Better Late Than Early – Book Review

better late than early

What an awesome book for parents to read!

It’s understandable that every mom and dad wants to give their child all the best opportunities in the world. And with 90% of brain growth & development occurring in the first 5 years of a child’s life, it’s a natural instinct for a parent to want to provide the best education.

The book written by Dorothy & Raymond Moore, Better Later Than Early, answers the question: What is the best education?

Unfortunately, it’s a lack of understanding, or a disregarding of the research, which compels most parents to send their child to school. Or in the case of homeschooling, to be attached to “teaching” them before they are ready; creating a kind of school-at-home.

Raymond and Dorothy Moore emphasize the importance of a parent assuming the role of a loving parent, not as a teacher.

For example, both my parents were school teachers yet, while homeschooling my brother and I, they never “taught” us or tried to give “lessons”. And they give major credit to Better Late Than Early for confirming their own experience and offering confidence that they were on the right track.

They firmly understood that every child develops and is ready to learn at different ages. One consequence of this is that my brother and I both taught ourselves to read.

Here is Dad’s passing comment on the book:

“In working out your child’s best school starting age, you can do no better than to read “Better Late Than Early”. You don’t have to agree with everything in it but I bet you’ll agree with some of it. And all of it will make you think.”

So this leads into the question: If not “teaching” then what can a parent do for their child’s education?

In a word: Less…

On that note, the following is a brief chapter-by-chapter overview of Part I and a general overview of Part II for the book, Better Late Than Early.


“Part I” of the book focuses on whether a child’s early education shall be centered in the family or in some more formalized program outside the home.

CHAPTER 1: Behind the Early Childhood Scene

Apart from glaring special cases – the dumb, blind, physically challenged – it’s made clear that children receive a better foundation for future development and learning from a secure and responsive home environment in which understanding parents, not school teachers, are the ones guiding the child’s education.

It also clarifies how the misleading reference to 50% of ‘mature intelligence’ being developed by age 4 has often been used to justify preschool – that is, the definition of intelligence is actually a potential ability to reason and understand. (Page 6)

CHAPTER 2: Making the Laws

A brief synopsis of how the mandatory school age has been lowered over the years with no apparent reason, except for “getting children off the streets” or because “other states are doing it”.

It deals with shoddy research which focused on orphaned children, either staying in the orphanage or being taken to nursery school and kindergarten:

“This is like saying, if you can help a child by taking him off the cold street and housing him in a warm tent, then warm tents should be provided for all children – when obviously most children already have even more secure housing.” (Page 17)

CHAPTER 3: Some Common Fears and Questions

“It would be a tragic mistake if the development of such (preschool education) programs were guided by faddish concerns and parental anxieties rather than by what we know about the need of young children.” (Page 21)

Apart from shutting down the knee-jerk “socialization problem”, there are some legitimate fears that are addressed:

  • A parent’s capacity to estimate the child’s ability to perceive and judge, or see and hear discriminately
  • A parent’s ability to communicate simply, clearly, lovingly and without baby-talk
  • A child’s possible embarrassment about starting school late and in which grade they should enter
  • Meeting state laws

And some broad questions:

  • What’s wrong with sending my child to nursery school for a couple of hours a day a few times a week?
  • Don’t you think children need some freedom from their homes?
  • Have you ever tried living with a small child in an apartment day in and day out? 🙂

CHAPTER 4: When They Are Ready for School

“Early childhood education must take into account the development of the child’s brain, vision, hearing, perception, emotions, sociability, family & school relationships and physical growth.” (Page 34)

Despite the lowering age of school requirements (of 5 and 6 years old), the above factors typically come to maturation between the ages 8-10.

CHAPTER 5: Developing Attachments

Rather than being thrust into a sink-or-swim environment (school), a child is best served to be allowed to build confidence with the nurture and attachment of a loving mother (and father). Secondary to that, his/her attachments will broaden to brothers, sisters, relatives, neighborhood kids.

CHAPTER 6: Opportunity for Parents

Although seldom mentioned, a child needs freedom to be by him/herself, just to be. Solitude is an ingrained human longing.

At the same time, “one of the best ways for parents to help in their children’s social development is to become involved with them in the daily chores and activities of the home.” (Page 57)

With consistent and regular ‘success’ experiences, this will build in a child a sense of their own worth as a person.

“Some parents don’t understand that real love is the reason behind an act, rather than the act itself.” (Page 59)

CHAPTER 7: Time and the Senses

Rather than being concerned with teaching a child specific abilities, concern should be given to the balanced development of the brain. Care should be given for the natural development of vision, hearing and intersensory perception.

A large portion of homeschooling parents mistakenly try to recreate bookwork in the home – to whatever degree. This can actually be harmful.

CHAPTER 8: Learning to Reason

“The ‘wisdom’ of forcing a child’s intellect has little basis either in research or in common sense. Usually, stimulating anything to go faster simply because it can go fast (think educators getting excited about being able to teach children almost anything during their first 4 or 5 years) will merely insure an earlier breakdown.

This is implicitly true whenever we try to rush nature, and it is especially true in the development of children.

Children should be permitted to ‘unfold’ as naturally as a flower.” (Page 81)

CHAPTER 9: Comparing Early and Late Starters

Interesting research has been done comparing groups of children who started school at a “normal” age to those who started “late”.

Conclusively, the children who started “late” not only had no academic disadvantage, they excelled later on in their older schooling years, and were able to maintain a healthy attitude to school and learning.

Further, the differing maturity levels of young boys & girls is stark. The fact schools group them both together, according to biological age, is astonishing.

CHAPTER 10: Comparing Home and School Costs

“A program that has trained parents to educate their children, as contrasted with a preschool program, has equal short-term effectiveness, has greater long-term effectiveness, is far less expensive.” (page 103)

Expanding from this, it shows that communities would be better served paying working mothers of young children to stay at home, rather than work, and, in their place, pay other people to do a poorer job of bringing up their children.


“Part II” of the book embraces available knowledge about child development, as opposed to denying it with the notion that children must learn basic academic skills before the age of 8 (indicated by earlier and earlier entrance into school).

It seeks to directly address common childhood reactions in simple, constructive ways.

In each age group, the child will be treated in at least 4 ways:

  1. Reactions that may be expected at this age level;
  2. Special needs of this age;
  3. Play things; and
  4. Activities and opportunities for learning.

The age groups are:

  • CHAPTER 11: Birth to 18 Months
  • CHAPTER 12: 1 Year to Age 3
  • CHAPTER 13: Age 2.5 to Age 5
  • CHAPTER 14: Age 4 to Age 7
  • CHAPTER 15: Age 6 to Age 8 or 9

Final Thoughts

For just under 10 bucks, you can get the Kindle version of Better Late Than Early and access an invaluable perspective on early childhood development and homeschooling.

If you really like it, you might want to get the hardcover version for $240!


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