While it is definitely important for parents to help their children develop a love for learning early on in their lives, signing them up for school too soon might actually do more harm than good.
According to Kerry McDonald, author of Liberty to Learn: Why Children Need Self-Directed Education, even enrolling a child a year in advance can potentially be a big deal.
“Every parent knows the difference a year makes in the development and maturity of a young child. A one-year-old is barely walking while a two-year-old gleefully sprints away from you. A four-year-old is always moving, always imagining, always asking why, while a five-year-old may start to sit and listen for longer stretches.”
“Children haven’t changed, but our expectations of their behavior have,” continued McDonald. “In just one generation, children are going to school at younger and younger ages, and are spending more time in school than ever before. They are increasingly required to learn academic content at an early age that may be well above their developmental capability.”
Case in point, only 31% of teachers expected kindergarten children to read back in 1998. Fast forward to 2010, that figure has already jumped to 80%.
In a report called “Reading in Kindergarten: Little to Gain and Much to Lose” education professor Nancy Carlsson-Paige together with her group warned about the possible danger of early reading instruction.
“When children have educational experiences that are not geared to their developmental level or in tune with their learning needs and cultures, it can cause them great harm, including feelings of inadequacy, anxiety and confusion.”
So for parents thinking about enrolling their children to school a bit earlier than recommended, McDonald has this as a warning:
“As schooling becomes more rigid and consumes more of childhood, it is causing increasing harm to children. Many of them are unable to meet unrealistic academic and behavioral expectations at such a young age, and they are being labeled with and medicated for delays and disorders that often only exist within a schooled context. Parents should push back against this alarming trend by holding onto their kids longer or opting out of forced schooling altogether.”