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    The Checkup:

On or Off the Academic Fast Lane?

By Rebeldad Brian Reid

The New York Times Magazine on Sunday published a call to arms against treating kindergarten like, well, school. The author, Peggy Orenstein, suggests that we shouldn't be worrying about standardized testing, shouldn't be thinking about homework and shouldn't even be stressing out about teaching reading skills.

It's a refreshing take, even more so because she backs it up with facts: The High/Scope Preschool Curriculum Comparison Study found that kids in a play-based curriculum did no worse than their more formally educated peers (and may have been better adjusted), the new Alliance for Childhood report that found that playtime in kindergarten has plummeted to below 30 minutes a day, the example of Finland, where reading instruction doesn't start until age 7.

Orenstein lays the blame in the usual places -- overzealous parents, the No Child Left Behind legislation and the like -- and I buy the argument totally. I still remember, my mouth agape, walking to school on the first day of kindergarten a few years ago and seeing tiny kids pulling around wheeled backpacks, ready to be stuffed with books and homework and other such implements of learning. It seemed like overkill. Orenstein seems to agree.

The trouble, of course, is that at some point, heavy-duty academic work does become important, and assessment does become a vital tool in figuring out where our educational system is falling short. I'm not about to defend the blunt and punitive NCLB act, but there are certainly plenty of eloquent arguments in favor of more and better measurement. (My favorite version is this clip of Bill Gates.)

Of course, all of this just adds one more layer of stress to the whole kindergarten process that Stacey wrote about last month. And while we've been vigilant about looking for preschools that take play seriously (the whole fill-the-bubble-thing is happening to younger and younger kids), our kindergarten pick had a lot more to do with the social environment and the desire to support the public school than it did with curriculum.

Stacey already asked about how much focus you have spent finding the "right" kindergarten, but have any of you -- either at the kindergarten level or at another point in time -- ever chosen the route of less academic rigor?

The Other Side

By Stacey Garfinkle

I so want kindergarten to be more about play than work. I want my soon-to-be-kindergartner to have few hardcore school pressures on him. I want him to feel like the pretend play-driven 5-year-old that he is. While I agree with much of what Peggy Orenstein wrote on Sunday about the necessities and lack of enough playtime, too much homework, too many worksheets at young ages and too much testing, standing in front of me is the other side of the coin.

In August, a full year before kindergarten, 5-year-old picked up his brother’s old sight word flashcards that I was about to store away for future use. He read me 22 of those words. Until that point, I had no idea that the boy could read. In this, his last preschool year, he’s read book after book to me. First, the one-liner pages, then Dr. Seuss. The latest: Else Minarik’s "Little Bear" series.

His preschool teacher tells me that she worries that he puts too much pressure on himself to know everything. She wants him to realize that teachers are there to help you learn new things. I know she’s right; I know he needs to be a more typical 5-year-old.

But here’s the problem: He’s got a 7-year-old brother whom he emulates. At 7-year-old’s Valentine’s Day school party, 5-year-old sat right down with the first graders on the rug, as though he was one of them. He raised his hand to answer the teacher’s questions along with the other children.

Is 5 the new 7? Apparently, it is in my house.

Playing off the question that Brian asks about whether you’re searching for less rigor in kindergarten, are any of you happy with the current kindergarten curriculum and way of learning?

By Brian Reid |  May 7, 2009; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Child Development
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Stacey, I think you are misplacing your 5 year old's emulation of his older sibling as some kind of problem, I think it is completely normal. Many second children are quicker in learning everything from potty training to reading, just to be like their older sibling. As for a 5 year old putting pressure on himself, I don't know the dynamics of your home or preschool environment.

It is interesting that when Kindergarten was more social and less academic, particularly 25-30 years ago, test scores were higher across all age groups. Parents love, love, love to tell other parents at what level their kids are reading. It becomes a sport, and you will spot these braggart parents at the Kindergarten back to school night for parents, where they corner the poor Kindergarten teacher to tell him/her how "special" Johnny or Jane is. As my friend likes to joke, Kindergarten teachers should start their btsn intro with "Everyone who has a special child, please line up here". You'll see a brawl ensue as parents scramble to be first.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | May 7, 2009 7:59 AM | Report abuse

Ah, yes, Cheeky, the wonderful world of Lake Wobegone, where all of the children are above average. Except since we're the DC area, we can't just settle for "above average"; all our kids have to be exceptional.

