20 Lies About Early Childhood Education That Parents Need to Stop Believing

Updated on May 2, 2018
letstalkabouteduc profile image

During her years as a teacher and mother, Ms. Meyers discovered that not all praise was equal and some kinds were even deleterious to kids.

Politicians and celebrities are not the best sources for information on early childhood education.
Politicians and celebrities are not the best sources for information on early childhood education. | Source

Misinformation About Early Childhood Education Spreads Rapidly These Days Thanks to Social Media

Most adults remember their parents warning them as children to wait 30 minutes before taking a swim. Though doctors today say this precaution is totally unnecessary, some uniformed parents continue to give it. Thus, they perpetuate the falsehood into the next generation.

While moms and dads today have greater access to knowledge than ever before, they're still susceptible to misinformation. This is especially true in the realm of early childhood education where untruths spread like wildfire from one parent to another. When they're heard often enough, they're apt to be believed—especially if spoken by a celebrity or politician. Jenny McCarthy, who found fame by posing nude for Playboy, has influenced millions with her anti-vaccine stance even though she has no medical or scientific background.

To set the record straight, here are 20 common myths about early childhood education that too many accept without questioning. Hopefully, they'll be put to rest so moms and dads can deal with the truth and not misinformation:

Lie #1: Earlier is Better When It Comes to Reading

While the federal government pushes for academic rigor at younger ages, many parents get the impression that early reading instruction reaps long-term benefits. There are even instructional programs being sold on television that claim to teach babies how to read. Yet, there's no research to support the position that earlier is better when it comes to reading. Youngsters who learn to read at 5 aren't better readers than those who learn at 6, 7 or even later. In Finland, a country whose educational system is envied around the world, formal reading instruction does not begin until age 7. Moreover, studies show that children who learn to read when they're older are more likely to read for pleasure than those who learned when they were younger.

Parents are too easily impressed when their child is an early reader and too easily deflated if she's not. Neuroscience shows us that not all kids are ready to read in kindergarten, and it has nothing to do with intelligence.
Parents are too easily impressed when their child is an early reader and too easily deflated if she's not. Neuroscience shows us that not all kids are ready to read in kindergarten, and it has nothing to do with intelligence. | Source

Lie #2: All Young Children Can Learn to Read if Given the Proper Instruction

Adults get overly impressed when a precocious 4-year-old can read. Some make a foolish leap, mistakenly believing that all 4-year-olds can read if given the proper instruction. Researchers, however, say this is simply not true. Judith Hudson, a developmental psychologist, writes: “Most children have not yet formed certain neural connections that allow them to decode printed letters and then mentally combine them to make words. A few children are able to read earlier, but most of them just pick it up; they don't learn through direct instruction.”

Lie #3: Phonics is the Most Important Early Reading Skill

With the big push for early reading, educators are now teaching structured lessons in phonics during preschool and kindergarten. But research shows early reading exposure should focus on the affective realm, not the cognitive. Young children need to make an emotional connection to books. Knowing T says “tuh” and B says “buh” is far less important than making positive associations with books—those all-important feelings of security, excitement, suspense, comfort, and pleasure that turn kids into life-long readers.

Lie #4: Teachers Have a Highly Structured Way of Teaching Reading and Parents Should Stay Out of It or They may Confuse Their Children

Parents are their children's most influential teachers and the best equipped to instill a love of books. Reading to their youngsters—making connection between their kids' lives and the characters in the books—is the best way they can encourage success. Moms and Dads should never trust an educator who's trying to keep them out of the process. Informed teachers know it's vital to get parents involved.

Lie #5 : All Children Should Learn to Read at the Same Age

Readiness to read varies greatly, mirroring the uniqueness of each child. Early reading does not signify intelligence or predict future achievement any more than early potty training equals a high IQ. Acknowledging that each child develops differently is key to promoting reading success. It takes skilled and experienced teachers to appreciate these differences among learners. Unfortunately, many quality teachers have become disenchanted with the one-size-fits-all approach that reigns in education today and have left the profession.

Lie #6: Parents Can Best Help Their Children Read by Teaching Decoding Skills (Sounding Out Words)

The most effective way moms and dads can help children develop a life-long enthusiasm for books is to read themselves. Their children should see them reading for pleasure (fiction books, magazines, the sports pages) and for knowledge (non-fiction books, newspapers, instruction manuals, materials for work). This gives youngsters the crucial message that reading is both important and enjoyable.

