Playgroups and preschools are everywhere. Nowadays, babies at few months old can already start attending in meaningful classes. These classes are quite expensive – even more expensive than primary school. With my two kids, I had them start attending toddler classes on the year they are turning 3 because they became extremely playful and curious at this age. The younger adults often see this as already late, but the older generation thinks this is starting them too early. So how old should we really have our kids start schooling?
I’m sharing below the information I’ve gathered from research on this topic.
It is well recognized that the first few years of a child’s life are crucial to his or her development as it lays a foundation for a person’s behavioral, social and physical health. Early childhood intervention programs are designed to provide support for the child’s development. Preschools and playgroups offer specialized approaches to education that are said to offer a lot of advantages that can extend well beyond childhood.
Early schooling provides also the child the basic knowledge of the alphabet, mathematical skills and other necessary literacy skills. It has been shown to yield benefits in academic achievement and educational progression. Most preschool teachers are also equipped with the training and knowledge on child development, and are able to help our kids.
Aside from preparing the child for formal school, a major benefit found in early education is the social interaction that the child gets. Early schooling helps children learn to get along with other kids and adults, and it molds their communication skills. They learn to be independent and to take responsibility for others’ needs as well as their own. The opportunity socialize will determine how the child would behave towards others for the rest of his/her existence.
There are a number of articles that provide reference to studies saying that early education is harmful and misguided and are recommending that children stay clear of formal education until six or seven years old. This is because it is around the age of seven when children begin to think differently and see themselves differently. It is at this age that they can better understand their mistakes and accept criticisms positively. On the other hand, younger brains are programmed to learn differently and grow through play, exploration and the affection they receive from adults and other children.
Early schooling is said to rob kids of the ability to play. Playful experiences are important to the child’s development as a more powerful learner and problem solver. This is the way children build their sense of who they are, what they can do, their curiosity and their competence. Neuro-scientific studies suggest that playful activity affects part of the brain responsible for higher mental functions. Thus, loss of playful experience and is linked to increased stress and mental health problems among children.
Based on various studies, kids who started early have less positive attitudes to reading and showed poor comprehension than those who started later. They are saying that children who enter school at six or seven would consistently achieve better educational results and higher wellbeing. Those who start at a later age would have more time to boost their confidence and build their identity.
As a working mother, I see the benefit that early education brings. Guilty of not being with my child 24/7, I acknowledge the benefit that childhood intervention programs can give especially during a child’s formative years. If I were a stay at home mom who could instill learning with my child’s play all the time, and be with my child to socialize with other kids, I would not enroll in any toddler programs. Unluckily, working moms like me gain more confidence that our kids our properly guided in their early years when they are left with skilled child care providers.
However, I do agree that formal education should be delayed to a later age. I strongly support the view that several benefits can be gained from play, and that formal classroom setup could be detrimental if the child is not ready. For this reason, I choose to enroll my child to an early school that has a structured program that allows kids to play and socialize with others. I don’t like to focus too much on their academic skills at this age, but I like to see them play and interact with other kids.
Reading through the various facts on early education, I don’t think there is a clear answer as to when be the right age to go to school. It clearly depends on your child, and clearly depends on what you value. Instead of worrying too much, let your motherly instincts guide you in this decision.