Stacey, I'm not getting why your story is the "other side" of what Brian wrote about. The point isn't that it's bad for a 5-yr-old to teach himself to read. What's bad is forcing a 5-yr-old onto an academic treadmill where he's pressured to learn skills that he's not ready for. What's bad is our presumption that formalized, routinized, teach-to-the-test education provides better results than just letting young kids play and learn on their own (as if a child is a "result" anyway). The point of all those stories you link to seems to be that young kids may actually learn MORE if they are allowed to do it on their own, instead of through some routinized, academic process. Your son would seem to prove that point.

That's even more important for a budding perfectionist, btw (yeah, I have one too). When a kid naturally puts too much pressure on himself, the last thing he needs is a school that reinforces those messages.

FYI, from the WSJ article on the Finnish education system: "One explanation for the Finns' success is their love of reading. Parents of newborns receive a government-paid gift pack that includes a picture book. Some libraries are attached to shopping malls, and a book bus travels to more remote neighborhoods like a Good Humor truck." In other words, Finnish kids read as much or more than we do -- they just don't do it through a formal schooling process until they're older.

So, no, no worries that your younger kid seems academically inclined. But flashcards for a 7-yr-old? Now THAT worries me! :-) (And I presume you meant "sight words"?)

Posted by: laura33 | May 7, 2009 8:35 AM | Report abuse

I think a lot of it is that kindergarterners are older than they used to be because they cutoff dates keep getting pushed back, combined with the redshirting that some parents do with their kids. So a lot of today's kindergartners would have started a year earlier when we were kids. This is why kindergarten has become what first grade used to be.

Plus you add in all the standardized testing crap, and schools are under a lot of pressure to have the kids at or above proficiency by third grade.

As for the original question, our son is finishing first grade and our daughter is finishing kindergarten and we've been thrilled with their kindergarten experience. It is one of the "acadmeically rigorous" ones, but the teachers are fantastic and don't overwhelm the kids.

Posted by: dennis5 | May 7, 2009 8:59 AM | Report abuse

It is one of the "acadmeically rigorous" ones, but the teachers are fantastic and don't overwhelm the kids.

Posted by: dennis5 | May 7, 2009 8:59 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: jezebel3 | May 7, 2009 9:02 AM | Report abuse

So a lot of today's kindergartners would have started a year earlier when we were kids.

Posted by: dennis5 | May 7, 2009 8:59 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: jezebel3 | May 7, 2009 9:06 AM | Report abuse

Well all I can say is you guys are pretty lucky to just have average kids. My daughter who was recently diagnosed with Asperger's has been in special education preschool since she was two. Of course we are grateful for her progress because we feel she has a decent shot at a normal life.

But she goes to kindergarten next year knowing only capital letters, numbers from 1-20, counting accurately to 10, shapes, and colors.

I looked at her IEP and it did not actually saying reading on it. I think it was about sequencing the letters, knowing the sounds of the letters, and lowercase and capital letters.

She also has a lot of trouble tracing letters. So I think it is cool that your kids can read but don't think it will be in the cards for my kid till closer to age 7.

I know we are doing the best we can for her and I know in the long run she will be fine. But it does seem hard when ever other kid you hear about is reading before or during kindergarten. I just sigh. What else can you do but love the kid.

Posted by: foamgnome | May 7, 2009 9:07 AM | Report abuse

I don't understand why so many parents want their 3, 4 and even 5 year olds to read and write. Kindergarten is supposed to be fun. Learning through play, and doing so with friends, is a crucial development stage that kids today are being cheated out of. Although my oldest boy will be starting kindergarten in the fall, I've picked a primary school where free time and lots of playtime is emphasized and plan to send him only half time so I can take him and his siblings on 'fun' outings in the afternoon. Or just let them run around the yard.

