Better Late Than Early

Oct 12, 2023 | Posted by the IEW Blog Team

Anxiety is high. Kids are stressed. Their health is suffering. What is the cause of this? Students rush from one activity to the next—sports, music lessons, extra tutoring, etc. Yet, are parents rushing more than that? Could the problem be that parents are rushing their children through childhood? They push them to meet their developmental milestones early. They worry that their children are somehow “behind” because their children are not doing what someone else’s children are doing. A performance and achievement obsessed culture has infiltrated schools and homeschools, and parents feel the pressure to make sure children measure up. However, is this helping them?

The answer is clearly no. Instead of successful, well-adjusted young adults, a generation of young people are stressed and anxious. The love-of-learning fire within them has been extinguished. Their innate wonder and curiosity lie dormant. These negative effects can echo in their lives for years. The reality is that children develop at different rates. Just because a child turns five does not automatically mean he or she is ready to learn to read. As Mr. Pudewa points out in Seven Keys of Great Teaching, expecting children to all learn the exact same thing at the exact same pace reflects a conveyor-belt philosophy of education. This is not what parents desire for their children, nor is it healthy.

So, what is the remedy? How can students get off the conveyor belt? Parents need to remember that each child has been uniquely created. Therefore, they can relax and stop comparing their children to other children! The blog post “Crushing Comparison” is helpful in this regard. Children will grow and meet their milestones in their own time. Dr. Suzuki often compared students with plants. Just as you can’t take a plant and command it to grow, you cannot expect a child to learn on demand. However, that does not mean parents do not have a role to play!

By creating an environment that stimulates wonder and curiosity, parents can inspire and encourage their students to grow and learn. There are several ways to do this. One is by reading aloud to children about many subjects. Another is ensuring that they are playing outside as much as possible. In “1000 Hours Outside” (Podcast 367), Andrew Pudewa and Julie Walker interview Ginny Yurich, founder of the 1000 Hours Outside movement. Listening to this episode, you will find ideas and inspiration to increase outdoor activity. Furthermore, provide art supplies, Legos, and other materials and leave time for children to use them. Great inventions and fine art may result!

Most importantly, parents can employ the two secret weapons that Andrew reveals in his talk Principles of Motivation: the emotional bank account and the power of a smile. When parents ensure that children’s emotional bank accounts are full by looking for the positive, building them up, and letting them know how much they are loved, children are better equipped to persevere when faced with challenges. Additionally, the power of a smile from a parent or valued adult can give them the confidence to keep trying. Perspectives and practices such as these are the prescription for the problem of performance culture.

Our children are not “behind.” Rather, they are right where they should be at this moment in their lives. Rather than pushing them to achieve what they may not be ready to achieve, parents can cultivate children’s natural curiosity and wonder by curating an environment rich with quality literature and art, plenty of time in nature, and time, space, and supplies to innovate. Most importantly, parents or other valued adults fill children’s emotional tanks with unconditional love. In this way, they will set children—and themselves—free from the slavery of performance-based culture. Truly, it is better to be late than early, for we know that, in reality, children’s learning is right on time.

by Deanne Smith

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