This was originally posted in my personal blog last month, but I thought it was important so I’m re-posting it here.
As parents we always try to do what is best for our children. We give them healthy foods, constantly watch over their safety and teach them what they need to know at appropriate times. What do you do with a child whose birthday falls after that dreaded “September 1st” mark which deems them to wait another year before starting Kindergarten? Do you just go with the flow and wait another year? Experts tell us the first three years of a child’s life are the most important. This is when they learn to walk, talk and socialize both verbally and through facial expressions. So if you are an assertive parent perhaps you taught your two year old her colors and then at three you taught her shapes and how to count to ten. When your child is four you teach her everything a typical preschool would teach; letters, the sounds they make, counting to 20, etc.
Getting back to the “after September 1st” birthday…. Now that you have prepared your four year old for Kindergarten, what exactly do you teach your child who is now turning five, but will have to wait another year to start Kindergarten? Do you continue on and teach them the basics for reading, counting to 100, and so on? Or do you give them the year off and just let them play and “be a kid” until they start Kindergarten the next year?
I personally believe that giving them the year off is a total waste of the super-powered learning skills that young kids have. Ask any expert and they will tell you the best age to learn a foreign language is age six and under. It’s not that older children can’t learn a foreign language, but it requires a bit more work. Obviously the average American isn’t trying to teach their five year old a foreign language, but I feel it’s important to continue teaching children in fun and engaging ways throughout the year (yes even during the summer).
One of my favorite books on this subject is “Learning All the Time” by John Holt. I think this should be required reading for all parents and caregivers. Children have a true LOVE of learning as youngsters, but too often they lose this by the time they reach 8-9 years of age due to boredom and lack of being engaged (another topic for another day). If a child is ready to start Kindergarten at the age of four, they should be allowed to do Kindergarten level work, regardless if they are at home or at school. I know what many of you are thinking… What about social skills? Just because a four year old is academically ready to start Kindergarten doesn’t mean she is emotionally and socially ready. Well, I agree with you, but what if the child was tested by two separate teachers and then allowed to participate for a day of Kindergarten before making the decision. Either the child has what it takes or she doesn’t. (I’m using she throughout this simply because it’s easier than saying “he or she”.)
Now, to get to the real issue. Our three year old will be turning four this November. She already knows her colors in English (and many of them in Spanish as well). She can count to 15 in English (to 10 in Spanish), and she knows the alphabet and basic shapes. I have done very little formal education with her, yet she watches educational cartoons and participates when we play hide-and-seek in which we always count in Spanish (you should try it, it’s fun!). The next logical thing for her to learn would be the sounds each letter makes and to count to 20. I have all of next year to teach her this (remember she will be turning four in Nov.), however once she’s learned all of this the next stage is beginning to read. As a homeschooling parent I feel that the September 1st birth date deadline is simply a “suggestion” and not a firm line for every single child. I’m not saying that our child is exceptional, but what I am saying is that I refuse to just sit back and wait for our child to be old enough to start Kindergarten. I think education should always be based on ability, not on what everyone else is doing. If your child is ready to learn then by all means show them the way and make it fun. Education should never stop, not for our children and not for adults either.
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