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:
Lana Button says
Well said! Couldn’t agree more!!
Oh this sounds like a great book! I will have to see if I can get my hands on it here in Australia.
I love that the focus in not what we could teach our young kids, but on what they miss out on if they are pushed too far too soon… I am often made to feel like I am just ‘slack’ or lazy because I am not working on teaching my three year old to count, or write his name, or read… but in actually fact he is just too busy doing too much other important stuff!
I love that response, Kate! “He’s just too busy doing too much other important stuff!” Puts it in proper perspective, doesn’t it?
The whole concept of the changed expectations
For children today struck a chord for me.
Thanks for sharing your impressions, Brenda. I’d love to hear more! The post addressed expectations as they apply to academic standards, but I know for me, expectations play a huge role in my patience reservoir as well. When my expectations are appropriate, I adjust in a way that allows my kids more opportunities to succeed and prepares my attitude appropriately as well. It’s much easier to deal with typical 3 year old behavior when you recognize it as typical 3 year old behavior, and not a personal affront!
Hi, I’m relatively new to your site but really enjoy it, and my husband and I absolutely loved Renegade Rules, so I’m looking forward to participating in this read-along. I got the book from the library and had to return it a couple weeks ago so please forgive any mis-rememberances. We have 26 month old twin girls and a baby boy on the way in April.
We are definitely a play-based family, so while most of this chapter really resonated, it was in a head-nodding, yeah, definitely, we’re doing that kind of way.
One of your memory-joggers, “Tell the Right Person” (p45), is something I wasn’t doing very intentionally. Since implementing it I have seen a difference. Not like I expect two-year-olds to settle all their conflicts on their own, but I hear them chattering in the other room “not ok”…”ok”. We prompt them, “is it ok for her to take your toy/play on your bed/eat your food/etc”. When one comes up to me upset, I direct her back to telling her sister to stop – and they have listened to each other. Granted, again, at two years old, many incidents happen because they just don’t have the impulse control to not grab a toy, etc. (Then we get to learn about peace with conflict resolution!) But I have high hopes that being gently consistent with the “tell the right person” technique will pay dividends.
Thanks for hosting this discussion!
Thanks, Alli. And welcome! I really liked that section as well and it was a light bulb moment for me as well. When the modus operandi is to tell an adult and have your problem solved, kids don’t just miss out on problem solving skills in general, but they don’t learn to communicate, listen, and value what other KIDS say. It’s something I’m working on being more intentional about as well!
sydney gurewitz clemens says
I like most of it a whole lot, but I think that an error crept in. Phonemic awareness is not a precursor to reading…Ashton-Warner’s Key Words are a sound beginning reading method, because they teach the young child that reading is about things that matter to him or her. Tuh and buh and em carry no meaning and reading without meaning is certainly a waste of time for a young child. If the teacher listens well, the child’s words represent the themes that are most potent in her or his life.
And with the understanding that reading give me power over my life, the young child will welcome time and effort spent in reading. Which is what we want, isn’t it?
Heather Shumaker says
Hallelujah. Meaning is what it’s all about. Sometimes I call it “Meaningful Literacy” or “Joyful Literacy.”
Certainly! Meaningful experiences lay the foundation for literacy. I wouldn’t endorse phonemic awareness as a drilled skill, but it is a necessary skill and its development comes in songs, chants, fingerplays, and other ways that children naturally play with words and their sounds. My argument is that when people get over the idea that literacy education is about grilling kids over “tuh and buh” and recognize that the powerful, playful, meaningful interactions they have — reading, singing, chanting, telling stories, creating songs, telling jokes — are where reading really begins! Skipping over this because it’s not “reading” is a huge mistake — and the research that says a lack of phonemic awareness correlates with reading difficulties supports that!
I’m a little late seeing this and I don’t have the book yet, but I have a question. My daughter is 5 years old. She has some developmental delays; I won’t go into everything. Though sometimes I wonder if she would have been considered delayed if she was born 100 years ago, before they did calculus in first grade. (an exaggeration, but you get my point). My husband and I have different views. I, as this article stated, believe in play time. My husband had my daughter watching “Your baby can read” videos when she was 3. I thought it was ridiculous. Anyway, my question is can I give her more play now and make up for what she may have lost? I homeschool my children and I’m always wondering if I’m pushing too much, while my husband thinks my kids don’t do enough. I have told him, concerning our 5 year old, that she is only 5 and she can’t sit still for hours to do workbook pages. I know I can’t change the past, but I’m wondering if more play will help her future.
Also, how do we join the G+ hangouts?
