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Cramming For Kindergarten

More and more parents are seeking tutors for their little ones to make sure that they're prepared for that very first day of school.

But for the Study Hall report, The Early Show correspondent Melinda Murphy found out not everybody agrees it's a good idea to be cramming for kindergarten.

Haley Califano is a pretty normal 5-year-old. She likes coloring books and the Hula Hoop. But her mother, Christine, was concerned that with kindergarten fast approaching, learning her ABCs was throwing Haley for a loop.

"It wasn't that she had any kind of limitations," Christine Califano says, "It was that she really wasn't interested, and she needed to be motivated a little more."

So she took Haley for private tutoring at the Sylvan Learning Center in Huntington, L.I.

"It is unfortunate that you have to do all this preparation for kindergarten, but you really do," Califano says.

The learning center's director, Janice McQuaid, says that more preschoolers are coming in for tutoring because kindergarten has gotten tougher.

"We are getting more requests from parents to start with their children earlier," McQuaid explains, "I worked in a kindergarten class 15 years ago. And I think what was taught in that classroom 15 years ago is traditionally now in the Pre-K classroom. Now what's in the kindergarten classroom was traditionally what was in first grade. So I think there's been a shift in the continuum."

Even thought it is not wrong for a kid to just start kindergarten with little skills, McQuaid says it will affect the child in a negative way later on.

She explains, "They'll go into the classroom and they'll realize that some of the other children are reading and writing. And so they stop being a risk taker; they won't take the risks because they don't feel that they have the skills in place."

Antonia Benitez is also having her son, Dareal, tutored.

"My son has always been smart," she says, "I want to keep my son ahead. He's pretty ahead. He's eager to learn how to read. He wants to know every word in a book.

She believes kids these days need a head start.

"Everything is changing; every generation is more advanced than the last," Benitez says, "I want to keep my son ahead. He's pretty ahead."

New York University child psychologist, Dr. Alexandra Barzvi, says, "School readiness programs in and of themselves are not terrible, as long as expectations are reasonable."

Asked if people expect more of their children now, Dr. Barzvi says, "When I was a kid, school was about socialization and play and friendships. I think it is OK to emphasis academics if it is developmentally appropriate, but not at the expense of these social skills. Kids need to learn how to share, how to get along with others, and they also just need to play. I think a lot of time should be spend just playing."

But according to Haley, learning isn't all that bad.

When asked she says it is fun. What's fun? "Learning your ABCs," she says. And that is music to her mother's ears.

If you wonder why Christine Califano doesn't teach what Haley needs to know, believe it or not, Haley said it was easier for her learning from her teachers. Experts also say that's sometimes the case because teachers are trained to teach and parents just aren't.

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