Archive for the ‘anti-family’ Tag

Lessons Learned from Sweden: Mireja Institute Calls Early Childhood Education Anti-Family   3 comments

  In light of Utah’s senator Aaron Osmond’s new early education bill in Utah, and similar U.S. errors happening nationwide, I think it’s appropriate to study the Mireja Institute website, with its many articles documenting the errors and lessons learned from Swedish  researchers who study problems of anti-family governmental policies, including early separation of children from parents.

Thank you to Jonas Himmelstrand of the Mireja Institute.

http://www.mireja.org/Resources/himmelstrand_lisbon_statement.pdf

The following article addresses how early childhood education hurts families.

Are the Swedish State family policies delivering?

by Jonas Himmelstrand
Member of the Haro national board, Sweden, http://www.haro.se.

 Lisbon May 25-27, 2010
in the Focus group of the Existential field: State Family Policies

Contact information:
Jonas Himmelstrand
Box 1837
SE-751 48 UPPSALA, Sweden
E-mail: jonas.himmelstrand@mac.com
Phone: +46 18 10 14 50
3 (18)

_____________________________________________________________

Professor Kimmo Jokinen from Finland ended his presentation this morning by saying that Sweden is regarded as the perfected welfare State with the best State family policies. This is indeed the picture that Sweden enjoys worldwide.

I will challenge that picture with statistical information and with observations from my professional and personal experiences in Sweden. My conclusion will be that the Swedish model should be researched carefully by people from outside Sweden if anyone is truly to know what the model actually delivers.

Most of you are familiar with the Swedish model. Our daycare is subsidised up to 90% by the State. A place in daycare is guaranteed within three months for any requesting parent of a child between ages 1 and 5. Sometimes the demand for daycare expands so
quickly there is no time to build new buildings. Instead we now have daycare centres on buses, which are promoted to the public with the idea that it is good for children to travel around and see new environments.

Sweden has a definite trend of de-familiarisation. This is openly stated as being a good thing, because parents are not deemed able to train and foster the development of their children on their own. State intervention is deemed necessary from one year of age on.
This has been a very clear message, voiced continuously by our State institutions, and it is now a part of Swedish culture.

This message also takes the form of encouragement to go to work directly after a mother’s 16-month parental leave. When a mother takes her soon to be one year-old baby for a medical check-up she will typically be asked: ”How do you feel now about going back
to work soon, because you are going back to work aren’t you?” When the child is 18  months of age many nurses will say: ”You really need to go back to work now, because your child needs to be in daycare and you need to work.”

Now deeply rooted in the culture in Sweden is the notion that State professional care is needed for a child to develop properly and that family care is not enough. At the foundation of this argument you typically find notions of gender equality, in Sweden only
seen as women working in paid employment equally as much as men.

Let me provide some background information to help you understand how I came from a focus on management consultancy and training to concerns about State family policies and child development. I have been a self-employed management consultant
for nearly 30 years. About ten years ago I was struck by the increasing frequency and intensity that people in Sweden were getting burnt-out in their jobs. In nearly every work place where I intervened, I would hear the story of an enthusiastic co-worker
who had ”hit the wall” as it is expressed in Sweden. At the same period in time a large political debate was in process on the subject of sick-leave. Sweden had the highest sick-leave in all of Europe in the years around 2002, and still ranks among the highest.

The facts seemed incongruous. Sweden being materially rich and having admired social policies should not be having these problems. Also at the time I was leading study days for faculty in the public schools, and teachers kept coming and saying to me: ”The  psychological health of our pupils has deteriorated alarmingly in the last 20 years. We don’t know what to do any more. How do we manage this in our classrooms? What is happening in our society?”

At the same time as the high sick-leave rates were being debated there were young mothers in my training groups who had just come back to work with a one year old child now in daycare. Again and again they were saying: ”I felt so bad leaving my child to daycare, only one year old, and so small and tender.” The hidden, unexpressed question seemed to be: ”Can this really be the right thing to do?” As an management consultant I asked myself how productive these women could be when they were feeling so much guilt and stress inside. Such guilt is one more added factor of stress and increases the likelihood of succumbing to a stress related infection or disease and going on sickleave.

I saw other signals of societal change. Among other sorts of workshops, I give training on presentation technique. This training can be quite stressful, especially when we use a video camera. Over the years I noticed changes in how participants behaved. I began
my workshops of this kind in the mid-eighties. Participants were mainly 25 to 30 years old, born in the sixties, and they were becoming managers. In the early days, participants did not really have a problem with the training. They thought my courses were a
bit tough because the expectation to become inspiring presenters stretched them and it was a challenging experience to be filmed. But almost all of them were basically okay with the situation. By the end of the nineties I was receiving trainees from a later generation born in the seventies. The training process became more difficult. On nearly every course there was a participant or two with serious self-esteem issues. These were still highly educated people, often with a masters degree in business administration
or similar. Every now and then, it began to happen that a participant would leave the course early, because the experience had become too stressful for them. This had never happened in the eighties.

I began asking myself, ”Am I starting to get a generation with greater difficulties to handle this typical personal growth stress? Why could this be happening? What is it in our life that sets our threshold for handling stress? When does it happen?”
These experiences and others and the questions they provoked drove me to try and understand what was happening and to write my book about it. My investigation led back to our youngest age and earliest experiences in life. I have three children of my
own who have been at home most of the time, and during this investigation, my experience with them has been a form of personal reference. If my book had an English title it would be “Following your heart – in the social utopia of Sweden.”

A shorter version of the book in English may become available in the future. To finish my personal introduction, in addition to my consultancy and being on the Haro national board, I also run a small think-tank, The Mireja Institute, and I am the president of the Swedish Association for Home Education known – Rohus.

Let us now turn to Swedish statistics. First let’s look at the well-known Swedish statistics that has made Swedish social policies famous.