First, I want to say “thank you” to Heather Shumaker for including the “Add to Your Tookbox” and “Words to Try and Avoid” sections in your book. As a voracious consumer of parenting research, books, and blogs, I can confidently say that your ability to guide parents through real time application of your recommendations really sets you apart. (This is also one of the reasons I enjoy Amanda Morgan’s blog, e-book, and e-course.)
As I read the initial chapters of “It’s Okay NOT to Share,” I had two equally strong and competing reactions. (1) Excitement. Yes! THIS is what I want for my child and (2) Frustration. The School for Young Children is over 12 hours from my house. Not a reasonable commute. 🙂 My children (2 and 3) are very happy at their preschools. They enjoy some free play at school, but I’m also aware of a focus on early academics. I had a very interesting parent-teacher conference a couple of weeks ago (for my 3 year old). Initially, the conversation revolved strictly around my child’s teachers reviewing her progress against a list of early academic standards — which letters my child knows, which shapes she can identify, whether she places eyes, nose, and mouth in the appropriate places within the outline of a face, etc. Her portfolio contained only photocopied outlines of letters that my child had “colored in.” Uh-oh. . . But then my child’s teachers started talking about how she interacts with others during free play. How she appropriately and calmly handles children who encroach on “her space.” They shared a story about my 3YO’s creativity on the playground. . .and how they endorsed her experimentation with an unorthodox method of play. They shared my excitement about my little one’s independent and child-driven discovery.
So what is going on here? I really like both of the women who teach my child. They sincerely care about and KNOW my kid. They go out of the way to meet her needs in many areas! Do they feel pressure to teach early academics because they think that is what parents want? Or do they focus on teaching letters, writing, numbers, etc. because they are they unfamiliar with the research on early academics and child development? I don’t know the answer, and I am not really sure what actions on my part are likely to lead to the best outcomes for my child. I am not an early childhood educator, and I don’t want to offend these lovely teachers (or the school’s very talented director) by presuming to know more about their field than they do! But I am a parent who reads a lot. And a psychologist who is at least qualified to read research with a critical eye.
I would enjoy hearing the G+ Hangout participants address any of the following questions:
(1) What is the role of the preschool in educating parents about developmentally appropriate practice? How did this happen at SYC, for example?
(2) What is the role of the parent in partnering with a school to ensure appropriate DAP? And what might the “toolbox” and “words to use” look like for such a parent? 🙂
(3) Or maybe the answer is simply to focus on what is happening at home. . .on making sure that we are supplementing the school day with plenty of true free play with peers?
On a separate topic, I love Shumaker’s recommendations for coaching kids through conflict. For the G+ Hangout participants: How do you recommend responding when another parent addresses a conflict situation (that involves your child) in a way that contradicts your own approach? Or when you are leaving your child with a parent or in a classroom where sharing is required? I know it is important that my husband, babysitter, and I are consistent at home re: how we manage conflict situations, but how important is consistency across different venues? I want to raise children who respect the adult(s) in charge but also want to avoid confusing them. (“At school I have to share, but at home it is okay to say that I’m not ready to share yet. . .”)
Thanks so much to Amanda and Heather for providing this opportunity for discussion!
Heather Shumaker says
What excellent questions you’ve stirred up. Can’t wait to dig into these!
Donna B says
How can I become part of the G+ discussion of It’s OK not to share? I read the book last week, love it, loaned it to my sister, suggested in my nursery school newsletter for parents to read the book. I agree and practice many of the concepts in the book (long turns if needed, talk to the person involved, play and discover rather than flashcard drilling etc) and am challenged to the point of out loud debates with myself till the wee hours of the morning about gun playing being appropriate! Since I started teaching back in 1988 I always said “Guns hurt people and animals and I don’t like them. Please don’t make/bring weapons to school” For the most part the children accepted this and would stop their gun/super hero play when I was there saying “Donna doesn’t like this play.” They did it on their own out of respect for me…but why should my values over ride theirs? And what about families who rely on hunting to feed their families? Is my judgement and value more important than their basic needs? How do children in these homes feel when I say that guns hurt people and animals? I tried playing good guy/bad guy with my 6 year old nephew and I couldn’t do it. I felt physically sick to point a finger gun at him and say “Bang got you” So I accept that as my limit but wonder if I should permit this type of play at the nursery. From talking to my friends who work as councillors and correction officers, when I asked them to informally ask their inmates if they played guns and bad guys a lot when they were kids. Most answered that they weren’t allowed to play when they were kids – they had to sit quietly or watch tv but not allowed to play and make noise. Which supports that playing with guns doesn’t lead to adults who use guns to harm anymore than playing with a stethoscope means children will be doctors or vets. But to what point does gun play desensitize children to the power and destruction that guns cause? Where can I find more research on this? Thank you so much for this discussion board on such a great book!!!!