Early Academic Training Does Pre-Schoolers No Favors


There are two fears stalking today’s parents:

1 – That their child will be kidnapped and killed by a stranger, or

2 – Won’t get into Harvard.

Conveniently, both fears are solved the same way: Constant adult supervision and involvement. To protect from predators, parents and institutions hover. But to protect from under-achievement, kids are channeled into early academic training. Even in pre-k they are told to sit down and study. As if they learn nothing of consequence — nothing that will get them AHEAD — by simply playing house, or ball, or let’s all be kitty cats.

The problems with this narrow (even perverse) view of how kids learn is documented fantastically by Peter Gray in his book, “Free arzsazseta
to Learn
,” as well as in this fascinating blog post (among many others!). And today in the Washington Post another critic, Angela Hanscom, the  pediatric occupational therapist who founded TimberNook, and whose work you’ve read here before, discusses The Decline of Play in Pre-Schoolers and the Rise of Sensory Issues.

She writes of giving her own pre-schooler endless academic instruction because:

Like many other American parents, I had an obsession: academic success for my child. Only, I was going about it completely wrong. Yes, my daughter would later go on to test above average with her academic skills, but she was missing important life skills. Skills that should have been in place and nurtured during the preschool years. My wake-up call was when the preschool teacher came up to me and said, “Your daughter is doing well academically. In fact, I’d say she exceeds expectations in these areas. But she is having trouble with basic social skills like sharing and taking turns.” Not only that, but my daughter was also having trouble controlling her emotions, developed anxiety and sensory issues, and had trouble simply playing by herself!

Little did I know at the time, but my daughter was far from being the only one struggling with social and sensory issues at such a young age. This was becoming a growing epidemic. A few years ago, I interviewed a highly respected director of a progressive preschool. She had been teaching preschoolers for about 40 years and had seen major changes in the social and physical development of children in the past few generations.

“Kids are just different,” she started to say. When I asked her to clarify, she said, “They are more easily frustrated – often crying at the drop of a hat.” She had also observed that children were frequently falling out of their seats “at least three times a day,” less attentive, and running into each other and even the walls. “It is so strange. You never saw these issues in the past.”

The solution? Fewer desks, more play. And that is a solution based on TRUST. Trusting that this generation of kids does not require more academic rigor at a younger age than any previous generation. Trusting that the lessons Mother Nature embedded in free play will be learned by our kids too. And trusting that even if a child does not learn her letters and numbers by age 5 or 4 or 3, all bets are not off.

Hanscom adds that the way we are addressing the social and physical issues cropping up is just more proof that we think every childhood issue is solved by more top-down instruction. I’m not sure how widespread the practice of teaching  students special breathing techniques is. I truly have no idea. But I do agree that:

If children were given ample opportunities to play outdoors every day with peers, there would be no need for specialized exercises or meditation techniques for the youngest of our society. They would simply develop these skills through play. That’s it. Something that doesn’t need to cost a lot of money or require much thought. Children just need the time, the space, and the permission to be kids.

It takes a leap to believe in our kids and not in Baby Einstein, “academic superstar” pre-schools, and apps designed to make us think our children need them to succeed.

Take the leap. – L


I can't wait to get to the office...er...preschool!

I can’t wait to get to the office…er…preschool!



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74 Responses to Early Academic Training Does Pre-Schoolers No Favors

  1. Jenny Islander September 4, 2015 at 11:52 am #

    My youngest son, now 5 1/2, demonstrated an interest in “doing homeschool” along with his sisters about a year ago. He needed more practice in getting the fat pencil/crayon to go where he wants it to go, so I bought a stack of preschool workbooks. They begin with “mazes” that only have one route, 5-point dot-to-dots, etc., and end up with 25-point dot-to-dots, mazes with tricky dead ends, and beginning printing by tracing models on a 2-inch line. He’s ripping through them with enthusiasm. Okay, I thought, and looked through the Kindergarten workbooks on the same rack.

    What. The. Frack.

    Spanish quizzes. Not the vocabulary practice, just the quizzes. Printing whole words from memory on lines no wider than my finger. Multiplication! This kid is five. He needs help tying his shoes. He’s supposed to correctly form and place a lower-case q on a line three quarters of an inch high?!

    And right on the cover is a happy little blurb, “Works With State Standards.” Boy am I glad I decided to homeschool.

  2. BL September 4, 2015 at 12:08 pm #

    Thank goodness the kid in the picture is wearing a real tie instead of a clip-on (those are so … childish).

    Now, that being said, it looks like it’s tied in a four-in-hand knot. He really needs to learn the Shelby knot – less bulky.

    It’s never too early to learn these things.

  3. MichaelF September 4, 2015 at 12:12 pm #

    Tie with a polo shirt? And INSIDE the collar? Yeah buddy, you’re staying after for more practice.

  4. Betsy September 4, 2015 at 12:46 pm #

    There is tremendous pressure to buy into educational shows and apps for kids, too. We decided not to go there. Our kids make up games, wrestle with each other, catch butterflies, fish and hunt, and watch movies that don’t have educational agendas. For my part, I’ve spent thousands of hours reading them quality literature. Still do. They will pick playing ball over reading to themselves any day, but they love and appreciate a great story at bedtime. No, they are not straight A students. But they have developed great coping skills and are really good at standing up for themselves. They are happy and full of energy. They have the privilege of a carefree childhood.

  5. KB September 4, 2015 at 12:48 pm #

    We redshirted our youngest for kindergarten. We didn’t really want to (paid for an entire extra year of daycare and the kid is really bright). Why?

    Our kindergartens in Virginia expect kids to come in knowing all of their letters and the sounds they make. They should be reading all basic sight words by the end of kindergarten. This requires hours of sitting still and lots of drilling. Shockingly, our little guy didn’t want to sit all day and drill words and letters.

    Is this crucial for learning? I have a PhD, and I definitely didn’t read until after kindergarten. In kindergarten, I remember storytime, coloring, duck-duck-goose, and basic letter formation. Arguably, I wasn’t stunted by this.

    Today is different? Our German Exchange daughter has a teacher friend that explained they want kids to come to school ready to play and that parents should not provide any letter or word teaching. They don’t start any of that until the kids are developmentally ready. Guess which country has a higher ranked education system?