• Sweden has the lowest infant mortality in the world. In Sweden we take care of pregnancy relatively well and pregnant mothers will easily find support in our public medical system. There are only three deaths among a thousand children before the age
of five. No country has a lower number than this.
• Swedish people enjoy a long life expectancy. A Swedish man’s life is on average 79 years, and a women’s is 83 years. Still, Japanese women live even longer with an 86 year life expectancy.
• Sweden has a relatively high birth rate in the European context with 1.7 children per woman of child rearing age, although I hear that Finland is now surpassing Sweden. Many other European countries have a much lower birth rate. But 1.7 is a quantity
measure. Based on what I will share later in this presentation it makes sense to also add a quality measure. Are we actually producing a next generation which has the psychological maturity, and the ability to handle stress, that life in a future knowledge society
will require? I will let that be an open question for now.
• Sweden has a low level of child poverty: 13%. It is not as low as one may expect, but it is still lower than the European average.
• Sweden has a very high spending on education. We have among the highest expenditures per child, if not the highest, whether in daycare or in school. But we are not getting the learning results from that spending that we should be getting.
• Sweden has a strong culture of equality and gender equality. The Nordic countries have hardly ever had any class system, so there is a strong tradition of equality. Also gender equality has a very strong position in our public debate since about 30 years
back.
• Perhaps someone can contradict me, but Swedes say that we have the best parental leave in the world. We have 13 months at 80% of our salary up to a certain level, with an additional 90 days at a lower level. Perhaps this makes people believe that Sweden is
the best country for families. What most people outside of Sweden don’t understand, however, is that after these 16 months the door closes. Finland has a general home care allowance. Other countries have lower taxes or tax benefits making home care financially
possible. During the last two years in Sweden there has been an allowance which is not national and only discretionary for every municipality. The allowance is small by Swedish standards, about 300 euros per month, with no pension benefits. Only one
third of all Swedish municipalities currently offer this home care allowance. This voluntary allowance is not fully supported by Parliament. If there is a shift in Government in this year’s coming elections, the home care allowance will probably be taken away
completely. Other than this there are no tax benefits of any kind for parents not wanting to use the public daycare system.
The Swedish system is designed for the dual earner household. This is the expressed policy of our Government and is supported by both sides of the political spectrum.

Our current Government calls it the ”work policy” and signifies that everybody should be engaged in full-time paid employment after parental leave. Most parties also argue that parental leave should ideally be split in half between the mother and the father,
and some parties want to make such an equal split a requirement. Now let us take a look at the neutral statistics.

The neutral statistics

• Close to 90% of all children between 18 months and 5 year old are in daycare, often for 6 to 10 hours a day. There are even cases of 11 hours per day. Depending on your values, this can either make you happy, because it shows that Sweden has managed to
implement a system of daycare for nearly every child. But it can also make you sad. A couple of weeks ago I was at a family conference with child psychologists and family counsellors in Canada. They were in tears about these facts.
• Daycare group sizes for the under-3s are never below 10 children, except perhaps in some transitory phases. In the eighties the group size for small children was regulated to 10 children or fewer. But since the responsibility for daycare was moved to the
Ministry of Education there are no longer any national regulations on either group size or child-to-staff ratios. According to regulations, quality has to be good, but it is up to every municipality to decide what ”good quality” means. The consequence is typically that the finances of the municipality determine daycare group sizes and child-to-staff ratios. A common group size for the under-3s is 14 children, but there are groups of up to 17 small children. Such groups often have three staff, of which one may be part-time. When one of the staff is on sick-leave, which is common among day-care staff and pre-school teachers, there is often no replacement for financial reasons. There are even situations where there is only one staff for 17 small children below three years of age. Three Swedish experts recently wrote a book collecting all these statistics. Their conclusion is that Swedish daycare is no longer of the quality required for a healthy development in children. They say there are many children at risk because our daycare is no
longer of sufficient quality. It should be added that these three experts all hold a positive general view on daycare.
• The average daycare child-to-staff ratio for all ages is 5:1. This is pretty good for older children. But Swedish daycare regulations lack awareness that the under-3s demand much more adult attachment – and thereby higher staff-to-child ratios – than
older children. Awareness of this fact is more profound in other countries, for example in England and the US. In the US there are recommendations of child-to-staff ratios of 3:1 or 4:1 for smaller children in group sizes of six or eight children. Some states in
the US have implemented these recommendations. In England there are regulations of similar child-to-staff ratios for small children.
Sweden has no regulations on child-to-staff ratios, and ratios of 7:1 and even 10:1 do exist in Swedish daycare.
• The cost of the Swedish daycare system, according to a recent study by the Swedish Parliament research department, is 􀂪 15000 per child per year, of which more than 90% is paid by the State. When you consider the group sizes and child-to-staff ratios
mentioned above, you realise that bringing Swedish daycare to high quality for under- 3s would probably bring the price tag close to 􀂪 25000 per child per year. Of course, the question then is at what price is it more profitable to pay the parents to take care
of their own children rather than put the children in daycare and send both parents to work. The price of high quality daycare for the under 3s could provide a fairly generous home care allowance.
• Our present centre-right government is presenting a new school law expected to be passed by Parliament in June. The new school law further strengthens the ideas that the State fosters child development better than parents and that daycare is a form of
school. The new school law will severely restrict home education, which has become a growing and very successful educational trend in the Western world. Home education is already highly restricted in Sweden compared to most other countries in Europe.
Also pupils will be severely restricted from obtaining time off from school during winter to join their family for a long family trip, thus lessening the opportunities for families to have common family experiences. The penalties for breaking the school law will
be fines. The new law also makes prison a possibility. One member of Parliament has raised the concern that making daycare a form of school, could be a first step to making daycare compulsory in Sweden.
This brings us to the more uncomfortable statistics.

