We are in a realm now where is so much that is just wrong. (Not horribly wrong, First-World Problems wrong.) The Common Core Standards, The High-Stakes testing, immensely stressed out teachers having to keep up with crazily intense and unnecessary written lesson plans and evaluations that take all the time away from actual teaching, dissolving science and social studies curricula (because they are not tested, teachers are not evaluated on them, principals are not fired and schools are not closed down based on failing scores in them). Wally goes to a fantastic small, progressive public school but they still have to deal with all this stuff and they can't just continue on like it's 1984 (the real 1984, not the Orwellian version) letting kids play house and finger paint and take a nap.
This illustration below is from a vintage book on Kindergarten, but it looks very much like what Kindergarten was like for me. And now it's full day with all kinds of workshops and literacy and reading centers and this tiny, little, itty bitty choice time at the end of the day (when kids can pick something to play with, though I see hardly any toys in the classroom). It's like 30 minutes maybe, at most. And this choice time is the one that often gets cut into and squeezed by other stuff happening.
This is at a school that (from what I can tell) doesn't necessarily even agree with all this, and tries its best with lots of art and music compared to other places, and like I said, no homework at least until First Grade. But what can they do? This is what we've all agreed to. I guess? Or ignored as it was happening because we didn't have kids. This is what public education has become. So part of me is resigned, grateful for the relatively low-pressure school where even now, the 5th graders there are touring middle schools for next year and the 4th graders are gearing up for the test that will determine their entire future. And 3rd graders are gearing up for the practice test for the real test that will determine their entire future.
So what does a parent do? Write letters, join campaigns, talk to the school but basically go along with the other reasonable, well-meaning parents and accept an education system that is not developmentally appropriate, that doesn't give young children the time to learn through play (which is how they're meant to learn), that exhausts them, burns them out by the time they're 10, that no longer gives much attention to social studies or science, (let alone art, music and recess already cut from many schools to give more time to test prep), to a system that doesn't teach problem-solving, free-thinking or creativity because the teachers simply don't have time to let kids learn through discovery, through trial and error, don't have time to let kids internalize lessons, and because those qualities aren't tested, and the teachers are fired or not based on how well they "teach" the opposite - uniformity, conformity, rote memorization?
Or do you break away, like other reasonable, well-meaning parents have done. Let children explore. Dig in the dirt. Go on adventures.
Can you believe this picture? It's from my friend in New Hampshire, known on this blog as Roo & Moo. She writes:
I knew taking the picture that it was an amazing moment captured. The whole day was spectacular in that way. We were supposed to meet our entire home school group for a hike, but they cancelled because the weather was not ideal in the morning. My friend and I decided to meet up anyway and it turned into this gorgeous afternoon, and an epic outing. The kids were free, joyful, everything we hope for. I wish you could have been there. We actually went back the next day and hiked it with [my husband]. [My older son] kept exploring off trail and found his perfect "quiet place". He then insisted we meditate.
The kids were free, joyful, everything we hope for.