I was speaking to a friend of mine the other day who lives in England; we were discussing our children specifically. As he has informed me, there is a tradition that in England children start school at the age of 3, and must be potty trained before they begin. However, many kids in the United States are closer to 5 or even older before they begin attending required school.
I asked if what they required at 3 was what we consider pre-school. He told me that what they begin their 3 year olds at, we would consider kindergarten. Honestly, this shocked me, we are one of the biggest and most economically developed countries in the world, and our kids are some of the oldest in the world when they begin attending school.
Granted many parents choose to send their child to pre-school however, this is not a requirement to be allowed to attend kindergarten, nor is it something that is heavily regulated with a set specific curriculum. Many times each individual school or pre-school instructor has the freedom and flexibility to determine what they teach the children in their class, and in what order it is taught.
In the United States, there are no standardized tests that help us determine exactly how well out local pre-school stands up. With the No Child Left Behind Act that was signed years ago, we now have a report card each year for the elementary, middle and high schools, but what about the younger kids.
Scientific research determined years ago that the younger the child, the more they are able to absorb easily. This is proven daily by the number of small children who grow up in bi-lingual households as well. Small children just have a natural knack for picking up information and using it. Why is the United States falling behind on such a critical time in a child’s life?
Many American children are barely even beginning potty training at 3 years old, much less are enrolled in some form of pre-school. Are we hindering our children and making our country stay behind the educational curve because we refuse to force our children to learn potty training and their ABC’s by a certain set specific age. Are we really helping our children to grow into happy, healthy confident adults by doing things on their time, instead of a time that has been determined for all children across the country?
While I do not think there is a simple answer to the questions I have raised here, I am thinking that perhaps the British are not so far off in their educational ideas. After all, my daughter is 4 and is doing a couple of hours of schoolwork each day learning to write, as well as some basic mathematics. She however thinks she is merely playing, while I get to sit back and watch her brain grow daily as she learns new things and encounters new concepts daily.