Last week I posted about my concern for children when adults try to do too cribmuch with them and too soon. (Read No Curriculum Needed here.) I also said that I would write more.

Actually I will probably write more about this topic many times. Today, let’s start with a couple points and then some recommendations.

First, these waters are murky because we pour everything about early childhood education into one bucket when there really need to be two buckets. One is early childhood education for children from environments where things are missing. The other is early childhood education for children from “good enough” environments.

Children from deficient environments need all the help we can give them. They are fighting an uphill battle and much of that fight is running against the clock. They do not have the nutrition they need to nourish their bodies and minds. They do not have the human interactions they need to stimulate  attachment and language development. They do not have a safe environment to discover, explore, and experiment with. These children from deprived environments end up with deprived brains and stunted capabilities for human relationships if intervention does not happen at critical times in the years between birth and age 5. They are like the babies in Romania that David Elkind writes about here.

They are also like many, many children here in America who live in poverty, with homelessness, and within families devastated by violence and drug addiction. Don’t kid yourself. We may not have them locked up in orphanages, spending their days and nights in cribs, but their deprivations have the same effects on their brains.

The good news, though, is that in the 60’s with the war on poverty, the beginning of Headstart, and programs like Sesame Street, we discovered something amazing. Early intervention made a difference in the lives of these children! The emphasis, though, was on early. Why? Because that’s when a big chunk of brain development takes place including a full 85% of language development.  (Most recently, numerous brain imagery studies have confirmed what that 60’s experience had found.)

So whence comes all the confusion? Well, middle and upper class families thought their children needed the same things. In a foundational sense, they certainly do. ALL children need proper nutrition, human interaction, and an enriched safe environment (to name just a few).

But in a practical sense these kids don’t need the same things. Why not? Because they are already getting them.

And giving them more doesn’t help. It hurts.

Think about it. We all want the best for all children. But we need to step back and clearly look at what each child and each demographic of children need.

If a child is deprived nutritionally and we intervene and get good food to them in the right quantities and they begin to grow and play and learn again, magnificent! But it does not mean that “good enough” parents, caregivers, and schools then need to give the same meals to kids in “good enough” environments. They are already being fed well. More is not better. It does actual harm, making the kids fat.

The child taken to the park, given blocks to play with, and read to every day simply does not need anything more to develop as he or she should. The child locked in the crib needs far more than he or she is getting. That child needs the trips to the park, the blocks, and the cuddles and books and reading aloud.

Can you see the difference?

I’ll be back with more.