Children need more parental warmth and less institutionalization   1 comment

A friend forwarded the article below to me.  I have to repost the whole thing– there’s not a sentence I can leave out.  The authors, Raymond and Dorothy Moore, point out that parental time and warmth –and less child-institutionalization– benefits children in significant ways.  This method creates the success that eludes the institutions who attempt to force ever more government styled schooling upon ever-younger members of society.

This article validates what I see every day at home.  But before you read the Moore article, I want to explain why it means so much to me.

This is our first year doing homeschool and we’re thriving.  My fourth grader liked his public school teacher and the children in his class, but he so disliked being institutionalized.

He disliked the one-size-fits-all approach to computers, to math, to art, to most things.  He disliked the repetitious “sell-stuff” and “anti-bully” assemblies.  He disliked having so little time at home.  But he didn’t know how to articulate these things fully. He said that he was bored.

Now homeschooling my nine year old (and two year old) we have learned so much together.  (No matter how many degrees any adult has, there are so many knowledge gaps.  There is so much to learn or re-learn while teaching– in geography, biography, science, literature, history.)

We do a lot of out-loud reading.  And he reads alone plenty, too.

This year he has read books I couldn’t have imagined he was capable of comprehending and enjoying at age nine:  Tolkien’s The Hobbit and Twain’s Tom Sawyer, for example.  We’re starting Dickens’ Great Expectations this week.  Did I mention that he’s a fourth grader?

He was not previously a stand out academic at the top of his school class; yet now he’s far ahead of his age group.  Why?

His curriculum is so far beyond what the governments hope for: to  churn out worker bees –or “human capital.”

His curriculum’s limitless; it’s customized to his abilities, interests, faith  and curiosity;  he gets to independently explore; he gets to bask in the love of his family every day.  Who wouldn’t thrive?

He has come to the end of the 5th/6th grade Saxon math book (the old, trustworthy, pre-common core text) already; he has read U.S. History and world geography, learned about the elements, electricity and astronomy; studied the life of Joseph of Egypt, short stories and  Fairy Tales.  He has written Haiku, Limericks, fiction, a 500-word essay (for a contest) and all kinds of codes.

I give him a lot of freedom.  I rarely force anything because I want him to love learning and love life. I don’t impose things unless I feel very strongly about them, and then I do it in small amounts:  some cursive, some grammar, some sentence diagramming, some multiplication drills, all Swedish conversing all day (until my husband comes home).

On his own, he has studied volcanoes, cars, optical illusions, magic tricks, dinosaurs and inventions.  The things my nine year old loves, we do much more of:  math, talking, reading, and field trips.

Other things we minimize.  For example, although I wanted him to learn a lot of music (piano) he’s not that interested, so we only do a little.   I wanted him to do calligraphy, but he’s not that interested, so he draws.  I want him to do more reading in Swedish, but he only wants to do a little.  (He does speak Swedish with me, but doesn’t want to read much in Swedish.)

I let him take time to live life, to sit on a swing, to visit new places, see animals, play with his baby brother or his cars, his legos –or waste time in the bathtub long after his hair’s been washed, if there are experiments with bubbles or food coloring or squirt guns or thinking that he wants to do.  One day he spent hours making Valentine’s Day decorations; another day he spent hours organizing his drawers and his room.  We plant things and make things and I let him sit and think.

And the two year old?  Well, I don’t believe in “schooling” two year olds, but I do read to my two year old almost every time he wants to, and I speak only Swedish to him and ask him questions all day.  He shouts: “MAFF!” (math) and grabs a pencil and does his hieroglyphics in his way while the nine year old does his Saxon math lesson.  The two year old loves to point out letters of the alphabet everywhere we go.   And when the two year old interrupts the nine year old’s lesson one too many times, we don’t call for a babysitter.  We just go outside or take an early lunch or put on his favorite Swedish YouTube video, or move the lesson into the hallway, so we can distract the two year old with toys from another room.

