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Mary P

This is excellent. I recall being told in teacher's college (no source, so possibly apocryphal) that the head of the original Head Start program was once quoted as saying that "everything we do with these children all day long could be accomplished in 20 minutes on a parent's knee, being read to." I'll bet the Maintown style of interactive reading was exactly what he had in mind.

Three-year-olds being subjected to worksheets as their sole means of "education" are three-year-olds whose minds are being impoverished, not enriched.

Well said, Laura!


I love the information about the types of interaction that promote critical thinking. And I think you're exactly right that the skills these young kids are learning can be taught to anyone, even monkeys.

I will say, though, that I don't think all kids learning how to write their names and count to 100 by age 4 are necessarily trading in park time for tutor time. If the kid enjoys the activity and is honing some fine motor skills and learning some new things, I don't think it's a problem. I think it BECOMES a problem when the parents are using this not as a supplement to their child's development, but as some sort of competitive edge, especially when the really extreme ones forego the types of interactions and play experiences that you're suggesting.

So I don't think it's a black and white issue at all. Bryce attends a private school where he works on writing and math every day. BUT, that school also highly values art, nature, play time, and - to your point - critical thinking skills. I don't have any problem with them working with him on math and reading when I know he's getting just as much focus on more important, long-term developmental skills.

Daydreams and Musings

I agree with Kristen. This extra "schooling" shouldn't replace time at the park but if the parents have the means, the child has the motivation (and ability to sit still) it isn't a bad thing. It's only bad if parents are using it as a substitute for actually parenting their child.

Mary P

The aggressive competition Laura describes of getting into the "right" school is so wrong-headed, and so contrary to how children actually learn! (This is close to my heart: remember that in my previous career, I was a teacher.)

Yes, there are children out there who enjoy paperwork. There are kids who like to accumulate facts; they like to write them down and/or recite them by rote. This is one style of learning, and it's a perfectly valid one.

However, there are many styles of learning, and this style, the verbal/analytical, is not the type for which most toddlers have capabilities. Nor does it mean that your child is destined for academic greatness when they CAN learn that way at a mere three years old. Perhaps they are, but other characteristics - self-control, determination, focus, delayed gratification - are equal, if not better, determinants of academic (and life) success.

It is far, far more important that children learn to explore, to indulge in a little lateral thinking, to explore relationships of ideas, to stretch and expand their rapidly developing brain through mental and physical play, than that they learn to parrot facts and fill in worksheets, which are only the most obvious and least significant of academic abilities.

None of this is to say that it is wrong to challenge a child academically - if it is done as a form of play, if the child loves it, if it's never burdensome, or, as Kristen points out, as long as it's not some form of parental competition, so skewed that the child misses out on other aspects of development.

I would further like to reassure those who must count their pennies, that EVERY parent "has the means" to enrich their child's life (and mind!) I'm not telling a parent how to spend their money if they have it, but I AM saying that for the vast majority of young children, it is entirely unnecessary to spend large chunks of money - indeed, any money at all - to provide all the enrichment, stimulation, and mental challenge that's required to produce a really great thinker.


Thank you for another great post and comments too...What a fantastic site this is. I really appreciate what you are doing here.

Laura S.

Hi Everyone!

I have to run off to class, so I can't properly address everyone's comments. Sorry!

But I wanted to say that the main problem I have with this is that the mere fact that they're having kids count from worksheets as opposed to using blocks shows me their program isn't even developmentally appropriate. Older children and adults learn from worksheets. 3 and 4 year-olds learn better from play activities. Those kids should at the very LEAST be counting blocks, not dots on a page.

Additionally, using CANDY as a reward for doing the work -- that alone just makes me want to scream. This only promotes external motivation, not internal motivation. Not to mention all the other issues surrounding that (I don't know about you, but I wouldn't be too excited about picking up my kids after they've eaten Laffy Taffy!). Again, this just shows that the learning centers (like the school superintendent who wanted to do away with naps because he thought they were "a waste of time" -- naps are necessary for brain development and LEARNING, hello!) don't know enough about how very young kids develop and shouldn't be selling parents this . . . crap.

Gotta run!


First I love that you have a FAVORITE longitudinal study.

And the monkey thing is a key reminder for parents overly addicted to milestones for children.

Finally, my work as a librarian is steeped in literacy.. and literacy fads of the moment. We currently have something locally I like to call 'summer school for kindergarten' -- gets me throwing things, too. Among other factors (e.g it is not just the parents) the explosion of very early childhood education can be tied to a lot of governmental bean counting about what great care our society is taking of our children -- Commence more tossing of items and rolling of eyes over here.

Well, blogged. Of course.


And on play -- consider the following from my pending recommended title list:

Child's Play / by Silken Laumann


Last night, when we were discussing what kind of birthday party my soon-to-be-3 daughter wanted, we talked about a cookie party where everyone would decorate already-baked sugar cookies. My daughter said, 'But, what about...we don't have enough, um, you know...those things.' I had no idea what she was talking about. Then she ran her hands back in forth in front of her belly and around her neck and I said, 'Aprons?' She replied, 'Yeah! But we don't have enough aprons!'

What a genius. Not even three, and she's already thinking things through to their logical conclusions and spotting problems along the way. She may not know the difference between an M and a W yet, but I'll take her critical thinking anyday.

supra for kids

Ban on women driving should be considered world wide... :-) I would never allow my wife driving my car.. :-)

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