Kindergarten consultants, move aside. The October issue of Parenting includes a story that will have parents everywhere on edge: “Will Your Preschooler Need a Tutor?” While the obvious answer seems to be no, the trend is, apparently, pointing towards yes. If you thought parents hiring tutors and consultants to get their young kids into private schools was a scary thought, brace yourself. It seems it just will not stop – and the targets are getting younger every day.
With a generation of overachieving parents pushing for a generation of overachieving kids, we have seen everything from diminishing playtime to overloaded schedules for kids as young as 2 and 3. Imagine being a grandparent that needs to be penciled in for a playdate with your 6 year-old grandchild, who shuffles back and forth between school, music lessons, gymnastics, and second or third-language courses daily. But it’s all about to get worse. Tutors and academic programs meant for the not-yet-even-in-school set are popping up across the country.
These programs come from companies big and small, experienced and new. Even Sylvan Learning Centers, which was originally meant to help grade-school children who had trouble keeping up with their classmates, now runs classes that teach 4-year-olds to read. And these aren’t just meant for those kids you may have heard about whose parents fight for spots at the most prestigious private schools as early as conception – these programs are aimed at pre-preschoolers everywhere to give them a headstart on school.
It’s true, curricula for all ages have become more demanding recently, and schools now put a major focus on standardized testing. But should 3-year-olds really be taken away from the normal block building and bedtime story routines in favor of more vigorous educational programs? If preschool is the new kindergarten, that makes what goes on prior to entering a classroom the new preschool. And what about kids who don’t receive this headstart? Does that mean they are behind when they enter kindergarten without knowing the things that kindergarten was traditionally meant to teach? It’s a scary thought.
No wonder the rest of us are feeling anxious. This puts an extraordinary amount of pressure on both kids and parents. What, exactly, is next – teaching second languages in utero? The truth is that while kids do need some basic knowledge before entering school – such as knowing about ten letters and numbers and having the ability to write their names – these skills don’t require pricey tutors and courses. And what a child learns just from interacting with parents and siblings, hearing stories, and playing with toys can be incredibly beneficial. Kids have enough pressure as it is. There’s no reason to give them a lesson in stress before they’re even old enough to tie their shoes – which is what, basically, this trend boils down to.