Subscribe to this Blog
Today's Blogs
    The Checkup:

Blaming parents for the disappearance of play

There are some ideas that just seem so good, so common-sense, that you wonder why there is a debate over them at all. Last week, the Post featured one of those great ideas: getting our young children more time to, well, play.

The evidence on the benefit of play is so dramatic that I actually worry that the stats aren't believable:

Research has shown that by 23, people who attended play-based preschools were eight times less likely to need treatment for emotional disturbances than those who went to preschools where direct instruction prevailed. Graduates of the play-based preschools were three times less likely to be arrested for committing a felony.

And, yet, your average kindergartner is getting about 30 minutes of play a day.

The villains, in this telling, are the politicians who -- in an shortsighted effort to boost short-term test results -- want to push testable knowledge on our kids. I don't dispute the allure of boosting test scores. As derided as such numbers are, parents shopping for schools take them every bit as seriously as do the politicians. No one want their kids at a school that is below average, no matter how artificial that average is.

And, as parents, we deserve a portion of the blame as well. While everyone gives lip service to the idea of play, it's a rare preschool parent who isn't worried about the development of pre-reading skills or other traditional academic skills. Graduating to chapter books was a source of great pride for my daughter's cohort at school, and it would take a brave teacher (or administrator) to tell parents the truth: that it doesn't much matter whether those skills are developed at 5, 6 or older.

While we all want more play, we also want reassurance that kids are getting the number sense they need, that they are getting hands-on science, that they are getting unstructured play and recess (distinct from the more structured play that the article talks about), all within the confines of the school day. Something has to give, and that "something" happens to be the element of education with the least measurable effects, at least in the near-term: play.

The question for us as parents is what we're willing to sacrifice for more play. I'd love to hear your take; please sound off in the comment

By Brian Reid |  November 24, 2009; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Child Development , Preschoolers
Previous: 'Macrobiotic cupcakes' and the mythic over-involved parent | Next: Remembering the kids' table, fondly

Comments


No, Brian, the villains aren't the politicians; the villains are the parents. The parents who threaten to sue the school board for re-districting their neighborhoods from the 'best' school in the county to the 'worst' in an attempt to address overcrowding. The parents who move to specific neighborhoods to get to specific schools.

Everybody ought to go back and look at the last post from yesterday, purportedly from a high school student going by "reb5". It's informative. It's a warning of what you might be in for. And it hit home for me because right now middle DD is a senior in high school. She's third in her class of over 400. She's a varsity athlete. She's in the top musical group. She works in a retail store and does a lot of volunteer work. She's applying to, among other places, MIT, Georgetown, and Stanford. And I'm really trying to make sure that she has fun, but sometimes it's tough.

And at the same time, at work I'm involved in interviewing this year's crop of college seniors, and I know what the competition's like. A 2.0 GPA from your local school? I'm sorry, but unless there's something else compelling we're not even bringing you in for an interview. We don't have that time, and there are too many applicants.

So there's a balance point; I just haven't figured out yet where it is.

But I'm pretty sure it's NOT the politicians' fault; if they're doing anything at all it's just what they think will get them some votes and maybe some campaign contributions. End of rant. :-)

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | November 24, 2009 7:37 AM | Report abuse

As a kid raised on the do-more-earlier-better-faster-smarter track straight through from the "good" elementry school to the "good" college, I can tell you it doesn't always last. I was so completely burned out by graduation and so sick of the competition and lack of peace and quiet that I jumped as far as I could away from that track.

Granted, I have an engineering degree and I look great on paper so the "jump" wasn't a "plunge" but I still don't think I'm "meeting my potential".

Is that what you envision for your children when you push so hard so early?

Posted by: crayolasunset | November 24, 2009 7:55 AM | Report abuse

"Graduates of the play-based preschools were three times less likely to be arrested for committing a felony."

I doubt this has anything to do with play. It tells me that schools in poorer districts are more likely to be instruction-based.

Though I haven't seen the research you reference, my guess is that if you look at data from the same districts back in time when they weren't instruction based, the arrest ratio wouldn't look any different.

Posted by: 06902 | November 24, 2009 8:09 AM | Report abuse

06902 - i was thinking the same thing.

I have been reading more and more articles that discuss how our 'pushing down' of standards (kindergarteners do what first graders used to, first grade is what we used to do in second, etc) is so detrimental to the development of our kids. Part of it is no child left behind, which only went where many school districts already were going, but still (no teachers were involved in that legislation from what I've read!!!).

This pushing down makes parents hold back kids (and then we are looked on as the evil, helicoptering parents) - but seriously - why are so many more boys being diagnosed with behavioral problems than girls? Because of all this 'instruction based' schooling - because we keep thinking sitting in a classroom doing worksheets is the answer. It is not (boys aren't capable as young as girls).

