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to think that parents say one thing and do another when it comes to formal learning for 5 year olds

(40 Posts)
PollyParanoia Fri 16-Oct-09 14:44:35

On all threads about the Cambridge review (which suggests that formal learning should not start until 6 ie y2), the majority of posters wholeheartedly agree, pointing to Scandinavia etc. And in theory, I do too.
But at the same time, I'm always worrying that my ds is getting "behind" his privately educated contemporaries, people on these boards talk of their dc's advanced reading ages, people say they chose a particular school above another one because their kids got so ahead. One mother was always talking to me about which kid in reception was "bright" because they could read and were on the "top table" and is teaching her 3 yr old dd phonics.
If state schools did postpone formal learning might this be counter-productive if private schools didn't too? Are we really all laid-back enough to chill about our kids not reading until 6, which seems to me to be at odds with what I read about tutors, 11+ exams, ORT reading levels etc, etc?
I don't know am probably living up to my name...

BoysAreLikeDogs Fri 16-Oct-09 14:47:09

remember that folks lie about their children's achievements

Callisto Fri 16-Oct-09 14:49:36

I don't care particularly when DD reads (she is 4.9). To me it is far more important that she spends her time running around outside and playing and doing crafty stuff and being read too.

StealthPolarBear Fri 16-Oct-09 14:49:41

I agree, and completely see what you mean. DS is a bit too young for the school obsession yet, but although I'm a big fan of letting him do things when he's developmentally ready I'm still checking what he can do then checking what's normal to see if he;s ahead or behind, getting utterly obsessed by the fact he doesn't recognise colours iyswim

Rhubarb Fri 16-Oct-09 14:51:22

It's a culture thing.

I think that if children don't start school until they are 6 then you don't get much chance to compare. Whereas all the mums seem to talk about at the school gates is what level little Johnny is at.

It's also wrong to say that other countries start their children later at school. In France they have the Maternelle, which is voluntary but which nearly everyone sends their kids to. It's like reception, but they teach them how to draw, write and read. Then when they are 6 they go into Primary.

Morloth Fri 16-Oct-09 14:53:39

I don't know about other kids but DS was champing at the bit for school just after his 4th birthday. Has taken to it like a duck to water.

If everyone would stop being so competitive about stuff then we could possibly set up a system where kids can start when they are ready rather than at a preset age. Though I don't know how that would work out with social interactions in classes etc.

DailyMailNameChanger Fri 16-Oct-09 14:54:28

I think people forget what average is, the majority of dc are averageby definition. Somewhere in the middle. People talk about high achievment, they talk about SEN but they don't talk about average. You see no threads here saying "Dd came out halfway in the list of test results today" they only post if she was at the top or bottom. Because of that people become obsessed, it is like a drug almost - everybody elses dc are doing X Y and Z I know because I read about it all the time when, in fact, they are not, most are doing just the same as your child is.

bellissima Fri 16-Oct-09 14:54:45

I totally agree with you. I too nod sagely and agree that children should be running around in sunny fields with gamboling lambs until they are six - and then make my six year old read her Kippers and Chips (argh!!!) at night. Hypocrite - moi???

Madsometimes Fri 16-Oct-09 14:55:43

There are plenty of countries with more educated people than ours who delay education.

I am quite certain that if formal learning was delayed to 6 in state schools that private schools would continue to hothouse 4 year olds. However, I doubt that they would confer any particulary advantages on these 4 year olds that they did not already have. Already, we have certain independent schools pushing formal learning in reception, while state school children do learning through play. However, just because private schools are doing something does not make it right.

Most children learn to read in about 6 months if formal learning is delayed to age 6 or 7. British children are still learning after two years (age 6). I do not think that delaying formal learning would do any harm. If people want to be pushy, then let them. Lots of children do learn to read in reception classes which do learning through play, anyway. It is just that the children are not tied to desks all day, like they often are in year 1 sad

cory Fri 16-Oct-09 14:58:41

Neither of mine was reading when they started school. I have mentioned this on countless threads. I am cool. CM tried to get me worried over the fact that ds did not know the word for a kid (as in baby goat) aged 3, but considering the complete absence of goats of any age or sex in our little suburb I can't see this worried me at all: it just showed that we read different books.

No 11+ exams here, as we don't have grammar schools in our neck of the woods. And private schools not an issue as we couldn't opay the fees and most people I know couldn't pay the fees.

I care intensely about education, but about education as a personal journey of discovery, not as a competition.

My eldest is now at an age (13) where she is beginning to think about the future and realise that she will have to work hard if she is to have a chance to get into university and study for her chosen career. But there is no way we would have wanted to be thinking of that when she was a baby in Infants school. And probably quite wasted as you never know who is going to turn out academically minded anyway: I've seen some surprises!

