Before I started homeschooling my own kids, I didn't have strong opinions on education. I'm not sure I had any opinion.
Now, I have lots of opinions. My opinions run counter to many, and I don't expect anyone to believe what I believe. That doesn't mean I won't share.
First: Children are not blank slates. I don't think this is an opinion, its a fact. I know John Locke postulated a theory about tabula rasa and that many other educational theories are based on the idea that children are inherently nothing, until we mold them.
Sorry, nope. Having had two kids of my own, and assorted nieces and nephews, and a slew of homeschool friends kids around, I can assert positively that children are born with an operating system that functions all on its own. They like and dislike stuff, love and hate foods, and have a host of subroutines that you discover as you spend time with them.
Second: The idea that a child can get behind. This is an opinion that is widely quoted in educational literature as a fact--especially for curriculums pushing early reading or math skills. Get your child ahead! My response is always--ahead of what?
My sister is a preschool teacher and she said something to me that I thought was very profound. She said "curriculums come and go, but child development hasn't changed. Kids, especially preschool kids, are the same now as they were 100 years ago, or two thousand years ago."
People will argue about this--what about the exposure to media? what about traveling in a car? Eating food from the grocery store?
Ok, our world has changed. But babies start out the way they always have. Being carried, crawling, putting everything in their mouths, walking, climbing--all the same--all over the world.
So why do we think in the First World countries that we can rush our kids to an Ivy League school by pushing early reading and math--and why doesn't anyone in the school system question this idea. In Dayton, the mayor has endorsed a tax proposed by the Learn to Earn coalition to fund for early learning. I have many issues with this , but most fundamental is that early learning thing. The Learn to Earn Coalition cites a "broad range" of research (unspecified) about early reading and success.
My opinion is based on my own experience. My son was an early reader--not because we taught him to read, but because we read to him. My daughter, read a little later. I think you cannot teach a child to read who isn't ready to read, or math to a kid not ready to do math.
What are robbing them of when we stick them in a classroom at 3 to learn early reading? Maybe we are robbing of them of the chance to have success? Maybe we are robbing them of being a discoverer. Maybe, by putting them in a an early learning situation with expectations and outcomes for which they are unprepared, maybe by labeling them as "behind," and putting them in remedial classes, and giving them IEP's and disability managers, maybe, we're crippling them.