The Preschool Frenzy

October 31, 2013

We become enamored with men’s theories such as the idea of preschool training outside the home for young children. Not only does this put added pressure on the budget, but it places young children in an environment away from mother’s influence. – Ezra Taft Benson, October 1981

I have watched over the years as preschool has become more and more accepted and expected. I have heard the stress in the voices of young moms trying to find the right preschool, fearing that a wrong choice would harm their child forever. But the wrong choice may have already been made.

Little of what a young child really needs is offered in preschool, especially as preschool is about to become.  The things that matter most are the “inner” things, the things of the heart and the character.  When a mother believes that a professional can do a better job than she can  in the early years, she devalues herself and misunderstands the Plan of Happiness.  Earth life is simply a school for the family. The home is the greenhouse and the respite center and the classroom for our personal, spiritual, biological, social, emotional, and academic development. The right choice for a mother, when circumstances allow, is to engage herself fully in the beautiful, purposeful rearing of her precious children.

Better Late Than Early
Dr. Raymond Moore, a Seventh-day Adventist educator and researcher, and a strong opponent of preschool who soon became a proponent of homeschooling in the earlier days, taught that even an ordinary mother in an ordinary home is the a best teacher for her own children.  He and his wife authored many books about homeschooling, and he was often asked to testify to legislatures and in court cases. His advocacy began with an article in the Reader’s Digest against preschool.  There was so much response that the Digest asked him to write a book.  He wrote two: Better Late Than Early and School Can Wait.  He was mocked by his profession after the first one, so he wrote the second one with the same message, but in education jargon, and it was published by BYU.  Apparently the Church was also opposed to preschool.

Based on solid research, Dr. Moore taught that children were not neurologically ready for formal learning until age 8 or 10 or 12.  He had no concern over the age at which children learned to read because all children are different.  Here is a quote from his book, The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook,1988/1994:

  • We have done one of the world’s most extensive research analyses on school readiness in a fruitless search for some justifications, any justification for sendingnormal children away to kindergarten or school at four or five or six or seven.  We’ve found absolutely none!Yet, instead of studying how best to meet our children’s needs, we simply do what everyone else seems to be doing, and often put our little ones out of their homes,their homes, and away from environments that best produce outgoing, healthy, happy, creative children. . . . America is placing its little children in formal settings long before most of them, particularly boys, are ready.
This book is still available on Amazon and Kindle. I highly recommend it.

The Impact of the Earliest Years on Students’ Success
This is a chapter in a book by Clayton M. Christensen, Harvard Professor, author of The Innovator’s Dilemma and other books, and a highly respected church leader.  Search for him on YouTube; you will love him.  The book in which the chapter appears is Disrupting Class, and I highly recommend it although the business parts of it are way over my head.

Brother Christensen writes that “98 percent of education spending occurs after the basic intellectual capacities of children have been mostly determined.”  He quotes the work of Hart and Risley who found that the amazingly simple key is in parents talking to their babies.  They call it “language dancing,” and it is powerfully effective.  He are some quotes from the chapter:

  • [P]arents are engaged face to face with the infant and speak in a fully adult, sophisticated, chatty language–as if the infant were listening, comprehending, and fully responding to the comments.Other scholars have shown that the most powerful factor influencing reading skills is auditory processing skill–the very skill that is honed as infants listen to parents speak to them in sophisticated, adult language.One of the most important findings of the Risley-Hart study was that the level of income, ethnicity, and level of parents’ education had no explanatory power in determining the level of cognitive capacity that the children achieved.  It is all explained by the amount of language dancing, or extra talk, over and above business talk, that the parents engaged in.  It accounted literally for all the variance in outcomes.In other words . . . . some working, poor people talked a lot to their kids and their kids did really well.  Some affluent business people talked very little to their kids and their kids did very poorly. . . . And there is no variance left for race either.  All the variation in outcomes was taken up by the amount of talking, in the family to the babies before age 3.

After studying prekindergarten programs, Brother Christensen wrote, “we have concluded that such programs are an ineffective mechanism for addressing the challenge of better preparing children for school.”

“Of course they are ineffective,” say I.  Children were born to be with their mothers.  Bonding to teacher after teacher causes attachment disorders, but it is considered good socialization if a child is ok with being separated from Mommy.)  Brother Christensen’s suggestion:  “Rather than funding programs that hire people to substitute for parents who aren’t succeeding at preschool talk, quite possibly we might have greater impact if we taught children how to be parents before they become parents.”

I don’t know if Brother Christensen was thinking of a government program here, but someone will be.  Before we do that, let’s look to the home.  Let’s appreciate what God hath done; His hand is in our creation.  He gave babies an assignment to to use their mouths, both for subsistence and for language, beginning in the womb.  He made babies obligate mimickers — what mom does with her mouth baby will try to do.  After that comes the drive and ability to investigate and explore. Then to socialize.  All these Divinely designed “pre-academic” learning activities are facilitated just by daily life within the family and the home and on family outings. The family exists by Divine design.

In preschool, the only life style, profession, or activity being modeled is teaching, and the “world” is only the size of a classroom.  A mom has a much more interesting life, especially when she is aware that her children are learning machines and she is their primary mentor and nurturer.  If there is love and refinement and a learning atmosphere in the family, no one even has to be aware of what they are doing as they prepare the baby’s brain for learning in a way that will be noticed years later.  Love is a powerful force.  No preschool can compete with family.

If government must do something, a “family-is-best” awareness campaign would be helpful; but it’s not likely to happen — there’s no money to be made.  If the government can’t or won’t fix the problem in Babylon, we can at least improve our parental leadership in would-be-Zion and teach truth wherever we can.

Be sure to check out the Hart-Risley website and enjoy their short videos, but remember, this is a program the Lord has already set up in our hearts and brains, so we don’t have to be too clinical about it.  Just be purposeful and pay attention. You are raising your baby and he can walk beside you for a long time to learn from real life.  The Heavens are pleased.

(Someone should do a study about the benefits to babies when their siblings are homeschooled, and the benefits to homeschooling siblings when a baby is in the home.)

Do It Yourself Preschool
If you know someone who just has to have an organized preschool, refer her to the Ensign article  A Do-It-Yourself Nursery School, by Jill Wonnacott Dunford, August 1978.  I wonder how folks in the church office building felt when this plan didn’t take off and become popular with the Mormon moms. Maybe if there had been Pinterest.

This divine service of motherhood can be rendered only by mothers. It may not be passed to others. Nurses cannot do it; public nurseries cannot do it. Hired help cannot do it; kind relatives cannot do it. Only by mother, aided as much as may be by a loving father, brothers and sisters, and other relatives, can the full needed measure of watchful care be given. – President Spencer W. Kimball, Ensign, March 1976

If the purpose of your daily employment is simply to get money for a boat or a fancy automobile or some other desirable but unnecessary thing, and in the process you lose the companionship of your children and the opportunity to rear them, you may find that you have lost the substance while grasping at the shadow. – President Gordon B. Hinckley, Oct 1983

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One thought on “The Preschool Frenzy

  1. Karen Stead

    What a wonderful article! Thank you for the encouragement and inspiration. SO important! I homeschooled all of my children, but my 7th child has now wanted to go to public school (he was lonely at home with all his siblings gone). He’s in 9th grade, and I’m quite concerned about common core. However, he seems to be having a very good experience this year, but I’m not sure what his future education will look like, because common core (and all its corollary data mining) is so disturbing. If you would like to address that in a future article, it would be great!

    Reply

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