Lie #7: Direct Instruction is a Powerful Way to Teach Reading Skills

Direct instruction is an effective teaching method in special education but far less so in mainstream education. Research shows that early literacy is most effective when presented in an organic way throughout the school day: the children reciting nursery rhymes and poems, singing songs, dictating stories to the teacher, writing words with inventive spelling, listening to stories and acting them out, making meaningful connections between words on the page and real life experiences.

Lie #8: Educational Psychologists Supports the Push for Early Learning

Most of today's educational policy goes against what we have learned recently in neuroscience. Neuroscience shows us that no two brains are alike so it's unreasonable that we're treating all learners the same and expecting the same results. Colleen Rau, a reading intervention specialist, cautions, “The lightbulb goes on for students at different times. But if we make students feel pressure so that they shut down, then that light bulb is not going to be as likely to come on and they aren’t going to develop the confidence that they need to become successful readers later.”

Expecting all kids to read in kindergarten is unrealistic. Each child develops differently and early reading has no long-term benefits.
Expecting all kids to read in kindergarten is unrealistic. Each child develops differently and early reading has no long-term benefits. | Source

Lie #9: Young People are Flocking to the Field of Education, Making Sure We Have Talented Teachers in Place

Experts predict a serious shortage in teachers as young people choose more lucrative higher-status jobs. Many are deciding that a teaching career—requiring a college diploma, a credential, and often a master's degree—is not worth the time and money. The disrespect that teachers get from both students and parents is causing a lot of good people to leave the profession and others to not consider it.

Lie #10: Standardized Testing with Young Children Garners Reliable Results

Our country's love affair with standardized testing continues with preschool and kindergarten teachers now administering tests to their students. But standardized test results for children younger than 8 are largely meaningless. Children's brains are growing rapidly and their attention spans are too short to garner substantive results. Moreover, standardized testing eats up precious instruction time and stresses out young learners.

Standardized Testing Stifles Teacher Creativity and Stresses Young Children

Lie #11: The Best and Brightest Endorse Common Core

More than 500 esteemed professionals—educators, pediatricians, and developmental psychologists—signed a joint statement opposing the K-3 standards. Their statement said: “We have grave concerns about the core standards...The proposed standards conflict with compelling new research in cognitive science, neuroscience, child development, and early childhood education about how young children learn, what they need to learn, and how best to teach them in kindergarten and the early grades.”

Lie #12: The Common Core Standards for K-3 were Created by K-3 Teachers

Shockingly and tellingly, no K-3 teachers were on the committee of 135 people who wrote the Common Core Standards for K-3 classrooms. Their lack of involvement in the test-creating process resulted in an exam that's developmentally inappropriate and potentially damaging to young learners.

Lie #13: Common Core Promotes a Child-Centered Learning Environment

Teachers must introduce 90 standards in kindergarten. Therefore, their classrooms become teacher-directed with structured lessons, children sitting and listening, and rote learning. This goes against decades of research that show youngsters learn best in child-centered classrooms where they learn by doing—through play, exploration, and self-direction.

Lie #14: Teachers are Amazed at How Well Technology Has Prepared Young Children for Kindergarten

While tech companies profit handsomely by targeting younger and younger consumers, teachers are struggling with the ill-effects of too much screen time for little kids. More than ever before children are entering school with weak gross and fine motor skills—unable to hold a pencil correctly and comfortably, unable to cut with scissors, and unable to sit, stand, and move efficiently due to poor balance, coördination, and strength.

Young children are no longer doing the activities that build strong gross and fine motor skills. They're no longer engaging in play that stimulates their imaginations.
Young children are no longer doing the activities that build strong gross and fine motor skills. They're no longer engaging in play that stimulates their imaginations. | Source

Lie #15: Other Countries are Modeling Their Early Education Classrooms after Those in the United States that Emphasize “Academic Rigor”

Countries such as Denmark and Sweden take an opposite approach to early learning with their highly successful Forest Schools. Youngsters spend many hours of each day in the forest—regardless of the weather—where they're encouraged to explore, take risks, and get dirty. Activities stem from the youngsters' imaginations—not toys, games, and technology. The high adult to child ratio lets kids climb trees, splash in puddles, and play in the mud while staying safe. Research shows children who attend Forest Schools are happier, more confident, and more independent.