Okay - AB: I am so with you. I went to that high school. I did pretty good, I think I might have done better with less of that pressure (from the other students, not anyone else). I have a friend here who is from a wealthy place in NY, so went to the best schools, went to the ivy league. She said: well, I don't want my kids to peak in high school. I don't want them burned out in college. etc...her kids are going to the public schools in the city here.

My 4 year old (prek - but i think we're holding him back) - plays all day. Where he is works SO WELL for him. He plays. He learns numbers, is learning to read, is learning about science, etc. But they play while they're doing it - so the kids don't even know how much they know. We went to the botanical gardens not long ago and the kids were AMAZING. They knew more in some cases than the docent. They are so interested in things like science, etc that they REALLY absorb it. It's great. And it's all play. Not sitting there listening to a teacher like they are in college - the whole school is incredibly interactive...

Posted by: atlmom1234 | November 24, 2009 8:50 AM | Report abuse

"Graduating to chapter books was a source of great pride for my daughter's cohort at school, and it would take a brave teacher (or administrator) to tell parents the truth: that it doesn't much matter whether those skills are developed at 5, 6 or older."

Not really Brian, I never ran into a teacher - whether it was preschool or elementary - that told us reading was essential at a very early age for success. It was the obnoxious parents that perpetuated this nonsense. I don't know how many times I endured parents bragging about their 4 year old reading at a 5th grade level, it was EXTREMELY annoying. Many early readers can breeze through a chapter book and have absolutely no comprehension, it is basically a dog and pony show.

My daughter was a very late reader, didn't even care about real reading till the end of the 1st grade. Everytime I had a doubt about my daughter's reading level I had the good fortune of a teacher that made sure I understood it was not a problem. She's a straight A Honors student in 6th grade now.

As for play time, my answer is DUH! And I don't care about the "studies" - isn't this just common sense? "Gets along well with their peers" is a consistent comment from elementary to annual reviews at work.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | November 24, 2009 8:52 AM | Report abuse

I went to that high school. I did pretty good.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | November 24, 2009 8:50 AM | Report abuse

LOL!

Posted by: jezebel3 | November 24, 2009 8:54 AM | Report abuse

jez: not sure what that means....

cheeky: so true. Seriously, many kids don't start to read til later, but it means absolutely nothing to intelligence. I met a parent who was telling me her 3 YO (maybe he was four?) was reading and it was totally because he was in montessori and how wonderful it is and how they motivate him to read etc. There was no indication to me tthat he was actually reading - who knows, who cares - but all I kept thinking was, okay, whatever, and 'so they'll let him just sit in a corner and read all day if he wants? or not read, but they think he is? How good is that?

Posted by: atlmom1234 | November 24, 2009 9:14 AM | Report abuse

I'm with 06902, unless the study controlled for those factors. I do believe a concrete, movement-friendly environment based on a child's own interests is best, but I don't have a dog in the fight of exactly what that looks like in the classroom. I've been in very child/object/play-friendly "traditional" preschools and "play-based" preschools that were very oriented towards group activities ("stand in line. paste your smile on the face. Go wait over there.")

Posted by: Shandra1 | November 24, 2009 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Interesting. My daughter is only 7 months old, but recently I had thought about switching daycare centers. The possible new one is more education oriented, which was part of why I didn't switch. Where she is she gets quality, loving care. And she plays a lot. And yes, as she gets older it will be run more as a preschool, but with lots of play time, music time, etc. I don't care if she reads early, I care that she enjoys learning.

My sister, who taught kindergarten and 1st grade in NYC (before she had a baby a year ago) considered it her job to teach kids to be active learners. Reading was part of it, and she taught at a very high achieving school. But a lot of the math work was done with blocks, the science was hands-on, the high achievers were partnered with the slower learners, which made it more fun for all involved. Because if your kid doesn't learn to love school at this age, the next 12 years will be a nightmare. SO learnin ghad to be play-based and exciting.

Posted by: JHBVA | November 24, 2009 9:34 AM | Report abuse

This is so timely! My son is at a public neighborhood school that in PRe-K is mostly play and by Kindergarten more instruction. He is now in 1st grade. He got his first term "report card" and I freaked out a bit because he scored a "2" on scale of 1-4 for literacy skills. I pulled out his Kindergarten "report card" and he finished with a "4"; so what happened over the summer?

I admit I did the high pressure mom thing and pointed the discrepancy out to him and asked him about it. At this point he had been doing the absolute minimum homework assigned to him-- trying to get him to read for 20 minutes every day was like pulling teeth.

