Miseducation: Preschoolers at Risk by David Elkind

Published in 1987 by Dr. David Elkind, Professor of Child Study and Senior Resident Scholar at Tufts University, Miseducation: Preschoolers at Risk is designed to help parents avoid the ever growing trend of the miseducation of young children . It’s findings and review of research is not only pertinent in today’s hotly debated political climate regarding education, but it is critical for any parent who is interested in their young child’s development and education.

In the 1960’s public schools were under attack for not being sufficiently
rigorous and for not providing quality education for minorities. It was in this
context that the Bloom Report found a most welcome audience. If children did not do well in science and math, it was held, it was because of inadequate
preparation on the preschool level. Likewise, if disadvantaged youngsters did
poorly in public school, it was not necessarily because of the poor quality of
the public school education, but rather because the children came to school
poorly prepared. Bloom’s argument for the competence of young children and the
critical importance of early childhood education for later academic achievement
provided a convenient and scientifically credible excuse for the poor academic
achievement of American public school children.
(page 63)

Many of the mantras we hear in regards to “early childhood education” are not scientifically supported to be for the betterment of our young children, and have actually already been proven to be cause for great concern. That this misinformation continues to abound, greatly saddens me, especially when the problems we found in the early 1960’s are still around in 2008 and yet we now seek to enroll our nations precious two year olds in a public school system to try to fix something with a method that has not worked since the 1960’s.
Although the often cited Benjamin Bloom still regards the early years as critical for learning, he deplores those who interpret this to mean learning the three R’s. According to Bloom, “What seems to me to be the most misdirected effort is the attempt by some parents and some preschool programs to teach children to read, write and do simple arithmetic in the nursery school and kindergarten….What I do believe is that the learning experiences of these critical years should be directed to more important goals. These are the years when children should “learn to learn” rather than learn the particular skills usually taught in the first or second grade…. That it is good for children to learn to read at ages 6 and 7 does not mean that it is better to learn this skill at younger ages. I do not think we can justify taking over the precious years of childhood to give children an early start in the three R’s.”

“Infants and young children are not just sitting twiddling their thumbs, waiting
for their parents to teach them to read and do math. They are expending a vast
amount of time and effort in exploring and understanding their immediate
world. Healthy education supports and encourages this spontaneous
learning. Early instruction miseducates, not because it attempts to teach,
but because it attempts to teach the wrong things at the wrong time. When
we ignore what the child has to learn and instead impose what we want to teach,
we put infants and young children at risk for no purpose.” (page 25)

Home educators should note that while this book is not written specifically to advocate home education, Dr. Elkind does address homeschooling briefly (pages 41 and 162) and admits, “If you have the time and energy to provide your child with a variety of social and educational experiences, you can also provide your child a rich early-childhood program for your child at home. “

Dr. Elkind’s book illustrates the very real difference between the workings of a preschool child’s mind and that of an elementary student; He provides examples and research findings that clearly illustrate the permanent damage to a child’s self esteem, attitude, lack of interest in learning, and blocking of natural gifts and potential talents through miseducation. Finally, he addresses what you can and should do for your child if you want them to have a healthy start.
Sadly, since the book was originally published in the late 80’s some information is admittedly outdated, such as the reference that, “One can spend more for a home computer, printer, software and service contract than a family car…To be sure, computers can facilitate the work of professionals such as writers, accountants, and stockbrokers, but they are not a great advantage in balancing checkbooks, preparing one’s income tax return, or paying the monthly bills.” Still, I found the bulk of the book to still be very timely and inspiring for any parent seeking to develop a practical and developmentally appropriate home education program for their young children.Also by Dr. Elkind: The Hurried Child, and The Power of Play

Karin Katherine is a proud stay-at-home mother of four who feels blessed to be the mother of 5 year old fraternal twin boys and two daughters, ages three and 4 months. As someone who never changed a diaper until she had children, Karin is surprised by the fact that she has been changing diapers for the past 5 years straight with no end in sight! As the 7th of 8 children, Karin feels blessed by her average size (in her mind anyway) family and wouldn’t mind a few more– God willing and her husband notwithstanding. Her biggest homeschooling dream is to one day homeschool across the United States in an RV. Please visit her new blogs Mommy Matters and Passport Academy.

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