The uncomfortable statistics

• During the last 30 years Sweden has seen a severe decline in the psychological health among our youth. Mild psychological disorders such as re occurring headaches, stomach aches, worries and anxiety have tripled from about 9% to 30% since the eighties
for girls, and slightly less for boys. Several studies by Government institutions confirm these statistics. However, no plausible official explanation has been given.
During the years 1986-2002 the psychological health for 15 year old’s in Sweden declined faster than in ten other comparable countries: Finland, Denmark, Norway, Hungary, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, Wales, Spain and Scotland.
• Sweden has very high rates of sick-leave, especially among women, and particularly among women over 50 years of age, statistics which are at the top in Europe. Psychosocial explanations dominate. Few women today actually work until 65 years of age.
Many take early retirement of some form as soon as age 55. This is, of course, the first generation of women who have had to combine motherhood with full-time work, excepting for parental leave. These data are shown in a study published in the Swedish
medical journal, Läkartidningen in 2005.
• Educational outcomes in Swedish schools are plummeting. Twenty-five years ago  Swedish children were among the best in the world in reading, writing and mathematics. Today, we just about make it to average, and in mathematics we are below average.
• Swedish schools have severe discipline problems. According to our present Minister of Education, Jan Björklund, Swedish schools have among the highest truancy, the greatest classroom disorder, the most damage to property and the most offensive language
of all comparable nations. Björklund has been criticised for exaggerating, but official reports confirm that these problems in Swedish schools are significant. Also, one who visits Swedish schools for professional reasons can bear witness to the situation.
• The parental skills of Swedish parents are deteriorating. Britta Johansson was one of several researchers in a EU-sponsored study of Swedish schools and daycare. One thousand five hundred teachers and daycare staff were interviewed. Britta Johansson
wrote an article about the results in one of Sweden’s national morning papers, Svenska Dagbladet. The interviewed educators voiced deep concern about the lack of parental skills in the parents of their pupils. The survey results showed that even healthy, intelligent
and reasonable Swedish parents have difficulties in being parents today. According to Britta Johansson they lack knowledge about children’s needs and they cannot set limits. She writes (my translation): The public offer of full day child care seems to make many parents lose the grip on their own responsibility. They trust that their children are better fostered by the pre-school and school and that the experts on their children are found there. Britta Johansson also says that pre-school and school cannot fill the gaps caused by lack of parental time with their children and trust in parents role in rearing their children.
• Sweden has a highly segregated labour market, with men mostly working in the private sector with reasonable salaries, and women mostly working in the public sector at low salaries. Many women never made their own choice to work, rather they were more
or less pushed into the labour market when the tax benefits for families with home mothers were abolished in 1971. Even forty years afterward, today’s polls regularly show that a majority of Swedes would prefer the financial possibility for parents to be
at home with their children for the first four years.

Possible causes based on current knowledge

I will now offer an attempt to explain the possible causes of these statistics using some available theoretical models.
• Today we know from child psychology and neuroscience that early separation of infants from parents can create chronically low thresholds for stress in some children. This can lower the threshold for anxiety for the rest of the child’s life. Early separation
would be expected to lead to a less resilient future generation. Medical technology today can actually measure stress levels in the saliva easily and clearly, making stress research easy to perform, also in small children.
• We also know today that early exposure to large groups of peers leads to peer-orientation, which has detrimental results on psychological maturation, learning, and the transference of culture between generations. Canadian psychologist Dr. Gordon Neufeld
has explored in detail the causal connections of the sorts of phenomena we have been discussing. His work is reported in his book Hold on to your kids – why parents need to matter more than peers.
How does peer-orientation happen? Consider a typical day in the life of a ten year old in a Stockholm suburb. The child is left by his parents at 7.00 in the morning at  the school for before-school-child-care. When school begins the child is already tired
and hungry. After a long day in school there is after-school-child-care while the child waits for the tired parents to return at perhaps 5.00 or 6.00 in the late afternoon. In the evening the child may be having another activity outside home, which most ambitious
Swedish parents believe is good for their children. Where does the child find emotional security? One needs someone for comfort and closeness. The parents are inaccessible for too long. In the best case scenario there will be a caring adult in school. But for
most children it will be a peer or a gang which offers emotional support during school hours. This is the genesis of peer orientation. It fills the lack of meaningful relationships with trusted adults interested in the development of the child. The problem with peer
orientation is that peers, especially during the teens, do not have the maturity themselves to handle the difficult feelings about differences, conflicts, failure, rejection and deceit. The limited maturity of peer-orientation results in conformism, gangs, bullying,
aggression, and sometimes violence. Also as youngsters attach themselves to peers, they are in the process emotionally detaching themselves from the adult world, including their parents.
• The culturally endorsed separation of infants in Sweden causes stress in parents, manifested in many as sick-leave. According to a meta-study by Dean Ornish, M.D, high-quality, close relationships are the strongest health factor, superior to and more
important than all other health factors combined. In Sweden we don’t have much time for close relationships in families. The high frequency of stress related disease can be seen as a consequence. According to research by Sir Michael Marmot too little control over one’s personal life situation is another risk factor to health. Through its family policies Sweden has given
the State a controlling position in the bedroom of every Swedish family – a clear risk factor to health.
• High levels of State intervention in family life reduce parents’ sense of responsibility for their children. Swedish Governmental agencies have been very successful in promoting the idea of daycare as more than a convenience and as the best child care solution
for everyone. Unfortunately, unintended drawbacks and consequences have not been anticipated. When parents loose their sense of responsibility, they do not develop in younger years the strong relationships with their children which are essential for them to provide guidance to them especially through adolescence.

Effects on democracy

The three experts on daycare referred to previously also raise a sensitive subject about our democracy. They report that discussing this whole issue is very difficult in Sweden because it brings up feelings of guilt in parents. The Swedish people have had the
daycare solution largely forced upon them both culturally and financially after parental leave. They seldom made their own considered choice because of lack of options. They saw no choice but to accept the situation and suppress their feelings, and they don’t want to be reminded of this. Similarly, the media seldom discuss this topic. One might compare the Swedish situation to a dysfunctional family where everyone may know that daddy drinks to much, but no one admits it. They cover it up because talking about it is too uncomfortable. In Sweden most people know in their hearts that our family policies are seldom in our children’s best interest, but no one talks about it. It is simply too painful.

I confess that it would be nearly impossible in Sweden to have a presentation like this one, except for certain specialised groups. These matters are not supposed to be talked about. It makes parents uncomfortable to awaken the thought that they may not have
made the choice they wanted, so they get defensive. Staff at daycare centres do not tell parents of the hardships their child may have suffered during the day because they do not want to disturb the parents feelings. Instead they say that the day was wonderful
even it is was not, and even if the child had to face some painful situations. There are many witnesses of this behaviour. The three experts write extensively about it. I have seen it myself. I get told completely different stories whether I go to daycare in the role
of a parent or in the role of a consultant.

