Tuesday, November 28, 2006

It's Big Brother's Job

There is a push on for universal preschool. Defenders of the program say it is necessary so that children come to school "ready to learn." I was told by one policy maker in Michigan that education begins at age zero, the sooner the state can get the children into the system the better they will do in kindergarten and beyond. Even if a parent doesn't place their child in preschool, there still persists the mistaken notion that parenting before age 5 is all in prepartion for kindergarten when the "experts" can finally take over.

From a recent article on getting children ready for kindergarten,

Henderson said sometimes the parents' high expectations, such as wanting them to know the alphabet, tie their shoes or count very high, could hold the child back since it's the kindergarten teacher's job to help them learn these things.
Contrast this teacher's thinking about whose job it is to help them learn, with that of my 16 year old son.

I was busy brushing and flossing my teeth the other day. Into the room walked my son, Jason. Quickly, he grabbed a string of floss and we both faced the mirror contorting our faces to get all the teeth. The next thing I know my 3 year old daughter toddled into the room and invited herself to the impromptu dental party. "I want some too," she said. So my son pulled out a string of floss and handed it to her. She proceeded to wad the string into her mouth and chew it like gum. My son laughed and said, "She's just getting the habit down now. I'll teach her the finer points later."

My daughter wasn't the only one learning a new habit that day, so was my son. He was developing a habit of responsibility as an older brother. He recognized that it was his responsibility to teach his little sister; not just how to floss her teeth, but tie her shoes, and know her ABC's.

On a personal level, one of the best rewards of homeschooling is that "ready to learn" takes on a meaning beyond kindergarten and academic achievement. My son is ready to learn what it means to be a husband and father. In part because of the spontaneous interaction that happens in our home as he teaches his siblings. That is something no school room will ever be able to manufacture or duplicate.

Perhaps if a few more children had these sorts of "big brother" experiences, there would be no need for the other "big brother" to take over and provide the parenting classes we all missed growing up in a school rather than in our own homes. And maybe a new generation of young men will grow up knowing that the freezer is NOT the best place for an infant with a fever.

Update: Have schools turned into the new social workers?

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