have made during this extended period that they haven’t had therapies!

It’s kids with recognized delays that we assume most need structured learning and whose lives are often filled with nonstop therapies, and most people assume educational theories that are applied to neurotypical kids don’t apply to them.  But just like any other child (or even more, because kids with disabilities are continuously structured and have a constant focus on what they can’t do), they need space to process and do things that are enjoyable for them, without a focus on performance.

Does that seem counterintuitive?

It’s like I’ve been saying for years, kids learn best from play – direct instruction is the least effective modality!

Fortunately we’re now arriving at a beautiful place and time in which parental intuition and research studies concur – kids do best with lots of play, interest directed activities and unscheduled time to process their learning.  Not only that, evidence is showing something very interesting and even disturbing – the push for early academics is actually damaging in the areas of social and emotional development.

Here’s a great article I’ve been meaning to share with you for a while.  Take a look and see what you think.

The results of the studies quoted may surprise parents who are convinced that intensive direct instruction will catapult their child to success.  I believe that it’s when we dismiss the value of play, when we discount games and fun as having no positive value that we do ourselves and our children a grave disservice.

Childhood only comes once and what our kids need more than anything is for the time to be filled with play, activities and love.  This is what sets a solid foundation for academic success.  When you’re ready to address academics at a later age, they’ll pick up the skills they would have spent years in school reviewing in a much shorter time than you think possible.

We’re burning our kids out by pushing them so hard, from such a young age.  In the highly stimulating and competitive world our children are growing up into, a solid emotional foundation is more critical than ever.  We don’t know what exact skills they will need, but jaded and bored kids growing into jaded and bored adults aren’t primed for success in any area of life.


3 thoughts on “Early academic training harmful in long run

  1. Early therapy is not the same as early academics.
    Early therapy is more desirable.
    I can’t help, but wonder if childhood Russian prodigies who endure grueling schedules to become star gymnasts lose “something.”
    My students of Russian origin have a much more rigorous work ethic than most of my other students. Are they somehow deficient?
    Also, I vaguely recall that the Ypsilanti study was comparing Montessori behavioural learning to more cognitive-based learning & it concluded that advances in one system were erased by the 4th grade (I believe). Still Head Start proponents had studies that showed that weak socio-economic kids should start school earlier than 6 years old.
    My experience in teaching adult charedim that never had exposure to English language learning is that they are resentful of their parents & the system. I’ve taught both students who learn secular studies within their yeshiva high schools & those who learn secular studies PRIVATELY while attending yeshivoth qetanoth & my PERCEPTION is that those learning privately are more idealistic, though that may be due to other factors.

    I remember reviewing the research with strongly advocated education software because it repeated information w/o showing any negative emotion to the student (adaraba). Students could practice until they perfected their knowledge in the given subject matter. Software could be “real learning,” where real situations are simulated (surgeons can perform better from such programmes). We used Operation Neptune to improve our kids’ math. For English reading, teaching the alphabet & basic sentences should be done with an engaging, but very simple, story. Graded readers should then be used to gradually increase the level of sophistication. Ultimately, kids can then just be given texts that they can then read ALONE, recording anything they don’t understand & asking their teacher or using their dictionary for clarification. The key here is engaging texts.

    1. Hi, Simon and thanks for your detailed and thought out comment!

      Early therapy has the same issues involved as early academics and I mentioned it because parents are so sure that it’s therapy that will help their child progress but in fact it’s when the kids have time off that they make the most gains!

      Regarding Head Start, I don’t have the studies on hand for this but have read that the early gains didn’t hold up. Unfortunately, the conclusions that were drawn based on a financially and emotionally impoverished population were then applied to the rest of the population with the push for early academics being a direct (and damaging) result.

      My thought on your comment about your adult learners is that there are some other issues involved that go beyond the topic of early academics; there will always be those who wish their parents had done something different and are resentful.

      Regarding your final comment – I agree with ‘the key is in engaging texts’ *assuming* that they harness the child’s desire to learn. If they aren’t engaging to a given child, then they won’t be of any more value than the most boring reader.

  2. Hi. I am really on board with this educational concept but practically speaking, how do you do math in homeschool in this way?

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