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"I had a job as a tutor for a 3-year-old." Let's talk about the new trend in early education.

As children progress through the ‘Terrible Twos,’ some of the physical, cognitive, emotional and language milestones they often achieve (positive and negative) include: pulling their pants up and down, having tantrums when frustrated, disobeying their parents to test the waters – and they “may follow two-step directions” like take your shoes off and put them by the door.

In some households they are also being enrolled into tutoring programs.

According to a recent article in The Courier Mail, children “as young as two are attending pre-prep tutoring” in what is called a growing trend among parents.”

Demand seems to be particularly high in Queensland, with private classes for toddlers steadily gaining popularity.

Side note – We translate what parents of toddlers really mean. Post continues after video. 

When I first stumbled across this information my jaw dropped and stayed that way as I attempted to grapple with why two-year-old children, the ones barely out of nappies or sometimes still in them, are being tutored.

The reasoning behind the decision, in many cases, is to prepare these toddlers and pre-schoolers for primary school – in particular, entry testing prior to beginning school or select entry testing for ‘prestigious schools’.

And while I comprehend and empathise with the competitiveness of this testing and that parents inherently do want the best for their children and their education, tutoring still seems to be a whole new and unnecessary step in the majority of cases.

On one parenting forum, a mother posted a question about whether tutoring for this age group was a good idea.

Kristijmommy wrote: “Thoughts on someone paying a tutor to prep their two-year-old for kindergarten? I personally think it’s a bit too early for that and puts unnecessary pressure on such a young child. What happened to abc’s and 123’s with parents/family/friends?”

One responder, a former tutor, shared her thoughts:

“When I was in school I had a job as a tutor for a three-year-old. His parents had applied to get him into a prestigious preschool and I helped him prepare for their entrance requirements.”

Another commenter was wary of the trend, saying:

“I am a teacher and personally I think a tutor for a two-year-old is excessive. At two years old, they are learning so much every day already. I truly believe kids should get to just be kids when they are so little. This is not to say you can’t teach them things and do fun learning activities, but kindergarten doesn’t start until five (at least where I am) and it just seems too early. Also, I think if you push too hard, too young, you could turn the child off from school.”

The majority of education and mental health professionals agree with this second observation and actually discourage this type of structured learning at such an early age.

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Leading child psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg told The Courier Mail that although “parents meant well… such programs might be setting their kids up for a lifetime of pressure. Why can’t we let children be children?”

He suggested it can lead to detrimental mental health impacts for children such as “nightmares, bedwetting, developing an OCD, pulling out their hair, or later on in their lives, turning to drugs, seeking out underachieving friends or putting added pressure on themselves to please parents”.

With Australia having one of the youngest school starting ages in the world already, why are we putting pressure on our children before they are even at school?

In her book Ready Set Go, Kathy Walker – an early education consultant and early childhood expert at Early Life Foundations, says:

“What I tell parents is that there’s no need to rush – children are going to be at school for a long time, so let’s ensure they are great years. There is no evidence or data to suggest that starting school early is better.”

tutors for toddlers
"There’s no need to rush – children are going to be at school for a long time." Image: Getty.

According to Amanda Mergler, a lecturer at Queensland University of Technology, “there is also evidence that the youngest children in the first year of school are at an increased risk of behavioural problems and poor academic achievement.

A later school start may benefit these children by allowing greater time for maturation, which leads to increased self-regulation and decreased inattention or hyperactivity."

In fact, a “2015 report by the Early Childhood Teachers’ Association (ECTA) revealed that 60% of teachers surveyed believed children shouldn’t start school before the age of five" Mergler says.

My favourite memories of my two daughters when they were two years old are going to rhyme time at the library, playing in the sandpit in the backyard while simultaneously trying to stop them from eating it, and playing dress-ups at home where we were Elsa, Anna and Olaf using our magical powers.

While I don’t think they would have made the cut in a one-on-one tutoring session, I think they were just perfect.

Shona Hendley, mother of cats, goats and humans, is a freelance writer from Victoria. An ex secondary school teacher, Shona has a strong interest in education. She is an animal lover and advocate, with a morbid fascination for true crime and horror movies. You can follow her on Instagram.

Would you tutor your toddler? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.

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