childhood stress

What kids need to learn.

I am often perplexed and confused with the idea that kids have to learn specific things. I, also, often wonder who came up with the topics to be taught to children at specific ages. It seems that these thinIMG_0494gs have changed over time and sometimes change from school to school. So what do children really NEED to learn?

Before deciding to be a homeschooling family, I assumed there were some valid reasons for teaching kids topics and skills at certain ages. But the longer we homeschool, and now ultimately unschool, I question whether it is all just a best guess or a mere race to the top of downloading as much information as possible in the limited amount oIMG_0615f time kids are in school. And yes, it seems they are in school forever and for longer and longer hours all the time. But, if what teachers tell me is true, up to 90% of the time spent in school is mere crowd control in elementary grades and not much better as children get older. That would mean that in a 6 hour day of attendance in school only 35-40 minutes of that is quality instruction or teaching. So indeed, it is a limited amount of time.

Kids are instructed, or taught, reading and math earlier and earlier. ThiIMG_0892s despite their incapabilities to neurologically read across a page, without stress, or understand and I mean really understand, not just memorize, abstract concepts. And this push to teach the basics takes away the time for kids to learn experientially and freely. To learn without pressure or stress. To enjoy the process.

So why is the push to get kids into school earlier and earlier? Is is doing more harm than good? I think so and I think it is time to push back, to defend childhood.IMG_1049

Do you think I am off base?


Why the rush?

I have been coming across a lot of questions from parents about what classes their children should take, what curriculum they should buy, what phonics, math, science lessons they should begin because they are worried they are behind. They are worried they are not learning what they need to learn. I often think they are talking about their 10, 11, 12 year old but no…they are 3, 4 or 5. Even as young as 2! Comments like “My 2 year old is so smart, he can count to 20! He knows most of his A, B, C’s.” Or “My 4 year old can’t read, what should I do?”

Am I really that radical that I think “What the heck?” Well maybe in my mind heck is replaced by more colorful language but you get the idea.

Why the rush?

I get the privilege of working with kids and families of all ages and our current push for our children to “excel” to “succeed” to be “gifted” or “special” is causing stress. Lots of stress on our kids. It is a well known fact that cortical level increases is correlated with increased stress and increased stress in childhood is correlated with a number of health issues in adulthood. What constitutes stress in childhood still remains undefined. I believe that this push for success causes harm and is enough stress to cause long-term problems. When you add the stress of (unrealistic) expectations on our children to the environmental, birth and social stresses already inherent in our environment, I believe it is a recipe for disaster.

So what is the answer?

Relax. Relax as a parent. Let your children play. They will learn. Don’t worry. Reduce your stress. Model a healthy, balanced life for your children and enjoy life. Avoid stress, physical, chemical and emotional in your, and your child’s, life. Create a healthy environment for birth. Trust. If your child is 2, 3, 4, 5…even 6, 7 or 8 and they can’t read, read to them. Foster the love of the story. Listen to books on tape. Build with them. Love them. Don’t compare. The world is full of opportunities for fun, to learn.

Stress in childhood is all too real. Give our children back their lives and their future and let them BE. Their health depends on it.

Book recommendation (although not about the stress of education is a great book about the effects of stress in infancy and toddlerhood): Scared Sick