Extra Credit: Do Schools Push High Performing Kids Too Hard?
Dear Extra Credit:
My daughter is extremely bright and was an early reader. She loved kindergarten. When she started first grade, she struggled with the writing -- not what to write, but with the actual writing. She was frustrated because, as much as she tried, her handwriting was messy, and she couldn't make her letters neat enough to fit into the boxes provided for the answers. She began to dislike school.
When I mentioned to her pediatrician that she was having trouble with her fine-motor skills, he said it was because she was not supposed to be able to do that yet and that schools were pushing kids to do things they were not ready for physically. He told me that he'd seen a big increase in the treatment of children for depression and anxiety, something he attributed to the pressures at school.
My son is in an accelerated second-grade math class. I've been reading about how kids who are pushed to take algebra too early do not grasp all of the concepts needed for higher math. My son is on path to take algebra early, so I asked his teacher. She agreed that it was a big problem and that it would be a tough decision for me when the time came, whether to let him take algebra so early.
Every day, my kids (both in elementary school) bring home worksheet after worksheet; it seems to be all they do all day. Yes, that could have something to do with the quality of the teachers. But I think it has a lot to do with the curriculum. The new Maryland secretary of education said that we need longer school years and days, because kids have only one chance at their education, and we are falling behind countries such as Japan. You know what? Kids have only one chance to be kids, too. Can't we let them enjoy it?
I am willing to let parents like you and me, middle-class folk in Montgomery County, have our kids take it easy. They are already living in a world of words in our homes. The research says they will do fine no matter what kind of elementary school they attend.
But please make sure that our wishes in this matter don't get in the way of the kids two or three years below grade level who don't live in our world and who need the early start that we, almost unconsciously, give our kids. Also, I wouldn't believe what even a doctor told me about anxiety treatment trends unless I had seen the data.
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Washington Post Editors
| May 7, 2009; 12:59 PM ET
Categories: Extra Credit | Tags: school stress
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