After our talk, I noticed his reading skills suddenly improving. He couldn't stop reading-- street signs, cereal boxes, etc. Last night he read for over an hour--- and wanted to do more!! Yay!


Posted by: captiolhillmom | November 24, 2009 9:56 AM | Report abuse

"the high achievers were partnered with the slower learners,"

Ugh. This method I object to.

Posted by: 06902 | November 24, 2009 9:57 AM | Report abuse

altmom, I think jez was pointing out that it should be "I did pretty WELL", not I did pretty GOOD.
Might be wrong...

Posted by: Catwhowalked | November 24, 2009 9:58 AM | Report abuse

We have spent entirely too much money to send our boys to a nursery school where they have structured and unstructured play, music and science but no reading, no numbers on the walls, no singing of the alphabet, etc. Basically nothing about their time there could be measured, quantified or tested.

As they get older, the play challenge moves to the home where I wish I could throw open the door and tell them to go play for a couple hours until dinner. Alas, many houses have no kids or both parents work and the kids are elsewhere or the parents watch too much cable news and will not let their kids out of their sight. Sadly, the outdoors are a kid-free zone, which leaves me the options of organizing playdates or having them outdoors without other kids and without all the other parental eyeballs.

Like others, I don't quite believe the numbers from this study, although there may be some truth to it. Play is very important. The fact is that schools are schools and teachers teach so I don't have much expectation for regular public schools to do a good job on "playing."

To Brian's question: Play time was a big reason we pulled our boy out of his excellent Montgomery County school this year and his Mom is homeschooling him ("unschooling", actually).

Posted by: KS100H | November 24, 2009 10:10 AM | Report abuse

Altmom, It is the "reading at the expense of all else" that I am opposed to. So your kid reads all day? Can he talk and play with other kids?

I just saw an interesting interview with the author Vince Plynn, he is dyslexic and didn't read till he was 8 or 9 - which is not unusual. Despite all his problem with reading and writing, and being made to feel like he was a complete idiot in school for not being an accomplished reader - he decided he wanted to be an author at the age of 30. Like Clancy and other authors he was turned down 60 times by publishers and ended up self financing his first novel. He's now a very wealthy, accomplished author, but those early years of frustration never leave you.

I know dyslexia is an extreme(and things are much different now), but we can look at this example and say - so my 6 year old is not reading yet? In the whole grand scheme of things, how does this factor? It just doesn't, minus a disability - he/she will almost certainly be fine.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | November 24, 2009 10:12 AM | Report abuse

Sorry - author Vince Flynn, not Plynn, lol!

Posted by: cheekymonkey | November 24, 2009 10:13 AM | Report abuse

"the high achievers were partnered with the slower learners,"

Ugh. This method I object to.

Posted by: 06902 | November 24, 2009 9:57 AM | Report abuse

I agree. Kids need to be challenged at their own level.

Posted by: dennis5 | November 24, 2009 10:14 AM | Report abuse

06092 -

Partnering children to learn isn't to slow down the high achievers. If done properly, each student is challenged, and has more fun learning that way. One example - my sister had an incredibly bright boy in her class, who couldn't sit still. He could read well above grade level, if you could get him to stop and read. But ask him to read with his friend, and both of them were reading. The friend, who hated reading (because it was hard) found out he loved books when introduced by a friend, vs. an adult. And the bright boy found different ways to help the friend than my sister had found, and ended up giving the teacher new ideas to help future students. It doesn't mean that either kid wasn't pushed to achieve his/her own best. It means that knowing your students helps teachers make good decisions. It's not the only technique usedin the classroom. Again - the goal of early education is to make children active, interested learners. If their friends can help that along, then I say good for the teacher, the students, the parents, and society overall.

Posted by: JHBVA | November 24, 2009 10:33 AM | Report abuse

Play is valuable, but does that really automatically mean school is the place for it? We have more choices here than just play or worksheets. Parents should make sure their kids have access to other kids for some unstructured playtime, but I think even a pre-school (not a daycare where kids are there for over 6 hours a day) should be guiding the kids through music activities, art activities, science projects, etc., not just turning them loose in a room full of toys. Play at home!

Posted by: rh36 | November 24, 2009 10:38 AM | Report abuse

"I met a parent who was telling me her 3 YO (maybe he was four?) was reading and it was totally because he was in montessori and how wonderful it is and how they motivate him to read etc. There was no indication to me tthat he was actually reading - who knows, who cares - but all I kept thinking was, okay, whatever, and 'so they'll let him just sit in a corner and read all day if he wants? or not read, but they think he is? How good is that?"

My understanding of the Montessori method is that a kid would not be allowed to sit in the corner and read all day; the director keeps a close eye on the kids and will encourage them towards other activities if they notice an imbalance. At least, that's what DD's teacher keeps telling us.

