My Preschool Dropout
I’ve taught elementary school, high school, graduate school and adult ed. I helped start a parent-run school when my kids were little and even, briefly, homeschooled two of my sons.
I’ve sent them to private school, public school, charter school, boarding school, music school and three different colleges.
As a reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer in my earlier days of journalism, I even wrote about education.
You’d figure I know a thing or two about schools.
Deep down, though, I find learning to be a mysterious process. My own belief system has fluctuated wildly over the years. I’ve been around long enough to see that educational thinking – like most thinking, including that of health, diet and the national economy – is always in flux.
In fact, after all this time, the only thing about education I know for sure is that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. I absorbed that lesson as a mother, watching in total puzzlement as my three sons’ learning styles unfolded, as varied as their shoe sizes.
Why did one kid start reading at 4, seemingly without being “taught,” when his brother – the one we deemed the family brain, the most verbal of the pack – couldn’t get a handle on it until he was almost 8?
How come one of my kids could pick up languages like a sponge – just like my sister, his aunt – when his little brother struggled with any language other than English?
And why did the baby of the family drop out of preschool (two terrific preschools, actually) and insist on hanging out at home until the age of 5, when he then ran all the way to kindergarten and never looked back?
At Their Own Pace
I think about learning readiness when it comes to education. I remember weighing the advice from experts that warned parents not to “give in,” that not allowing a preschooler to quit school will teach him strength in adversity.
But sometimes, allowing a child to come to learning at his own pace is one of the best gifts we can give as parents and educators.
A lot of the stories in this issue reflect the changes that have recently taken place in educational thinking.
Take bilingual education: When my parents didn’t want me to understand something, they spoke in Yiddish. When their parents didn’t want them to understand, they spoke in Russian.
If I had that linguistic faculty, I’d be speaking to my kids in both Russian and Yiddish.
Bilingualism is one of the chief advantages that modern parents can impart, and you’ll want to read Janine DeFao’s wonderful story, Raising Bilingual Kids, on page 24 about how parents today are doing it.
Homeschooling is another trend that is getting a new look. Though it’s been growing steadily for years, school budget cuts are causing many parents to take a second look. Jennifer Fogliani examines the trend in No Place Like Homeschool on page 34.
I was delighted to interview Richard Louv, who coined the term “nature deficit disorder” – to describe the human costs of alienation from nature – in his 2005 book, Last Child in the Woods.
Louv argues that the more high tech we become, the more nature we need. But he remains hopeful, in part, because of the medical community’s response to this threat.
In my article, Your Child’s Prescription for Better Health (on page 30), I also spoke with Dr. Nooshin Razani, a San Francisco pediatrician who now writes “prescriptions” for families to get out into nature.
I hope you and your children have a wonderful academic year, full of fun, success and lots of nature.
– Sara Solovitch, associate editor