Hmm...many interesting different opinions.
I will say that I agree that academics should not be the sole emphasis at any age - I thought that it sort of goes without saying that kids need to learn to get along, be kind, cooperate, etc.
I think what we are interested in probably influences what we introduce our kids to...I love reading and art. At an early age I took my kids to free art classes at a local museum and we visit the library so often it is almost silly. As such, at early ages I was reading to my kids a lot and buying lots of art supplies and doing projects with them...was I pressuring them to be artists or early readers?? No, but I love art and literature and I couldn't wait to share these things with them. Likewise, I love astronomy and have spent loads of time out in the backyard showing them things I think are beautiful.
As my kids have gotten older they have found their own interests...my 11 year old and 7 year old both play an instrument even though dh and I aren't very musical. They also both seem to love science and my oldest joined a chess club and plays with his friends...he actually had to teach me to play because he wanted an in house partner. Not to mention that he "sleeps with his baseball mitt" Baseball was a sport I grew up HATING. I have also lost control of our family collections of lego - they can't get enough and honestly, I don't get why????
However, as my kids get older...I think that part of getting along with others is honoring other peoples interests. My kids will go in the yard and look at Saturn with me (even though I suspect they don't care ;) and I will gladly attend their baseball games and band performances because I enjoy watching them do things that make them happy.
I guess my point is that I completely support the concept of a child leading and defining their own interests - having lots of time to play in the backyard or ocean. To be silly with friends or dress up or berry pick or whatever. OTH I don't think that exposing kids to letters or numbers or chess or art or music or sports or the outdoors or whatever is going to hurt them or take away their childhood unless you present things in a "you must be good at this/the best at this now" sort of way. I know this is a little off the topic, but since so much of th thread sort of crossed over to the right of children to lead their own learning - they were the thoughts that came to mind.
As an aside (and it is a totally different topic) I always find the "good old days" view of parenting sort of funny. My fil, who has passed, would be 88. He didn't go to preschool or kinder either, but because he was WORKING hard on the family farm. When talking about teens - people often say "they grow up too fast" but my grandfather dropped out of school in 8th grade to support his 5 younger brothers and sisters....I mean there are lots of examples and I won't ramble on with all of them and and I do agree there is a weird push to have kids achieve things earlier academically, but I also think there are many ways that my kids, at least, enjoy a much more playful and stress free childhood than many children of previous generations. Anyway, I know it is off topic
Anyway, sorry to get so off topic, but the thread has been rich with different ideas and got me thinking.....always a good thing :)