I cringe when I hear about parents "flashcarding" little kids. I've even heard horror stories about 2 year olds being "flashcarded" in the bath by parents who work full time; they have maybe 1-2 hours of awake time with their kids a day and they use those precious hours to drill their little toddlers on numbers and letters?!? How terribly sad... and it's not about the kids, it's about being able to brag to your friends that your 2 year old can count to 20 and sing the alphabet song. So what? So can mine, but he learned it naturally over time and had fun doing it. I don't need everyone to know exactly when he accomplished these magnificent feats.

Posted by: raynecloud | May 7, 2009 9:23 AM | Report abuse

How terribly sad... and it's not about the kids, it's about being able to brag to your friends that your 2 year old can count to 20 and sing the alphabet song. So what? So can mine, but he learned it naturally over time and had fun doing it. I don't need everyone to know exactly when he accomplished these magnificent feats.

Posted by: raynecloud | May 7, 2009 9:23 AM | Report abuse

LOL! You couldn't resist telling us!

Posted by: jezebel3 | May 7, 2009 9:26 AM | Report abuse

jezebel3 are you the spelling police today?

Posted by: sunflower571 | May 7, 2009 9:31 AM | Report abuse

Laura: Thanks for clarifying for me. Yes, I did mean his sight words. I certainly don't put flashcards in front of my kids. Not only does it feel odd to me, I think they'd just laugh at me anyways!

In terms of me feeling like the other side, while intellectually, I know the importance of play, I don't mind kindergarten being more academic these days. My kid seems ready for it.

Re: foamgnome: You are entirely right that different kids are at different levels and shouldn't all be expected to achieve the same things at the same pace.

Posted by: StaceyGarfinkle | May 7, 2009 9:32 AM | Report abuse

jezebel3 are you the spelling police today?

Posted by: sunflower571 | May 7, 2009 9:31 AM | Report abuse

Hubris is a natural target...

Posted by: jezebel3 | May 7, 2009 9:35 AM | Report abuse

"Hubris is a natural target..."

Well, you'd know about hubris. Please, just go away.

Posted by: liledjen4901 | May 7, 2009 10:03 AM | Report abuse

jezebel3 are you the spelling police today?

Posted by: sunflower571 | May 7, 2009 9:31 AM | Report abuse

Even worse. The typo police.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | May 7, 2009 10:17 AM | Report abuse

we're pretty happy that there's such a high level of achievement by kids in this region. it raises the bar considerably for everyone.

this way we don't need to put educational pressure on our girl. even if she's a very average student, she will still be doing very well relative to kids in the rest of the country.

i've seen too many trophy-generation kids in their early 20s come through my office to be wary of putting too much pressure on my girl. those poor fools practically cry whenever they don't get a "Good Job!" for every mundane task asked from them.

Posted by: interestingidea1234 | May 7, 2009 10:25 AM | Report abuse

Parents love, love, love to tell other parents at what level their kids are reading.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | May 7, 2009 7:59 AM | Report abuse

You know, sometimes it's not bragging. Sometimes, parents are really genuinely trying to figure out what to do about a child who can read at age 3...a child who taught herself, not drilled, not flashcarded. Just read to a lot. A child whose parents don't want to be told "Don't worry, the school knows what to do." Because in my experience, what the school knows how to do for children like that is to teach them how to coast through school without being challenged or having to do any work. Personally, I would like to know that my child is not going to spend the year learning the sounds of the letters, when she has known that since she was 2 1/2.

Yes, I absolutely believe that play is crucial for young children to learn, and that emotional and social ability do not necessarily develop at the same rate as cognitive ability. I also know that kindergarten does (and should) have some academic value, and I'd like to make sure my child isn't going to be thoroughly bored to tears by the academic part. So no, I have no idea what to do about kindergarten.

Posted by: AlsoLooking | May 7, 2009 10:28 AM | Report abuse

i want ZERO academic value from my preschool.

i want social value.

