When I lived in California they had these lovely commercials on television touting the importance of the first five years of a child's life. They had a beautiful baby girl in a high chair and grandma and grandpa played peek-a-boo with her. Another showed a baby boy and his young mother playing with some plastic rings. Mom was giving him one ring at a time and telling him the color of each ring. Yes, the first five years of a child's life are important.
Fast forward to seven years later. It's 2011 and the importance of the first five years has been hijacked by politicians, educational reformers, early childhood "specialists" and other special interest groups including the media and it has become a mess! This is our wake up call parents! It's time to take back your children from the clutches of well meaning, but self interested "experts."
Yes, the first five years of a child's life are crucial. Make no mistake about it. However, unless the child has experienced some deep personal trauma (and I'll come back to what those may be.) the five years following the first five and the five years after that also play a crucial role in the child's intellectual, emotional, physical and spiritual development. So if you child is not reading by kindergarten don't feel like all hope is lost. If you child has chicken McNuggets on occasion, it will not lead to childhood obesity. If your child is not enrolled in Karate classes, she may still be able to work her way up to a black belt before her retirement age. I wanted to clarify that, because from all the hype and hoopla surrounding first five, you'd think you may as well give up if your child is not rolling over at the prescribed moment the chart says they should.
What is really, really crucial in the child's first five years is what educational and early childhood "experts" usually fail to mention, the child's relationship with his mother. The mother/child bond is more important than reading to your child (and I'm all about reading, so I don't say that lightly.), it's more important than the child's relationship to any other person, including dad, and the grandparents. There is a bond that should occur while the child is developing in the womb that is the catalyst to all future learning. If a child and mother have properly bonded while the child was in utero, that child has a pretty good chance at life. If that bond is properly nurtured by the mother once the child is born, that child has an even better chance at a good life. If that child continues to thrive and bond with other important people in his life, such as his dad, his grandparents and siblings, then chances are that child will grow emotional, intellectual, physically and spiritually just the way nature meant him to.
Once those things are in motion, you cannot just start ignoring the child, and it would be pretty hard to do anyway. Once an action has been put in motion it will gain momentum and it will grow and thrive. A child that is loved will learn. A child that is learning will continue to learn etc. In fact, in order to stop the momentum something pretty huge would have to happen. Death, drugs, physical traumas, abuse of any kind, bullying, are all example of things that can stop that momentum in it's track and the child may stop learning, growing and thriving.
So the first five years of a child's life are important, but even more important are the first nine months that child spends in his mother's womb and then all the years that follow those first five are important because a child is a person at every age and every moment is precious and that cannot be measured by any type of assessment test. So if you choose to stay home with your child and not send him to preschool, good for you. You cannot give a child a more precious gift than setting a healthy foundation on which he will learn and thrive. If your child cannot count to 100 by the time he goes to kinder, ask yourself this, what could he possibly use that information for anyway? It's okay, your child will learn to count to 100 when he realizes that 100 pennies make up a dollar. Ignore the hoopla, it'll just make a good mother crazy!