Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Miseducation considered....

I recently finished the book "Miseducation: Preschoolers at Risk" by David Elkind. Before starting the book, I had some doubts as to whether I would consider any of it useful knowledge since my kids are all past preschool learning and the title sounded more to me like parent bashing for those of us with gifted children.

It really turned out to be just the opposite however. The author was firmly against the "superkid" syndrome as he termed the introduction of early academic knowledge, sports, music, etc... He discussed the reasons why this has become so prevalent in our society as a whole and different parenting styles that fall into the trap. He discussed how young children learn and develop psychologically and why pushing children, who may be capable of retaining early knowledge, can be harmful to them.

After reading through that much of the book, my shackles were rising but then he got to the gifted child. He explained that giftedness is not what a child can do or is capable of doing but the way they learn and their advancement in intellectual/learning styles as well as psychological development that makes them the pushers in the relationship. For these gifted children who lead the learning, it would be poor parenting to not provide them a stimulating environment in the areas of their giftedness. For example...teaching a young child to read using flash cards, worksheets, or daily drill is not good but providing a child who is already teaching himself to read opportunities to practice is good. At one point he was downing Suzuki music lessons for the average preschooler but then went on to tell the story of a child who already was showing musical giftedness and early lessons were very beneficial to her.

I understand where the author is coming from because I have had these thoughts before when asked why people always say, "All children level out by 4th grade whether or not they were taught to read early."

When people make this claim, I think they are discussing the child of average intellectual abilities. Sure, the child can be taught to read early but because of psychological and intellectual limitations does so with more difficulty than they would have had they been taught later. (It may take the child 4 years to be able to read well if started at 3 but had they waited until 6 it may have only taken a year because they were more ready and that is where the leveling off occurs. This is just to illustrate a point not a real example as far as I know.)

I think of my oldest and youngest, especially my youngest, who took the early lesson on how to sound out simple words and then taught herself how to read everything within a two months once she was ready and with no additional lessons. My oldest has never "leveled off" with his age-peers and it is because he was ready to learn to read and initiated that learning. That is the difference.

So, the book I started out hating actually ended up being pretty good.

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