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With society’s push for starting formal education earlier and earlier, it feels like a breath of fresh air when an article or a study takes a stand against that trend.
Charlotte Mason was a strong advocate of safeguarding a child’s first six years of life as a time for individual development through free play, exploration, and family life. She encouraged parents to wait until the child was six years old to begin formal lessons.
I often get raised eyebrows when I mention that fact in workshops. Many young parents agree with giving their preschool children time to play, but they draw the line at no formal lessons. They think it is to the child’s advantage to begin his academic studies during those early years.
It is not.
In fact, pushing academics during the tender preschool years (Does no one else see the contradiction between that label, preschool, and the current pressure?) can actually hinder a child’s development and inhibit his academic progress later on.
The University of Cambridge recently published an article that explains those findings in School Starting Age: The Evidence. And just a week or two ago, another great article revealed how and why kindergarten has changed over the years to the child’s detriment in The Disturbing Transformation of Kindergarten.
Charlotte summed it up like this:
“The educational error of our day is that we believe too much in mediators. Now, Nature is her own mediator, undertakes, herself, to find work for eyes and ears, taste and touch; she will prick the brain with problems and the heart with feelings; and the part of mother or teacher in the early years (indeed, all through life) is to sow opportunities, and then to keep in the background, ready with a guiding or restraining hand only when these are badly wanted” (Vol. 1, pp. 192, 193).
Children do not need a middleman between themselves and knowledge. They do not need someone to overmuch order, systematize, and organize what they should learn and when. God created each child with a desire to learn. Our job is to “sow opportunities” and give the child plenty of time and space to take what he is ready for and grow at his own pace.
That is the best kind of early education.
Enjoying the Early Years
Charlotte encouraged parents of preschoolers to give their children a quiet growing time for the first six years of their lives. She explained how they could set aside society’s pressures and just concentrate on two things: good habits and good, loving, noble ideas.
Our new 2-DVD set, Enjoying the Early Years, offers guidance and encouragement toward those happy goals. It also demonstrates Charlotte’s gentle step-by-step approach to teaching children to read as they are ready.
Give your preschooler the kind of education that is best. Give him a quiet growing time that will allow him to send down deep roots and flourish.