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The Onion thought it was hilarious when it published a satirical article about online classes for preschoolers. A make-believe author of a make-believe report from the U.S. Department of Education said: “With access to their Show-And-Tell message boards, recess timers, and live webcams of class turtle tanks, most toddlers are finding that they can receive the same experience of traditional preschooling from the comfort of their parents’ living room or home office. In addition, most cited the ability to listen to their teacher’s recordings of story time at their own pace as a significant benefit of choosing an online nursery school.”
But now reality has overtaken satire, in less than four months. There really is a company offering virtual preschool, promising to get toddlers ready for the Common Core. The advertising plays to parents’ fears that their children won’t be ready for kindergarten.
Benjamin Herold of Education Week spoke to early childhood experts, who expressed skepticism about putting little children in front of a computer.
Valerie Strauss is suitably alarmed by the prospect of marketing computer-based activities to the parents of little children. Some of the materials are prepared for little ones from 18 months to three years old.
But, she notes:
It also offers material for 4-year-olds, who the Web site says will turn into 5-year-old kindergartners expected to learn material aligned to the Common Core State Standards (which, incidentally call for kids to read in kindergarten). So 4 years old is almost too late to start getting prepared for the academic sweatshop that is kindergarten. The Web site says:
“The preparation needs to start when your child is 4, if not earlier. VINCI Virtual School provides you with a ready-to-go curriculum to make your time more effective, with the structured lessons and with the focus on building literacy and math skills while broaden knowledge on science.”
It should be noted that the American Academy of Pediatrics and the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity have recommended that children under the age of 2 get no screen time. None. Not from TV, the Internet or smart devices.
And, presumably, not from virtual preschool.