I was supposed to fly home today, but am stuck in New York another night as American tries to fix all their planes. The only bright spot is that I got a little extra time to read and finished this great book.
Einstein Never Used Flashcards: How Our Children Really Learn--and Why They Need to Play More and Memorize Less by Kathy Hirsch-Pasek, Ph.D., and Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, Ph.D., with Diane Eyer, Ph.D.
I loved this book! It provides evidence (from real studies!) that the academic focus of preschools (and some parents) does not provide any academic benefit for kids (and may even cause some problems later on). Evidence like this is essential for maintaining our priorities in early education as the push for skills at earlier ages and testing for those skills reaches into the preschools and kindergartens. My own state is considering lowering the age of required attendance (currently 7) and providing full-day kindergarten. I think providing preschool and full-day kindergarten could be of great benefit, if the curriculum and activities follow the model of this book. It's a legitimate fear, though, that "teaching to the test" could reach even to these early grades. This book identifies ways that playing provides a better foundation for the tests, skill development and later learning than any worksheets or drills ever could.
Especially applicable for me is the authors' mantra for parents: "Reflect, Resist, and Re-Center." We don't participate in a lot of classes and activities, mainly because it's an expense we can't afford right now. It's still a struggle, though, to remember the activities we do together (like reading every day) are providing the very experiences our children need to succeed so we don't have to feel guilty or even disappointed we can't participate in the myriad of classes available, even for four year old children.
I have been grappling with finding a preschool curriculum to follow next year. The more books like this I find, though, the more inclined I am to just make one up, combining good books, nature walks, playing with blocks and involving the kids in everyday tasks like measuring and pouring. I'm beginning to realize my search for a "curriculum" is more a search for a structure for me, a plan so I don't have to worry if I'm hitting all the right targets...but perhaps I should leave that for another post.
I'm encouraging Kansas Dad to read through the book and have high hopes he will because of the "Discovering Hidden Skills" sections. Here he can find all the little experiments he always wanted to do on our kids, like Piaget, but with greater assurance of avoiding any harm. Personally, I liked the end of each chapter, "Bringing the Lessons Home." I think you could get a good grasp of the material covered in the book with just those few pages for each chapter, though I do recommend reading it in its entirety.
Just read after your kids are in bed so you can play Pirates and Castles or help build a city before dinner.