  6. Liz Moshure September 4, 2015 at 12:50 pm #

    I think that society as a whole are definitely pushing youth to start learning before they really need to. Math in the 8th grade confuses me and is way more complicated than it was when i was in school- 15 years ago. I understand we want our children to be successful but we definitely want to be sure they are learning the “real life” aspect too. Like how to make noises with their armpits, blow bubbles and swim- dont neglect the fact that children usually learn more from observing not being dictated. I am still in the air on whether i want my children to attend pre-school. Although my 3 year old really wants to go to school and talks about riding the bus and making friends, i don’t want her to get burnt out on school at an early age either.

  7. lollipoplover September 4, 2015 at 12:56 pm #

    “Not only that, but my daughter was also having trouble controlling her emotions, developed anxiety and sensory issues, and had trouble simply playing by herself!”

    One of the problems is we never let our kids get bored. Playing by yourself is seen as anti-social behavior. I LOVED to play by myself with my dollhouse for hours. I see my daughter drawing and crafting alone in her room, completely content. Play time gets kids thinking in ways we never could teach them.

    I was delighted to hear that our elementary is collecting items for a weekly “tinkering” class to let kids learn through play. Back to school night didn’t talk about standardized test scores, but who could donate so the kids can build some cool stuff. I can’t wait to unleash my junk drawer (old game pieces, spools of thread, all coming your way!) so kids can learn and experiment beyond the confines of a desk. Sounds like a blast.
    Kids brains are wired to get these play outlets not to do worksheets. I’m in my 40’s and I personally couldn’t sit in a desk all day, why would I expect my kids to do so?

  8. pentamom September 4, 2015 at 1:01 pm #

    As a homeschooler, I used to be a bit bemused by the almost-universal practice of preschool among middle class people, which was hardly even a thing when I was a kid.

    I did nothing for preschool, except that, well, we did stuff. Read to our kids, let them play imaginatively, talked about interesting stuff. For kindergarten, I did more formal kindergarten, but again, barely anything. Reading lessons, learning to write, a bit of 1 + 1 type stuff. And reading to them out of age-appropriate books about interesting natural science and history type stuff.

    This, at the same time that most of their peers were going to preschool and full-day kindergarten.

    First grade we did a full range of subject with a good bit of work in each, but it was still probably a lot less than kids are subjected to in school.

    By the end of first grade, they were probably ahead of their peers. Some of that chalks up to their natural gifts, but mostly I think it’s just that all that knowledge cramming for 4-6 year olds accomplishes next to nothing over the long run, and growing up in an environment where thinking and learning are encouraged but not made into work, is the bigger factor.

  9. pentamom September 4, 2015 at 1:02 pm #

    BTW, that isn’t meant as a “homeschooling is better” or “everybody should homeschool” rant. I just mean that I think it shows that preschool/K kids can be subjected to a pretty light level of formal learning, as long as the basics are covered, and not be “behind” over the long haul.

  10. Julie September 4, 2015 at 1:04 pm #

    My nephew loves to dress up with a tie, usually a clip on. It was his birthday, and it was hot so he was running around with shorts but no shirt…so he clipped the tie onto his waistband. He needed to “dress up,” don’t you know. It was his birthday. I think those pictures will come back to haunt him.

    There are kids at that age that want to learn more of their letters, learning, etc., but not in a rote manner. My oldest daughter wanted to learn to write letters so that she could “write” a story to go with her drawings. Dictating it wasn’t enough. She loves looking at it now (luckily she allowed me to write a translation of the story on the last page). For her that was play at the time. But if we had *made* her do it, she would have fought tooth and nail at the time.

    Now she is in 8th grade and her little sis in 6th. Now the battle is that the teachers want to artificially slow the girls down to the speed everyone else wants/needs to go, especially in math. They love playing with numbers and mathematical concepts. We finally have a teacher this year that sees this and is giving them extra stuff that they can do to play in that way.

  11. Dorothy Caruso September 4, 2015 at 1:20 pm #

    Thank you for a delightful and informative article. Asa previous pre-school teacher, turned professional counselor, I agree that stringent academics is totally useless and could be harmful to the social-emotional development of the child.

    First, we learn through our senses. Maria Montessori discovered how very important this aspect of learning is and developed an entire learning style on having kids take action while learning. Polishing shoes, meant learning colors, back and forth motions are a pre-disposition on how we learn to read; back and forth eye motions.

    The connection between just sitting in some “academic” setting for long periods of time for a preschooler is grueling and depriving to the senses. Consider the rise in ‘autism”. What is one of the first things Counselor’s, ABA people do? Bring in props, materials for the senses!~ Asperger’s autism is generally referred to as “high functioning”, autism. Very bright, can spout information in a nanno second. What is missing? Input on all senses, social skills, that require the student to be aware of his or her surroundings, others, what they are doing, how to be involved with environment including others.

    One good and fun way to do that in a semi-structured way is simply play board games. Preschoolers love games like Candyland. The game involves getting along with other, taking turns, ironing out differences (“It was my turn!), learning to count (I get to move 3 spaces), learning units of space, (1-2-3 spaces).

    Academics does not have to be stringent, rigid, learnig that could teach children to hate education, it can be as sweet as honey even with a few “beestings” of differences. This along with more structure, and free play supplies a child with the reality of life’s expectations at different levels.

  12. EricS September 4, 2015 at 1:27 pm #

    The only thing children should be learning early, is real life skills and street smarts. Everything else should progress naturally. At 5 years old, kids should be forced to learn arithmetics, proper grammar, and musical instruments. Unless it’s what THEY really want to do. Until they actually start school to learn those things, if they want to play in mud, roll around in the grass, climb things, etc… let them. Just teach them the pros and cons of those activities. Then let them learn on their own.

    Many of these parents’ mentality is very perplexing. They start their children really early so they can get a leg up on their financial future. Yet for everything else that would benefit their emotional and mental well being, is put on the back burner because of fears. For some, they are never taught it. So they grow up completely dependent on their parents for pretty much everything…well into their 20s. And these very same parents end up complaining how their adult children can’t fend for themselves. lol

  13. Fiddler'sWife September 4, 2015 at 1:52 pm #

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    How did that work out for you?
    If your answer is “Great!” GREAT!!!

