Start with the Child

Where is the best place for a two year old to be? Not the cheapest, or the most efficient, or the most economically productive, but the best. For the child.

Running through a field, shouting with joy, the wind in your hair. Your family all around. Stomping in mud. Meeting and playing with friends. Hiding. Pretending. Building dens. Climbing, sliding, swinging at the park. Running inside when it rains. Playing with toys. Eating, drinking, listening, listening, talking. Getting warm and snugly in front of the fire. Books, stories, cuddles. Love.

If you start with the child then the answer to the question is ‘a great home environment’. That’s what early years educators spend their lives trying to recreate. Clearly life is not always like that. We have to earn a living, we might want a career, some parents are not able to create a ‘great’ home environment. So you work outwards until you find the best alternative. Until you alight on the first thing that you can afford. The closest thing to ‘home’. As new parents, our thinking process went: stay at home (can’t afford it), work part time (need at least some childcare), ask grandma (too far to drive), find a nanny (can’t afford it), find a child minder (none around), find a nursery/preschool (phew, that’s great). At no point did we think ‘Hey, let’s find a school, our two year old would look so cute in a tiny uniform!’ This is nothing against schools, but they are not your first thought as the parent of a two year old. School comes later on.

It worries me that government sees the early years as the place for some kind of mass social experiment. Yes, moving people out of poverty through education is a great aim, but first perhaps we could think about closing the gap between what we pay people? You do not construct a childcare system based on evidence of its impact in monetary terms, its efficiency for the masses, or its cost. You start with the child. Is that so very difficult?

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9 Responses to Start with the Child

  1. nancy says:

    The notion of sending two year olds to a school environment is sickening, frankly. Their needs are completely different, and, really, we ought to be considering the needs of children when we think about education.

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  2. Yep. Agree. School is not ‘home’, and the teaching staff are not ‘family’. The demarcation is important. The same goes for the work environment (if you’re a member of staff, or have a non-educational job); your work colleagues are not ‘family’ (unless they really are, of course). The environments are different, and the role of the two environments is also different. We shouldn’t blur the distinction. (Although, of course, the school/teachers have a heavy responsibility towards the pupils…).

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  3. Eddie Carron says:

    The one thing we know for certain about children is that thank God, they are all different. There are some two year olds for whom a playgroup would be an appropriate environment, some for whom it will have little impact and some for whom it will be downright harmful. We don’t need to experiment to find that out and the ‘whizz kid’ that came up with the idea should be hung, drawn and quartered.
    It is important not just to acknowledge children’s differences – we need o celebrate their differences and respond to them appropriately.
    We do know hat if we push hard enough for long enough we could eventually squeeze them all into the same shaped box but it that really where education should be going?

    ?

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  4. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Sue – we agree! Our thoughts are here https://en-gb.facebook.com/LincolnshireMontessori/posts/406587706118437

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  5. annadelconte says:

    Yes Sue, I am often having this conversation with parents. We do not have to buy our children expensive toys, enrol them in activities or put them in preschools that will prepare them for the assessment tests like ‘Best Start’. We need to give our children a childhood. Most expressive/responsive disorders come from the fact that our children haven’t been talked to from the time they are born. Its no good putting them in front of a television, they do not learn listening and speaking from a machine! Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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  6. Pingback: Post Of The Week – Thursday 23rd January 2014 | DHSG Psychology Research Digest

  7. Alison Monday says:

    Great post and I agree completely! I was lucky enough to be able to stay at home with my daughter. We went to a variety of toddler groups until she was about 2 years 9 months, when it was obvious she was one of the older ones there and was ready to spend some time apart from me. We visited about 7 playschools/nurseries and carefully watched her reactions. We chose the one where she couldn’t help wriggling off my knee and going to join in with the activities. It was all taken at our daughter’s rate of readiness, building up hours as she got near to starting at school, not based on some random decision made by politicians about all children. We were only concerned with our child! If children were to have to be in school from two years old, then we would seriously have considered home schooling.

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