I give this as an introduction to why I appreciate the article below so much.  It rings so true to me now.  I would not fully have appreciated it a year ago.

This article is enlightening for everyone, whether you choose to homeschool or not.  It shows a parent what a child really needs to thrive.

——- ——- ——-

When Education Becomes Abuse:

A Different Look at the Mental Health of Children

By Raymond S. Moore, Dorothy Moore

Reposted from http://www.moorefoundation.com/article/48/about-moore-home-schooling/moore-foundation/articles/when-education-becomes-abuse

“We need more parent education and less institutionalizing of young children.”

In Acres of Diamonds, Russell Conwell’s most famous Chautauqua story, Al Hafed sold his farm to finance his quest for a legendary diamond mine. He searched the world over until his fortune was gone. He died penniless, unaware that a vast diamond deposit had been discovered in the river sands which snaked through his own backyard, now the famed Golconda Diamond Mines.

America’s quest for excellence—for healthy, self directed, student minds—very well could have the same ending.

From the White House to the humblest home, Americans are groping for answers to declines in literacy, ethics, and general behavior which threatens our nation. Apparently, few have noticed the close relationship between the achievement, behavior and sociability we prefer, and the lifestyles that we impose on our children daily which may amount to our most pervasive form of child abuse. For example, a surprising ignorance or indifference exists to peer dependency, a mental health nemesis that is rampant even in preschools.

Instead of studying how best to meet their needs, we often put our “little ones” out of the home, away from environments that best produce outgoing, healthy, happy, creative children. In a federally-sponsored analysis of more than 8,000 early childhood studies, Moore Foundation concluded that the United States is rushing its little ones out of the home and into school long before most, particularly boys, are ready. [1] The effect on mental and emotional health is deeply disturbing. Dropout rates also are mute testimony, though in some cases, the dropout, like Thomas Edison, is more fortunate than those who stay.

From Piagetian specialist David Elkind in Boston to William Rohwer in Berkeley, Calif., top learning and development authorities warn that early formal school is burning out our children. Teachers who attempt to cope with these youngsters also are burning out. The learning tools of the average child who enrolls today between the ages of four and six or seven are neither tempered nor sharp enough for the structured academic tasks that increasingly are thrown at them. Worse still, we destroy positive sociability.

The sequence for the average child these days often spells disaster for both mental and physical health in a sure sequence:1) uncertainly as the child leaves the family nest early for a less secure environment, 2) puzzlement at the new pressures and restrictions of the classroom, 3) frustration because unready learning tools — senses, cognition, brain hemispheres, coordination — cannot handle the regimentation of formal lessons and the pressures they bring, 4) hyperactivity growing out of nerves and jitter, from frustration, 5) failure which quite naturally flows from the four experiences above, and 6) delinquency which is failure’s twin and apparently for the same reason.

RESEARCH

Indifference to the mental and emotional health of children is not new. The pages of history outline great cycles that began with vigorous cultures awaking to the needs of children and ending with surrender of family ties and the death of societies and empires.

Research provides a link from past to present and provides a moving perspective on children today. Persuasive reasons exist for declining literacy, academic failures, widespread delinquency, and rampant peer dependency. All four act in concert to deny our goal of happy, confident children who are healthy in body, mind, and spirit.

Whether or not we can be conclusive about causes, America’s decline in literacy from the estimated 90 percentiles in the last century to the 50 percentiles today parallels the parental scramble to institutionalize children at ever younger ages. [2]

Achievement

The Moore Foundation analyses [1] concluded that, where possible, children should be withheld from formal schooling until at least ages eight – ten. Elkind [3] warned against student burnout which has become pervasive in American schools. Rohwer [4] agreed, basing his conclusions in part on investigations in 12 countries by Sweden’s Torsten Husen. Husen subsequently confirmed Rohwer’s perceptions, according to a letter from Husen, Nov. 23, 1972. Rohwer, with deep concern for conceptual demands of reading and arithmetic, offered a solution:

“All of the learning necessary for success in high school can be accomplished in only two or three years of formal skill study. Delaying mandatory instruction in the basic skills until the junior high school years could mean academic success for millions of school children who are doomed to failure under the traditional school system.”

