Today's New York Times has an article about Kumon academic "enrichment" programs for preschoolers. At best, the article concludes, they are useless. At worst, they undermine kids' love of learning. I wrote a piece about this trend--accelerated academics among preschoolers and kindergartners--in the New York Times Magazine in 2009. It was called Kindergarten Cram. I am adamantly against accelerated kindergarten and preschool--and research backs me up. Sometimes I don't know whether I'm liberal, conservative or just radical on these issues, but my core philosophy is that kids should be allowed to be KIDS as long as possible and that we need to push back against everything in this culture that imposes traits that are beyond their years--whether it's sexualization, mind-numbing computer games, massively licensed products that co-opt their imagination, flash card drills or daily homework. They only have a few years in which they can simply play. The internally-driven creativity, fantasy play, imagination of small children is a precious resource and should be cultivated for its own sake, not to create some super-kid who is smarter/faster/earns more money. It's about "enriching" their HUMANITY not their elementary school grades.
Play, draw, read, go for walks, stare at ants, climb, jump, pretend....Repeat (for as long as possible).
I especially love Alliance for Childhood on these issues.