I just read a Washington Post piece questioning the Common Core requirements for Kindergarten students to learn to read. Report: Requiring kindergarteners to read—as Common Core does—may harm some echoed concerns that I have had for years about our educational expectations for young children. Pushing young children into early academics has been an increasing trend in recent years. This isn’t new with Common Core Standards, but the new standards do seem to be solidifying the practice. In our district, even Pre-K 4 year olds take standardized tests on the computer!
My children were all early readers. The three oldest were all reading fluently by age five, and the fourth wasn’t too far behind. They all learned to read through snuggle on the couch time with Mommy, not with worksheets and drill, and, most importantly, they were ready to learn! They each reached a point where it all “clicked” and their reading just took off. Some kids will reach this point at four; others will reach it at six or seven. Does it really help a child to spend hours of drill memorizing concepts before they are ready to learn? Or will it just frustrate the child and turn him off to learning altogether?
Although my children were ahead of average academically, I still did not feel that it was developmentally appropriate for them to spend hours a day doing seatwork. I am so grateful that we had the opportunity to homeschool. In Kindergarten, they spent probably an hour a day doing seat work. The rest of our day was spent reading great books, doing crafts and simply science experiments, and most importantly, playing. They had time to use their imaginations, to create, and to realize that learning is fun. They all grew up just fine.
I’m not advocating not teaching young children, especially ones who are a little later along the developmental process. I do believe that education for younger children should be hands-on, play-based, and given in small doses. Learning can be incorporated into every aspect of life; it’s not confined to working through pages in a workbook. Textbooks have their places, but balance is so important. I feel sad for kindergarteners who have full-day school with little or no in-school playtime. And what happens when little 5-year-old Johnny doesn’t meet the new reading standards? How will he feel about himself when he’s marked as a failure so young?
A generation or two ago, children were taught to read in the first grade. I wonder if our children are really achieving more in the long run because we push academic skills on them at age 4 or 5. I would love to see a comparison of 6th graders in 1960 vs. 6th graders now. Are today’s kids smarter? Given the widespread concern over failing schools and students, I doubt it.