Is she kindergarten-ready?
This is an embarrassing but necessary post for me to write. Writing helps me wade through the tangled – often muddy – weeds in my brain, and perhaps what I have to share will be useful to those participating in the early childhood education debate. For me, real personal growth comes with letting down my guard and being completely honest with myself. So here goes.
Yesterday, I came across the following Tweet by Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT):
7/23/14 @rweingarten: Americans know we need to help kids be kindergarten ready #InvestInKids #reclaimit http://t.co/g4rx0KOCCT
With my almost-five-year-old in mind, I pondered the meaning of the term kindergarten readiness. According to this 7/17/14 article published by the First Five Years Fund, “An overwhelming majority of Americans from diverse political and demographic backgrounds support federal action on early childhood education,” said First Five Years Fund Executive Director Kris Perry. “They understand its return on investment. They demand that Congress fund programs that meet high-quality standards. And, they want to invest now.” The fund cites – albeit vaguely – the acquisition of “knowledge and skills” as necessary for ensuring kindergarten-readiness.
First today’s education reformers shoved college and career readiness down our throats, and now this? Is anyone else sickened by the return on investment analogy in talking about early childhood education? Where is the humanity? As a public elementary school teacher in New York City, I see firsthand how kindergarten has become first grade. I am a huge proponent of preschool but not for the purpose of preparing kids for an unnaturally “rigorous” kindergarten experience so that they can meet the needs of the Common Core, as demonstrated by its developmentally inappropriate and uninspiring testing program.
My spirited kid, N, will be starting kindergarten in September* and I’m fraught with anxiety, but not because she lacks “knowledge and skills.” On the contrary, N can decode anything from picture books to brochures. She can define the term instrumental (thanks to the Frozen soundtrack), and just yesterday N told me that the co. abbreviation stands for company. Monopoly is N’s favorite board game and her read-alouds, without any prompting from me, include higher order thinking questions.
What tightens the permanent knot in my stomach is the fact that N won’t poop in the potty. Last November she was diagnosed as a stool withholder. She takes Miralax and sees a child psychologist. For the past three years, N attended a private preschool. On average there were eight students and two teachers in her class. In true it-takes-a-village fashion, Ms. D and Ms. J, her teachers for two consecutive years, helped us with the arduous task of potty training N. On more than one occasion, I have given myself an ineffective rating in parenting (do I deserve a score of 1 in the teaching of grit?), and I often fantasize about living life as a Mongolian nomad, cut off from the pressures of the modern world. I envision N pooping off the side of a camel or in the grasslands. That’s all she would know.
In September, N will attend our zoned public school in Brooklyn, NY. There will likely be around 25 students and just one teacher in her full-day kindergarten class. With today’s academic demands, which include the regular administration of assessments to track student progress, combined with growing class sizes, N will not get the individualized attention that she benefited from in preschool. Her teacher will likely not tell her to go to the bathroom. How will the class respond to N when she is squatting in the corner of the room, refusing to participate? Will they tease her when she smells like urine or when a wet spot appears on the back of her pants? Our current public school learning climate does little to accommodate social and emotional learning, which is so critical, particularly in the early years.
We all know that children develop at different rates, however the First Five Years Fund’s report fails to acknowledge our multiple intelligences. There is no mention of the whole child. The report’s tone is urgent, as if the authors felt pressured to ensure that incoming kindergarteners were ready for a “rigorous” Common Core education. If early childhood education does not include social and emotional learning, authentic and developmentally appropriate instruction as well as opportunities for play, compassion and love, then I don’t consider it high-quality.
*I will delete this post in the near future to spare N from any embarrassment my writing may cause her.
Thanks for your post. How about instead of “investing” in our children, we actually value them as precious individuals? One of my children also had some of the issues you describe, and the anxiety I felt came back as I read your blog. One of my children was lucky enough to experience kindergarten before reading was an expected skill. There used to be a sandbox in a classroom in the building where I work. Now instruction is expected to occur even during snack. No “wasted” time! Thanks again – And I hope my comment disappears when your blog post does!
Give her another year of some sort of pre-school…it will be a lasting scar for her to have kids mock her for not being potty trained. When she enters a year later, she will be totally in charge of herself and able to make the most of her kindergarten year….all the politiics notwithstanding. She will then be socially up to her intellectual maturity. She obviously benefits from the intellectual stimulation provided at home; keep that up and give her (and yourself) another year to work on the potty training…I think you will all be happier..less anxiety all around.
I completely agree with Lucia. 100%. Give her another year. It will make ALL the difference in the world. Give her some time to raise her emotional IQ. I did it with Teddy- best decision I have ever made as a parent.
AGREED! Another year to boost her reserves and to develop a thicker skin which she will need for public school. There is also a choice to home school her throughout these earlier years.
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Children will often surprise us with their resilience and willingness to adapt. N may do better than you think; she sounds like a bright child. There are so many teachers like you; talk to the teacher and see what possibilities there are.
I’d like to encourage you not to delete the post…it is an extremely valuable and important part of the larger conversation. Perhaps you could edit it to remove the details re: N’s specific physical manifestations of anxiety, and/or to further disguise her identity (i.e. not ID’ing her as your daughter or your location).
And best of luck with your own parenting and anxieties; I can relate closely (as a parent of two young children with ADHD, one of whom is adopted, and my own anxiety disorders to cope with…)
I too recommend waiting to send your daughter to Kindergarten, particularly if her Birthday is within a few months of the cut-off date. I did this with my oldest son, whom I had taught to read at home with phonics. He was extremely verbal and academically very “ready.” I know his pre-school, which was just a few hours a week of play-based learning, thought I was crazy, because he didn’t have any “issues” at all and they though he was smart. He is now a Junior in High School, very well-rounded and has done very well in school. My point is that giving him an extra year, to mature emotionally, did not harm him in any way academically, or otherwise. Naturally, he knew much of what was taught in the First grade in reading for example, but that would have been the case the year before. In today’s environment, I would definately think long and hard about not sending a child to Kindergarten any sooner than I absolutely had too. Then, I would try and find a half-day program, if any still exist in your area. It sounds like your daughter does not need a full day of school yet. Don’t feel pressured to send her, just because her age and her academic abilities make it seem like you would be insane not to. I recall there is a book on this subject called “The Hurried Child,” which was good.
Kids are ready to “poop” when they are ready to poop. You are the best expert of your own child, not anyone associated with the public school system.
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