    If your answer is less than great, then listen up! There is still hope:
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  14. Elin September 4, 2015 at 2:03 pm #

    In Sweden children go to daycare which is called preschool. They do very little school-like things though, it is learning through play mostly. They sing, read the children stories, play indoors and outdoors (they aim for at least one outdoor session a day even in winter), they do crafts, the children sometimes work independently or together with different learning activities and games. The children learn a lot but in their mind it is “playing” all day long. I love this system and when they are 6 and start school they have a year of “preschool-class” which is thought of as a transition year when they start doing a little more school-like things but still much of the didactics is still from preschool. When they are 7 they start sitting down more and efforts to teach reading, writing and maths are intensified. Even in school they are breaks where they play outside and often quite a lot of outdoors PE and many schools do regular trips to the woods.

    About academics. I am the first in my family to go to the university and while I loved it I can also clearly see that there is a lot of merit in going for a trade. My nephew is a car mechanic, he makes more than me and got started worked right out of school. If my child doesn’t want to go to university that will be fine as long as she is happy and can support herself.

  15. lollipoplover September 4, 2015 at 2:29 pm #

    “Preschoolers love games like Candyland.”

    And card games. So much we can do to make learning math and counting fun beyond papers and desks.

    I also highly recommend cooking (and gardening) with young kids. Kids can learn great science lessons in the kitchen. Food and nutrition are such important life skills. Little hands also love to plant seeds, play with water, dirt, and bugs and are fantastic gardeners and weeders. No better sight than my neighbor’s preschoolers munching on the cherry tomatoes in our garden. I start my day and end my day in the garden and I can honestly say there is no better stress reliever than playing in dirt for me. So we sent our preschoolers to the “play” preschool where they went outside on the 25 acres every day.

  16. bluebird of bitterness September 4, 2015 at 2:47 pm #

    Goodness, how things have changed in the last 35 years! At the time our firstborn was scheduled to begin school, we decided not to send her because at age five and a half she was reading, writing, and doing arithmetic at a 3rd grade level… while the kindergarten teacher’s goals for the school year were to teach students the alphabet and how to count to a hundred. Now it sounds as if some schools have gone to the opposite extreme, and have made kindergarten too academically rigorous for the average five-year-old. Sigh…

  17. CrazyCatLady September 4, 2015 at 2:55 pm #

    We moved to CA when my daughter was 4. Because child care was so expensive, I refused to work to just pay for child care and instead stayed home with my kids. We went to the library, the park, the beach, the forest…all sorts of things. I read to them, they had free play time, they watched some PBS (because cable was too expensive.) They gardened with me, and cleaned house with me (though somehow, as they move into teens, that one didn’t stick well.)

    And when I went to the park, moms would look at my kids and say “Your kids are so bright and well mannered. Where do they go to preschool?” When I said that they didn’t, they stayed home, they would actually MOVE AWAY FROM ME ON THE BENCH. (And I would be annoyed, because they felt there was no way for a parent to teach their kid good manners? The manners ALWAYS went with the smart.)

    Then I started watching regular TV and saw that CA was running ads that had police in a police car commenting how if kids didn’t go to preschool….they would end up in the back of their car someday. My reaction to this was….what a load of bull crap!

    But then when people started asking again about preschool, I started saying that I homeschooled preschool. I didn’t change a thing that I was doing, just what I called our time together. And they were JUST FINE with that. Made me laugh!

    And now…we do homeschool because the schools in CA were in crisis and couldn’t do anything for any kid that was outside their narrow band of normal. It has been great….I really appreciate our time together.

    That all said….my son had sensory issues related to his eyes not teaming properly. Vision therapy took care of that, and the sensory issues.

  18. SKL September 4, 2015 at 3:12 pm #

    I think what we really need is balance. All or nothing is just not a smart parenting approach.

  19. Andre L. September 4, 2015 at 3:20 pm #

    Nothing wrong with more play, but that doesn’t need to be at expense of age-appropriate academic training (methods and length). Young kids are not meant to sit for hours in a row, but they can have some academic training in a proper context.

  20. Andrea September 4, 2015 at 3:24 pm #

    So I did go to Harvard, and it’s mostly been useful for explaining to my kids’ teachers that all the homework they are getting is stupid and that they don’t need to take another standardized test to learn something. Notably, my Harvard-educated husband struggles keeping jobs because while he is all kinds of “book smart,” his EQ and social skills are pretty sub-par. So for me, a school that focuses on “soft skills” through play and exploration is far more appealing than a school that has great reading and math scores. My kids will be fine academically. But socially and emotionally? That is something I’m not prepared to risk because of this ridiculous notion that if a child can read in pre-school she’s set for life.

  21. Beth S September 4, 2015 at 3:25 pm #

    “At 5 years old, kids should be forced to learn arithmetics, proper grammar, and musical instruments.”

    @EricS, you didn’t mean this, right? It really seems at odds with the rest of your post so I’m hoping for a missing word!

  22. SKL September 4, 2015 at 4:03 pm #

    I had one kid I had to push to move. From the time she could crawl, she’d gather up a pile of books and sit in their midst, looking at them for as long as I would let her. I made her get off her butt and walk to the park and such, which she did not like. Pushing is pushing, whether the goal is reading or movement. Sometimes you do have to be the parent.

    My other kid was the opposite. Athletic. But she had vision problems and other issues that made reading skills elusive. So yes, I let her run around and play and do all sorts of things, but I also worked with her a little on those preschool skills, so she would feel confident about them when she went to school. In general, kids with special needs are given early intervention so they aren’t super far behind when school begins. It doesn’t mean they aren’t also running around building core body strength, experimenting with relationships, etc.

    I also put my kids in preschool and various other activities, which provided experience with a broad variety of adult caregivers as well as kids. I used to think I ought to spend as much time with them as possible, but seeing my kids thrive on the different experiences changed my mind.

    As far as free-ranging, there is only so much you can do before KG age, but my kids did have a fair amount of “loosely supervised” time. They would play in the backyard (or other room) while I worked in the kitchen, or play at the park while I walked around the perimeter. I let them help retrieve groceries in the little carts at the store and didn’t keep them in a death grip as we went from place to place. 😉

    My kids have always been confident about going to school / camps – probably because of my confidence in their readiness. My kids have no trouble making friends and interacting all day long. As for emotional stuff – when the going gets tough at school, my kids speak up for themselves. When that doesn’t work, they get stoic. They’ve never been accused of emotional weakness, far less outbursts. And my kids are young for their grade. Why have we been lucky in this respect? Was it because I handed them off more? Pushed them more? Got them outside more? Exposed them to academics more? I can’t honestly say.