I'll admit that, with DD rapidly approaching 4 years old, DH and I have been getting twitchy about academics. She loves books, but is thoroughly uninterested in learning to read or write. We keep taking turns reminding ourselves that she's still little and that she'll have the rest of here life to worry about achievement.

Posted by: newsahm | November 24, 2009 10:41 AM | Report abuse

Anyone try montessori?

Posted by: sunflower571 | November 24, 2009 10:43 AM | Report abuse

I'll admit that, with DD rapidly approaching 4 years old, DH and I have been getting twitchy about academics. She loves books, but is thoroughly uninterested in learning to read or write. We keep taking turns reminding ourselves that she's still little and that she'll have the rest of here life to worry about achievement.

Posted by: newsahm | November 24, 2009 10:41 AM | Report abuse

And this is exactly the problem. Not Newsahm specifically, but the fact that we have a culture where parents start to be concerned about a 3 year old not reading and writing.

Posted by: dennis5 | November 24, 2009 10:55 AM | Report abuse

I reading this book called "You Are Your Child's First Teacher"-has anyone read it? I really like it but my husband thinks it seems too out there/granola hippy for his liking. Anyway, it really emphasizes the point we are discussing here about how you need to let your child play and not stress academics too early. I totally see the point the book is making but then I see my 2 year old niece and nephew (cousins but very close in age) and they go to the same preschool where they have already learned the alphabet and some of their numbers and do structured craft projects, have field trips, and soon start on the computer. It seems like it must be a bit much for them but they do love going to preschool and seem to be thriving. So you wonder if you put your kid in a play based place would your kid be missing out and be behind when he or she starts kindergarden? Or will your kid catch up eventually and be more creative?

Posted by: sunflower571 | November 24, 2009 11:08 AM | Report abuse

So you wonder if you put your kid in a play based place would your kid be missing out and be behind when he or she starts kindergarden? Or will your kid catch up eventually and be more creative?

Posted by: sunflower571 | November 24, 2009 11:08 AM | Report abuse

What about the felony arrest stuff?

Posted by: jezebel3 | November 24, 2009 11:18 AM | Report abuse

OK, I might not be reading this correctly but Brian are you claiming your daughter read chapter books in preschool or kindergarten? Because that would be a rather amazing feat.

My niece who consistently scores well above her peers in language arts, was not even sitting and listening to chapter books in kindergarten.

My daughter, who has aspergers, does not read at all. She has had sight recongization since three years old but still is not reading. She recongizes upper and lower case letters and is interested in stories. We read picture books and talk about what happened in the story. As far as I can tell, she understands the stories. She can tell you a brief synposis of the stories and some of the main ideas. But that is it. I was told that was very normal for kindergarten.

I have to say I am totally shocked by kids that can read that young. All the studies that I have looked out said that early reading is not a prediction of future academic success because it usually doesn't involve comprehension of what they are actually reading. I am sure there is the rare kid who can read and comprehend chapter books in kindergarten. My guess is that child excels in a number of academic areas-not just reading.

Posted by: foamgnome | November 24, 2009 11:24 AM | Report abuse

"And this is exactly the problem. Not Newsahm specifically, but the fact that we have a culture where parents start to be concerned about a 3 year old not reading and writing."

I pretty much agree. When we started DD in school, we had agreed that the entire point was play and socialization. And I still believe that, really I do. But it's hard to cling to that shred of sanity when all of the other kids seems so advanced and your kid is spending her days pouring water.

Posted by: newsahm | November 24, 2009 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Oh my goodness - stop worrying about reading by a certain age. And stop with the "you must read for an hour every day." Talk about a way to make a kid HATE reading!!! My daughter had a teacher in the 4th grade who took her budding love of books and stomped it into the ground by pushing too hard (like they should be reading Jane Eyre by age 10, please). Anyway - my daughter stopped reading all together until about 8th grade.

I hated that teacher. But it was a blip in my daughter's life - she's in an honors program in college doing great.

Posted by: GroovisMaximus61 | November 24, 2009 11:31 AM | Report abuse

"I doubt this has anything to do with play. It tells me that schools in poorer districts are more likely to be instruction-based. "

Well, this, clearly. Pretty much all private preschools are play-based, right? Instructional preschools exist to help poorer kids catch up because they are not being read to (or perhaps hearing English) at home and so forth.

Although I did read a study sometime back that showed tat compared kids in a regular head-start program with those who were allowed to participate in a public montessori preschool. The montessori kids had fewer behavioral problems and better social skills and these benefits lasted all the way through elementary school. I thought that was pretty interesting.