Lie #16: Schools are Doing a Terrific Job at Reducing Childhood Obesity and Promoting Fitness

With the drive toward academic rigor, recess and physical education classes continue to get devalued. This is especially true at high-poverty schools where children get substantially less recess time than kids at more affluent schools. Reduced time for exercise, outside time, and play go against the research that shows active kids are less depressed and anxious, more self-assured, and more eager to learn.

Lie #17: Extracurricular Activities Are Always a Good Thing for Children

Over-scheduling children with extracurricular activities limits opportunities for play and downtime. Youngsters need unstructured activities each day to stay healthy— both physically and emotionally.

Lie #18: Parents Shouldn't Worry if Children Are not Getting Enough Sleep

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children not getting enough sleep is a huge concern. It leads to problems such as obesity, depression, and ADHD.

Lie #19: Family Dinner Time Is Over-Rated

Family dinner time gets shortchanged when parents and kids bring their cell phones, I-pads, and laptops to the table. Studies show that families who eat dinner together regularly reap the benefits. These include less substance abuse and delinquency, lowers rates of depression, fewer eating disorders, and a greater sense of cooperation and good will within the family.

Lie #20: Young Children Benefit When Parents Heap on Praise

Giving children too many compliments turns them into "praise junkies," who are overly dependent on others' opinions. Studies show parents make a more positive impact when they extol their children's efforts and not the end result.

© 2016 McKenna Meyers


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • letstalkabouteduc profile imageAUTHOR

      McKenna Meyers 

      3 years ago

      Tim, you sound like an amazing father and your kids are lucky to have you. Because of our country's quest for academic rigor at younger ages, elementary schools (and even preschools) feel pressured to teach in ways that are not developmentally appropriate. You are so right that children learn in different ways and different rates. A one-size-fits-all approach only makes kids feel inadequate. It gets parents needlessly worried. Because teachers are now focused on test scores and not the whole child, it's so important that parents celebrate their youngsters' uniqueness. Because my son has autism, I heard so many pessimistic comments from professionals about him, making it seem he had no future. Luckily, I just tuned them out and forged ahead. He's now 17 with his sights set on college and a career in engineering. You are so right; parents are the key! Thanks for reading and enjoy your kids.

    • Tim Kacillas profile image

      Tim Kacillas 

      3 years ago from Anchorage, AK

      This is a mix bag of thoughts for me. I'd like to praise you for many of these points, while also wanting to poke holes in others. I (and I'm not really an expert) really think that every child is a little different. You mentioned this a bit in your article, but I can't say it enough. I tried to teach our oldest phonetics and word structure, but he wasn't interested, so I taught I'm to play Pokémon instead (a card game that requires basic math and detailed reading). He took to that instantly and is now in the gifted program at school and winning first place ribbons at school. Our second child (now in preschool) can't get past D in the alphabet but can cut paper and play playdo like a pro. I'm not really worried about any of these things, because I really don't think it matters. Kids are amazing and they learn at an enormous rate. I want to let my children explore and find what interest them the most. Once they find something that will keep their attention for more than two and a half minutes, that's when I step in and show them how to study that subject. It's the parent's job to be the sideline or burrier that just nudges the kiddos into the playing field and they'll find their way to the goal. Schools will do what schools do, but the adult at home is what the child sees and emulates. As long as there is a positive role model (super hero) that puts a value on education; i.e. reads to them, participates in activities, shows them the way; they'll turn out just fine. But like I mentioned, I'm not an expert.

    • letstalkabouteduc profile imageAUTHOR

      McKenna Meyers 

      4 years ago

      Yes, Denise, our expectations for public school teachers are unrealistically high. They cannot be everything to everybody, but we so want them to be. With this huge push for academic rigor at younger and younger ages, I see children getting turned off to reading. They're getting instructed on the mechanics of it before first experiencing the magic of it. When you read to your stepdaughter, you made her feel special and she connected those good feelings with books. Thanks for commenting and blessings back to you!

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      I have to admit that I learned many of these points the hard way... trial and error. My step-daughter in particular, whom I didn't meet till she was 6, showed me that the public school method failed in her case and just reading aloud to her gave her a renewed desire to learn to read much later than most would have expected. Since each child is different, it stands to reason that different methods are needed for each. The public school system is just not set up to accommodate that which is why many children fall through the cracks.




    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, wehavekids.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)