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. 

IN KINDERGARTEN!

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 play.

To be social.

To be children.

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Michelle is a native Texan who married her college sweetheart. They have a son, a daughter, and two dogs. Her husband has been in the United States Air Force for 13 years, and they are currently stationed at NAS Whidbey Island in Oak Harbor, Washington. She is a doctor of occupational therapy and certified hand therapist as well as an adjunct professor at Abilene Christian University. Michelle is an outdoor enthusiast, lover of college football, avid runner, self-proclaimed foodie, and minor league wine connoisseur. She believes that any problem in life can be solved through a good laugh, a good cry, a good sleep, or a good glass of wine.

15 COMMENTS

  1. Homeschool is an amazing choice. We love all the activities and curriculum choices. You might love it too!

    • Homeschool is an amazing choice for many families, but it’s not a realistic option for us.

  2. Wow! Learning should be fun and exciting. If possible, look into other options in your area. Perhaps another school that can bring his enthusiasm back. Stress at any age is not good. Hope you find a solution.

  3. All of this!! And it doesn’t get better in 1st grade. Imagine all this, but throw in ADHD (combined presentation) and anxiety, and homework time is brutal for everyone involved. Every morning I get up to a tentative little voice asking, “Is today a school day,” and the inevitable crestfallen look when the answer is yes. Daily stomachaches and sad eyes are discouraging, not only to him but to me as well. And his biggest complaint? “There’s just no time to play!” We’ve considered homeschooling, but I’ll admit I’m intimidated, and the head-butting we currently have during homework makes me view it as an uphill battle. 🙁

  4. I am so scared of this happening. My son starts next year. I don’t understand the lack of recess and regular P.E. classes. Very disheartening.

  5. YES! I want to print this out and bring it to my parent teacher conference as you put it so perfectly!

  6. Our school system, a top rated one in CT, has a NO HOMEWORK rule through first grade, then in 2nd it’s just 20 minutes of reading a night. We love our school and kids are learning plenty! Kindergarten has 2 recesses a day, upper grades have one. Your school needs to re-evaluate it’s priorities!! And skip the optional stuff – they aren’t getting grades yet are they?? Of course the teachers can change it – just assign less homework! If not, who made those rules and go to them! Get a consensus among parents and address it with the principal. Sounds absolutely ridiculous to me that they think it’s necessary.

    • I love hearing that there are school systems out there that have gone back to what kids really need!

      • Yes, we skip the optional stuff. I’ve talked with the teacher and principal on multiple occasions. The answer is always “we’re preparing them for first grade”…eye roll. Fortunately, we will not be in this district next year, but I don’t know much about the one we’re going to.

  7. Exactly why our kids aren’t going to be apart of the system. There are other options… we all need to educate ourselves on what those are. Our kids deserve to be kids.

    • I agree that there are and should be other options. Unfortunately, when the military dictates where you live sometimes there aren’t other options. Homeschooling and private schools aren’t always the answer for families either.

  8. I had to pull my kids from school and begin homeschooling because my son was SUSPENDED in kindergarten about 20 times because he could not sit still all day and this caused him alot of anxiety. He would get up and run up and down the hall and get punished. There was NO recess. 10 minutes of a lunch where if you spoke you didn’t get to begin eating. Many kids did not get to eat and were also punished for talking. It broke my heart when I volunteered. I hope to be a voice that helps change someday soon. My son is thriving at home, no more anxiety or anger issues.

    • I’ve heard horror stories like this too! Especially from moms of boys. It is truly heartbreaking.

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