Posted by: floof | November 24, 2009 11:40 AM | Report abuse

As a Scandinavian used to no formal instruction before the age of six, I found it very frustrating to choose a Kinder for my eldest, who started this August because he turned 4 (in Mexico Kinder has been made obligatory from that age, home-schooling is not an option).

I could not find any Kinder without fixed classes, half an hour recess, and homework.

I chose the one I otherwise liked best, and my child likes it, in general, but I still wish it didn't have to be a school for all practical puroses at that age.

And yeah, I come from a family of academics. My husband taught himself to read age 3, I learnt from my parents when I showed interest, at age 5. Today I'm the faster (yes, with reading comprehension) reader of us, so no, age when starting to read is not a significant indicator. Interest in books probably is.

All that matters to me is that my children's interest in learning is not damaged before they are school age. On their own, with the willing help of the adults around them, they will learn plenty by living, playing, and asking questions about the things that interests them. My eldest is into animals, especially dinosaurs, basic geography, especially related to where the animals live, and our solar system. He will happily sit "reading" for an hour if given the peace to do so, but he isn't really interested in real reading yet. Fine, no problem.

And no, its not low expectations. I've got to masters degrees and working on my PhD, my husband has a masters in science and music conservatory on the side. But children are naturally intelligent, don't kill off their wish to use it.

Posted by: Mmex | November 24, 2009 11:51 AM | Report abuse

"trying to get him to read for 20 minutes every day was like pulling teeth"

Yeah, and I wunder how many adults here gave up on math, (or history, or whatever), not that they didn't like the subject matter, but because their 8th grade teacher was a total jerk or structured the lessons to make it so unpleasant as to turn the kids off for a lifetime. My daughter's orchestra teacher did this to her 4th grade students in elementary school. She made it all about sitting still, paying attention, following the baton, keeping quiet, acting like "professionals", and the discipline of practice. If somebody could possibly make music *NOT* enjoyable, it was her.

Needless to say, my daughter doesn't play the violin, - even though her father loves music and played the viola through high school.

nor is

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | November 24, 2009 11:53 AM | Report abuse

Brian, it would help if you could explain a little bit what kinds of preschools were considered "play-based" and what kinds were considered "direct instruction." I have the feeling that most of the ones we're talking about here are effectively play-based, with just varying levels of structure.

Kids learn by doing. You don't need to drill kids with worksheets and memorization to teach addition; they'll pick it up playing with blocks or legos (there's a reason most kids say "take away" instead of "subtract"). Worksheets, drills, etc. require a level of abstract thinking and language that a lot of young kids aren't ready for yet. When you let them play, especially in the right environment, they will pick up on basic scientific, mathematic, and language priniciples -- usually long before they have the words to explain what they know. On the other hand, when you force them to make that transition before they're ready to, they feel stupid, they get bored, they get turned off of learning, and they actually make less progress.

Sunflower, I'm a huge fan of Montessori. Their where the operative principles are that kids learn by doing; that kids are competent and can/should be expected to be responsible for themselves (hanging coats, taking turns, putting toys away, etc.); and that each kid should proceed at his or her own pace. Their classrooms are stocked with "learning"-type toys -- from simple things like small pitchers of water that kids can pour, to more complex things like an abacus for basic arithmetic. Big caveat, though, that not all schools that claim to be "Montessori" really are (it's not a protected name, so any place can call itself a Montessori school). We pulled DD from hers when they transitioned to elementary school, and the "curriculum" changed from Montessori-style play to drill-and-worksheet.

Posted by: laura33 | November 24, 2009 11:55 AM | Report abuse

I think it's much more the parents. My mother spent my childhood so focused on school and achievement that I hated everything to do with academics. She wouldn't let me pick my books to read (I actually had to hide Babysitter's Club books under my bed and read them in the dark) because she thought that at 8 I should only be reading the classics. She also would get my books for the next year and force me to do assignments from them all summer.

The thing is, some kids are just more interested and thus "better" at some things over others. Maybe your son, for example, doesn't like reading (a lot of little boys don't) but loves engineering concepts (aka legos) and math. You never know. We don't all have to excel at everything.

Another cautionary tale: my aunt and uncle were so hard core about academics and constantly made my cousins compete against each other to "be better." Fast forward 20 years and BOTH of them have had mental breakdowns, one was in a psych ward for awhile and the other refused to come out of their basement for a year.

Posted by: kallieh | November 24, 2009 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Groovis, My son has a 3rd grade teacher this year that has finally stopped the mandatory 20 minute a day reading log, it is voluntary. Most kids will read for 20 minutes a day, but he lets them count their in-class reading time and if they don't read 20 minutes a day it is not a big deal. He is much more hands on with their group work, 5-6 kids reading and discussing an assigned book, then he takes individual assessment for comprehension. I mean, that's what it is about - comprehending what you are reading?? This teacher also lets the kids go to the bathroom without holding up their hand, because as he says - when in real life do you have to ask to use the bathroom besides prison? I love this teacher.

