Monday, February 02, 2015

"Mom, Why Can't They Make School More Kid Friendly?"

A couple weeks ago, a former Woodland Park parent whose son is in kindergarten this year shared the following:

Waking this morning with a (thankfully rare now) hateful vehemence toward going to school . . . M dropped all kinds of 6 year old expletives. Later on the ride in to school he sighed, "Mom, why can't they make school more kid friendly? I hate it." Me: "Do you mean like let you play more?" Him: "Yah! Like we only get two short recesses and the rest is just work work work."

Up until a couple of years ago, every former student to whom I had spoken reported to me that kindergarten was "better" than preschool. In just a few short years, that sentiment has become quite rare. In fact, in just the past two weeks, three former students have told me they wished they could come back to preschool. It breaks my heart. Kindergarten is broken and it has been broken by the ignorant dilettantes who hold the reigns of education policy in America. Kindergarten has been broken by Common Core and a generation of our youngest citizens are suffering. I've said it before and I'll say it again, this is child abuse.

No where is the Common Core more abusive than in it's emphasis on early literacy, expecting kindergarteners to "read emergent-reaer texts with purpose and understanding," ignoring the fact that many, if not most children, are simply not developmentally capable of learning to read at such a young age. In fact, both researchers and professional educators agree that the window for reading is quite broad, many perfectly normal children not really picking up the basic skills until they are seven or older. Indeed, most experts conclude that if formal literacy education should happen at all, it shouldn't even begin until children are at least seven.

This isn't to say that some children can't read at an earlier age. I've known two-year-olds who were teaching themselves to read and many who were reading quite well by four, in the same way that children learn to walk and talk at different ages. But the majority are simply not ready to begin reading and won't be for several years. Yet, the dictates of Common Core are relentless, leaving no room for the kind of individual variation for which young children are notorious, and punishing schools and teachers who cannot succeed in forcing their students to "read."

(T)he pressure of implementing the reading standard is leading many kindergarten teachers to resort to inappropriate drilling on specific skills and excessive testing. Teacher-led instruction in kindergartens has almost entirely replaced the active, play-based experiential learning that children need based on decades of research in cognitive and developmental psychology and neuroscience.

I urge everyone to take a look at the report. If you don't have a lot of time, this Washington Post piece sums it up quite well. I leave you with this short video:

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Anonymous said...

My daughter is in 1st grade this year and absolutely hates to read. It is a chore that she does to get the monthly prize but she refuses to read by herself and only does the bare minimum. It's sad because she was a preschooler who couldn't get enough of me reading to her.

Kathy said...

I totally agree with you! I am an elementary art teacher in an affluent district in Illinois. The sad thing is a lot of parents think that pushing their students to read as early as possible (even before kindergarten) is the right thing to do because they need to be competitive. the age of 5? As an art teacher, I am seeing more and more kids come in with lower fine motor because they don't practice activities at home like cutting, coloring, painting, and clay. Some students say to me, "I like coming to art because I get to make a mess here. My mom doesn't let me do that at home." Ironically, we are doing research that links a child's fine motor ability to their ability to track text when they are reading. Everything is connected right? Are you finding that kids fine motor skills are changing as years pass? Art is a method where kids get to experiment, be creative, and learn through play. They gain spatial intelligence and emotional intelligence. It makes me sad that some parents and administrators can not see this.

Susan said...

Do you want to see something really frightening? Check this out.

It lists the 45 objectives for Kindergarten students in a unit on Pilgrims and Columbus.

I can't wait for Common Core to crash and burn so that we can get back to teaching.

Anonymous said...

I am thankful we are able to homeschool and make a mess and learn at our leisure, etc...Our son LOVES to read. Was reading before age 5 but all on his own. Never any pressure or pushing from us. We are the 2 giant heavy bag of books family going to and from the library with a 5 yr old tagging a few steps behind me with his face buried in a book...literally. I have to make sure he doesn't walk into anything. LOL!

marlee said...

I know a brilliant young woman who graduated summa cum laude from one of our region's leading universities. She was home schooled until second grade. Her mother thought she had ruined her child because she was reading at a pre-primer level when she was nearly seven. Upon enrolling her in a private school, mom remembered meeting Dr. Torrence, who offers vision therapy from her Lynnwood, WA eye clinic. Mom made an appointment and within five minutes the good doc announced that the child's eyes were tracking at the age level of a four year old. The little girl was prescribed corrective lenses. Within a month she was reading up to speed. She wore the glasses for one year and has never worn them since. When the mother exclaimed that she thought she had ruined her child with homeschool, Dr. Torrence kindly told her, "if you had enrolled her in public school they would have put her into the special needs program." The mom understood. Her daughter, had she been placed in kindergarten would have become extra money for the school district as she would have been deemed special needs. Meanwhile, the child would have suffered emotionally under the weight of being marginalized as different. I thank God, I had the foresight to do homeschool for those first two years! It has made all the difference!