Posted by: interestingidea1234 | May 7, 2009 10:33 AM | Report abuse

raynecloud, are you saying that your child was also doing all that by two? That's fine , but what makes you think that the other parent's kids weren't having fun when they were learning it?

My son hates to use his imaginiation-- would much prefer doing puzzles, flashcards or, let's be honest, watch TV, rahter than make up a story. On the upside he rarely lies-- it's as if that would take too much effort. Can anyone else relate? Any suggestions on trying to nurture the creative force within him? Or do I just ccept him as his-- a pro-linear thinking type.

Posted by: captiolhillmom | May 7, 2009 10:35 AM | Report abuse

Capitolhillmom - The point I was trying to make that most kids are going to learn these things by the time they hit kindergarten, if not well before then. It's the "mine did it first, and he was only 1 / 2 / 3 etc. when he did it" that gets tiring. It just seems sometimes people are looking for and pushing for things they can then brag about, rather than just kicking back and enjoying the young years... they go by so quickly.

Posted by: raynecloud | May 7, 2009 10:46 AM | Report abuse

Here's the deal, folks. Being a parent is a marathon, not a sprint. By the time your kids are in middle school and they've been making flashcards for four years and you've been quizzing three kids for four years, been through the multiplication tables three times, been through people sounding out words three times, you will be genuinely burnt-out. I wish I had the energy that I feel I'll need to get through the next nine years in my house. I wish I had saved up some of that energy from when my kids were little so that I could tap into it now.

And if I feel burnt-out, how do you think that kids feel? Most of those who been doing flashcards since they were three are already starting to feel the pressure. Enough is enough, already.

And Stacey, if your FIVE year old is so bright, why isn't he in kindergarten already? with the other five year olds?

Posted by: Justsaying4 | May 7, 2009 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Justsaying, I imagine it's school cutoffs. Around us, your kid has to turn 5 by August 31 to start kindergarten; even the "early entry" option is limited to kids with September and October birthdays. So my boy, who misses that cutoff by 2 days, doesn't even have a choice, no matter how "ready" I might think he is by then.

Plus I think she's saying he's 5 now, which would mean last fall when this all happened, he could have been 4.

Posted by: laura33 | May 7, 2009 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Please, let's give another look to Foamgnome's post. It isn't just children with a disability who may not be ready to read in preschool. Kids who learn to read before kindergarten and even in kindergarten are above average, around here. Probably those of us who read the newspaper and have time to post on WaPo blogs were early or on time readers ourselves, and most likely we all enjoy reading, read for information and pleasure in front of our children, and read to our children. These are powerful predictors of reading success for our children.

But there are a lot of other children who do not have these advantages, and who begin kindergarten not even knowing letters and letter sounds. Reading instruction that is given before a child is ready to learn is not just wasted time. A child who isn't ready to read, but is forced into reading instruction will "learn" something all right--s/he'll "learn" that s/he is too stupid to read, that reading is very hard and not much fun. Those are some serious consequences that are not easily overcome. Contrast that to a child who is forced into playing when s/he is ready to learn to read. Have you ever known a child who learned to read without formal instruction, simply because s/he was ready to? At least half the people who have posted today have such children in their families!

Wy back in the early 1970's research examining the relationship between when formal reading instruction started in various countries and the incidence of illiteracy among adults in that country was examined. In country after country, the same thing showed up--late onset of reading instruction was correlated with lower incidence of illiteracy among adults, and vice versa. In several countries, reading instruction began at age 7, and the literacy rate was at or near 100%

I don't know if there are any other current studies other than the Finland one cited in the article, but I suspect the relationship still holds true. I have just not one ounce of concern for a child who is ready to read prior to onset of formal reading instruction--that child will learn to read. But I have a lot of concern for a child who is not ready when formal reading instruction starts, because these are the children who suffer.

Posted by: janedoe5 | May 7, 2009 11:34 AM | Report abuse

My personal opinion is that we keep pushing the kids to do stuff earlier and earlier, and think that that will help them later on. It doesn't, we still aren't competing properly. Instead of making large sweeping fixes, we do the easy things (sound familiar...).