Our elementary has a contest every National Education Week where classes compete against each other to see who can read the most in one week. Every year without fail there is some kid that reads 24/7 for an entire week and his class gets an ice cream party. It's completely silly.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | November 24, 2009 12:13 PM | Report abuse

And to clarify- both my mother and my aunt and uncle were this way to the detriment of our ability to play. Outside, inside, etc. We were only allowed approved educational toys.

Posted by: kallieh | November 24, 2009 12:14 PM | Report abuse

kallieh,

I LOVED the Babysitter Club books-I first got a set of them for a Christmas gift when I was in second grade and I can still remember struggling to read them and not really understanding but being motivated to learn how to read so I could read them. Thanks for the reminder to let kids enjoy themselves!

Posted by: sunflower571 | November 24, 2009 12:29 PM | Report abuse

laura33,

Was it hard for your daughter to make the transition?

Posted by: sunflower571 | November 24, 2009 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Yawn. Wake me up when the floor show starts.

Posted by: jezebel3 | November 24, 2009 12:35 PM | Report abuse

JBHVA,

"Partnering children to learn isn't to slow down the high achievers."

Really? Thanks for that patronizing statement. We're off to a good start...

"If done properly" - hahahahahahaha. Oh. Phew. Sorry. But THAT was funny.

"each student is challenged, and has more fun learning that way." - Yes, I recall with great fondness the fun I had filling out Marc's worksheet for him so I could be done as fast as possible with having to sit next to some moron I didn't like when I could be reading something I wasn't allowed to read because the district said I wasn't old enough...GOOD TIMES.

Posted by: 06902 | November 24, 2009 12:35 PM | Report abuse

06902- I agree whole heartedly with you. I have never seen one time that partnering high achievers with low achievers has actually worked out for the high achieving student. All it did was "help" the other in the sense that they learned that if they waited long enough someone would do the hard stuff for them, while the high achiever got more and more bored and annoyed.

Posted by: kallieh | November 24, 2009 12:52 PM | Report abuse

"You don't need to drill kids with worksheets and memorization to teach addition;"

Laura, I agree with you, but in face value only. Some things in life just require effort, and hard work, which pays off in the long run, eventually. Hopefully.

Learning the basic addition/subtraction/multiplication facts is one of these. In fact, merely deriving the correct answer isn't good enough, it's a matter of deriving the correct answer in the least amount of time. In this respect, I think that teaching your kid the trick with the 9's or 6's, or having them count on their fingers actually does them a disfavor.

In short, I wrote my son, who was getting behind in math, a computer program to teach him to answer the math facts as quickly as possible. What this did was boost him directly from the lowest math class to the highest in a period of 6 weeks, where he still remains 4 years later. The secret here being that once a child can quickly and accurately computate simple numbers, elementary school math becomes a sinch. The emphasis being on the word "quickly".

I've posted this link before and gotten great feedback from this program from parents and teachers all over the US and UK too. So, without further hype, if you have a child from the 4th grade down, you may want to take a look at this program and see if your child could benefit from it. (I'm not trying to sell anything here, so I don't think I'm breaking the Washpo posting policy) Anyway, Here's the link:

http://mysite.verizon.net/vze35fvj/MathFlash.htm

PS: Contrary to what is posted on the web site, the program should be operational for at least one more year

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | November 24, 2009 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Sunflower --

Yeah, but she's not a really good example, because there were a lot of other things going on. A, the schoolwork was in my opinion unreasonable, period (think Asian prep academy). B, they also bumped her up directly from K to 2nd grade, so the change was really a shock to the system. C, she is highly active (just now diagnosed ADHD, but we've suspected/known for years), so she struggled with being expected to sit still and behave as well as kids who were in some cases almost two full years older.

Moxie probably has a better sense of the transition -- she's another big Montessori fan. My gut says that DD could have handled it fine if it had been the normal transition from a Montessori preschool or K to a "regular" K or 1st grade.

Posted by: laura33 | November 24, 2009 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Pat Laing is Whacky?

Posted by: jezebel3 | November 24, 2009 1:04 PM | Report abuse

"I recall with great fondness the fun I had filling out Marc's worksheet"

Hahaha! Marc went home, shoed his "A" to his mommy, whom complimented Marc on his improved handwriting, gave him a pat on the head and took him out for ice cream. Everybody won! LOL!

