I vaguely remember kindergarten. I know it was only half-day. I sat at the blue square table. The most important things were sharing and learning letters, numbers, and colors.
Yes, times have changed. The American school system has changed. I see articles daily either about how much pressure we’re putting on our young school children or how much better other countries are doing it.
We don’t “teach the way that we used to” they say. We “have to teach for the test” we hear.
Yet, kindergarten is still not standardized and still varies greatly from state to state and even from country to country.
The word kindergarten is German. It literally means child garden and the belief was based on the idea that children were good learners when placed in the right environment that cultivates natural learning.
My son started kindergarten this year. We live in a great school district that takes pride in high-test scores, so expectations are high.
But nobody really explains why we care so much about test scores other than funding.
He has homework. And lets all be real, kindergarten homework is really just parent homework. It’s not independent as homework should be.
He has reading. For the record, I absolutely support working on his reading at home. I do NOT support homework. Also, I don’t even remember being able to read in kindergarten.
He gets one recess, for 20 minutes, during the last 30 minutes of the day.
Young children need recess. Their primary occupation is PLAY at this age, not student. It is well documented why children need activity. At my son’s school, recess is taken away for a variety of reasons as punishment for behavior — not completing work on time, not completing work correctly, etc. You get the picture.
Why is this OK??
My son has 20 minutes for lunch, also known as social time. The days he does choose to socialize, he doesn’t finish his lunch. The days he finishes his lunch, he has no socialization with his friends in the one environment that he is not expected to be “on” at all times.
Again, why is this OK??
The kindergarten combines Physical Education and Music daily.
My son, thankfully, is a smart kid and a hard worker. But, man, the work has been adding up.
Four worksheets became six.
Six became two extra phonics worksheets, extra phonics became extra readers, and before we knew it, the lines between the “required homework” and the “optional “ homework became blurred. With each homework assignment attached to a reward, the need to complete everything that came home with my son became greater. Before I even realized it, we were spending up to 30 minutes a night, after school, after work, after activities, doing KINDERGARTEN HOMEWORK. All of our heads were spinning.
Then gradually, like a sickness, it started …
My son began to hate school.
“All we do is work,” he said.
“I didn’t cut my paper right and had to sit out at recess.”
“I hate school, do I have to go back?”
We have tears at homework time. We have tears at reading time. We have battles over things that neither my husband nor I even find important.
For so many children, kindergarten is their very first experience in the classroom setting and my bright, eager to learn child already hates it. As a parent, standing at the bottom of the education mountain looking up, this is defeating. Teachers say they can’t change it and that this is just the way it is.
How do I explain this to my 6-year-old? How do I adjust my parenting?
When is enough, enough? When do we as parents, and the many teachers that I know who don’t like the systems in place stand up for our children and say that this is not OK?
When do we acknowledge the overwhelming evidence that supports that homework does nothing positive for elementary-aged children?
When do stand up and reclaim what our children really need?
To be social.
To be children.