There are side effects to mass institutionalization for ever longer timespans. One is that people confuse education with schooling and in doing so devalue many ways of learning that our predecessors accepted without question. But in mass schooling, the sooner you get started on the race through the long arc of training, the better.
Play-Based Education or Drills? Babble.com
Take literacy. Around the time I was worrying about Clara's inability to write lowercase letters, she came home with a story that she had dictated to one of her teachers. I thought the project was nothing more than a way to encourage imaginative thinking. What I didn't understand until much later was that this exercise was a crucial step in preparing Clara to read.
"It's very important for young children to understand that what they say can be written down," Daniel explains. "Think of what it means from a child's viewpoint: An adult is paying attention, writing down what I say. What I think and say is important. That's a powerful incentive for learning."
Or consider the play kitchen, where I feared Clara was merely re-enacting the domestic drudgery generations of women have endured. "When children are taking on roles, planning scenarios, changing the script — all that requires a high degree of self-regulation," says Daniel. "Dramatic play gives all kinds of opportunities for problem solving and decision making."
Those skills go beyond any one academic subject; they affect how a child learns from then on. A four-year-old who is trained to sit and practice specific drills may well be reading by kindergarten, and her math scores may be ahead of the curve in second or third grade. But studies have shown that children who haven't had to make their own decisions — using that all-important self-regulation — have a harder time in later grades, when independent thinking becomes more critical.