This means that we have created a family policy that is difficult, or not at all possible to discuss through normal democratic processes. This is in itself is a serious democratic problem. A democratic country should never implement policies that cannot be discussed through democratic means.

The concluding hypothesis

My concluding hypothesis is that Swedish State family policies are not emotionally sustainable, and thus not sustainable in either health, psychological maturation or learning.

Quality of parenthood is very strongly a matter of intergenerational inheritance, and we are already seeing definite problems in the Swedish parental generation today. Many of them have never had a close relationship with their mother or father in the way that
their grandparents had. Swedish State family policies may not even be democratically sustainable as there are definite difficulties in even discussing these policies.

The consequences of Swedish family policies should therefore be investigated through thorough, comprehensive, and comparative procedures conducted by research institutions outside Sweden before any other nations attempt to copy the Swedish State family
policies.

—Jonas Himmelstrand, May 2010

Sources

”Att följa sitt hjärta – i jantelagens Sverige”, by Jonas Himmelstrand. ISBN 978-91- 975836-1-9. Swedish. (Swedish book title: ”Following your heart – in the social utopia of Sweden”.)
English link: http://www.thehappycompany.eu/follow_heart.html ”Ungdomar, stress och psykisk ohälsa”, SOU 2006:77.
(Swedish Government publication on ”Youth, stress and psykological ill health”.)
Swedish link: http://www.regeringen.se/sb/d/6293/a/67472
”Vem orkar ända till 65? Inte kvinnorna – mer än hälften avslutar arbetslivet i förtid”, by Kristina Orth-Gomér et al. Läkartidningen nr 34, 2005, volym 102. (Swedish medical journal, presentation of research on middle-aged womens sick leave and early retirement.)
Swedish Link: http://cat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN&cpsidt=17054366 ”TIMSS 2007: Försämrade skolresultat i matematik för svenska elever”, Skolverket, pressmeddelande december 2008. (Swedish Government Education Agency on plummeting
results in maths and science in Swedish schools.) Swedish link: http://www.skolverket.se/sb/d/2006/a/14303
”Att våga sätta gränser”, by Britta Johansson, SvD 070126. (Swedish researcher on Swedish middle-class parents difficulties in their parenting role.) Swedish link: http://www.svd.se/opinion/brannpunkt/artikel_195247.svd ”Why Love Matters – How affection shapes a baby’s brain”, by Sue Gerhardt. Brunner-Routledge 2004. ISBN 1-58391-817-5. English link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1583918175
Read more: http://www.stratletter.com/brev.lasso?id=324557917262356
”Förskola för de allra minsta – på gott och ont”, by Magnus Kihlbom, Birgitta Lidholt and Gunilla Niss. Carlssons förlag 2009. ISBN 978-91-7331-267-7. (Three leading Swedish daycare experts about the severely decreasing quality in Swedish daycare.) Swedish link: http://www.mynewsdesk.com/se/pressroom/carlssonbokforlag/ pressrelease/view/dagens-foerskola-paa-gott-och-ont-349038
”Are There Long-Term Effects of Early Child Care?” by NICHD Early Child Care
Research Network. Child Development vol. 78 Issue 2 Page 681-701, Mars/April-07.
English link: http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/117957245/abstract?CRETR Y=1&SRETRY=0
”Stress in Daycare”, by Sir Richard Bowlby. Social Baby.com.
English link: http://socialbaby.blogspot.com/2007/04/richard-bowlby-stress-in-daycare.
html
”Hold on to your kids – why parents need to matter more than peers”, by Dr. Gordon Neufeld. ISBN 0-375-50821-X.
English link: http://www.gordonneufeld.com/book.php
Read more: http://www.stratletter.com/mna.lasso?id=371631139072144 ”Love and Survival – How good relationships can bring you health and well-being”, by Dr. Dean Ornish. Vermilion 2001. ISBN 0-09-185704-X.  English link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/009185704X
”Status Syndrome – How your social standing directly affects your health”, by Michael Marmot. Bloomsbury Publishing 2005. ISBN 0747574081. English link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0747574081 Read more: http://www.stratletter.com/mna.lasso?id=272422439552148
”Home Schooling and the Question of Socialization”, by professor Richard G. Medlin.
Peabody Journal of Education, 75 (1&2 ), 107-123. 2000. English link: http://www.
informaworld.com/smpp/content~content=a785831043~db=all
”Full daycare – national standards för under 8s daycare and childminding.” (England)
English link: http://publications.teachernet.gov.uk/default.aspx?PageFunction=productdetails&PageMode=publications&ProductId=DfES+0651+2003&
”National Health and Safety Performance Standards: Guidelines for Out-of-Home
Child Care Programs.” (USA) English link: http://aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/ccquality-ind02/#Staff1

Links

• Haro – Swedish organisation for freedom of choice, equality and parenthood,
http://www.haro.se
• Jonas Himmelstands speech on the future role of family; at a seminar in the Swedish
Parliament December 8, 2008. http://www.stratletter.com/dec10speech.html
• Mireja – The Mireja Institute, welfare and development through family,
http://www.mireja.org
• Rohus – The Swedish Association for Home Education, http://www.rohus.nu
• Articles in English by Jonas Himmelstrand, http://www.mireja.org/articles.html

Resource List   Leave a comment

Donna Garner has put together a list of resources for those who are just beginning the fight against the Common Core dissolution of sovereignty over American education.