Ds struggles at school and may well end up doing something less academic. Doesn't worry me at all. ,

KembleTwins Fri 16-Oct-09 15:06:14

I think 6 is fine for "formal" learning. I don't think the issue is about keeping kids out of school, as such, more about them doing play-based learning a bit longer, which I think can only be a good thing. My DTs are 3, and will be starting school when they are just 4. I am satisfied that they are learning loads at nursery. They "play", but through that they are learning masses, and I don't just mean social skills. They came home from nursery today and told me all about Diwali, which is something they've learned, but without having to sit down and copy it off the board (wink) They suck up knowledge and are articulate and wonderful. What I've found interesting on today's threads about this is the number of people who think "learning" HAS to involve sitting and reading or writing. I taught Drama before I had my girls, and didn't often do much writing, particularly with KS3 kids. They were still learning though.

I think that lots of people think that play-based learning is fine, except for clever kids, who desperately want to read and fill in worksheets. And of course, as DailyMailNameChanger points out, no one on MN has average kids, so no one on MN will really want their kids "just" playing at school. grin

cory Fri 16-Oct-09 15:14:12

I just can't see that it's a dichotomy of playbased-formal. As far as I can see, a lot of work done in reception (or at nursery in places like Scandinavia) is perfectly academic in content, just doesn't involve worksheets. Experiments, studying your local environment, nature walks, making bread, growing plants from seed, making volcanoes out of baking soda- it's the sort people do in secondary school. But parents of 5yos assume that their offspring must be terribly bored because they are too developed and mature to do this.

Well, all one can hope is that same offspring will grow backwards a bit before they get to secondary school where they have to do this sort of thing. Not to mention university.

But thankfully, most postgraduate students don't have mums anxiously hovering over them explaining that little DD is really far too advanced for this work and will get bored if they are not given Proper Work to do.

bellissima Fri 16-Oct-09 15:34:08

One thing that this little hypocrite has noticed however. When you look at international studies comparing education and achievement rates (and I am always somewhat cynical about these - anyone know anyone who has ever taken part/been tested in one??) - then Scandinavian countries always come out well. In fact it's usually Finland top so I should say Nordic and not Scandinavian (as I was once told by someone better educated than me!). And these are indeed countries where those kids are out gamboling with the lambs until they are six or even seven.

But - big but - the other high achievers in these league tables are almost invariably the likes of Singapore/Korea/Japan/China - and these places are hot houses extraordinaire. My DD's best friend's mum was brought up in Hong Kong, started school at four and went straight from ordinary school to evening school to do more work. (She has assured me that she vowed never to do this to her own children!).

Not sure what I conclude from this. other than you can't win.

cory Fri 16-Oct-09 15:46:30

You do have a good point, bellissima. There are so many other social factors.

There is for instance, the recent divide between Sweden and Finland, where Finland is definitely coming out much better. I think this is partly to do with some recent ill-judged changes in the Swedish educational system secondary level, but I can hardly help thinking another factor might be the widely differing immigration policies of the two countries. Finland has an incredibly restrictive asylum policy, whereas Sweden has taken great numbers of asylum seekers from some pretty horrendous situations.

Which means the Finns are teaching children all speaking the same language, all with the same cultural background and not traumatised by war or political persecution. And not on the whole by a massive class divide either. You can't compare those results with the results of children who may only have been in the country for a few months or be totally traumatised by past experiences or been conditioned to regard every person in authority as an enemy.

However much you improve English schools, there are social factors that you have to fight against that may not be there in some other countries. And being allowed to roam freely is all very well, if there are plenty of fields and woods you can roam in safely. Swedes and Finns have an enormous advantage there.

Not to say that I don't think schools can't make a Massive difference. But they are not all starting from the same place.

PollyParanoia Fri 16-Oct-09 17:58:46

Goodness, you are all so wise, it's made me feel a lot better.
I find this business of setting tables on ability at such a young age a bit weird too. I mean everyone says it's to help them, but I can't help wondering if it doesn't stereotype at a young age (and therefore prejudiced against ones with unsupportive homes, on the young side).
Anyway, I am going to keep trying to tell myself to be all scandi about this though sadly will probably be trying for selective schools at 11...

stakethroughtheheartofgold Fri 16-Oct-09 18:31:08

i have never discussed reading schemes with other parents, nor ever heard others discussing them. it bothers me not at all how my dd compares academically to others in her class, or her privately educated peers. at the moment (she is 6) i'm much more concerned about developing her social and physical confidence, and i am more than happy for her to "just play" at school (we're in wales and her school has implemented the foundation phase ahead of schedule, so she benefits from it).

we chose our primary school because it was the most welcoming, the most inclusive, the most flexible, and turned down the more academic alternative. perhaps this explains why our parents are more relaxed about academic achievement. not that i don't value academic achievement, far from it, but certainly not at the expense of a playful, self-directed childhood. children seem to be under increasing pressure to perform at secondary level, why bring that pressure to bear at primary level too?