  23. hineata September 4, 2015 at 4:21 pm #

    @CrazyCatLady – those ads are possibly targeted for the lower socio-economic demographic? While preschool isn’t necessary to ‘teach’ anything much, what we term kindergarten (3-5 year olds) does bring families of all types together and serves as a way to link communities….

  24. MomOf8 September 4, 2015 at 4:22 pm #

    Whew. I’m glad I was lackadaisical about pre-k education with all my kids. They played and we touched on abc’s and 123s where it came up. It’s just how things happened. I hoped it was enough. They’re all doing well in school, except for the baby 😉 Now I can do the same thing with him and not feel negligent.

  25. Emily Morris September 4, 2015 at 5:00 pm #

    My daughter is in preschool. For social and childcare reasons. The curriculum is songs and nursury rhymes. Outside that, they color and play. My mother is horrified.

  26. FreedomForKids September 4, 2015 at 5:12 pm #

    All I can suggest is read about Sandra Dodd and “unschooling”. Oh, and John Holt, who started the whole thing.

  27. Juluho September 4, 2015 at 5:51 pm #

    The fact is that the schools expect Kindergartners to read, know some simple math functions, etc.
    Depriving American kids of pre school learning only sets them behind.
    Do you have to spend a lot? No. Just sit down and read to your kids, help them write. Etc.

  28. Kenny Felder September 4, 2015 at 7:00 pm #

    More people around the country are tuning into “Waldorf Schools.” I know I sound like an ad here, and I am somewhat evangelical about them, but I don’t own one or work at one; I just send my kids to one. And the reason I first did was precisely this: their kindergarten is about creativity, socialization, and play, not about reading and writing and rithmeticking. If you have a Waldorf school in your area, and if you have a child who is anywhere from kindergarten through high school, I urge you to check it out.

  29. Jenny Islander September 4, 2015 at 8:25 pm #

    @hineata: It sounds like the observation that people in a lower socioeconomic stratum (that is, almost half of the families in the U.S.) who have to work more than one job just to get by, or can just barely get by on one job with nothing left over for the extras, can’t run their kids to the park and to playdates all the time, or read to them a whole lot, or set up cooking classes at home. They’re broke right after bill-paying day and they’re tired. State-funded preschools can fill in that gap by providing safe places for kids to socialize and master pre-academic skills. Except instead of the “Hey, do you know where your kids are? If they’re at preschool, they’re with somebody who can make their day soar” that the ads could have promised, it’s scare-scare-scare.

    @pentamom: It’s the grinding, numbing repetition that gets to me (that and the ridiculous expectations, but the repetition doesn’t help). I use the Mason Method myself. Based on continual observation of young children, she recommended that all lessons for early primary be kept short; five minutes is not too little. Give a kid a bit of mental food to chew on and digest and a bit more tomorrow–don’t overstuff their poor brains! And let them figure out the connections between things themselves; don’t explain so darn much.

    She used her method in regular schools and produced graduates who could competently handle life as citizens of a capitalist democracy. The method she spoke against, meanwhile, has become the norm. We could retool our schools to use her method, but it would require defunding–well, I won’t get into the politics, but let’s just say that a lot of money would have to be diverted from other uses into reducing class sizes for every public school everywhere. Also everybody in early primary would be outdoors for at least half of the day unless conditions were actively dangerous, but their activities would look less like team sports and more like dinking around getting dirty.

  30. Anna September 4, 2015 at 9:27 pm #

    KB: I hear you about Virginia! When we lived there and I took my son to story-time at the library, even the age 12-18 months story-time (seriously, I kid you not) was all letter and number themed. They’d put an “M” or whatever up on the felt board and then put up different words to see which ones started with M. And all the moms would earnestly cue their kid to say “M” as loudly as possible to pretend they already knew their letters. I hope they were pretending anyway. I used to feel like standing up and yelling, “Hello, our kids are pre-verbal. Why are we pretending to teach them literacy?”

    The bizarre thing is that if you even stopped to thing about it for ten seconds, the things a toddler is learning naturally are far more important and difficult to learn: sensory integration, fundamental structures of language, interpersonal communication, narrative. I remember once reading a motto that before you decide to teach your young child something, you should ask yourself what he would have been learning that you’ve displaced. I think it’s very true.

  31. Donald September 4, 2015 at 10:32 pm #

    I went to an open house day for a Steiner school. They also believe in child developing naturally. At recess, the kids are allowed to build forts. In the kindergarten class, one of their assignments were to embroider their name.
    The letters were about 2″. The material was burlap and therefore the needle wasn’t sharp. This was done to encourage hand/eye coordination. I thought it was a brilliant idea!

    That gave me the idea to learn animal balloon tying. I taught my 8 year old son how to tie balloons. He made dogs, rabbits, flowers, and a parrot. He also made a balloon sword. It’s a good thing that he didn’t get expelled for that! We immediately had an exorcism to drive the terrorist demon spirits from him!

  32. hineata September 4, 2015 at 11:26 pm #

    @JennyIslander – very good point. Counter active to browbeat those already up against it….

  33. hineata September 4, 2015 at 11:29 pm #

    By the way, the last thing I have ever worried about is that my kids won’t get into a 2nd rate university like Harvard….One should be aiming for the top. Oxbridge, eh what? :-).

  34. hineata September 4, 2015 at 11:30 pm #

    Or failing that, the University of Ruakokapatuna….

  35. James Pollock September 5, 2015 at 1:37 am #

    The single biggest indicator of academic success is parents who read to their children.

    The single biggest mistake you can make is confusing “intelligence of the sort that results in strong standardized test scores” and “intelligence”. Some people are good at vocabulary and grammar, and some people are good at math. Those people will get good standardized test scores. Some other people do not test well, for a variety of reasons, but this does not mean that they are not intelligent… it means that their intelligence does not match up well with standardized tests.

    (I am not a fan of standardized tests, although I do very well on them. This means nothing other than I do really well on standardized tests.)

  36. hineata September 5, 2015 at 5:58 am #

    @James – no. Reading to children is very helpful, but certainly not the biggest indicator of academic success.