  Thank you, Donna.

http://nocompromisepac.ning.com/profiles/blog/show?id=6457500%3ABlogPost%3A28400

9.25.12 — “Mitt Romney Takes Stand Against Common Core at Education Nation Summit” — http://caffeinatedthoughts.com/2012/09/mitt-romney-common-core-educ…

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9.25.12 — “Romney: No Federal Support for Common Core” by Alyson Klein, EducationWeek http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/campaign-k-12/2012/09/mitt_romney_do…

CHRONOLOGICAL LIST OF ANTI-CCSI RESOURCES

(Most Recent First)

10.11.12 – “Is Common Core About To Melt Down” – by Neal McCluskey, Cato Institute —

http://www.cato-at-liberty.org/is-common-core-about-to-melt-down/

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10.9.12 –“Like Obamacare, Obama Core Is Another Power Grab” — by Phyllis Schlafly, President of Eagle Forum —  http://nocompromisepac.ning.com/profiles/blogs/like-obamacare-obama…

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9.30.12 – “Uncommon Allies Question a Common Core” – Editorial Board, JournalGazette.net — http://www.journalgazette.net/article/20120930/EDIT10/309309979/114…

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9.28.12 – “States Beginning To Rebel Against Common Core Standards” — http://nocompromisepac.ning.com/profiles/blogs/states-beginning-to-…

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9.28.12 – “South Carolina Could Regret Student Testing Scheme” – by Sen. Mike Fair – The State – South Crolina’s Homepage http://www.thestate.com/2012/09/28/v-print/2459190/fair-sc-could-re…

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9.27.12 – “The Pedagogical Agenda of Common Core Math Standards” by Barry Garelick  — EducationNews.org —

http://www.educationnews.org/education-policy-and-politics/the-peda…

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9.23.12 – “Do Not Let the DOE Nationalize the Schools in Your State” – by Henry W. Burke, Donna Garner —

http://educationviews.org/do-not-let-the-doe-nationalize-the-school…

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9.14.12 – “Fighting the Common Core Standards’ Social Justice Math” – by Oak Norton —

http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/jordan-sd-rips-out-unsolvabl…

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9.14.12 – “Nationalized Public Schools Almost Here in America”  — by Donna Garner —

http://educationviews.org/nationalized-public-schools-almost-here-i…

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9.10.12 — “Obama’s Inferior English Common Core Standards” – by Donna Garner —

http://educationviews.org/obamas-inferior-english-common-core-stand…

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9.7.12 – “Should the White House Control What Your Kids Learn?” by Stanley Kurtz —

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2012/09/07/should-white-house-contro…

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9.5.12 — “How To Indoctrinate Students’ Minds with Math” by Donna Garner —

http://educationviews.org/how-to-indoctrinate-students-minds-with-m…

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8.27.12 – “Parents Need To Know About Student Data Privacy” by J. R. Wilson — EducationNews.org

http://www.educationnews.org/parenting/jr-wilson-parents-need-to-kn…

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8.15.12 – “An Ominous Political Trend for Common Core-ites” – by Frederick M. Hess – Education Week

http://www.frederickhess.org/2012/08/an-ominous-political-trend-for…

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8.12.12 – “Utah Teachers Speak out Against the Obama Administration’s Common Core Standards” – Utahns Against Common Core — http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/teacher-comments-on-common-c…

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8.5.12 – “Caring Parents, Where Are You? – Common Core Standards and Big Bang Theory” – by Donna Garner —

http://libertylinked.com/posts/10007/caring-parents-where-are/View….

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5.16.12 – “Incoming College Board Head Wants SAT To Reflect Common Core” – by Catherine Gewertz, Education Week http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2012/05/16/32collegeboard.h31.htm…

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4.23.12 – “Common Core Math Standards Fail To Add Up” by Evan Walter, The Heritage Foundation

http://blog.heritage.org/2012/04/23/common-core-math-standards-fail…

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4.17.12 – “Six-Minute Interview: Federal Takeover by the Obama Administration of  Education Standards and Assessments” – Lindsey Burke, The Heritage Foundation

http://online.wsj.com/video/opinion-standardizing-schools-/FA09455F…

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3.26.12 — “Two Education Philosophies with Two Different Goals”  — by  Donna Garner —

http://libertylinked.com/posts/9703/2-education-philosophies-with/V…

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3.6.12 – “Handwaving Away Opposition to the National Standards” by Jim Stergios , Pioneer Institute —

http://jaypgreene.com/2012/03/06/handwaving-away-opposition-to-the-…

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2.20.12 – “Obama Imposing National School Curriculum” – by Bob Unruh – World Net Daily

http://www.wnd.com/2012/02/obama-imposing-national-school-curriculum/

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2.12 – “National Cost of Aligning States and Localities to the Common Core Standards” – The Pioneer Institute and American Principles Project White Paper

http://www.pioneerinstitute.org/pdf/120222_CCSSICost.pdf

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12.28.11 – “Feds To Be Able to Track Your School Children’s Personal Information” by Donna Garner —

http://teabook.org/profiles/blogs/feds-to-be-able-to-track-your-sch…

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12.21.11 – “A National Education Standards Exit Strategy for States” – by Lindsey Burke —

http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2011/12/a-national-educati…

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10.27.11 – “Students Losing Their Right To Exress Their Opinions” – by Donna Garner —

http://libertylinked.com/posts/8754/students-losing-their-right/Vie…

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7.27.11 – “National Standards and Tests: An Unprecedented Federal Overreach”—The Heritage Foundation – Lindsey Burke, Robert Scott, et al —

http://www.heritage.org/events/2011/07/national-standards

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5.31.11 — “Liberals Interpret Themselves Liberally: Common Core Standards, Race to the Top” by Doug Lasken —

http://www.flashreport.org/featured-columns-library0b.php?faID=2011…

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5.28.11 — “A ‘Common’ Education Disaster” by Douglas Holtz-Eakin and Annie Hsiao — Politico.com ––  http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0511/55857.html#ixzz1NsJZQKOh

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5.26.11 — “Race to the Cradle” by Neal McCluskey, The Cato Institute — http://libertylinked.com/posts/7408/race-to-the-cradle—-by-neal/V…

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5.25.11 — “South Carolina Will Not Participate in Race to the Top” Spartanburg Tea Party —

http://www.spartanburgteaparty.org/2011/05/25/sc-will-not-participa…

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5.22.11 — “The Three-Legged Stool:  Obama, Duncan, Gates” by Donna Garner —

http://libertylinked.com/posts/7461/the-three-legged-stool/View.aspx

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5.9.11 — “Association of American Educators Signs on in Opposition to National Curriculum” —

http://www.educationnews.org/ed_reports/edu_assoc_articles/155783.html

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5.9.11 – “Why One Curriculum Is Bad for America” – by Jonathan Kantrowitz – 100+ signatories — http://blog.ctnews.com/kantrowitz/2011/05/09/why-one-national-curri…

