Tag Archives: preschool

What is Natural? I Thought I Knew and Still Think I Know

“Breast Feeding is Unnatural.”

That was the headline I saw the other day when perusing the news. My first reaction was, “WHAT? What is this country coming to?” An article/study in Pediatrics entitled, “Unintended Consequences of Invoking the ‘Natural’ in Breastfeeding Promotion,” written by Jessica Martucci and Anne Barnhill, essentially claims that “referencing the ‘natural’ in breastfeeding promotion—may inadvertently endorse a set of values about family life and gender roles which would be ethically inappropriate.” I’m sorry, but “natural” actually does fit my set of values. How extreme can the obsession with sexuality and gender get?

When I saw this headline, it immediately took me back to UCLA in the early ‘80s. I was doing an early morning news show that was being filmed at UCLA’s Child Development Center. The station brought me to UCLA so I could provide an opinion about UCLA’s daycare perspectives. We did the interview in a huge room that was full of babies, toddlers and lots of noise. The children were on mats and in various cribs and there were students interacting with some of the children, while others slept, cried or expressed varying degrees of displeasure. As we began the interview, the head of the department made a statement that literally left me in a state of shock. She said that young children being home with their mother was UNNATURAL!

To gain a bit of historic perspective, common use of daycares and preschools is really a relatively new phenomenon. Daycares actually date back to the late 1800s as facilities for working mothers. But even back in the ‘50s it was rare for a child to go to daycare. There weren’t yet preschools and the majority of children didn’t start school until they were five or six. To further put things in perspective, back in the ‘50s when we were having air-raid drills in school and were hearing “better dead than red,” we were traumatized hearing stories about Russia, where little children were put in schools as early as two or three years of age—horrifying!

Back at the time of my interview at UCLA, formal daycare was still rather rare. Working moms generally relied on family members or informal situations where stay-at-home moms would take care of another child or two.

In 1964 President Lyndon Johnson created Head Start, a program that was initiated as part of his “War on Poverty” to help meet the needs of preschool aged children from low-income families. Head Start was and is a good thing. Providing early educational opportunities for children from disadvantaged homes is a good thing. Children from disadvantaged families absolutely do better with early childhood educational opportunities.

Today, however, educational propaganda has created the distorted perspective that all children are better off in daycare and preschool and that they are, in fact, being deprived of opportunities if they do not attend. Economic reality is such that many mothers need to work when their children are under five. There are mothers who choose to have careers and need nannies, daycare and preschools, which is fine. Certainly, the better the daycares and the preschools, the more opportunities those children have. But let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. An involved dedicated mother, who after all knows her child better than anyone else on the planet and who can provide her child with individual attention throughout the day, is not only doing something that is quite “natural,” but is probably optimizing her child’s first critical years of development. An informed, dedicated parent given the right tools, can do absolute wonders—quite naturally.

—Bob Doman

 

 

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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