Torsten Husen: Conversations in Comparative Education

This solution would delay school entrance at least until the child is 11 or 12, ages which become critical.

In face of present practice, how can these remarks be justified, bearing in mind that the present and future health of the child is at stake? First, children normally are not mature enough for formal school programs until their senses, coordination, neurological development, and cognition are ready. Piagetian experiments have shown repeatedly that cognitive maturity may not come until close to age 12.

Interestingly, the ancient Bar Mitzvah of the Orthodox Jew provided no schooling until after age 12 when the child was considered able to accept full responsibility for his actions. Fisher, then considered dean of American psychiatrists, wrote in 1950 how he started school at 13, unable to read or write. Graduating from a Boston high school at 16, he thought he was a genius until he found that any “normal” child could do it. He added, “if a child could be assured of a wholesome home life and proper physical development, this might provide the answer to … a shortage of qualified teachers.” [5]

Nearly a century ago, Dewey [6] called for school entry at age eight or later. A half century ago, Skeels [7] proved that loving, though retarded, teenagers made remarkably good teachers.  A quarter century ago, Geber [8] demonstrated that mothers in the African bush brought up children who were more socially and mentally alert than youngsters of the elite who could afford preschool. Warmth was the key.

Still later, Mermelstein and others [9] proved that, at least until ages nine or ten, children who went to school did no better than those who did not attend school. De Rebello (unpublished data, January 1985) reported that dropouts who find employment are ahead of their peers in mental and social perception.

Few conventional educators understand this situation. We do not understand fully the damage of frustration nor denial of free exploration, nor the value of warmth as a learning motivator, nor yet the tutorial method which historically never has been equaled.

A UCLA study [10] of 1,016 public schools found that teachers averaged about seven minutes daily in personal exchanges with their students. This would allow for no more than one or two personal responses for each student. In contrast, our counts of daily responses in typical home schools ranged from about 100 to more than 300.

We should not be shocked then by the Smithsonian Report [11] on genius which offered a three -part recipe for high achievement, consisting of 1) much time spent with warm, responsive parents and other adults, 2) very little time spent with peers, and 3) a great deal of free exploration under parental guidance.

Study director Harold McCurdy concluded:

“the mass education of our public school system is, in its way, a vast experiment on reducing … all three factors to a minimum; accordingly, it should tend to suppress the occurrence of genius.” [11]

At the Moore Foundation we recently obtained the court-approved standardized test scores of children whose mothers or fathers were arrested for teaching at home. Most parents were of low socio-economic status with less formal education than usual, yet , the children averaged 80.1%, or 30 percentile ranks higher than the nation’s average classroom child.

Very young children do indeed learn very fast, as is commonly believed, yet only in proportion to their maturity.

The child who combines cognitive maturity with eight – ten years more of free exploration has developed thousands of “learning hooks” and an ability to reason consistently which is impossible for the younger child. Without this maturity, and confined to a classroom, the child often becomes anxious, frustrated, and eventually learning disabled.

Sociability

The common assumption these days is that well – socialized children require the association schools afford. Replicable evidence clearly points the other way. Cornell studies [12] found that children who spend more elective time with their peers than with their parents until the fifth or sixth grades — about ages 11 or 12 — will become peer dependent. Such “knuckling under” to peer values incurs four losses crucial to sound mental health and a positive sociability. These losses are self worth, optimism, respect for parents, and trust in peers.