Also, in the last 20-30 years, more has been done to help the 'underacheiving' girls - and girls mature faster, so they are able to sit and learn earlier, so things are pushed to be done earlier. To the detriment of boys, I think (who can't sit still as long, etc).

It's terrible, we need kids to be kids (and this is YET ANOTHER thing that we blame on NCLB - we are all WELL AWARE of which schools are good and which are not - why can't we just give out vouchers and let parents decide where to send their kids...?).
We need kids to play more and learn less. Well, actually, they're learning by playing.
My son is going into preK next year, and I already am considering having him do a year of K in preschool and then repeating it in 'regular' school. Cause he's a May birthday and he isn't the same as his older brother, who I was completely confident could do a full day PreK - whereas younger son will be in half day preK - I can extend if/when I want, but right now, i think that's the best for him.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | May 7, 2009 11:47 AM | Report abuse

To Jezebel3:

kin·der·gart·ner also kin·der·gar·ten·er (kĭndər-gärt′nər, -gärd′-)

1. A child who attends kindergarten.
2. A teacher in a kindergarten.

Posted by: lsturt | May 7, 2009 11:47 AM | Report abuse

To Jezebel3:

kin·der·gart·ner also kin·der·gar·ten·er (kĭndər-gärt′nər, -gärd′-)

1. A child who attends kindergarten.
2. A teacher in a kindergarten.

Posted by: lsturt | May 7, 2009 11:47 AM | Report abuse

I stand corrected.

Posted by: jezebel3 | May 7, 2009 12:00 PM | Report abuse

But I have a lot of concern for a child who is not ready when formal reading instruction starts, because these are the children who suffer.

Posted by: janedoe5

I posted to this point on the last thread about redshirting, I think it is linked above. We listened to my daughter's preschool and kindergarten teachers when she wasn't reading because they both told us "she'll read when she's ready." She read at the end of 1st grade when she turned 7. She is an excellent student and we never forced her to read. If she hadn't been reading by the end of 1st grade we would have talked to the teacher and made a decision about next steps.

Flip side of this is the snide comments from other adults on her late reading. These are the same parents that bask in the glory of the specialness of their children, but you have to shut them out and do what is best for your child.

Different scenario with my son, he started reading really well in Kindergarten. The first thing he ever read was 4 letter words on a bathroom wall when he was almost 5, yelled at the top of his lungs "mom, this word on the bathroom wall says F#$@, just like duck." Oh boy.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | May 7, 2009 12:29 PM | Report abuse

DD's wrapping up kindergarten in Fairfax County and facing another round of standardized reading tests this week. She can't read, she may or may not know her letters depending on when you ask her. She can count, sort of. Her almost photographic memory is applied to things she thinks are important. Her teachers are wonderfully sweet in trying to find good things to say about her while letting us know we're failing at getting her to do all this. On the flip side, my aunt taught kindergarten for years and assures me most kids do start real learning when they're eight. Am I concerned? In the face of teachers and relatives transposing her lack of accomplishment on me, yes. But with the reality that she'll learn it when she's darned good and ready, the fact that we read dozens of books a week and she'd clean out the library if we let her, and the fact that her grasp of the meaning of a story is well beyond that of her Perfect Cousin who at this point could read prior to conception... I've learned to smile and nod. Because we'll go through it again when DS underperforms according to an over-inflated standard.

Posted by: StrollerMomma | May 7, 2009 12:40 PM | Report abuse

cheeky: that is too funny.

Posted by: foamgnome | May 7, 2009 12:40 PM | Report abuse

The other problem with all this focus on early academics is the G&T "track" issues. At our school, the official G&T program starts in 3rd grade -- and the kids jump right into a 4th grade curriculum. What that really means is that kids are "tagged" for it by first or second grade (you get flagged in kindergarten or first grade and then tracked into the "pre G&T" second grade, etc.). And because G&T jumps a full grade level immediately, it is almost impossible for kids to switch up to that level a year or two down the road.

