Monthly Archives: August 2015

Hurray for Preschool! Or not.

This video clip is obviously very cute, the emotion and trauma really sad, all too real and perhaps totally unnecessary.

The importance and relevance of the relatively new phenomena of preschool should be evaluated on an individual basis. Preschools did not exist 50 years ago; children did not leave home to attend any kind of school until they were 5 or 6.

One of the things that they used to scare us children who were growing up in the fifties, back in the “Better Dead than Red” days, was that in Russia they made children go to school before they were even five years old and were even going to start making children go to government schools as young as two or three. Horrifying! Scare-you-to-death-and-keep-you-up-at-night terrifying.

What happened to change our perception?

What happened was the economy and the society, moms needing to go to work, dramatic increase in unmarried teen pregnancies and single parent homes, as well as fewer extended families. What started out as necessity for some families started to be perceived as not only the norm, but as optimal. Today families who do not send their children to preschool are often perceived as depriving their children.

For children in disadvantaged homes, a good preschool is a good thing, and often a very good thing; but an educated parent at home with their preschool age children is really tough to beat.

One of the tremendously important things that the preschool movement appears to have cost many of our children is auditory processing (short-term and working memory), the foundation of how we learn and think. The lion’s share of development in auditory and visual processing typically occurs in our first five years of life. I believe that there has been a significant drop in the rates and level of development in auditory processing during these years of expansion of day-care and preschool. For infants and young children, nothing beats one-on-one verbal interaction with the person who knows the child best, the parent. We trigger neuroplasticity, grow the brain by providing it with the right, specific input, delivered with frequency, intensity, and duration. The worse the student-to-adult/teacher ratio, the less specific the input, and the less overall input any specific child receives. Even the drop from 1:1 to 2:1 dramatically affects the quality and specificity of the input. Everyone knows that one of the fastest ways to accelerate any child’s learning curve is to provide him or her with more 1:1, not less.

Do we need preschools? Sadly, “yes” for some, not because it presents an optimal situation, but rather because of the realities of many of our children’s homes and lives. Some politicians are talking about mandatory preschool. Wow, where did I hear that before? I guess they think they know what is best for our children.

Click below to learn more about how the Cognition Coach iPad apps for Toddlers (Toddler to 3) and Preschool (3-5) can increase short-term and working memory.

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Educating for Excellence – Cougars in the Backyard

I just received a video created by two of our NACD boys—Matthew, 16, and Harrison, 14. My sister Ellen, who is directing their programs, gave these two homeschooled boys the assignment to create a unit study documentary.

We feel very strongly about inquiry-based, student-based learning. The boys might not know it, but what they are doing is called autodidactic learning. A good example of an autodidactic learner, or self-taught learner, was Leonardo da Vinci. History is full of many such self-taught, self-motivated inquiring minds that were given or took the opportunity to experience and interact with the learning experience and to create excellence. I would love to see more of our children be given the time and opportunity to have such real learning experiences. Learning to learn and not needing to be spoon-fed is necessary if we are going to assist our children in achieving excellence.

Matthew, Harrison, and the rest of the Murphy family–well done! I hope your documentary inspires other students to explore, investigate, and discover how really cool learning is.

Oh, and guys, I have seen cougars in my backyard.