If you are a member of parenting Facebook groups, you will know how at least one parent in a day wants to know how to make his/her 3-year old to write. In a general discussion of moms, children’s academics and the school’s credibility never go undiscussed. In India, the earlier our children learn to read and write, more satisfied we are.
This post is a part of a series of posts on this blog on The Things that really matter to Children. Scroll to the bottom of this post to see the complete list of posts in the series.
E for Experience Vs. Education: What do you think matters to Children?
Warning: To some parents, this post could be shocking, unpleasant, biased or heavily judgmental. But in the context of ‘The things that really matter to Children,’ I deem it important.
And by ‘education’ in this post, I refer to the things that children learn at school, like reading, writing and by-hearting, for this is what is largely referred to as ‘education’ in India.
In most traditional schools, writing for children begins at three years, that is in nursery class, that is, when they have not even entered their kindergarten. I have heard many moms tell me they get a complaint note from the school almost every other day that their child isn’t able to grip a pencil or is not capable of writing alphabets properly.
By 5 years, children are already trained to write alphabets, words and a few sentences in not one, but two languages. Not just that, they are in addition trained in cursive writing too. Half their training is done at school and the remaining half is done at home as homework. It doesn’t end there. There are assessments and examinations.
Of course, when taught to write at the age of three, by five, most children do very well in writing. Some, in fact develop a beautiful handwriting. It’s natural that parents feel glad and elated about their children’s writing skills. And the school is deemed the best in giving education.
But, do we really understand what our children at 3-4 years of age have sacrificed in exchange for that beautiful handwriting? From outside, it may seem all has been happening well. But, here’s what actually happens!
If we believe that a 3-month old is not physically ready for walking and if we believe that a 1-year old is not ready to converse like an adult, we must also believe in this!
That a 3 or 4-year old’s hands are not ready to hold a pencil either!
According to a child’s natural development, it’s only by age 5 that a child’s fingers are ready for a pencil grasp. Until then, a child must be made to work on gross motor and fine motor skills, that is, the ability to hold bigger objects with hands and smaller objects with fingers. And these skills develop better when they are practiced on natural materials like sand, water, clay, colours etc. rather than practicing with a pencil.
So, when our child is taught to hold a pencil and write at the age of three, she lacks the necessary experience that is required for fine motor skills. Her natural developmental progress is overridden. At an age when her language and speech and her creativity and problem-solving skills are supposed to develop, when we as an adult impose the development of writing skills on her, there may come a deficiency in the other skills her brain is already working on. I am not surprised that some young children who can write very well cannot pronounce syllables like ra, ta or da even at the age of five.
There is only so much a little brain can focus at a given time. If a 4-year old’s brain is focussing on writing, will we accept that something else in her development is deprived in exchange?
The question here is, is it necessary for a 3 or 4-year old to write? What will happen if they begin to write at 5?
Are her/his literary skills not getting tapped enough?
Will she/he miss becoming a writer?
Can she/he never learn writing at all in the future?
No! It’s just what parents and teachers want the child to do!
As a parent, we maybe or may not be aware of the 5-year eligibility to hold a pencil. All that happens is we join our child in a school that’s best and convenient for us. In the school, they begin to make our children write at three. Well, all of us of the 80’s and 90’s generation began to write at three and we are doing fine. So rationally, that is alright for our children to do the same. We blindly follow the school and begin to attach importance to writing and in the process we believe that is education to our children.
I take the example of writing here, but it can be applied to many other aspects of education in India.
Well! The school may blame it on the parents that parents are unrealistically expecting the school to make children read and write early. And the parents may blame on the overall education system in India.
Can all of us, for a moment, step out of this? What do you think a 3 or a 4-year old needs? Do you really think writing should be anywhere on the list?
Ask your little child, if given a choice, will she love to play or write?
We all know the answer! All of us know what really matters to children!
Perhaps we understand but we are to comply to what the school focuses on. What do we do?
Of course, tomorrow they have to join the rat race of the education system. Tomorrow they have to get along with this society of standardised expectations. And for tomorrow they have to be equipped with skills to find the right college seat and right job.
But, today, they are children!
Their childhood is precious. Childhood is to be the foundation of experiences and not education! Can their ‘education’ wait until they become 5 or 6 years old? If it’s the school that is the problem, shall we think again. What should we weigh more? Our child’s childhood, or the convenient school? Though it involves practical difficulties, a child’s school can be changed anytime. But, a child’s childhood comes only once.
Even if the school is too much focussed on academics, can we as parents, be easy on our children at least until they are 6 or 7-years old?
Can we allow them to experience childhood? Can we allow them to play, paint, swing, laugh, listen, sing and dance in those few hours they might be focussing on writing everyday? Remember it’s not the amount of time that they are spending on writing. But the focus that is put to the brain. Can we allow their brains to focus more on child things than the adult things – things that adults want a child to do?
My son goes to a Waldorf-inspired school. I don’t mean to point out one system is better than the other but as a Waldorf parent, I see how childhood is celebrated in schools like this.
List of all the Post in this Series
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