Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Stressing out our Kindergarteners

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.

Any thoughts?

2 comments:

  1. I don't care for the common core much less do they put it in English for it to be understood. I think now a days they are pushing to much on kids at way to early of an age. I think their expectations are crazy. Kids learn at their own pace and sometimes to much makes them not want to learn at all. I am thankful to be working at my kids pace. I can adjust things to their learning needs.

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  2. As one who learned to read very late in the game, the school system would have branded me a failure and pushed me into remedial programs. As a homeschooler, my parents could let me go at my pace (lagging far behind in reading, jumping ahead in math) and help me learn how to work within my limitations and thrive despite them.

    Forcing me to fit into a set standard would have be detrimental to my education.

    ~Luke

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