  37. Vicky September 5, 2015 at 8:31 am #

    This is deeply disturbing. What makes it even more disturbing and more heinous is that this new generation of mentally, socially and physically captive children are being misdiagnosed by the millions, with a non-existent illness. An illness not concocted by doctors, but by a major pharmaceutical company. You guessed it, ADD.
    Drug companies and the morally devoid medical community have gotten richer making young children addicts to some of the most harmful, mind altering, man-made drugs in the world. The side effects alone should make parents blood run cold and cause them to reconsider.
    If you abuse your child by forcing ritalin or ativan into their system, you are the worst kind of ‘useful idiot’. But you can change that by becoming informed.
    If you love your child, you will do the research like many have. When you do, you will discover doctors who’ve come forward to expose this travesty against children. There have been books written by creditable medical professionals to warn the ‘drug embracing’ public of this use of children by greedy adults to get rich. A crime and sin as old as the world itself.
    It should concern all of us that every single school shooter had been force feed at least one of these devastating drugs as children.

  38. SanityAnyone? September 5, 2015 at 8:46 am #

    I’m all for playing “let’s all be kitties”. Once I saw a Mom playing with her twin toddlers “let’s all be parakeets”. I filmed them for a minute with my cell phone and then called CPS. That’s just cold blooded.

    I am one who gently started to teach my first baby to read at 6 months, not to get him into Harvard but with the idea that we are capable of so much more than we know, so why not develop a skill that gives us powerful access to pursue our passions? Sounds funny now. I never did it rigorously, and followed the explicit instructions that it should be for a very short time, always fun, and stop before the kids wants to stop. He still didn’t read until kindergarten, but enjoyed the time with me and even more enjoyed when we worked on “encyclopedic knowledge” (birds, states, musical instruments, etc.) Teaching your children is a great pleasure, but without pressure and knowing they will still be OK if it’s not their thing at 18 months.

    My second kid got no early academics other than story time and somehow taught herself to read at a second grade level while 4. Her big brother helped a little. The third kid is still not sounding out words in first grade despite his overall sharpness.

    I agree that what builds relationships is to play lots of “let’s all be kitties/parakeets”, “How to handle the man in the white van with the puppies”, role reversal, silly songs, swinging by the arms, reading books, and also to leave them to play quietly on their own sometimes.

  39. Rook September 5, 2015 at 9:16 am #

    My nephew’s idiot father says that he needs to be drugged up and diagnosed with ADD. The kid is five years old and went from having fun at home and at daycare (which had lots of play time and he was doing well with light academia like colors and the alphabet) to being forced into 8 hours at school followed by 2 hours of homework for five days a week. Just for kindergarten! Of course he has no interest in learning how to read or do math. My sister is determined to yank him out and homeschool him after this year. His dad however is one of those dolts that think all homeschool kids are inferior social rejects, so that’s going to be a battle uphill.

  40. Buffy September 5, 2015 at 9:37 am #

    “IF” you love your child? Come on. Who are you talking to exactly, that this is an IF?

  41. Jill September 5, 2015 at 9:53 am #

    What irks me are the TV commercials that show parents bouncing on the bed with their kids at some hotel, hovering over them at lemonade stands and generally not letting them play by themselves. Kids and adults used to occupy separate worlds, but not anymore. Now it seems like parents are supposed to be playmates, as well as security guards, in case someone drives up in a white van and tries to kidnap precious little Olivia or Orwell.
    My parents would have lauged themselves silly at the idea of anyone kidnapping me. “I’d feel sorry for them if they did,” they’d chuckle, picturing a scenario like “The Ransom of Red Chief.”
    It’s sad to see the idea taking over that kids need to be taught how to play by adults instead of just letting them knock around with their peers, the way they did for hundreds of years.
    I remember learning how to make cootie catchers and play cat’s cradle from an older girl in my neighborhood. Now moms make elaborate versions of those things for their children and put them on Pinterest, creating a curated version of childhood that feeds the parents’ egos but doesn’t do much for kids.

  42. Jessica September 5, 2015 at 10:14 am #

    My oldest is almost six and we’re doing the home school thing too, but it doesn’t look like school at all. I read to the kids and we play and go shopping and cook and what not. I haven’t pushed any academics and yet the oldest can write most of his letters, spell his name, count to 100 and know a ton about animals. He’s also polite and has no trouble making friends when we hit the park. Lately he’s been asking how to spell numbers. My friends have complained about how frustrating it is trying to teach their kids these same things. My response is always the same: wait for them and they will surprise you with how quickly they learn, especially when they want to.

    On a side note, one of my biggest pet peeves with toys and books nowadays is how all of it carries some blurb about how it’s educational. Can I just get a toy because he’s going to enjoy it? And not every kid is going to learn the same thing from the same toy/book at the same time. Just let them play!

  43. FreedomForKids September 5, 2015 at 10:42 am #

    My youngest daughter, now fifteen and always unschooled, asked me a bunch of questions about letters and letter sounds when she was seven, and BOOM! ..one day she could read. Big words and difficult words too. She figured out the code. No timeline and no pressure from me or her Dad. She saw us reading and wanted to do the same. Now THAT is a happy childhood experience.

    Her best friend, on the other hand, has suffered for years in school with pressure to read on THEIR and not HER (brain’s) timeline. Pushing and pushing and labeling her “slow” and “learning disabled”.
    She has suffered so.

  44. Jenny Islander September 5, 2015 at 11:07 am #

    The current job climate being what it is, I would have no problem with all-day Kindergarten if it weren’t for No Child Left Alone-I mean, Behind–and its misshapen offspring, Common Core. Let ’em get stuff under their fingernails. Have circle time. Kick ’em all out into the paved schoolyard with a few boxes of colored chalks. Make snacks together. Nap! Let them play, for heaven’s sakes. That’s how they learn how to use their eyes and hands, which is kind of important, seeing as how it underpins EVERYTHING ELSE CHILDREN DO IN SCHOOL.

  45. Emily Morris September 5, 2015 at 11:41 am #

    So I teach 2nd grade. Yes, I teach at a charter school that is very academically focused (along with a Leadership program) and looks for rigorous teaching. (Disclaimer: not making a charter school debate as I really don’t see a difference between charters and the regular public schools I’ve taught at, just saying my school is obsessed with academics).

    However, at my lower elementary level, do you know what we complain about as teachers? Not lack of reading or math skills (seriously, that’s supposed to be our job to handle) but these kids who enter school with no social skills, no clue of what one does at a playground, no eye-hand coordination, no sense of normal creativity, no ability to play by themselves or with others. We’re not asking for social or creative prodigies, we just think it’s awful we’re receiving little zombies instead of kids. Your kid is struggling with reading? Well, we’ll work on some reading strategies. But why is your kid so clueless to the ways of being a kid?