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | November 24, 2009 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Cheeky - Reading logs are such a pointless exercise. Sometimes you have a good book and read all the time - sometimes you just don't feel like reading. If the point of the assignment is to absorb material from a textbook - then assigning reading is obviously a good idea. However, if you want to get kids to learn to read for pleasure, why would you make it so much like work?

Sounds like your son's teacher is terrific...

Posted by: GroovisMaximus61 | November 24, 2009 1:25 PM | Report abuse

Well, Whacky, I kind of agree with you, too -- I was talking about younger kids, not elementary school. I was thinking of DS, who picked up basic addition at 3 -- not because anyone tried to teach him or drill him, but because he figured out that when you put two fingers from one hand together with two fingers from the other hand, you end up with 4, and he thought that was cool. Now he has moved on to being able to tell you the answer for low sums without using his fingers. So even though his preschool isn't really "academic," I'm not worried about how he'll do once he gets to "real" school. Not because OMG he can add at 3 he must be a genius (gah). But because I see him getting excited about all of these "academic" areas. In his mind, he's playing and having fun and exploring, and it's all really cool. (Yeah, I know, he's a geek -- but we've known he was genetically doomed from the get-go). :-)

I do agree that, when kids get into elementary school, they need to move past the "process" part, and just know a lot of these basic math facts. I mean, you really make basic algebra a lot more difficult if you have to both remember how to solve X + 7 = 12 AND also then compute out what 12 - 7 is. Heck, my whole third grade (4th?) year was multiplication drills until I had learned my times tables cold -- hated it at the time, but sure helped me later on.

But I think those two things have to work together. There's a big difference between 2nd or 3rd graders and 4-yr-olds -- 8-yr-olds can grasp some of these more abstract concepts in a way younger kids cannot. They can put together the "memorize facts" part with the basic "how it works" part to make sense out of it all. I worry that if you jump to the memorizing at too young an age, without them first getting how/why that works, the kids are just going to get tripped up later on down the road. And I suspect that most preschoolers can pick up those basic concepts more naturally when they do it themselves through play than through worksheets.

Posted by: laura33 | November 24, 2009 1:25 PM | Report abuse

06092 -

Last post - I am heading out for the holidays, and don't really care that you had crappy teachers your whole life. But learning is not just about what you learn from a teacher. It is about what you learn from the world around you, including other students. And I guess if you're just pairing kids up with worksheets, your scenario is a likely outcome. But many of our nation's model schools have done away with the worksheets. They are about comprehension, analytic thinking, creative thinking, etc. So putting 2 kids together to read a book - together, and then asking them to work on a way to share that story with the class - in 1st grade? Usually means 2 kids are having fun figuring out what the book was about, and getting goofy as they figure out how to tell the story to their class, without just reading them the book.

Overall, I think it's too bad that this has just become 1 more area where parents compare their child to every other kid. We should be able to cherish, nourish, encourage, celebrate our children for the people they are, not the people their friends are or the people we imagined they might be. Sort of in the same vein as Brian's art topic the other day - it's about having fun. The process of picking up a crayon and scribbling all over (hopefully not on the wall) is part of the brain's development. It really doesn't matter if anyone else can tell that your 3 year old's scribbles are supposed to be a giraffe.

Posted by: JHBVA | November 24, 2009 1:45 PM | Report abuse

laura33,

Did they bump her up because she tested higher than her age? Overall are you still glad you sent her to a Montessori preschool?

Thanks for your insights. One last question-if I can't find enough family to watch my baby and have to use daycare do you think Montessori daycare is worth it for an infant?

Posted by: sunflower571 | November 24, 2009 1:48 PM | Report abuse

JHBVA - those are some serious rose-colored glasses you're sporting!

Posted by: GroovisMaximus61 | November 24, 2009 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Sunflower --

They didn't actually "test" (or if they did, I am not aware of it). She had just been there for several years, so they knew her strengths and weaknesses. Basically, the work in K was too simple, she'd get bored, and that would then get her in trouble -- for ex., she'd finish her work in 1/3 the allotted time, then run around telling all her friends what the answers were. So they thought that putting her with a class that was more academically advanced would challenge her and thus "cure" the "idle hands" phenomenon. Which, again, might have worked, except for the drill-and-kill-and-sit-still approach.

But, yes, I was very, very happy with them for preschool, when they were much more traditional Montessori. DD loved being able to choose what she wanted to "work" on and advance at her own pace. And they really built competence in basic practical chores, which gave her a really nice sense of accomplishment that she could do so much by herself.

Posted by: laura33 | November 24, 2009 2:34 PM | Report abuse

with math, well, everyone learns it so differently, but basically, in my opinion, it's taught by people who hate math, and want to get thru it, and, so they teach their kids drills, etc, and to hate math also.