The loss to boys is of particular concern academically, behaviorally, and socially. Despite their widely-acknowledged delay in maturity, we demand their enrollment in school at the same ages as girls. In recent years, many reports suggest that boys are several times as likely as girls to fail, become delinquent, or acutely hyperactive. Perhaps most ominous are recent (Education Week, March 14, 1984, p. 19) findings in American high schools that there are eight boys for each girl in classes for the emotionally impaired, and 13 boys for each girl are in remedial learning groups. Self worth, male identity, and respect for women are lost—unfortunate outcomes especially in today’s society.

A COMMON SENSE SOLUTION

We need more parent education and less institutionalizing of young children.

In the home school renaissance, hundreds of thousands of parents have re-evaluated their child-rearing roles and have begun to study warmly their children’s developmental needs. The result is higher achieving, better behaving, self-directed children.

Some demur, pointing to Head Start. Yet, the Ypsilanti study, the only long -range experiment consistently upholding Head Start, involves the home far more than typical programs. Even such key Head Start founders as Bloom and Nimnicht now laud the home as the best learning nest and parents as the best teachers. [13,14] In physical health and behavior — in exposure to disease (Wall Street Journal, Sept. 5, 1984) and to negative aggressive acts — the home is 15 times as safe as the average day care center.[15]

Several suggestions can help us improve the mental and emotional health of our children:

1) More of home and less of formal school;

2) More free exploration with the guidance of warm, responsive parents and fewer limits of classrooms and books;

3) More concern for readiness for learning and ability to think and less training to be simple repeaters;

4) More attention to educating parents and less to institutionalizing young children;

5) More and higher priorities to child-rearing and fewer to material wants; and

6) More old fashion chores —children working with parents—and less attention to rivalry sports and amusements.

To some educators and parents such ideas may appear prosaic or dull—like the backyard Al Hafed left. Yet, everyone likes diamonds, and that backyard can be an exciting place.

Anything else may be more child abuse than education.

References

1. Moore RS: School Can Wait. Provo, Utah, Brigham Young University Press, 1979, pp 175-186

2. The Adult Performance Level Project (APL). Austin, Texas, University of Texas, 1983

3. Elkind D: The case for the academic preschool: Fact or fiction: Young Child 1970; 25:180-188.

4. Rohwer WD Jr.: Prime time for education: Early childhood or adolescence? Harvard Education Rev 1971;41:316-341

5. Fisher JT, Hawley LSH: A Few Buttons Missing. Philadelphia JB Lippincott, 1951, p 14.

6. Dewey J: The primary education fetish. Forum 1898; 25:314-328

7. Skeels HM: Adult Status of Children with Contrasting Early Life Experiences: A follow-up study. Chicago, Univ. of Chicago Press, 1966.

8. Geber M: The psycho-motor development of African children in the first year, and the influence of maternal behavior. J Soc Psychol 1958;47: 185-195

9. Mermelstein E, Shulman LS: Lack of formal schooling and the acquisition of conversation. Child Dev 1967;38:39-52

10. Goodlad JI: A study of schooling: Some findings and hypotheses. Phi Delta Kappan 1983;64(7):465

11. McCurdy HG: The childhood pattern of genius. Horizon 1960;2:33-38

12. Bronfenbrenner U: Two Worlds of Childhood; US and USSR. New York, Simon and Schuster, 1970,pp97-101.

13. Bloom BS: All Our Children Learning. Wash. DC, McGraw-Hill, 1980

14. Hoffman BH: Do you know how to play with your child? Women’s Day 1972;46:118-120.

15. Farran D: Now for the bad news….Parents Magazine 1982 (Sept.)

Journal of School Health February 1986, Vol. 56, No. 2 73

— — — —

Thank you, Raymond and Dorothy Moore.

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One response to “Children need more parental warmth and less institutionalization

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  1. Going through the developmental literature would take too long here, but the only caveat I have on this is that children can and should learn to read and do basic arithmetic before grade 4. I imagine the Moores would agree.

    A friend teaches in an elite DC private school that does not start until fourth grade. They say kids until about age 8 should be home with their mothers. All they need is a reader at age 9, and they get them to the top of the world in a few years, just fine.

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