Early-childhood and elementary school programs reflect a diverse set of commitments about what children ought to learn, and about how they ought to do so.
Some focus on academic preparation and advancement, with extra attention to reading and mathematics. Some emphasize social-emotional development and community values. Others tout their language classes, or their music program, or the opportunities for children to engage in extended projects of their choosing. Some praise structure and discipline; some prize autonomy and play.
Alongside this profusion of options is a rich diet of advice: parenting books, articles, Facebook groups, and friends who swear by one approach or another. For the most part, though, these conversations miss an important question: not just what to learn and how to learn it, but when to do so. In other words, what should young children be learning while young? What’s the argument for learning a particular skill sooner rather than later?
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