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4.12.11 — “The Other Shoe Drops: National Testmakers Worried” — by Donna Garner —

http://www.educationnews.org/ednews_today/153790.html

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4.9.11 — “Congressmen: A Great Place To Cut Funding — National Assessments” — by Donna Garner — http://www.educationnews.org/political/153529.html

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4.6.11 — “Standards Overreach, or According to Plan?” — by Neal McCluskey —

http://www.cato-at-liberty.org/standards-overreach-or-according-to-…

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3.24.11 — “Obama’s Carrot and Stick Control of Our Nation’s Public Schools” – by Donna Garner —  http://www.educationnews.org/commentaries/152238.html

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3.20.11 — “Our Hope Rests with Congressman Kline” – by Donna Garner —

http://www.educationnews.org/commentaries/151843.html

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2.24.11 –“The Race to the Top Scheme” – by Henry W. Burke and Donna Garner —

http://www.educationnews.org/ednews_today/108436.html

2.24.11 — “Let’s Get Off the National Standards Train” by Henry W. Burke and Donna Garner —

http://alinahan.wordpress.com/2011/05/11/lets-get-off-the-national-…

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2.14.11 — “Let’s Get off the National Standards Train” —  by Henry W. Burke and Donna Garner —  http://alinahan.wordpress.com/2011/05/11/lets-get-off-the-national-…

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11.7.10 — “Open Letter to Parents, Legislators, School Personnel: Which Policy Are You Going To Promote?” —  http://www.educationnews.org/blogs/102489.html

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10.27.10 — “Bullying Agenda” —  by Donna Garner —

http://www.educationnews.org/commentaries/opinions_on_education/101…

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10.23.10 — “What Is the Centers for Disease Control?” – by Donna Garner — http://www.educationnews.org/breaking_news/health/101841.html

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9.16.10 — “Am I a Wacko Now?” – by Donna Garner — http://www.educationnews.org/commentaries/100137.html

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7.29.10 — “Stotsky on the Common Core Vote in Massachusetts” – by Dr. Sandra Stotsky

http://jaypgreene.com/2010/07/29/stotsky-on-the-common-core-vote-in…

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7.27.10 — “Where Have All the Caring Parents Gone?” – by Donna Garner –

http://www.educationnews.org/commentaries/insights_on_education/968…

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7.10 – “Common Core Standards Still Don’t Make the Grade” — a Pioneer Institute White Paper — http://www.pioneerinstitute.org/pdf/common_core_standards.pdf

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4.19.10 — “Marc Tucker’s Bologna” – by Donna Garner —http://www.educationnews.org/commentaries/89899.html

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3.4.10 — “Obama’s Doublespeak” —  by Donna Garner — 

http://ramparts360.wordpress.com/obama%E2%80%99s-doublespeak/

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3.10 — “Fair to Middling: A National Standards Progress Report” – by R. James Milgram and Sandra Stotsky  – The Pioneer Institute —

http://www.pioneerinstitute.org/pdf/100402_fair_to_middling.pdf

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2.10 – “Why Race to the Middle” by Sandra Stotsky and Ze’ev Wurman – The Pioneer Institute — http://www.pioneerinstitute.org/pdf/100223_why_race_to_the_middle.pdf

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1.29.10 — “Cradle-to-Career Plan by Obama and Duncan” —  by Donna Garner —

http://www.educationnews.org/ednews_today/39076.html

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1.13.10 — “Texas Tells Feds ‘Enough Is Enough’” —  by Donna Garner —

http://www.educationnews.org/ednews_today/29200.html

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12.11.09 — “Children and the Future of Our Country” – by Donna Garner — http://www.educationnews.org/blogs/7704.html

http://nocompromisepac.ning.com/profiles/blog/show?id=6457500%3ABlogPost%3A28400

Is Early Preschool Anti-Child and Anti-Family?   3 comments

Jonas Himmelstrand, Swedish education-freedom author, who was a guest on the Morgan Philpot radio show today, has recommended this article, wherein Dr. Gordon Neufelt explains why, rather than following the Swedish socialist model of preschool for the very young, children are better served when they start attending school later.

http://www.imfcanada.org/issues/nurturing-children-why-early-learning-does-not-help

Nurturing children: Why “early learning” doesn’t help

Children should start attending school later, not earlier, Canadian development psychologist Dr. Gordon Neufeld reveals. “Early learning” programs for young children have no benefits for kids, he adds. So why are governments running down the opposite track?

August 30, 2012  |  by Andrea Mrozek, Manager of Research and Communications, Institute of Marriage and Family Canada

“I want to make sure that my son learns how to get along with others,” one parent will say. Another will add, “My daughter is shy. I want her to be with other children, to help her come out of her shell.” A third might enthusiastically report that her child loves all her friends at daycare: “She can’t wait to go and spend time with them!”

These are just some of the things parents say when it comes to the benefits they see in the social settings that pre-schools, daycares and all-day kindergarten provide. Parents are rightly concerned about whether their children get along well with others.

However, is it true that early interaction with peers improves socialization for young children? Canadian developmental psychologist Dr. Gordon Neufeld says this is not the case, particularly in sending young children into “social” environments before they are ready. [1]

Defining socialization

The word socialization can mean different things to different people.

With regards to small children, Dr. Neufeld clarifies one thing that socialization is not: “Probably the greatest myth that has evolved is this idea that socializing with one’s equals leads to socialization.”

Developmental psychologist Urie Bronfenbrenner also clarifies what socialization is not: “It should be clear that being socialized is not necessarily the same as being civilized. Nazi youth were also products of a socialization process.” [2]

Socialization in childrearing means rendering children fit for society so that children can grow and mature into becoming contributing adults, who can respectfully interact with others in community, be it at work or home, with colleagues, family and friends.

Successful socialization is of particular interest where reports of bullying hit the media with some regularity. [3]

For Dr. Neufeld and his colleagues at The Neufeld Institute, socialization is more complex than simply being able to get along well with peers. [4] Socialization involves being able to get along with others while at the same time being true to oneself.

