“This is a sloppy 12, Eze,” she says. “Go ahead: a one and a two. Smaller. Neater, Ms. Rivas insists. “Come on, you can do it.” Finally, she resorts to the kind of incentive that Eze, her pink glitter sneaker barely grazing the ground, can appreciate: “You’ll get an extra sticker if you can do a perfect 13.”
Eze is 3.
An article came out this week in the New York Times, detailing programs that push young children, even as young as age 2 or 3 years old, to drill math and reading to “get ahead” in our competitive world.
We saw how the article on The Tiger Mother got under our skin. It challenged Western parents to defend their parenting style but perhaps even more so, question it. As competition in education has boomed, top schools have become even more elite, and international superiority has been claimed, apparently, tutoring has become more commonplace—and tutoring of young kids has followed suit.
Perhaps then, it isn’t surprising that the tutoring service that has pushed the most—and increased it’s clientele downward the most, is a Japanese import , Kumon, claiming the largest reading and math enrichment program. It grew by 12 % last year and works with about 250,000 students nationwide. It’s Junior program, grew by 30%. So parents of tots must be coming in droves.
So our youngsters, right out of diapers, are drilling and repeating worksheets. And it ain’t cheep.
“PARENTS pay $200 to $300 a month for their 2-, 3-, 4- or 5-year-old to spend up to an hour twice weekly being tutored at a Junior Kumon center — 20 to 30 minutes each on reading and math. Children are then expected to do 20 minutes of homework on each subject every day, with their parents guiding and grading them. Recommended reading lists start in preschool with “Goodnight Moon” and “Each Peach Pear Plum.”
Parents don’t want their kids to be left behind. It’s one of the reasons so many parents are starting to voluntarily keep their kids back one year so that they are one of the strongest in their grade, rather than one of the weakest. It’s one of the reasons why the program “My Baby Can Read,” lambasted recently in the press for false claims and the inability to back them with peer-reviewed material, has become a staple in homes across America, flashcards and all.
And while we have all heard that “Einstein never used flashcards,” we know that some frown upon the educational system in America. Heck; we know it needs improvement, that we have an issue with sub-par teachers cradled in tenure, and that our academic programs, even more so in certain less endowed areas, lag behind some other countries who are much more aggressive with their preschoolers and kindergartners than we are. Does that mean our toddlers need tutoring?
Many are claiming, it does. That the earlier we start them in these types of programs, the better. One parent said what’s on many other parents’ minds who enroll their children in these types of tutoring programs:
“I do try to follow education, and I am scared for the future of our country. These children are going to be central to our social security, to our political decisions.”
As a Child Development Specialist, I have written several articles on the importance of play—which is getting lost in all this preschool academic striving. However, I can see how parents, who are watching the competition become more fierce while children from other countries smoke our kids in math, science, and other technological areas, can find themselves squirming just a little in their seats. Are we supposed to be exchanging free time for flashcards? Subbing sandbox time for subtraction? Or, is it fair to say that simply by experiencing life, spending time in nature, stacking blocks, cooking with measuring cups, doing puzzles, and reading with Mom and Dad, children are getting everything they need before entering the daily grind of school? I know, many of us are screaming “yes!”
There is one added complication, of course. Screen time. Because if we are going to argue that our children are better off “playing;” negotiating friendship rules, picking up sticks, digging for worms, kicking balls, banging on pots, imagining, reading, and doing arts and crafts, well, they better be doing it. Einstein might not have ever used flashcards but remember, he also didn’t spend hours watching cartoons and reality TV either.
What do you think? Comment here or on my Facebook fan page. No doubt the conversation will get interesting.
Do Our Toddlers Need Tutoring? Parents Pushing Children Ahead So They Don’t Fall Behind is a post from: Dr. Robyn Silverman – Child Development Specialist, Body Image Expert, Success Coach & the Creator of the Powerful Words Character Development System