In 2011, Fraser Mustard and Margaret McCain released a report titled, The Early Years Study Three Years Later. The main point the authors make is to stress the educational importance of the first six years of a child's life. The main idea is that what happens to a child during this time will largely determine how a child learns and copes later in life.
The report focuses on three central areas: 1) The years before six have a lifetime of influence; 2) It takes the entire community to educate children; and 3) Society either pays the cost for early education or it will pay later in other ways. Further, Mustard is seen as a Canadian who championed early childhood programs that would provide children with the emotional and social skills they need to learn reading, writing, math and science. It's this report's philosophy that the Liberal government largely adopted to pass all-day kindergarten in Ontario. The assumption is that by creating safe and healthy schools for early learning to take place children will have a head start for later academic success and better living skills. But Mustard never imagined that all-day kindergarten could also be used as an early start in brainwashing the children about "Equity and Inclusive" education. In Ontario, we may soon have Bill 13 to legally support it. This report has to a large extent been hijacked by the agenda of political correctness.
Parents should be aware of what the report leaves out because no program alone can provide it: along with everything mentioned in the report children learn best when they are told and they know that they are loved by their parents. One of the best ways to do this is to create a home that is centred on a Christian family life and values. In the Vatican II document, Declaration on Christian Education, parents who are the first educators of their children are reminded of this calling entrusted to them by the Creator:
"Since parents have given children their life, they are bound by the most serious obligation to educate their offspring and therefore must be recognized as the primary and principal educators. Parents are the ones who must create a family atmosphere animated by love for God and man, in which well-rounded personal and social education of children is fostered. Hence, the family is the first school of social virtues that every society needs."
Here's another fact that the Mustard report fails to mention. All-day kindergarten will be stressful for many parents and in particular for children. Just imagine a child being awakened early in the morning to be taken to pre-school care, followed by all-day kindergarten and then possibly after-school care before they see the parents again. From being away from parents for these long periods, many children during the day will experience high levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Studies have shown this to be the case. How can this level of anxiety at such a young age make a child happier and a better learner? Perhaps the question we should be asking is, Don't we need all-day kindergarten to meet the economic and social wants of the parents at the expense of children's health?
If we want our schools to promote moral behaviour and children who will treat on another with respect, we cannot do it by having the state separate children from their parents when they are just two and three years old. The state may actually be helping to create, with taxpayer dollars, dysfunctional families and putting children's future well-being at risk. Call it whatever you want, but don't call this progressive education. There will long term societal costs for this politically ill-conceived social policy.
Here's our humble advice from having been in the classroom for 33 years. Don't enrol your child in all-day kindergarten unless it's an absolute family necessity. If you must, carefully do your school homework to check to see the kind of program being offered and who will be doing the teaching. Kindergarten is mostly about social development and not about structured learning. Make sure your child is ready to learn to read, to write and get along with others. Once you remove the moral aspect and character development, the heart of a good education is just about reading and writing. These important language skills should be learned by the end of Grade three.
Parents, then, have plenty of time in the early years to give their children a good educational start. They need not stress over the government rhetoric of being left behind. Read many good stories to your child, including Bible stories. Let them learn another language. Expose them to music, art and dance. Teach them how to pray and about the faith. Together take a walk to the local library, the museum and the park. Spend time with your child and they will grow in confidence knowing that adults care and love them. This, and knowing that God loves them, will be the best preparation for lifetime learning. This is the real head start in education and life. We think even Fraser Mustard would agree.