Getting there from here

Dr. Neufeld describes a teacher who is unable to express her views for fear of causing conflict. Picture a staff meeting, where this teacher chooses to stay silent rather than disagree. This may create the appearance that she is “really nice,” and able to get along well with others—something she may well tell her students to do as well. The reality is she may be unable to hold on to her own identity in face of conflict.

Constantly agreeing and being nice may, in fact, be immaturity in disguise. “You have to be separate enough so you can be with your equals without losing your distinctiveness,” says Dr. Neufeld.

He adds that someone who always “gets along” may not be able to handle diplomacy without a loss of integrity. If this form of mature self-expression can be hard for adults, how much more difficult is it for children?

“Premature socialization,” says Dr. Neufeld, “was always considered by developmentalists to be the greatest sin in raising children ….[w]hen you put children together prematurely before they can hold on to themselves, then they become like [the others] and it crushes the individuality rather than hones it.” [5]

A is for “attachment”

One of the issues with large numbers of little people in group care settings is the issue of peer orientation. This means having small children attach to their peers, rather than to adults.

The concept of attachment, developed primarily by psychologist John Bowlby, denotes the instinct that causes adults to care for children and children to receive that care. Successful early attachment is necessary for adult emotional development. In Bowlby’s words, attachment is the tendency “of human beings to make strong affectional bonds to particular others.” [6]

As humans, we are highly sociable creatures. But we identify some relationships as being higher priority, and are very particular about who takes that position. [7] It is through these connections that we develop a sense of self. [8]

And importantly, our high priority attachment figures (aka the people we see the most of and really love) are intended to be enduring. These are not people who should disappear from our lives, neither are strong attachments something small children should “grow out of.” [9]

This is one reason why daycare employees can never imitate the potent power of the parent: A job is a job, and employees change cities or jobs with some regularity.

Helen Ward is the president of a non-partisan, grassroots group called Kids First Parents Association. She highlights how attachment and socialization work together. “In order for children to grow up into the mature adults we desire them to be, they have to spend time with adults they are attached to, not their own likewise immature peers.” She goes on: “This means that if we take the attachment figure away—through death, illness, distractions, daycare, or any disruption in attachment relationships—and replace it with peer attachment  – puff – the kid will be a ‘lord of the flies’ type because the seemingly ‘socialized’ behaviour is simply copying, it is not ‘inside’ yet. It is developing, but can just as well ‘undevelop.’” [10]

If parents aren’t aware of this, they may interpret negative developments as positive. The three-year-old who can’t wait to be with his friends in daycare may in fact be on his way to becoming peer rather than parent attached, because being attached makes us want to be with those we are attached to.

The problem is that the more children are peer attached, the less attached they are to adults—and this can result in children becoming very hostile to being parented or taught.

Cultural flatlining

When small children spend too much time with their peers, they will imitate the features of those they see around them. Dr. Neufeld speaks of a “flatlining” of culture as a result. “We have a children’s culture of today. In Europe, there is a crisis, which is that youth are not integrating into mainstream society and people believe it is happening in North America as well.”

The question might also be whether they are integrating into a newly mainstream culture that is not altogether mature. “Children have become fit for a society that does not reproduce itself and does not contribute to the larger society as a whole,” says Dr. Neufeld. [11]

Supporting diversity

Diversity—creating it, respecting it and allowing it to flourish—is one of today’s most popular buzzwords, something to which we pay lip service. However, the early placement of children with as-of-yet undeveloped personalities in group daycare for long hours, when they aren’t able to “hold on to” their own special, unique personalities creates sameness, not individuality.

This is, in many instances, one of the reasons parents might choose to delay entry to school. In fact, for much of Canada’s history, children did not attend so-called “early learning programs;” school started at age six.

Ironically, some who advocate for homeschooling do so in order for proper socialization to occur. In Home Schooling and the Question of Socialization, author Richard G. Medlin highlights how healthy socialization does happen for homeschoolers, writing “home-schooled children are taking part in the daily routines of their communities. They are certainly not isolated; in fact, they associate with—and feel close to—all sorts of people.” [12]

Another researcher, Larry Edward Shyers, compared homeschooled children with those in traditional schooling for his PhD thesis at University of Florida. He found that with regards to self-esteem, there was no difference. [13]

The problem with children socializing at school, Ward says, is that children can be fickle in their friendships. “Kid’s ‘friends’ are not really ‘friends’ in any meaningful sense of the word. They are not mature people who can handle another’s pain or difference of opinion. Peers want you to be the same as them,” says Ward.

The result is less individual expression and less personal growth, she concludes.

Crushing the spirit of childhood

Back in 1988, child psychologist David Elkind wrote The Hurried Child, saying, “we are going through one of those periods in history, such as the early decades of the Industrial Revolution, when children are the unwilling victims of societal upheaval and change….Today’s child has become the unwilling, unintended victim of overwhelming stress.” [14]

Elkind worried that children are increasingly being treated like mini adults. In childhood as a replica of adulthood, daycares and pre-schools put children under academic pressure. Child sports teams have pro uniforms and poor peewee players are sidelined. Children’s clothes have an adult look about them. If this was Elkind’s problem some twenty years ago, the situation today is not much changed.

More evidence that the smallest of children are being subjected to adult standards is the Early Development Instrument (EDI). [15] Under the auspices of improving child outcomes, the EDI asks teachers to answer a host of entirely subjective questions about a child’s proficiency physically, academically and emotionally and then chronicles how and where children are “behind.”

Activists use this flawed research to lobby for more early learning programs for younger ages. In Ontario, for example, a special advisor to Premier McGuinty desires to create schools as hubs, where children can be dropped off all day, possibly all year, to attain greater “school readiness.” [16]

When Francois Legault, of the Coalition for Quebec’s Future recently proposed that secondary school should follow work schedules, running from 9 am to 5 pm, some found it provocative. [17] The reality is that many grade schoolers in before and after-school care already experience adult working days, and the same could be said of a toddler in daycare. Children’s lives are scheduled down to a T, with little free time to just be kids.

Why the anti-child direction?