aokay Fri 16-Oct-09 18:44:25

Hi _ I don't discuss my DDs level of reading etc either but I was shocked to meet 2 mothers who admit to inviting other kids for 'play' dates, then rifling through their
guests' book bags and reading their reading record books to compare. I thought they were very sick but I am apparently, weird as I refuse to do anything like this - I have a life.
Also had mother who I did'nt know, ring me up to arrange lifts for a party (fine) and then quiz me on subject of DH work - I replied by saying where he worked but she pinned me down to exactly what did he do - I barely resisted the urge to respond either pimp or lion tamer - not my kind of person at all - am I worth getting to know because my DH has x or y job?

lljkk Fri 16-Oct-09 18:47:20

I bet there's no proof at all that hot-housing at age 4 results in academic and career success at 14 or 18 or older. Hothousing at age 10+ I can believe that works, but not 4.

Do people really discuss reading levels and their DC academic achievements at the school gate? Anything to do with specific achievement is one of the least likely topics to come up, ime.

My DC could barely read any letters before starting school, too! Always amazes me that any kids anywhere can truly read before age 5 (well, 6, really, for 'fluent' reading). I have only heard of it online, never IRL.

I have a theory that DC could be taught nothing educational at all until the age of 7 (and I do mean Yr3 age), and then a big blitz of quality teaching time would catch them up within 2-3 years (compared to children who had 2-3 years education more than them -- and that includes the most intensely hothoused kids). Because the brain is so much more ready to learn, and learn fast, by 7+.

WartoScreamo Fri 16-Oct-09 18:55:06

"I have a theory that DC could be taught nothing educational at all until the age of 7"

Depends what you mean by "educational". Education is more than just the 3Rs. My dd has done 3 years of Kindergarten in Belgium. She won't start this stuff til next year when she is 6.5, but she has LEARNT plenty!

She knows about insects, and dinosaurs, and how bread is made (from the field onwards), she has milked a cow, knows lots about other cultures, the weather....I could go on and on....

ReneRusso Fri 16-Oct-09 19:11:49

Some children are ready to start reading and writing and doing sums from reception, and some are not. My two DDs are so different and one of them suffered greatly from the sense of failure when she couldn't learn to read aged 4/5. Unfortunately most schools can't cater for the needs of such different children.

If state schools decided on a policy of postponing formal learning, there is no way that private schools would do the same. So the private schools would get way ahead of the state and increase the inequalities in society. I think ideally all schools need to try to accommodate the different approach needed for different children. Easier said than done I'm sure.

slowreadingprogress Fri 16-Oct-09 19:43:17

I dunno why any of us bother giving any of this headspace. The rose report, cambridge review could say "school at 4 will give your child a dread disease" and the government would STILL say "We want ALL children to have nursery places at 8 weeks! There is no evidence that early schooling is bad! In fact we are piloting a 'drop your kid in nursery on the way back from the maternity ward' project!"


WartoScreamo Fri 16-Oct-09 19:50:26

Why would they "get ahead" though? OK - so a privately educated child might be reading at 4.5 vs 6 for a state school child (in that scenario) but surely once they CAN read it will even out.

I had a very high reading age early on, and was always on the "top" table. I had a very good memory and picked stuff up quickly. Coasted through primary, and up to O'levels but when it came to the bit where you actually have to digest and understand the knowledge - then I struggled and became strictly average - no string of A grade A'levels for me!

So I surmise that my early learning ability actually had no overall advantage in the long run. In fact it could be said that learning the "work ethic" is actually beneficial.

Gracie123 Fri 16-Oct-09 19:55:59

children didn't use to start school in sweden until they were 7, but here is the thing:
They could all read and write their names and count etc... because their parents/daycare facilities taught them.

In the uk we have a sad culture of leaving everything up the schools, and then we wonder why are kids are behind and why some children study (there is no one best approach, different children need different techniques).

I find this particularly frustrating, as my DH works in a primary (public) school and children are often sent their because their previous state school 'failed' them. In reality, if their parents had spent some one on one time doing their homework with them and reading with them, most of these kids could catch up within a year.

Gracie123 Fri 16-Oct-09 20:02:40

'why some children study'
meant to say 'struggle' blush

FlightAttendant Fri 16-Oct-09 20:02:43

Bit shock that people really care whether their child is 'ahead' or not tbh.

Seems really weird to me. Ds was pretty fast at talking from an early age, incredible really, but when he started school he couldn't read or write and is only just making any proper progress in year 2.

I knew already that something to do with neural pathways etc etc means that many kids - especially boys - benefit from not being pushed to read/write before about 6 or 7, so it has never concerned me.

The only thing that does concern me is that they are pushing him into it before he is ready, and setting work he finds he can't DO because he hasn't got the basics down yet - which naturally upsets him.

I wouldn't give a damn about what children in private schools are doing.

It honestly is about the last thing I care about. Sorry OP smile

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