At this age, it's important for children to begin to have some contact with peers, but in a supervised play situation that allows some learning through play (which is appropriate for the age). I agree with your thought that it is not critical at all at this age to introduce formal learning - there will be plenty of time for that. Children will learn naturally from what they are exposed to. Think of the many thousands of children who have learned so much simply by their exposure to Sesame Street as an example. Becuse childrn these days are introduced so early into out-of-home experiences, sometimes the expectations re: formal learning become too pronounced. We begin to think that children should be reading by the time they are in kindergarten, and this is not developmentally a reasonable expectation. Learning through play, as children do in nursery school, is a very wise approach.
Just my opinion, but from your description I think the daycare is expecting an awful lot from your 3 1/2 year old boy. Sure, there are kids that may be "ahead" of him in ways, but much of what you list he knows is taught in prschool to kids a year or more older than him. If your gut instinct is that he's okay (which it sounds like you believe); if you feel he can and does learn when you do teach him; and if you don't want to pressure him, then maybe you should look into other daycare options if possible. As to your concern about a possible anxiety disorder, I wouldn't know anything about that except to say that I think high expectations and pressure for performance (academic or otherwise) could make anyone nervous... including a smart, healthy three year old.
Does your child bring you items or toys and ask you what they are? Does your son use verbs and possessives correctly? Is he able to tell you what he wants with words? Does he point out things of interest in an attempt to share the experience with you? When he wants something like juice, will he pull your arm to where the juice is or will he tell you "I want some juice"?
Thank you all so much for your input. My son does ask me for the things that he wants. he can make a decision when he is in a store. for example if he picks up an item but sees another item he likes best, he puts one back because he knows that he can't have both. he tells me what he wants to watch on television, what he wants to eat and what he doesn't. Thanks again for your input and I thank kevin for this website. I will pick up the suggested book for reading today.
The description of your son reminds me of our son (he is now married with two children). He, too, was a bit shy and showed some elements of an anxiety disorder (not sure which one) when younger. In high school, he still was quiet but a "social butterfly" (if that term can be used for a fellow). He blossomed in college.
Our eldest grandchild does suffer from a severe form of social anxiety. I know what severe anxiety can do to a child - our granddaughter totally "shut down" at school - no speech, no eye contact, unable to eat or use the washroom, etc. - completely unable to function without intervention, treatment and medication.
It is possible that your son does suffer from an anxiety disorder but from your description,(in my humble opinion) it appears to be very mild. An excellent book that you might consider reading is "the highly sensitive child" by Elaine N. Aron. As a retired teacher, I would urge you to "forget" about academics at this point - they're really only "ego boosts" to parents. After all, the hare did not win the race. Best to you -
He sounds very much like my 8 year old at the same age. He had delayed speech which was put down to having a older female sibling doing all the talking for him. Recently we have had his hearing and his visual processing checked. We found an audio closure problem, which means if there is a lot of background noise or the teacher turns away while speaking he doesn't hear her. We also found a clinically significant visual processing delay. Which means parts of his brain in the processing area's are slow. He is very intelligent and the delay has nothing to do with that. We have started a program which is designed to "train" those slow areas of his brain in order to speed up the processing. I am a Nurse and I always say this... the mother is always right! He is your child and you know if there is a problem.