  46. BL September 5, 2015 at 12:51 pm #

    “All I can suggest is read about Sandra Dodd and “unschooling”. Oh, and John Holt, who started the whole thing.”

    And John Taylor Gatto.

  47. Laura September 5, 2015 at 1:47 pm #

    I have a 7 year old son, a 4.5 year old daughter and an almost 3 year old daughter. Both my son and my youngest daughter learned their letters, numbers, shapes and colors before they turned 2. Both are eagar learners and are currently invested in learning their states and capitals. My son, who is in 1st grade, is doing above average in math and average in reading in his 1st grade class at his public school. He went to preschool three mornings per week for 1 year before kindergarten (mostly because we lived in a rural area and I wanted him to have more social interaction with other kids). My almost 3 year old who is extremely social may not even attend preschool because I honestly don’t think she’ll need to for any other reason than giving me a break from kids a few mornings per week.

    My 4.5 year old daughter starts preschool 3 mornings a week this upcoming week and she will go to kindy next year. She can count to 10 and say her ABCs but she can’t recognize most letters or numbers by sight. She has no interest in spending time learning. She would rather be playing where she can use her imagination. I feel like preschool will help her prepare for elementary school and she’s shy in public places and needs to learn to trust other adults and play with other children (who aren’t her siblings or cousins).

    Every kid is different and some kids are going to achieve at a really early age and some kids aren’t going to be interested in academics at a young age (maybe never) but it’s important to allow our kids to explore their worlds when they’re very young and so I haven’t pushed my 4 year old to sit down and learn all her letters and numbers like her younger sister already knows. She’ll learn them soon enough while at preschool and she’ll probably be ready for kindergarten by the end of the year. It’s way more important to me that my kids play and have fun at their ages and not feel too much pressure because soon enough they’ll learn about standardized testing and have tons of homework and have more responsibilities. I just let them be kids for now and we’ll worry about college later.

  48. FreedomForKids September 5, 2015 at 2:56 pm #

    @BL—–Yes, John Taylor Gatto too! Thanks for that!

  49. FreedomForKids September 5, 2015 at 3:27 pm #

    John Taylor Gatto[1] (born December 15, 1935[2]) is an American author and former school teacher with nearly 30 years of experience in the classroom. He devoted much of his energy to his teaching career, then, following his resignation, authored several books on modern education, criticizing its ideology, history, and consequences. He is best known for the underground classic “Dumbing Us Down: the Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling”, and his magnum opus “The Underground History of American Education: A Schoolteacher’s Intimate Investigation Into the Problem of Modern Schooling”.

    He was named New York City Teacher of the Year in 1989, 1990, and 1991, and New York State Teacher of the Year in 1991.[3]

  50. Art September 5, 2015 at 3:43 pm #

    @Emily Morris,

    I’ve heard the same from Kinder teacher friends, there’s absolutely horrified at what’s going on with these very young kids. Complete lack of social skills, inability to do basic problem solving, no creativity, they basically have to be taught to play. The electronic babysitters are also greatly exacerbating the problem.

  51. Buffy September 5, 2015 at 4:20 pm #

    Why do topics like this always have to turn into bragging? I’d be really interested to know if there are studies tracking the adult life of kids who knew everything by the age of 2. Are they in better careers than those who learned their numbers at age 4, or those who didn’t read til first grade? Are they more “successful”, however we measure that? Did they take all AP classes in high school, or does it all kind of even out over time?

  52. Donald September 5, 2015 at 5:49 pm #

    80% of jobs are never advertised. They get filled by word of mouth. Who you know is as important as what you know.

    Networking is the most effective method for job search. Don’t take my word for it. Google it.

    Social skills are vital for effective networking.

  53. Papilio September 5, 2015 at 7:13 pm #

    All those stories and YouTube videos of people trying to stuff their very young kids with stupid facts they’ll forget in no time and skills they’re not developmentally ready for anyway are just so silly and pointless imho. Kinda cruel, even. Unless THEY want to know, leave them alone…
    If you really want to teach them something useful/exotic/interesting at that age, do (baby) sign language.

    In my country everything before 1st grade (6 years old) is play-based. Singing songs, lots of PE, lots of crafts, circle time, and, in the two years before 1st grade, a few letters of the month, various corners with different kinds of toys (such as dolls, a ‘house’ with two floors they can play in, wooden mosaic, wood+hammer+nails, drawing?, probably blocks or lego or so, perhaps a sand&water table) that the kids can choose to play with for the next half hour and then choose something different.

    “Our German Exchange daughter has a teacher friend that explained they want kids to come to school ready to play and that parents should not provide any letter or word teaching. They don’t start any of that until the kids are developmentally ready. Guess which country has a higher ranked education system?”

    Mine 🙂

    Someone mentioned EIGHT hours of school and then another TWO hours of *homework*… I don’t think I’ve EVER done that, and certainly not in Kindergarten, and certainly not 5 days a week!

  54. Jenny Islander September 5, 2015 at 11:15 pm #

    @Buffy: If you track them day to day, my students are “behind” per the latest standards. (“Higher Expectations Lead to Higher Performance!” says the subtitle on the cover of the math and language arts standards booklet. Has our state education commissioner ever met a child?!) However, they get a solid B on the annual standardized tests, which is fine by me, and per the standards I grew up with–which somehow perpetuated our civilization–they are right on track. I told the homeschool coordinator that I’m actually okay with a consistent middle-of-the-spread C because hey, that’s average, and she looked at me like I’d farted in public. Ma’am, the children are all above average in Lake Wobegon. I live in Reality Land.

  55. Birch September 6, 2015 at 5:13 am #

    ADD isn’t made up, and it’s not caused by growing up in a certain environment either – it’s mainly (80%) genetic. 80% is super high for a psychological trait! Most traits and many psychological disorders are 40-50% genetic, with the rest being environmentally decided. The medications don’t work for everyone with ADD, but there are very few medications that work for everyone, so that’s not weird either.

    I think that many people think of ADD as if it only means being easily bored, being physically active and needing to be creative, but ADD is more than that. I should know, I study clinical psychology and I have ADD.

    The issue here is that EVERYONE would be antsy and bored out of their minds if they were told to sit down and do worksheets all day long, while someone insists that you have to be happy and nice and never complain. I mean, at least office work has a purpose beyond “it’s good for you, you’ll see why in ten years”.