I learned math SO sO SO SO SO differently than anyone else. When I figured out a way that worked FOR ME - well, it was so much easier. No one even understands the process by which I do my arithmetic, etc, but it so works for me - when I was in jr. high, well, I was allowed to go into the 'upper' level math class, but they told my mom 'with misgivings.' So, well, here I am - with a master's in math.

In any event, and on topic - kids learn so differently - but i think the point of this all is that as long as we can, we need to teach kids thru play.

Don't kids - all kids, up to high school even - learn better thru play? like if you set up some kind of jeopardy thing? I remember in Jr. high one of my awesome teachers who created 'games' to walk us thru math class, and we'd end up with something we created (we had to solve problems in order to get to the something). Unfortunately, two issues:
1) teachers are not taught to teach that way. and
2) not all of them are that creative for all subjects.
oh, wait and
3) they are really bogged down with how much they need to teach the kids. I couldn't believe it - how much they have to get into those kids.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | November 24, 2009 2:34 PM | Report abuse

oh, and the idea that the 'play' structure will somehow keep a kid behind...

my kid's in preK. 1/2 day (there is the option of full day - state funded). He is most definitely, barely 1/2way thru the year, more than ready for kindergarten. Academically at least (we're not sure on the 'can sit still for hours at a time' kinda thing).

He is constantly quizzing me on math stuff, trying to ready by himself (not cause we are trying to get him to) - blahblahblah.

it's just that he's learning by playing, so he's not 'knowing'' that he's learning. he's learning nonetheless.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | November 24, 2009 2:43 PM | Report abuse

"Last post - I am heading out for the holidays, and don't really care that you had crappy teachers your whole life."

In one sentence you've managed to be mean, ignorant, sanctimonious and childish. Congrats. Surely the product of one of "our nation's model schools".

Posted by: 06902 | November 24, 2009 2:56 PM | Report abuse

When DD was struggling to read I used to slap hands at the end of sentence. Now it is when we turn a page. By adding play slapping hands or dancing if it was a hard word she is rewarded for her hard work.

She really couldn't read until age 6 kindergarten. At age 8 second grade she is near the top of her class. Reading happens when they are ready and not a moment before.

Posted by: shdd | November 24, 2009 3:32 PM | Report abuse

Today's winner for the coveted Poster of the Day award goes to cheekymonkey for his/her tale of his/her son’s 3rd grade teacher, specifically for the likening of students needing permission to use the bathroom as if they were prisoners.

Posted by: TheRealTruth | November 24, 2009 4:51 PM | Report abuse

Parents have the power to change the trend away from play beginning in preschool, Enroll your child in the preschools that promote learning through creative play. We all think we are "missing something" if we "just play," but in reality, that is how young kids learn.

I am a speech language pathologist and see the results of teaching parents how to play with their children to promote language and learning. I have lots of ideas on my website for toys and games that encourage creative play, including my list of best language toys and games for 2009:

http://playonwords.com/blog/2009/11/22/best-language-toys-and-games-for-holiday-gifts-2009/

Sherry Artemenko

Posted by: playonwordscom | November 24, 2009 8:48 PM | Report abuse

Laura,

Also keep in mind as alternatives to the ADHD diagnosis:
Nonverbal learning disorder
Asperger's

Some of the tactile sensitivity you have described in the past comes along with those.

Posted by: jeanlouise1 | November 25, 2009 4:20 AM | Report abuse

With due respect, Brian, I think you should have dug a bit more deeply. The study isn't believable if applied to the general population. That isn't, however, the focus of this study:

"In the study, 68 children, ages 3 and 4 years, were randomly assigned to one of three preschool groups, each receiving a preschool program based on a different curriculum model. Children in all three groups were living in *poverty* and at *high risk* of school failure." [Emphasis mine.]

Several points stand out. First off, these were HIGH RISK KIDS. From the comments I read around here, that doesn't apply to most of the folks commenting around here. Second, it was a study group of 68 kids, split into three groups. That means that each group consisted of 20 kids. In fairness to the researchers, it is difficult to pull of a study of this kind and so a larger group may have been unworkable. However, it would be risky to extrapolate based on groups of *20* kids.

I do believe there are valuable lessons. Most particularly, that play-based preschool is critically important for at risk kids. That makes sense. They're probably not getting that at home. We do plenty of play at home and our kids are in preschool 20 hours a week (special needs, as I've posted before).

Going to instruction-based preschool for these kids is probably like trying to teach them to run before they walk. So, we needn't blame the politicians or freak out. This is important information, but as often happens with scientific studies, has been misinterpreted.

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | November 25, 2009 4:08 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 

© 2010 The Washington Post Company