The reasons for this are varied. However, a big one is the current trend in public policy which creates pressure for all parents to have full time jobs. As a result, labour force attachment trumps parent-child attachment. Canada’s below-replacement birthrate means we are constantly searching for more employees. Having both parents work full-time is entirely reliant on putting their children in some form of standardized care, hence the reation of subsidized daycares. [18]

This has little to do with child development. The problem is that once centre-based care is preferentially funded and the cost heavily tax-subsidized, it creates an incentive for parents to use it. At that point, parents no longer truly have a real choice. They can’t assess the unique needs of their own children because their lives have been set up around two parents at full time jobs.

When asked what are the gains from early learning for small children, Dr. Neufeld simply replies: “I don’t think there is anything to be gained except parental emancipation. And certainly not parental fulfillment. That’s a totally different issue.” [19]

What to do?

Dr. Neufeld emphasizes that who parents are to their children matters more than what they do. [20]

This research is not intended to panic parents whose young children are in all-day care. However, it is wise to understand why your children are there. Some parents put their children in care for the express purpose of socializing them; this is not a researched reason to do so.

For parents whose children must be in care, it would be wise to confirm that the “early learning” is limited exclusively to playing in an environment of adult attachment. [21] Sometimes it is parents themselves who put pressure on teachers to provide “educational content” to younger and younger ages. When the “report cards” come back and show poor grades, this creates further anxiety in parents who now believe their children are behind.

Parents should eschew the creation of any kind of one-size-fits-all system. This is the sort of system that governments try to create—to “help” each and every family. By definition, these environments are less personal and more distant from parents. Even the local primary school may not, in fact, be the closest thing to the home environment for small children, if for example, a neighbour next door wants to take in additional children on top of her own, and that neighbour is known to the parents and the child.

For far too long, this form of high quality care for kids has been labelled “unregulated,” by those who strive to create school-based daycares with unionized employees. Facing a lack of criticism in the press, “unregulated” has come to be known as “dangerous.” But Helen Ward points out that all parents are “unregulated,” and this alone is not cause for concern. Parents need to inspect all care from top to bottom—whether government-regulated or not.

There are some elements of public policy being discussed that would help undo the damage of current trends. Family income splitting allows parents to share their income and pay a lower tax burden. More money in parents’ pockets always means more choices. While the federal Conservatives made this a policy plank in the last election, they watered it down by saying they’d only institute family taxation when the books were balanced, possibly in 2015. Ending the preferential treatment of non-parental care by funding families themselves would make a dramatic difference.

For Dr. Neufeld, the capacity for healthy relationships is meant to unfold in the first six years of life. “It’s a very basic agenda,” he says. “By the fifth year of life if everything is continuous and safe then emotional intimacy begins. A child gives his heart to whomever he is attached to and that is an incredibly important part….The first issue is always to establish strong, deep emotional connections with those who are raising you. And that should be our emphasis in society. If we did this, we would send our children to school late, not early.” [22]

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Endnotes:
  1. This article is based on an interview with Dr. Gordon Neufeld on May 18, 2012. Dr. Neufeld is a developmental psychologist and the co-author of the 2004 national bestseller Hold on to your kids: Why parents need to matter more than peers.
  2. Bronfenbrenner, U. (1970). Two worlds of childhood: U.S. and U.S.S.R. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, p. 2.
  3. For greater understanding of how to stem the bullying tide, see Simon, L. (2012, July 18). Empathy: An antidote to bullying. Ottawa: Institute of Marriage and Family Canada. Retrieved from http://www.imfcanada.org/issues/empathy-antidote-bullying
  4. The Neufeld Institute can be found online here http://www.gordonneufeld.com/
  5. Personal communication with Dr. Gordon Neufeld, May 18, 2012.
  6. Green, M. and Scholes, M. (eds.) (2004). Attachment and human survival. London: Karnac, p. 7.
  7. Ibid, p. 8.
  8. Ibid, p. 37.
  9. Ibid, p. 8.
  10. Personal communication with Helen Ward, August 21, 2012.
  11. Personal communication with Dr. Gordon Neufeld, May 18, 2012.
  12. Medlin, R. G. (2000). The home education movement in context, practice, and theory. Peabody Journal of Education, Vol. 75, No. 1/2, pp. 107-123.
  13. Bunday, K.M. (2006). Socialization: A great reason not to go to school. Retrieved from http://learninfreedom.org/socialization.html
  14. Elkind, D. (1988). The Hurried Child. Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc, pp. xiv, 3.
  15. The EDI questionnaire can be viewed online at http://earlylearning.ubc.ca/media/uploads/publications/edi_bc-yukon_2012.pdf
  16. Pascal, C. (2009, June). With our best future in mind. Implementing early learning in Ontario. Report to the Premier, Government of Ontario.  Retrieved from http://www.ontario.ca/en/initiatives/early_learning/ONT06_018865
  17. Quebec’s Francois Legault wants schools open from 9 to 5. (2012, August 9). The Canadian Press. Retrieved from http://www.timescolonist.com/technology/Quebecs+Francois+Legault+wants+kids+stay+school+until/7063972/story.html
  18. For more on concept of schools as community hubs, see Pascal, C. (2009, June). With our best future in mind. Implementing early learning in Ontario.Report to the Premier, Government of Ontario. Retrieved from http://www.ontario.ca/en/initiatives/early_learning/ONT06_018865
  19. Personal communication with Dr. Gordon Neufeld, May 18, 2012.
  20. Denis Friske, D. (2012, January 16). Moments of connection with our children. The Neufeld Institute blog. Retrieved from http://www.neufeldinstitute.com/blog/2012/01/moments-of-connection-with-our-children/
  21. Laucius, J. (2012, February 4). All work and no play is not good for the developing brain, says psychologist Dr. Gordon Neufeld. Ottawa Citizen, p. J3. (Helen Ward also points out that “child led” or “free play” can in fact mean even less interaction for children with adults, as staff will simply provide toys and ensure that no child is physically hurt.)
  22. Personal communication with Dr. Gordon Neufeld, May 18, 2012.

Permission is granted to reprint or broadcast this information with appropriate attribution to the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada.

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