Learning To Be 4!

by Debbie Twomey on January 30, 2014



 “My 4 year old knows more than yours!  He will probably be a rocket scientist; he already knows the Periodic table by heart. What’s that you ask, can he climb the monkey bars? Why no, he doesn’t have time to waste at playgrounds he needs to be prepared for Kindergarten. “

Sound absurd? Well it isn’t really that far-fetched.  The competition is getting fierce and if your Johnny or Susie are not up to the challenge they can be left behind even in preschool ( I don’t’ mean actually left behind since it takes an act of Congress to leave any child behind these days even if they are not prepared to go forward). It is just that there is so much pressure on parents to have their toddlers “Preschool Prepared” in advance of actually attending school.

I tend to think the more time taken from a child’s innocence and development before so much structure is required will have an adverse affect. Don’t get me wrong, I believe structure begins very early, in training a baby to teaching my toddler. What I am referring to here is the structured settings of classrooms that we all remember from our school days. I was taught in Catholic schools so from the ripe old age of 5, I was restricted not only in my movement but now my thinking. I had a good education but I can still remember how I was forced to stay still so often when I needed to move. My mother was told I was hyperkinetic and though I never was really a problem in school, I was so fidgety and restrained that learning was not always easy for me. I was the type of child who would have thrived in less of a structured setting. Not one without rules or being free to run around but if I could move and expend some of the energy that built up– blocking me from learning at my best (for me one more gym class) could have made an enormous difference.   http://slate.me/1gJPXKz


But getting back to your 3 and 4 year olds—theirs is becoming a competitive world and this competition could be robbing them of essential skills they could develop on their own and that would make such a difference the rest of their lives. There are many separate schools of thought as to how young a child should be to begin structured education and even more diverse conclusions as to the success rate of such programs. Yes, those children may be testing well but is it by rote or by reflection? Children can be taught a concept and memorize it but this does not always mean they comprehend it. Wouldn’t be more to their advantage to actually UNDERSTAND?

Another concern is once they leave that school setting how much do they actually retain and utilize. There are standard curriculums but not all are effective when sending our young adults into the real world.  Dani Johnson (www.danijohnson.com) addresses such issues regarding our children’s futures. In “Grooming the Next Generation” concepts not taught in school but vital in today’s world.

“#1 Dreams and Goals

·         Helping your kids establish specific goals and implement a plan to achieve them

·         How to help your kids discover their natural strengths, who they are and who they need to become to accomplish what they are dreaming of

·         How to keep your kids on track and making decisions toward their goals

·         How to prepare your kids for what is to come, preparing them for the future

·         Creating value in the small things so that your kids can be trusted with bigger things

·         Teaching your kids to live by design not by default     http://bit.ly/1gJPwju

I have been watching my 2 year old and I see she answers questions on her kid’s shows based on repetition. While I am proud that she is able to do this, I wait for the time when she actually understands why the answer is what it is. That takes imagination, comprehension and critical thinking, abilities I value for her.

This study asks the question, “Does direct instruction really work best?”

Shouldn't very young children be allowed to explore, inquire, play, and discover, they ask? Perhaps direct instruction can help children learn specific facts and skills, but what about curiosity and creativity—abilities that are even more important for learning in the long run? Two forthcoming studies in the journal Cognitionsuggest that the doubters are on to something. While learning from a teacher may help children get to a specific answer more quickly, it also makes them less likely to discover new information about a problem and to create a new and unexpected solution. http://slate.me/1gJPXKz

An old school friend Maureen Desmond Reed shared this article with us on Facebook and I really related to the author Alicia Bayer. Maureen was in agreement that too much focus is put on educational competition and not enough on “life skills” and lessons that would improve our children’s lives.

I agree so much so that I want to share her words here because Alicia says what I believe is most important for my granddaughter to grow into a wise, empathetic, loving and well adjusted adult.

What a 4 year old should know by Alicia Bayer (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alicia-bayer-/what-should-a-4-year-old-know_b_3931921.html)

1.        She should know that she is loved wholly and unconditionally, all of the time.

2.       He should know that he is safe and he should know how to keep himself safe in public, with others, and in varied situations. He should know that he can trust his instincts about people and that he never has to do something that doesn't feel right, no matter who is asking. He should know his personal rights and that his family will back them up.

3.       She should know how to laugh, act silly, be goofy and use her imagination. She should know that it is always OK to paint the sky orange and give cats six legs.

4.       He should know his own interests and be encouraged to follow them. If he couldn't care less about learning his numbers, his parents should realize he'll learn them accidentally soon enough and let him immerse himself instead in rocket ships, drawing, dinosaurs or playing in the mud.

5.        She should know that the world is magical and that so is she. She should know that she's wonderful, brilliant, creative, compassionate and marvelous. She should know that it's just as worthy to spend the day outside making daisy chains, mud pies and fairy houses as it is to practice phonics. Scratch that — way more worthy.

But more important, here's what parents need to know.

1.        That every child learns to walk, talk, read and do algebra at his own pace and that it will have no bearing on how well he walks, talks, reads or does algebra.

2.       That the single biggest predictor of high academic achievement and high ACT scores is reading to children. Not flash cards, not workbooks, not fancy preschools, not blinking toys or computers, but Mom or Dad taking the time every day or night (or both!) to sit and read them wonderful books.

3.       That being the smartest or most accomplished kid in class has never had any bearing on being the happiest. We are so caught up in trying to give our children "advantages" that we're giving them lives as multi-tasked and stressful as ours. One of the biggest advantages we can give our children is a simple, carefree childhood.

4.       That our children deserve to be surrounded by books, nature, art supplies and the freedom to explore them. Most of us could get rid of 90 percent of our children's toys and they wouldn't be missed, but some things are important — building toys like LEGOs and blocks, creative toys like all types of art materials (good stuff), musical instruments (real ones and multicultural ones), dress up clothes and books, books, books. (Incidentally, much of this can be picked up quite cheaply at thrift shops.) They need to have the freedom to explore with these things too — to play with scoops of dried beans in the high chair (supervised, of course), to knead bread and make messes, to use paint and play dough and glitter at the kitchen table while we make supper even though it gets everywhere, to have a spot in the yard where it's absolutely fine to dig up all the grass and make a mud pit.

5.        That our children need more of us. We have become so good at saying that we need to take care of ourselves that some of us have used it as an excuse to have the rest of the world take care of our kids. Yes, we all need undisturbed baths, time with friends, sanity breaks and an occasional life outside of parenthood. But we live in a time when parenting magazines recommend trying to commit to 10 minutes a day with each child and scheduling one Saturday a month as family day. That's not OK! Our children don't need Nintendo, computers, after-school activities, ballet lessons, play groups and soccer practice nearly as much as they need US. They need fathers who sit and listen to their days, mothers who join in and make crafts with them, parents who take the time to read them stories and act like idiots with them. They need us to take walks with them and not mind the .1 MPH pace of a toddler on a spring night. They deserve to help us make supper even though it takes twice as long and makes it twice as much work. They deserve to know that they're a priority for us and that we truly love to be with them.


photo 5 (3)


This is a debate not to be settled anytime too soon. I do think it is up to each parent to decide for their children and this may mean homeschooling as opposed to public or parochial schools. Determining what is most important for your child and why can help you make the best decision for their future education.

Each child does learn differently and if we can teach them in ways they flourish and always are mindful of life skills that are just as or more important than any test score we have given them wings to fly. Remember Love is immeasurable so you will not find the formula in a school text—ever.





Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: