Monday, April 28, 2014

You Don't Really Need to Know All You Learn in Kindergarten

Wally used to love to write stories. I always have notebooks lying around for him to pick up whenever he feels like writing. I may not be a good model of coping with frustration or choosing fruit for dessert but I do model writing. (Try to balance out Alex's tablet habit at least a little bit.) My only complaint about Wally's writing was that his stories were too long. He would come up with some outlandish idea that it had to be 42 pages and then set to work drawing and writing then crumple up into a teary ball if he didn't have time to finish before dinner. 

Fast forward from last summer to now, and you have a six-year old who can no longer stand to pick up his journal. He hates writing. Why? Because he does it for an hour a day every day in school. That is on top of reading, math, and other sit-down, academic work. And it's not that he's struggling. He's reading and writing incredibly well. It's just that he's got a lot of energy and his mind is racing, and he is not meant to sit at a desk for an hour writing every day. They do have wonderful art and music programs, but outside of a 20-minute recess, if they are lucky and nothing else squeezes it out, they have a 25-minute "choice time" (play time) at the end of each day. That's it as far as playing goes during their 6-hour Kindergarten day. Less than an hour. They have too much else they "need" to learn.

I was thinking about Robert Fulghum's famous book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. When it came out it seemed genius in its simplicity. So right and so true that you think upon reading that Kindergarten teachings apply to life on a broad scale from how to get along with others to accepting the life cycle. One of those ideas that's so dead on that once you hear it, you think, how could I not have thought of this? 

Fulghum must have gone to Kindergarten in about 1942, so things had presumably changed a bit by the time he published the book in 1989. Yet at that time, nearly half a century after he learned what he learned in Kindergarten, what he wrote about still appeared to be entirely on point. You did learn to share (toys). To clean up your own mess (fingerpaints). You were likely to be given cookies for snack. You took a nap! You learned your first word. But reading the list now, it would come across as charmingly anachronistic, quaint even, if it wasn't so painful a reminder of what's missing from kindergarten today.  

Here from The Washington Post today: 

Nap time has been cancelled. A follow-up letter to career-ready kindergarteners

Thankfully it's a satire, but not too far off from the real story here



4 comments:

  1. There has been a lot of research recently showing that boys do better in the long run when they aren't pushed academically until at least 7 years old. A friend also told me she'd send me an article she read that said anything before 10 is unnecessary! My son turned 5 three days after the cutoff for kindergarten, so we have agonized all year over what to do...I homeschooled him this year, (technically pre-k) and that mainly consists of field trips and studying rocks, digging for minerals, reading lots and lots of books, playing card games (math), scrabble (spelling), writing letters to friends/grandparents, art, music, unstructured play, Legos Dinos, and tons of recess. It is actually a lot of fun. I never ever thought I would homeschool ever. Mainly because of the stereotypes I formed in my mind of homeschoolers when I was a kid. But things have changed and there is so much to choose from and so much support. And we have the freedom to travel whenever we want, which also leads to tons of learning opportunities. We went to New Orleans last month and spent a day at the insectarium learning about bugs! Im not trying to talk you into homeschooling AT ALL as I know it doesn't appeal to most people...just want to encourage you as you make decisions for your children and remind you that there are many ways to educate! (Though I know you've put a lot of thought, time, energy, etc into what he's doing now.) ...we are taking a year by year approach.

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  2. I love hearing this...I absolutely believe you about how you'd never thought you'd homeschool ever...but here you are...and it sounds wonderful....freedom! to travel, learn by doing, being part of the world, just soaking up all the knowledge that is ours for the taking if we'll only we'd pay attention instead of rushing on to the next organized "educational opportunity"...one of my good friends is homeschooling and others are leaning that way...I too had/have stereotypes about it including the image of feral children running around...the idea of not being properly socialized or something...and maybe just not having the chutzpah to be that radical...especially once you get to Kindergarten and homeschooling really becomes a strong statement...I admire what you're doing..year by year seems to be the only way to go...I don't think I give in to societal pressure for the most part and yet when it comes to school I find myself with a herd mentality and I'm not sure why-- great to hear your take on it

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  3. I think part of it is that we are in New York which is unfortunately hyper-competitive...kindergarten is probably still more relaxed in the suburbs of Massachusetts where we grew up.

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  4. Bearette - You may be right. NYC has been nuts for a while from what I understand. Though all public schools do have to deal with testing and Common Core. But kids don't have to worry about getting into JR High out in those sleepy Mass suburbs that feel so far away now.

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