    If I never got to do anything except write essays on how to print a document or do a project on making my own fake employee manual, instead of doing real work, I think I’d go crazy. That’s not ADD, that’s being human! Free the children, refuse to imprison them in forced boredom.

  56. Early Learning Centre September 6, 2015 at 5:57 am #

    That is good step. Every one have right but only thos got scholarship which are intelligent and hardworker.

  57. Susan K. Stewart September 6, 2015 at 6:09 am #

    I was jumping for joy with the headline. The parental fears are based on junk surveys, most of which were commissioned by pro-pre-school groups.

    When California was attempting to pass a law to mandate preschool for all, some crazy information hit the media. One of my favorite ads said that if a child who goes to preschool will help save Social Security.

  58. SKL September 6, 2015 at 1:54 pm #

    It’s really important at the youngest ages to let kids get down and play on the floor. Developing certain physical skills in the proper sequence impacts future behavior and learning. Most people have no idea about this, but I know a little because one of my kids has/had this issue. She was kept sitting in a stroller or in a crib for most of her life until age 1. (She was in foster care.) She retained some infant reflexes that are counterproductive after a certain age. Therapy of a physical nature helps, but it isn’t the same as doing the healthy thing at the normal age.

    But that does not mean you shouldn’t expose preschoolers to letters and numbers as well. I think it is silly to fuss over this, as if it hurts children to discover that words are symbols for things/ideas, numbers are symbols for quantities, and letters are symbols for sounds.

    While there may currently be some stigma against families that keep the kids ignorant of all academics before age 6, there used to be just as much stigma against kids who came to school able to read – regardless of how they learned. Do we really want to go back to that?

  59. Jenny Islander September 6, 2015 at 2:46 pm #

    @SKL: In K I was read to, allowed to play with alphabet blocks and the Montessori thingie in which there are a series of cubes that pack into one another by factors of 10, given simple worksheets in which we circled the amount of little hats three kittens and two kittens (pictured) would need to go play in the snow, and slowly taught how to make my capital letters on lines two inches high. Sitting activities were brief and always broken up by something active, or a nap. Now K students have, God help us, homework. This is wrong. It is not good for children. It helps nothing.

    I could print the word HIPPOPOTAMUS while the other kids were learning how to make an H, but so what? We’re all in the same place now.

    I wonder sometimes whether all this anxiety over starting kids out in the competition for education, which means the competition for jobs and economic security, when they’re five–or four–or three is an attempt to cope with the steadily eroding position of the middle class. Wages haven’t kept pace with inflation since the ’70s. Local banking is a sad memory for most people, infrastructure is crumbling, health care costs have shot up (and even Obamacare can’t help everybody), and on and on. Maybe obsessing over making sure that Little Doris is in front at all times and producing more and more (worksheets, points, grades) is an attempt to combat the ever-present anxiety.

  60. Emily Morris September 6, 2015 at 2:50 pm #

    I have no problem with parents exposing babies and preschoolers to letters and numbers. I think that will generally happen somewhat naturally as you raise your kids, though. The ABC song, for instance. Even more direct teaching is great as long as it doesn’t become an end-all.

  61. Papilio September 6, 2015 at 4:19 pm #

    @SKL: I don’t think anyone is longing for whatever kind of stigma…??

    But maybe it’s good to keep in mind that some of us are talking about parents who sit their young kid down to pump all kinds of academics into her head, some of us discuss school systems in other countries, and then there are parents who just follow their kid and simply answer her questions when she has them.
    Those are all quite different situations.

  62. SKL September 6, 2015 at 5:37 pm #

    It might be regional, but around here there is no obsession with getting into Harvard. However, parents of preschoolers generally want them to learn their letters and such. Nowadays they use kiddy ipads and other electronic tools which the kids play with on their own, in between more physical and social activities. Some kids pick it up quickly, others don’t.

    There is all-day academic preschool/daycare. This is what my kids attended. It is play-based, with short spurts of “sit and listen” time. Nobody is graded or punished for doing things their own way. Kids eventually get ready on their own timetable.

    I remember being a little worried at first, when I put my kids into preschool at age 2.5. They gave me a tour, and the toddler class from 18-24 mos was having circle time. The teacher was running through some flash cards, and some of the kids were able to call out the letters and such. Wow. My kids must be behind! One of mine knew most of her letters, but the other one didn’t even recognize a handful. I needn’t have worried, though. My kids were in that school for 3 years (through KG) and there was never a time when they were pressured academically. My youngest was the first in her class to learn to read, and she didn’t learn it at school. (She was one of those kids who is wired for reading.) My eldest was able to keep up thanks to vision therapy, and there were older kids who were slower, yet nobody was pressured as far as I know.

    My kids had homework in KG. It was easy small-muscle stuff, and my kids completed it at aftercare without any assistance. I felt it was fine as practice for future independent work.

    I worked with my kids after school too. We went to museums and such. We read together. And yes, I reviewed sight words with my slower kid – usually less than 5 minutes per day. It enabled her to read storybooks, which gave meaning to what she was learning in school. I certainly have no regrets.

    When I hear people talk about 2 hours of homework in KG, I have to wonder, how can that be? Are these kids with learning problems? Are they counting time spent actively avoiding the work instead of sitting down and doing it? Are they including the time parents spend doing additional stuff the school didn’t ask them to do? Are they counting reading together, which is something parents and kids ought to do anyway?

  63. Fiddler'sWife September 6, 2015 at 7:35 pm #

    Just over a hundred years ago, children of fatherless families, motherless families, the poor and destitute went off to work at age eight and lived on the street.
    Not recommended, but some actually survived and thrived.

    By contrast, affluent parents today have amazing choices regarding how to launch their kiddies in life. But they don’t do the research and therefore may fail to connect the dots.

    All they have to do is spend a little quality time in the children’s books section at B & N, and they’ll find the nifty shelf with FREE RANGE KIDS, Peter Gray’s FREE TO LEARN, and another of my own personal favorites, A COUNTRY CALLED CHILDHOOD by worldly Brit Jay Griffiths.

    Of course, parents can go to the other extreme and confine the kids at home, under virtual house arrest, when they are not suffering the drudgery of endless hours in classrooms drilling, drilling, drilling. Often starting at age two or three.

