Six The Ideal Age To Start Learning

News / November 27, 2009

We all want to do the best by our children.  Their educational journey starts at birth, maybe in the womb, but when he is the ideal age to start formal education?  The UK government’s plan to delay the start of school until children are past six years old has a lot of research support.  Early years education should be fun based.

The occasions when parents show their child started to read after some form of tuition fills the parents with pride. In reality they are causing more harm than good according to research completed 20 years ago by Professor David Elkind in the USA. He summarised the situation when he said “education is not a race”.  How true this becomes in later years when the award of a degree has little to do with age.  Indeed it could be argued a mature student with practical experience would excel in a degree course and gain vastly more by the younger students.  But in primary school the focus of the majority of parents is to strive for their child to be at the top of the class.  Elkind believes education should be focused on a child development and not aimed at academic or social prowess.  Children hot housed miss out on the opportunity to play, daydream and extend their sense of imagination and wonderment.  It comes as no shock we all learn from experience but the effect is minimised through overindulgent tuition and can have a fundamental negative impact on what and how we learn. The  hothouse child can tend to criticise in lessons and often has little idea how to enjoy unstructured play or expand as an individual.

The research by Elkind showed that children who enjoyed a wide based experience were actually learning how to learn.  It is beneficial to offset the hothouse effect by giving your child some positive enjoyment in their early experiences.  Engage in educational games rather than intense structured tuition. Children learn at a phenomenal rate and like all of us benefit from practice which is the best form of learning retention. Kids learn to swim, ride a bike and enjoy a video game from practice that leads to a growth in skill. A lot depends on the time spent practising rather than intensive tuition.

The best advice to parents seems to be to give children some room to play, and if there is some fun in the form of educational games that parents can join in so much the better.

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