I often find parents who have small children are rather flummoxed by what they find on this blog. I base my parenting upon development – from streams of years of developmental testing from The Gesell Institute, from the pedagogical insights of Rudolf Steiner and the secondary pedagogical literature of the Early Years of Waldorf Education, from the research of Attachment Parenting, from my own experience as a pediatric health care professional and from just plain common sense. And research – there actually is research in this area!
The Early Years is not a time of rocket science, yet we have strayed so far from what a small child needs in most countries across the world I think it would take massive public health campaigns to get back to having things be developmentally appropriate for a small child.
The hallmarks of this campaign should be, for the Early Years child before first grade: sleep and rest, time in nature, steady rhythm, protection from adult information and the seeping of adult and high school activities down to these tiny children, meaningful work, play, protection from all electronic screens, the building up of a healthy physical body and to model children reverence, and to provide children the sense that the world is a good place.
Play and School: This is not the time for academics. There is NO published research that shows a child who learns to read early does better in school later on, but there are studies that show the benefits of a play-based Early Years program. Here are a few links on this subject:
The value of unstructured play: http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00593/full
Value of play-based preschools over academic preschools: http://mhpcns.com/resources/play_vs_academic.pdf
Alfie Kohn’s case against direct instruction of academics in Early Childhood Education: http://www.alfiekohn.org/article/early-childhood-education/
Homework: Research regarding the unclear relationship between homework and academic achievement (and hint, this talks about the optimal amount of homework in studies of high school students, and the disparity of benefits homework provides across groups of people, and the lack of clear benefits of homework for small children): http://www.centerforpubliceducation.org/Main-Menu/Instruction/What-research-says-about-the-value-of-homework-At-a-glance
Pitfalls of homework from Stanford University: http://news.stanford.edu/news/2014/march/too-much-homework-031014.html
Benefits of homework vary across nation, grades from Penn State (again, most of the research is being done at the middle and high school levels, and I think homework is another seeping of adult and teenaged ideas down to the smallest level of our population. Early Years children are not teenagers!): http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070227171018.htm
All parents who want homework sheets given to their kindergarten-aged children should have a look at these studies.
The Value of Protecting our Children From ADULT information:
The value of protection for our children: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationopinion/11384246/Too-much-information-destroys-childhood-innocence.html
Study from Pediatrics regarding use of mobile devices by caregivers and children in restaurants: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2014/03/05/peds.2013-3703.abstract
Why are we in such a fearful place in parenting small children? It is not a race to run as fast as possible to get to the next stage of childhood. It should not be a stage where the parent is so full of fear of parenting and uncertainty in trying to hold a rhythm in the home and guide a small child that keeping the child busy every second is the norm. If we set an unhurried pace at home and are happy being in our homes and neighborhoods, our small children will be as well. And they will have much greater health because of it!