    Neither the street urchin or the toddler-student have much time for play. “Life is real! Life is earnest!” “Work, for the night is coming!”

    But the worker-bee kid at least enjoyed freedom and autonomy.

    Tomorrow is Labor Day. I spent a thirty two year career as an advocate for workers’ rights. Including Labor Laws to get kids off the streets and into school. What I observed was that “choice”, “freedom”, “democracy” were the motivators of the happiest and most productive workers. Including young people, whose “work” was learning. And of the little ones, whose “work” was play.

    Research backs it up. Social Psychologist Edward Deci found that autonomy is the best motivator of humankind, superior to either the carrot or the stick. His findings are in WHY WE DO WHAT WE DO, written with Richard Flaste, former NY Times science editor. Parental control is not the key to outstanding school performance by kids. Self motivated kids are free kids.

  64. Andy September 7, 2015 at 6:36 am #

    @SKL “Are they counting reading together, which is something parents and kids ought to do anyway?”

    Reading together something chosen by the teacher at the day the teacher decided is shall be read absolutely does count as homework. It leaves me with less time to read or do what I want. For that matter, I strongly prefer kids being given homework for them instead of homework for me.

    “When I hear people talk about 2 hours of homework in KG, I have to wonder, how can that be? Are these kids with learning problems? Are they counting time spent actively avoiding the work instead of sitting down and doing it? Are they including the time parents spend doing additional stuff the school didn’t ask them to do?”

    Afaik, they usually count how much family time is spend by the whole thing. How much time passed until it is all done and we can go outside? If they do homework at the evening, how much sooner do we need to go home from outside so that homework is done?

    “Actively avoiding the work” part before they sit down should not count. Time lost due to loosing attention and thus parent having to remind them what they do constantly absolutely should count. Six-seven years old kid being tired after sitting and focusing whole school is a factor.

    What I mostly do not get through, is why do kids need to color that much? It seem like everything except writing boils down to a lot of time spend by coloring. They do not have math, they have coloring – math part (comparing, adding) is done instantly and coloring takes all remaining time. I get that some amount of coloring trains their hands, but is that much of it really needed?

  65. SKL September 7, 2015 at 12:52 pm #

    Andy, I think they assign coloring partly because they assume kids like it.

    If coloring is taking too long, give your kids fat markers instead of crayons – or even watercolor paints. Then it will get done faster and with less strain.

    My kids have home workbooks (my choice) which ask them to color too. I just tell them to skip the coloring unless they want to do it in their free time. (They never do.)

  66. Papilio September 7, 2015 at 3:40 pm #

    @Andy: I assume the coloring is to train their fine motor skills and perhaps some eye-hand coordination (make the pencil go where you want it to go) and to teach them to hold the crayon/pencil/whatever in the right way, thus preparing them for actual writing.
    But there are more activities than coloring to train those things.

  67. TrollBuster September 8, 2015 at 11:38 am #

    Bragging is required as it shows who is superior. My oldest won an Olympic gold medal in both summer and winter Olympics at 4 years old. My middle one was speaking 12 languages by age 2, but I was disappointed because, although she know Bavarian German, she could not speak Austrian German. My youngest, while in utero won the Pulitzer, Fields Medal, Clark Medal, 2 Noble Prizes (Literature and Medicine) and was drafted by MLB in the 14th round.

  68. Laura September 9, 2015 at 3:17 pm #

    @Buffy I don’t know if you were referring to my earlier post as “bragging” but in my case I was simply stating how different my one child is from my other two. I wasn’t bragging about my kids’ intelligence or accomplishments. I was trying to state that I’m not worried that my 4 year old doesn’t know as much letters, numbers, shapes as her older brother and younger sister. I don’t think because my 2 year old knows all her letters, numbers, shapes and colors and is now learning states and capitals (because she’s learning them with her older brother by her own free will) that she’s intellectually superior to anyone else’s kids or that my 4 year old is inferior in anyway. I just think each kid is different and where they are academically at 3 or 4 isn’t as big of a deal as others make it out to be. They need to be able to just be kids more than anything else.

  69. Buffy September 11, 2015 at 8:36 am #

    @Laura, when someone says that TWO of her kids knew their letters, numbers, shapes and colors BEFORE the age of 2, that’s bragging. There’s no reason to tell us that otherwise, unless of course it’s to make everyone else feel like their kids are dumb.

  70. Pauline September 11, 2015 at 2:37 pm #

    In my country (The Netherlands), the notion that a child not able to read or write should be tested for academic skills is laughable. Children here go to the optional “toddler play room”, which is exactly what the name says it is. Age 4, compulsary pre-school starts. But the emphasis is still on play there, and very much so. Lots and lots of play. And through play, they’ll learn their colours, numbers, tying shoes, telling time, wiping their bum and other assorted skills a 4 to 6-year-old should have. Nobody freaks out if a child is a little slower than its peers in pre-school. They sing, do arts and crafts, learn through play and day trips to places like petting zoos and “building playgrounds” (it;s in the name; lots of wood, hammers and nails involved) and of course, pick up the social skills that come with being in a class with peers. What more can you ask from a child not even able to read or write yet? “Academic” skills… rdiculous.

    The prevailing thought here is to let them be children. Real school will start soon enough (age 6)!

  71. elizabeth September 12, 2015 at 12:30 pm #

    I could do basic single digit addition before i started kindergarten, but thats just me. I could read at a high school level by about fifth grade. Again. Just me. I guess what im trying to say is that, while some kids do well with these standards, it leaves others in the dust. No matter how hard you try, it always will.

  72. hineata September 13, 2015 at 12:12 am #

    @Buffy – or it might just be a fact of life. I love working with extra bright kids, sometimes labeled gifted, and some of those will know shapes, colours, whatever before they’re two (or 3 or whatever the so-called norm is). Not because they’re amazing, just because their brains happen to work that way. It’s difficult for parents of this type of child. …what are they supposed to say? Pretend their kids don’t do this type of thing, just because it might be a little outside the normal curve?

  73. Papilio September 13, 2015 at 12:35 pm #

    @Pauline: “Age 4, compulsary pre-school starts.”

    That’s not actually true; it’s only compulsary from the first day of the month following the month in which the child turns 5. So theoretically you could keep your child home for another year and then start in Groep 2, but I agree that would be highly unusual.

  74. Papilio September 13, 2015 at 12:37 pm #

    @Hineata: Agreed.