In the last decade, the earliest years of schooling have become less like a trip to “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” and more like SAT prep. Thirty years ago first grade was for learning how to read. Now, reading lessons start in kindergarten and kids who don’t crack the code by the middle of the first grade get extra help. Instead of story time, finger painting, tracing letters and snack, first graders are spending hours doing math work sheets and sounding out words in reading groups. In some places, recess, music, art and even social studies are being replaced by writing exercises and spelling quizzes. Kids as young as 6 are tested, and tested again—some every 10 days or so—to ensure they’re making sufficient progress. After school, there’s homework, and for some, educational videos, more workbooks and tutoring, to help give them an edge.
Finally, someone is confirming what I already knew. Many schools are teaching too much too soon. Lately when I walk in a Kindergarten room, it looks like what my first grade room looked like. What’s the hurry? If a child reads at 4 or 5, does it really make that much difference in the long run? I’d love to see studies of what becomes of these children forced to learn so much at an early age. Of course, some kids thrive in such an enviroment and some don’t. I have both kinds of learners at my house. One of my boys is eager to learn anything. He wants to learn to read. He is fascinated by letters and sounds. My other son is not so eager to learn “book stuff.” He prefers to use his imagination to invent things and tell stories. I guess it all comes down to meeting the child where he is. Keep it challenging, but not too hard lest the child become stressed and discouraged. I know it is easier said than done. I am so thankful for the wonderful teachers who keep plugging away year after year, teaching kids in a developmentally appropriate way.
(Hat Tip to Chicken Spaghetti for alerting me to this story.)