I love the phrase Heather uses in this first chapter.
In essentially talking about the importance of developmentally appropriate practice, she hits home on a very critical point:
It isn’t what kids are doing that is of the greatest concern. It’s what they’re NOT doing.
If you need a refresher on developmentally appropriate practice, this series should have you covered. The gist is that there’s a developmental progression that must be honored and observed as we work with children. Unfortunately, in an effort to “keep up” or “get ahead” society’s good intentions can often be misplaced and those natural timelines end up getting the cold shoulder.
As Heather Shumaker effectively points out:
We live in a high-tech era, and that tends to shade much of how we view our lives. Technology is cutting edge. Everything is focused on newer, better, faster. But childhood, as a developmental period, is still timeless. As research bears out, the progression of child development hasn’t sped up — regardless of our accelerated expectations. And the great irony is that because of today’s cutting edge technology, we have neuroscience and other fields of research that support the importance of honoring this developmental progression. And yet, “The gap between what we know about young children and what we do with young children is widening each year.”
But as Heather points out, the real threat of this acceleration isn’t what’s been added — the flashcards and toddler tutors and advanced preschool placements. The danger is in what is being lost.
There are still only 24 hours in a day, no matter how hard you try to cheat that (trust me, I’ve tried). And our attention can only be in so many places (I’ve tried cheating that too). So when we shift our priorities and focus to pushing developmental and educational objectives down to the younger years, there’s something that gets pushed out. For our preschoolers today, it’s often play that is ousted.
Why not trade a little dress up time for some valuable reading instruction? Seems more important.
Because play is a developmental need. Particularly in the preschool years. In this “robbing Peter to pay Paul” scenario, we take what is necessary NOW to address what is needed LATER. It’s a backwards game of catch-up.
The unfortunate paradox is that when you miss what you need NOW it actually becomes harder, not easier, to do what you need to do LATER. Case in point: Reading. Teaching sight words and decoding skills (the visible literacy skills) before a child has built preliteracy skills such as basic phonemic awareness or concepts of print will always lead to problems. It isn’t the early reading instruction that caused them though, it’s the missed preliteracy exposure. In fact, one of the very best predictors of reading proficiency is the preliteracy skill of phonemic awareness. It’s like building a house without a foundation.
For those who look down their noses at play, preferring to take an “enriched” path toward producing prodigies, here’s what Einstein had to say about that:
Beyond the evidence that children learn better when their development is respected, the more pernicious problem is that when we dismiss the natural human design and don’t allow for the brain and the body to get what they need to develop properly, we have a recipe for illness. The decline in play has been linked not only to childhood obesity, but to psychopathology such as anxiety, depression, and other neuroses.
What we think of as enrichment, may actually be robbing children of what is truly essential: PLAY. And that has its consequences.
From page 14:
“If we’re persistent, most four-year-olds can be trained to recognize letters well enough to read simple words. But at what cost? Early academics steal playtime, which is when nearly all of a child’s emotional, social, physical and cognitive learning takes place. The child’s brain is being asked to do something it doesn’t need to do right now. As child psychologist David Elkind reminds us, “Miseducation teaches the wrong things at the wrong time.” Social skills suffer. Joy suffers. Even future academic success can suffer.”
Oh so much more in Section 1! Thank goodness we’ll have a G+ Hangout session to discuss it further!
What struck a chord with you, or caused you to scratch your head a bit?
Consider some of these gems from the section if you need to jog your memory:
“Of course rights and limits go hand in hand.” (p17)
“False Free Play” (p19)
“Appropriate Power” (p29)
“Peace isn’t the absence of conflict. Peace is the respectful resolution of conflict.” (p38)
“A classsroom with too much structure is a terrible place to learn about peace….Children learn about peace by having problems.” (p41)
“Tell the Right Person” (p45)
“Kids who learn how to set limits on peers won’t be easily bamboozled out of their rights when an adult isn’t around.” (p51)
Be sure to add to the comments below! These will be considered as we plan our upcoming book discussion with the author, Heather Shumaker.
(And before you go, head over here to grab your read along schedule! You can also check back there to find links and dates for the book chats!)
***The Google Hangout with Heather Shumaker and Anna Ranson (of The Imagination Tree) was awesome! Find it here or watch it below: