Eating paste should start earlier

I didn’t attend kindergarten. The kid’s that were my age, 50 years ago, as the cold war was well below freezing; as Ringo joined the band and Stan Musial scored his 1,869th run, a new NL record, attended school prior to first grade were few. Many of them did so in church basements.

In second grade, Artgum erasers smelled so good and school paste had a certain gourmet-dessert flavor. My teacher, Mrs. Lauer, took my class, still exploring the fundamentals of reading, from “Sally, Dick, and Jane” to “More Friends Old and New.”

Even in the olden days of the 1960s, by the end of the first grade my class recognized some 349 words. By the end of second grade, between beaning our classmates with rubber erasers and sucking down paste, we were technically able to read as many as 1,094 words and by the end of third grade 1,216 words. According to statistics began to peak in fourth grade at about 1,500 words – this according to Dr. Rudolf Flesch in his book, “Johnny Still Can’t Read.”

But it quickly levels off.According to Dr. Diane McGuinness’ research on teaching methods, some researchers report that by the end of high school, students can recognize by sight from 3,000 to 5,000 words. That seems like a lot of words to me, but even at that rate, an adult reads so poorly that they do not like to read and in many cases don’t and arguably cannot hold a job that pays above-poverty-level wages. Sadly, the McGill reading curriculum, which is not a phonics based program, was used to teach most baby boomers to read in the U.S. and could be responsible for such poor results. Fun with Dick and Jane needs to begin earlier.

Growing up, after I spent the day eating paste in school I would arrive home, books in book bag, ready to catch up with my buddies and do what buddies do – play ball, build tree forts and play army.

But even better for me were the house rules. Before I went outside to play after school, I had to do my homework. And right there at the kitchen table I had coaching from my mom.

Until I was in well into high school, my mother was a stay at home mom. She had her routine of washing on Monday, ironing on Tuesday and always being there for me when I returned home from school. After my father died and my mother went to work, there wasn’t much time for helping me with my school work, but I think it was beyond her, having only completed eighth grade during the Great Depression. I imagine that’s why she thought it so important that I get an education.

“The most consistent predictors of children’s academic achievement and social adjustment are parent expectations of the child’s academic attainment and satisfaction with their child’s education at school,” according to Arthur Reynolds, “Long-Term Effects of an Early Childhood Intervention...”

Family plays an important role in the attitude toward education developed by a student. Children from low-income and minority families have the most to gain when schools involve parents. Like my own mother, they don’t have to be highly educated to be involved with schools and their child’s education. And parents have to realize how schools and home are interconnected. But that can be extremely difficult for some families when they don’t get involved when their child is a young learner.

But what happens in today’s family dynamic? In families with two working parents, children in after-school daycare and fathers working late, both parents are tired in the evening can find it difficult to even help with homework.

These are the same parents who can’t afford care for their child before he or she enters school full time. There is a state paid pre-school program in Virginia, however, many children fall between eligibility and being able to afford either home or commercial daycare for their child.

According to the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP), “While home-based child care is a significant community asset, preschool-age children tend to learn cognitive school readiness skills best in classroom settings.”

For a while, my kids attended a home-base daycare and did just fine, but finding a good daycare that also teaches your child is tough and expensive. Small commercial daycares work well too, but wouldn’t it be a lot simpler if all children started school just a bit earlier.

Innovation is paramount to success in the U.S. Without innovation we fall behind and allow other countries to overcome us – for example China, Sweden, India. And innovation requires widespread-good education and the earlier kids start to learn the better.


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