I am worried that this doesn't give a fair shake to the kids who naturally get off to a slower start. From what I've seen, most of the studies say that when a kid starts to read doesn't have anything to do with intelligence or learning ability. And yet, a kid who is just learning to read at 6 or 7 almost certainly won't be flagged as G&T material when his classmates are. So, ironically, all of this "early academic" focus may be doing a tremendous disservice to some really smart little kids.

Posted by: laura33 | May 7, 2009 12:58 PM | Report abuse

thanks for clearing that up raynecloud. I thought you were saying that your child was also doing that at 2. My bad.

Posted by: captiolhillmom | May 7, 2009 1:29 PM | Report abuse

What I fail to understand is the problem with a child that reads by 3.5 or whatever (not that I have one). Why is that a problem for entering a regular kindergarten? If the child has learned to read on his own initiative at such a young age, doesn't that imply that he/she will do similar things on their own time and at their own speed - outside of the school system? Why do they need to pressure to do things they are naturally inclined to do? IMO that is the problem with academics at a young age - it takes away the self motivation and forces it on kids externally. My son was not reading before kindergarten and, while very interested in math, not practicing anything more strenuous than counting before entering kindergarten. However, he is very interested in all things scientific and I have read more book about dinosaurs, bugs, insects, germs, space, etc. than I would have ever cared to on my own. His favorite birthday presents were Bill Nye The Science Guy videos. Now that he is in kindergarten and we have homework every night and reading and math to practice (as expected by the school - not because I think it is necessary), I can't remember the last time I read a science book to him. The videos are growing dusty and even his magazine subscriptions take the whole month to get read, rather than being read cover to cover the day he gets them. We have two younger kids and both work full-time, but even without those distractions, there would be no time for all the assigned work plus regular "go in the backyard and play" time if we still explored his interests like we did in preschool.

It turns out science is barely covered in kindergarten. I assume at some point it will become part of the curriculum at a level that my son will enjoy, or his reading level will improve such that he can read about things on his own. Perhaps I should be feeling that the school should have a tougher science curriculum so that my sons interests are taken care of in an academic way. But I would rather have less pressure coming from the school at such a young age so that we had the time at home to let him explore his personal areas of interest.

I am very much against the increased academic nature of kindergarten. Selfish though that thought may be.

Posted by: cqjudge | May 7, 2009 2:00 PM | Report abuse

So many children attend preschool where they experience what Kindergarten was to me in 1975 -- play-oriented -- that I think many are ready for academics in Kindergarten. They can play before and after school and on the weekends and in the summer (and they do so in school some, as Ms. Orenstein states).

Generally, the comments indicate that schools should be flexible so that children learn at their own pace. I wholeheartedly agree with that notion.

I agree only in part with Ms. Orenstein's views about homework. Our daughter is in first grade, and she has homework about twice a week. There have been a few concepts that I think she understood better because of the homework and our interaction with her on the homework. But I don't think young children need lots of homework. I think 10 to 15 minutes, twice a week is plenty for first grade.

Finally, was I not supposed to turn the first grade sight words into flash cards? My poor daughter!

Posted by: SilverSpringMom1 | May 7, 2009 2:02 PM | Report abuse

SilverSpringMom1: Funny flash card line! If I recall, there was some kindergarten homework game where my son had to cut out the words and play some memory matching game with me. So, they ended up getting taped to index cards so neither of us could see the words through the thin paper!

Posted by: StaceyGarfinkle | May 7, 2009 2:51 PM | Report abuse

I remember feeling quite betrayed in Fairfax County. I had done all the things that good parents supposedly did to raise interesting, inquisitive kids -- trips to the zoo, the park, cultural events, cooking with the children, reading lots and lots and lots of books. And yet as a previous poster pointed out, all the teachers were interested in was which kindergartener could read. The kids who got into GT were seven year old kindergarteners with four years of pre-k who had been drilled a lot with flashcards. All that 'nonsense' about pointing out birds to them in the backyard? dancing lessons? making finger puppets? Clearly in some parallel universe (like Europe), that's what good mothers do. But here, apparently, they hold their kids back and point a lot of flashcards at them while they're in the bath-tub.

