Friday, June 22, 2007

Where Do Four Year Olds Belong?

"More 4-year-olds in North Carolina will soon spend an extra year in preschool, in day care or, some fear, sitting in front of the television watching cartoons.
That's because, beginning in 2009, a new state law will require most children to wait until they are 5 before they start kindergarten in public schools. The proposal won final legislative approval Thursday, and Gov. Mike Easley said he will sign the measure into law."

This was the lead into an article in today's Raleigh News & Observer on a new NC law moving the school cut-off age from Oct. 16 to Aug. 31. Now if I was writing this article, I would have started it like this. "More 4-year-olds in North Carolina will soon spend an extra year safely at home with their mother, playing dress up, building blanket forts, learning to do chores, and singing silly songs..."

The article cited education experts who talked of the disadvantage of mixing 4 year olds with 6 year olds in the same kindergarten classroom, saying that the new law should result in higher test scores and lower teacher frustration. Oh my goodness! No mention of the fact that four year olds need moms, not schools! They need time to play and explore, to rest and take a nap, to snuggle in loving arms for a story, to watch birds and bugs and flowers in the yard. But the article went on to quote a parent bemoaning the fact that the new law will burden families with increased child-care costs.

Patrice Thompson thinks the new law is a bad idea. The Raleigh mother, whose 6-year-old daughter finished kindergarten this year, said the earlier birthday cutoff will cause more families such as hers to spend money on an additional year of child care.
"Paying child care is no joke," Thompson said.

I find it sad that schools are viewed as free day care centers; wouldn't it be just so much more convenient if schools would take kids from birth, so parents wouldn't have to make all these other arrangements for their care? How is it that the very notion of parents as caretakers, nurturers, and teachers of our children seems to be lost on our society? Perhaps there should be more workshops and education programs aimed at helping parents understand their God-given role as moms and dads.

The article ended with another disturbing statement:

Bryant said the law would do the most harm to children from low-income families who have not had proper health care or had limited access to books and other educational tools in their early years. Bryant said school systems need to work with these children as soon as possible. Although more affluent parents will be able to work with their children during the extra year, she said, many other students will be out of luck.

Since when is money required to nurture a child? This is just a bunch of baloney! I realize that there are adults out there who , for whatever reason, do not embrace their role as parents and leave their kids to fend for themselves. However, to suggest that "more affluent parents will be able to work with their children", and therefore that less affluent parents will not, is highly insulting! There are plenty of parents living in very humble circumstances who read to their kids, take them to the park, teach them their ABCs, kneel with them to say their prayers, teach them to be polite and kind to others. Being wealthy doesn't equate to being a good parent!

It is time that society started expecting more of parents! Expecting them to take care of their children, to teach their children, to be there for their children. And then respecting them for doing it! We can start by sending the message that home - a good, loving, nurturing home - is the best place for children to be.


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