I received heartfelt comments on my post “Setting Children Up to Hate Reading.” Many parents are concerned and troubled about what is happening to their children at this level of development.
Quite a few preschool and kindergarten teachers are caught in a serious struggle. How do they stay in their jobs when they are told to teach in a way they feel is wrong?
I received permission from one parent, to re-post her comment, because I thought it illustrated how children do not fit in any preconceived mold. Children are a complicated mix of likes and dislikes and strengths and weaknesses. They are also ever changing in their abilities. Schools should reflect this.
A Post by Laura
I’m posting my comment here but responding to many of the parents who are confident that because they have “smart” kids who have been exposed to rich educational experiences at home, this problem shouldn’t concern them.
This issue isn’t limited to kids who don’t receive rich educational experiences or have major learning disabilities. In preschool my child suffered severe anxiety and teachers told us that she was very willful, did not like table work and was not learning. They encouraged us to have her tested. We went through a complete day of testing when she was four. The results? Very Superior on the verbal portion of the WPPSI, Very Superior or Superior on every Woodcock Johnson test they gave her, a nine MONTH fine motor delay, the observation that she tends to be very slow, and the suggestion to delay kindergarten (she has an August birthday). We took the advice and put her in a transitional program prior to K.
Fast forward to today (kindergarten–she is the oldest in her class.) She introduces herself, “Hi, I’m [name of child]. I’m in kindergarten, but I’m old enough to be in first grade.” She KNOWS something is “wrong” with her. She reads on a fourth grade level. She powers through online science curriculum that we provide for her at the 3rd-4th grade level. But in school? She STRUGGLES. She doesn’t need to do any of those things at school. She needs to be able to read a little (okay, not a problem for her.) But she also needs to be able to write and draw quickly and accurately at a level she simply cannot write and draw yet.
Her entire educational experience is wrapped up in not being good enough at that yet. She misses recess, class parties, center time, gets her conduct marker moved down. The work is writing, cutting, pasting, drawing–and she just can’t do it well enough or fast enough. No matter how much we wish she could be in first grade and getting some of her more advanced needs met, every day we are reminded that based on how school works today, we did the right thing by holding her back.
But here’s what else I have noticed. The slowness often happens because she’s exploring materials. I’ve watched her do it. It is actually a great strength. To squash that in her so she isn’t so much of a failure at school is very difficult. But that’s what happening. I notice it happening to other kids too, in different areas. By squashing their “stuff,” whatever it is, we’re often taking their greatest strengths away from them before they’ve even hit first grade.
Another thing I’ve noticed: being held back has really allowed her to learn math well. She can decompose numbers, but still doesn’t quite understand place value intuitively enough to decompose numbers consistently and accurately above 10. First grade is all about double digit addition and subtraction. If she were in first grade, we would have to teach her the traditional algorithms for addition and leave it at that. She wouldn’t have understood the why. (And this is child, don’t forget, that scored in the superior range on the Woodcock Johnson tests she was given in math as a young four year old.) Because we don’t have to rush her, she has the opportunity to truly understand place value and base 10 before she does double digit addition.
There are some straight-ahead kids that fit the mold perfectly that will be okay. But in general, this push for complete synchronization of children is hurting nearly ALL of our kids in one way or another.