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  • Emily Prentice

The Key to School Success

The current school system in the U.S. is very “age” focused. Children begin formal school at younger and younger ages. In the U.S. some children as young as 4 are attending formal preschools and beginning academic work. This is happening despite a growing body of evidence showing this to be ineffective and in many cases harmful.

In order to understand why this is concerning, it is important to understand how the brain works and learns. Early academic work may seem simple, but it requires the cooperation of many advanced body systems. Children need to be able to focus their vision, follow a line of print, coordinate their hands and eyes, maintain a seated position, focus their attention, ignore irrelevant sensory stimuli, and much, much more.

These are all skills that children master in infancy and early childhood. They are the foundation on which academic success is built. They develop through movement, play, and interaction with the environment; they cannot be taught.

In our current education system, these things are not generally taken into consideration. Instead a child’s age is the main (if not only) thing that determines when they should begin school and what they should be capable of doing. Their age sets our expectation for their academic capabilities.

This causes problems for children in two different categories:

  1. Children who are old enough to be in school but are not developmentally ready for academic learning

  2. Children with developmental delays

Children in the first category are often the children whose birthdays fall in late summer. They are likely to begin school just after their 6th (or 5th in some places) birthday rather than children born in the fall or winter who are likely to start school well into their 6th year. There is significant variation in normal development. Not every child hits each developmental marker at the same age, there is a range that is considered normal. Unfortunately, this is not something that many people consider when starting formal education. Children begin formal schooling by age 6 (if not before) with little consideration to their developmental readiness. Many children are not developmentally ready to begin school when they do. This is a problem because they are more likely to struggle with their school work and because they have less opportunity for physical activity and play; which promotes the kind of development they need to be successful in school.

Children in the second category struggle with school because they do not have the tools necessary to succeed. For these children, time is not enough to ensure proper development. Unfortunately, help for these children is often focused on the symptoms rather than the cause. Focus is placed on improving academic performance rather than understanding why the child is struggling in the first place. If a child has an immature visual system, then tutoring for reading will yield minimal success. Their academic struggles are merely symptoms of underlying physical and neurological immaturities.

If you have a child who is struggling with school, then visit our website at to learn how we can help.

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