It reminds me of a documentary I saw on PBS awhile back about private kindergartens in London where the defining test was how well each child did in completing a maze on paper. Apparently the teachers had decided that fine motor skills, including the ability to hold a pencil and color within the lines, were the best predictors of who was 'gifted'. So the parents all kept the kids inside doing mazes rather than taking them to the zoo or the park -- and in this particular program, there was a child who was Indian and who was very verbal and seemed to know a lot of math for a little tyke, who was turned down because she failed the maze test. How did we all go so wrong?

Posted by: Justsaying4 | May 7, 2009 3:02 PM | Report abuse

"and the fact that her grasp of the meaning of a story is well beyond that of her Perfect Cousin who at this point could read prior to conception..."

LOL, my kids must have the same cousin, as our nephew is brilliant beyond anyone's expectations! Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant! He's a nice kid too but I get really tired of hearing about how smart he is.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | May 7, 2009 3:12 PM | Report abuse

To combat the galloping academic curriculum of Fairfax County and its encroachment on family life, the early grades in elementary school for my kids have been pretty much homework optional.

I've gotten flack from a few teachers for not insisting that they "form good study habits" even if my child has already mastered the content, which is laughable for kindergarteners. My response - We've got a much bigger problem than that, I'm raising a child that hates school, and this is coming from a kid who can handle the material. I can only imagine that a child put in a position where he isn't cognitively mature enough to learn the content is nothing but a recipe for disaster. The only thing the child will learn in that environment is how to be a failure.

I figured out the strategy that the elementary schools use to boost academic standards in the area I live:

Your child will either learn it, or wear a label.

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | May 7, 2009 3:15 PM | Report abuse

The moxiefamily strategy is to do all we can to foster a love of learning and everything else will follow. I think the Montessori method is a very good example of how you can have rigor and enjoyment in the same environment. That said, Montessori isn't for every kid, but then again, what is?

Posted by: moxiemom1 | May 7, 2009 3:30 PM | Report abuse

Justsaying -- the fact that your kids were not "accepted" into the GT program does not make them any less interesting or inquisitive. In fact, it's probably just made them less stressed out. Our family was new to FCPS when our child started second grade. We were stunned at the open house listening to parents who over the summer had their children complete the second grade math books, reading workbooks, etc. -- before starting second grade. For what purpose? Just to be ahead of everyone else? A couple months later, the GT testing started. Our child did very well on the testing, 98th %ile -- which we soon learned was not high enough for the GT cutoff. And to be honest, after hearing that classmates had spent weeks in prep classes for the test, I was relieved my child got to be a "regular kid" for a few more years. Heaven knows there's enough pressure later in life! And as long as my kids are engaged and learning, I'm satisfied.

Posted by: vtma | May 7, 2009 4:25 PM | Report abuse

vtma: all the kids can take the GT test in my son's school. They used to test some kids in KINDERGARTEN, but they changed it. And honestly, how can you do a test, anyway, when you can't read (and again, when you learn to read has nothing to do with intelligence)?

And in our elem. school, about 1/2 (or almost 1/2) the kids are in GT (well, we call it 'challenge'). The principal is concerned about this number, because it should at most be the top 10%. Or what's the point, really?

My cousin's kid is in the GT program, and my cousin will tell anyone who'll listen that she thinks her kid is bright, but not necessarily 'gifted.' She just knew that her child was getting bored in the regular classroom and she wanted to challenge her to not make her hate school. I think it's worked...

Posted by: atlmom1234 | May 7, 2009 5:52 PM | Report abuse

foamgnome...about your Aspie kid. You are not alone. You need help too. Join your local Autism Society of America chapter. Find other parents to talk to. Go to this website and get a laugh. Their motto is "Shut up about your perfect kid". Their mascot is a parrot called Zip-it.

Posted by: KellyMBray | May 10, 2009 3:08 AM | Report abuse

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