I’ve always believed in early childhood development but when I read a headline like “Are Adults Hurting Young Children by Pushing Them to Achieve?” I have to question myself if I have gone overboard and allowed my “best intentions” to get ahead of myself. The article in question was written in response to the increase in Kumon centers in New York City and it questions whether parents are going overboard trying to fast-track their children to kindergarten.
After pondering about it for the umpteenth time, I stand fast by these conclusions:
1. Although there is a lot of argument that starting early gives children no advantage over other children who start later, I tend to disagree. Starting early does give children an edge on these subjects because:
- the younger a child is, the easier it is for them to learn any new subject. Not only is this the core of right brain philosophy, but Maria Montessori and many other individuals studying early childhood development agree.
- the younger a child is, the less distractions there are to detract them from learning these subjects (KL on Common Criticisms of Teaching Babies to Read). As I pointed out from our own experiences, Gareth at 17 months now dictates what music he wants to listen to. When he was younger, he was happy to listen to everything we put on.
- good habits are inculcated early. A child who has had a rich exposure to books and reading from an early age is more likely to enjoy books and reading when he is older.
2. Reading, Writing and Math are essential subjects in life that every child must learn. There is no escaping them if you want to survive in this world. Since you have to learn them at some stage, better to start earlier when it is easier than later when it is harder.
Although I am not sure that I would jump onto the Kumon band-wagon at this stage because I would still like to think that there must be a better way to learn the three Rs than through sheer repetition (which I know would kill my older son), I definitely believe in starting early. And I do agree with what Ms Goldman (a mother who sent her children to Kumon) said:
“These results translated into a self-esteem boost that I didn’t anticipate. They’ve gotten that there’s a thrill in achieving something. I care more about that than I care about them reading.”
It is what Heguru preaches – develop the strengths in your child and it will give him the confidence to excel in any other area in his life because once he has tasted success, he will know how to achieve it again. And even though I balk at the idea of the repetitive nature of Kumon, there is something to be said about instilling the discipline to persevere through the mundane in order to be successful because that is how success in life is gained – sometimes things are going to be boring and tedious, but we have to do them anyway. This was a message highlighted in The Outliers: The Story of Success:
“No one who can rise before dawn three hundred sixty days a year fails to make his family rich.”
At the end of the day, it all boils down to hard work and the effort we are willing to put into our work. Without effort, how can there be results? Is that not a good lesson for children to learn? I think so.