Monday, June 2, 2008

The Kindergarten Question- Part 1

Headless Boy 2 is at the end of his Kindergarten year. It has really been a great year for him- he has had no struggles to speak of, he is well liked by his classmates, his teacher adores him, and he has done well academically. I was the helper for the room mom, and volunteered in the classroom once a week and on other special project days. I feel like I have some knowledge of what a kid should should look like at the end of his/her first year of school.

A few months ago while kicking around and checking our other blogs I came across this post. (It is important to the rest of the post here, but not 100% necessary.) Before I go any further I want to say that I don't know Liz, I haven't figured out exactly where she lives, and I don't read her blog on a regular basis so I am in no way talking about her or her particular rant. I read this and it made an impact on me and I feel compelled, after chewing on it, to make some observations of my own about Kindergarten.

In her post Liz is talking about parents who 'redshirt' their kid- start them a year late. From the outside looking in some might even think that I did that with my boys. The cut-off date in our state is December 2- that is the child must turn 5 by Dec. 2 of their K year to enroll the child in a K class. So. Have you done the math? That means potentially 16 of 33 kids in each class could be 4 for 50% of the school year. HB1's birthday is November 28 and when it was time to decide whether we would enroll him we opted to have him stay out for a few reasons but being the youngest boy in his entire class was a factor. It wasn't so much that he was young then- it was the fact that he would be the youngest forever-the youngest in Jr. High, the youngest Freshman at the HS, the last to get his license, the youngest in his freshman class in college. HG was also the youngest in her class and will start college BEFORE she turns 18. We didn't think that a boy could handle all of those things with as much ease as she has, (and it has not always been easy being the youngest for her.) HB2's birthday is also in the fall, so the year after HB1 started school he was eligible, but we opted to keep them 2 years apart in school just like they are in age.

When many of us started school the child had to be 5 by the start of school in September, many were older than that. There weren't academics for a K class then: we played blocks and sang the ABC song, learned how to share, counted to 10 or 20. Children now are expected to know how to write most of the alphabet before they enter kindergarten, among other things. While both of my boys went to preschool for 2 years it was a pretty laid back atmosphere. Sure they learned a few things but if the kid wasn't interested the teachers wouldn't push. Thus my HB2 could have cared less about coloring or writing his name or any of that. If you would have asked me when he was in that preschool program if he could write his name I would have had to say no. He actually could have cared less until the very day that he started kindergarten. During the course of this year he not only perfected his alphabet and all of the sounds associated with the letters but they count to 100, do addition and subtraction to sums of 10, he can read well over the '100 words' list that they have, he can write sentences longer than 4 words. I feel relatively certain that if HB2 would have started when he was eligible that he would have had to repeat- not because he ultimately isn't smart enough, but because the level of academics would have been over the head of a 4 year old.

To be continued...
Please come back as I finish exploring this issue- and when it's over I'll have my very own tips for other parents contemplating whether to put their child in school or wait another year. (As if you were waiting on permission from me...)


Sam said...

You know what makes me most sad about this post? That you have to include the phrase "the level of academics" when talking about 4-year-olds.

Sam said...

I suppose I meant to say more, which is that I know we don't live in a perfect world, but when talking about 4-year-olds, I would hope that the proper metrics are "plays well with others" and "has an active imagination".

Tracey said...

Where I teach we have many kids that leave K without knowing all their letter, colors, numbers.Parents just don't work with their kids at home at all...they leave it all up to the teaches. We have some kids that have been absent over 30 days this year....I wish parents could learn to be parents.

Keetha said...

When our youngest, Kyle, started Kindergarten, the law in IN was the child had to be 5 by June 1 - - - Kyle wasn't 5 until July 16. So, he was 6 when he started Kindergarten, and I've never been sorry for that.

Amy in Ohio said...

I had no idea FOUR YEAR OLDS were starting Kindergarten. That just seems unnatural doesn't it?