Thursday, 20 June 2013

Is Preschool At 2 Too Early?

In this morning’s Daily Telegraph there was an article about delaying children’s education until they are 6 years old, instead of starting when they are 4.  It cites studies in the USA where educating a child too early can have a social and health implications later in life.

As a mummy currently looking into preschool and nursery places for my daughter this had hit a raw nerve and I would be interested in hearing others opinions on the article.

Even before this article was published I was finding this an impossible decision.  There are so many variables to take into account both in the short term and the long term.  At 15 months old, it is so difficult to predict the kind of child Celeste is going to develop into, and while I do not want to push her beyond her means, I do not want to hold her back either.  I want her to be able to develop at a pace that is right for her, pushed where she needs to be pushed and left to develop on her own where that is more beneficial.

In the short term there are 4 options available to us.
  • Start her from the age of 2 at a private nursery where they do spent time doing “academic” activities such as learning numbers, letters, colours and sounds.
  • Start her from the age of 3.5 at the same private nursery.
  • Start her at the age of 2 at the local village preschool.  No structured activities are undertaken and the emphasis is very much on learning through play.
  • Start her at the age of 3.5 at a different local preschool.  Again no structured activities are undertaken and the emphasis is very much on learning through play.

The facts 
  • At the end of this year, when Celeste is 21 months old, she will be getting a new brother or sister.  I feel all three of us will benefit from not being on top of each other the whole time.  It will be nice to have some one on one time with the new baby, and I also want to set aside some one on one time with Celeste.
  • Celeste is not a very sociable child and I feel she will benefit from regularly being around children her own age.
  • Celeste appears to like structure and more intimate surroundings. She does not respond well to manic and overbearing situations.

I need to try and put my own preconceptions to the back of my mind.  Less academic environments give me visions of children charging around all over the place, less well supervised, arguing and generally causing chaos.  Although I know this is not always the case, it does make me also favour more intimate environments.  From what I have seen, all of the above institutions are small and well managed therefore it comes down to whether I think Celeste would thrive in an academic environment early on or not.  The simple answer is I think she would, however the Telegraph article has now highlighted whether that is actually good for her in the long term.

I had a reasonably academic preschool education and I was the only child in my class when I started full time school that could already read.  There is an amusing story about our first day at school that my own Mum loves to remind me of.  We were told to go and sit in the book corner and read a book (meaning look at the pictures quietly).  I got a book and sat down and read it aloud to my friend.  The teacher was a little taken aback to say the least.  I was more than ready to learn before I reached school age and thrived in an academic nursery environment.  However, my Mum feels that full time school never really lived up to my expectations.  My initial hunger to learn soon disappeared and I became bored and dispirited.  Maybe this was simply down to bad teaching, and my initial enthusiasm to learn not being channelled correctly early on, or could this be a result of me starting learning too soon?  Obviously we will never know but it does make me think.

Turning this on its head.  What do you do with a 2-4 year old child who is eager to learn if you don’t want them to experience an academic environment until they start full time school?  This I do not have the answer to either.

The argument the article is actually trying to put across is that often there is too high an emphasis on academic development at the expense of social skills and mental development, resulting in less balanced individuals later in life.  So maybe if I could find somewhere that I felt equally addressed all of these then that would be OK?  Especially if it is only a couple of mornings a week at this early stage?


Since writing this I have found an interesting response provided by Janet Lansbury to a similar question

This highlights the issue of communication which I must admit I had not considered.  How well Celeste is able to cope in a preschool environment at 2 years old may depend how clearly she is able to communicate what she wants and needs, both to the staff and other similar aged children.  This again is difficult to guess at when she is still so young and only saying a few words.

1 comment:

  1. Hi I'm Heather! Please email me when you get a chance, I have a question about your blog! LifesABanquet1(at)