No, school systems should not move to additional schooling at this early age. Let me share with you a true story.
My wife and I had our first child after we had been married ten years. An arrival which we were uncertain would ever occur, and, you can imagine how we read and interacted with our first son.
One day, when my son was about 2 1/2, I came home from work to find him reading a story book aloud. It was a book we had read to him many times, so I figured he had memorized it. Out of curiosity, I sat down with him and arbitrarily pointed out various words, which, without exception, he correctly identified. My wife and I then took a book that we had not read to him as often and verified that he had taught himself quite a vocabulary.
We didn’t know exactly what to do. We certainly didn’t want to short- change him if he needed to be “challenged” so, at the behest of well-meaning family and friends we went to a psychologist to have him tested. The psychologist was hesitant to test him because I.Q. tests were not standardized (at least they were not at that time), until a child had reached age three. However, after spending just a few minutes with him, she agreed he should be tested. He blew the numbers off the charts, and, the psychologist said it would be a shame if we didn’t get him started in academics as soon as possible. The Montessori School was recommended and we promptly, proud self-congratulatory parents that we were, entered him into the school much as a horse owner would enter a prize colt into the Kentucky Derby. He blossomed; he learned; he wowed the teachers. As each day went by, however, his behavior and demeanor became sadder and more withdrawn. He would “act out”.
That particular school had as “time out” what was known as the “quiet corner”. When a child misbehaved, that is where they were sent to lie down and reflect. By the time our son was 3 , he, upon arrival at the school, would bypass the teachers and go straight to the “quiet corner”. No amount of badgering would get him to participate. Of course, we pulled him out. He immediately returned to being a “normal kid”. We talked to him about every four months about returning but he refused until he was about five. We started him at half-days and he was at that time happy. When we moved him to full days however, he once again became miserable and we backed it off to half-days.
My wife has always been a “stay at home mom” for all of our sons. I believe, after our experiences (and I could share many more from later years at “gifted schools”) with the education of our son(s), that what children need most in their early years are their parents. The pressure of socialization and performance is a great stressor. It used to be that children went to their early grades with friends from their own neighborhood so there wasn’t as much of an adjustment. However, today, with integration programs and private schools, children are in a more demanding position. There is no question in my mind that in the early years “less is better”.
I understand we live in an economic time when both parents may have to work and we certainly have many single-parent families. I would never condemn a family for needing to do what they have to do to take care of their children, and, I can understand why for people in these situations it would be appealing.
From my standpoint and personal experience however, the less we can use the school system as a surrogate family (especially at these formative ages) the better off we are. Nothing replaces a parent. All you have to do is correlate the increased reliance on the school system at the higher grades with the change in our societal fabric to verify that.
It is not always possible to keep our young children at home. To the degree it is, I believe it is to their benefit. It is better to keep half-days and perhaps use the saved money to create programs for those families who have to have all-day help.