Leave your slide rule at the door, this is modern kindergarten.

by | Oct 23, 2008 | Henry, Parenting | 11 comments

We had our first parent/teacher conference Tuesday night (what’s the proper punctuation there? parent-teacher? parent:teacher? parent:teacher::muffin:bagel?). It was fairly nerve-wracking. The conclusion (not that this is a huge surprise) is that Henry is very smart, is close to reading, and is completely overwhelmed by the other kindergartners.

Apparently they play a game during recess where they run up to each other and yell, “ROWR!” and it freaks him out. Also, in gym they often have different “stations” and the kids are broken into groups where they work at each station (“hula-hooping” was one of the examples, which is good because we have been remiss in teaching proper hula-hooping techniques at home) until the gym teacher blows her whistle, and then they all run to the next station. Henry totally gets lost in the chaos of the echo-y gym, and never knows where he’s supposed to go next. Considering that he often pulls himself out of the mess of the neighborhood posse to go up to his room and play by himself, I’m not surprised. (When we went to pick him up yesterday, a class of third graders was in the gym, playing dodgeball, the whole sight of which was so horrifying and bad-memory-inducing to me. Dodgeball teaches no athletic skills, and only reinforces school=Lord of the Flies.)

Also, the class goes to a computer lab every other week, and Henry is completely clueless. He’s never used a mouse, and doesn’t really get how the mouse makes the pointer move on the screen. His teacher kept talking about how he’s not getting to do the educational computer games during computer time, and finally I said, “Why does he have to know how to work at a computer?” Dave added something like, “I sit at a computer all day, doesn’t Henry have years before he has to learn to be a working drone?” But apparently all testing (starting in first grade) is done on a computer. So now I might buy a mouse for my laptop (though I’m very hesitant to give the kids free reign over my computer, after Henry completely broke it over February vacation 2007). And either Dave or I may start going to the computer lab at the school when Henry’s class goes to help out our remedial computer student.

So the lowdown, I guess, is that we’ve raised a book-loving luddite who shuns the type of short-attention-span chaotic antics so familiar to television watchers. Our only real concern is that he doesn’t get bullied. At the moment he is so confident in who he is that I don’t think it’s an issue, but I know how peers can tear you down if you’re an outsider.


  1. Clog

    Now you can see why people home school these days. Now you have a computer and choose not to have the kids use it but what if you are unable to afford one and your kids don’t have a clue how to use it.
    First grade? Seems a little early to start testing on a computer. Oh it makes me so sad, although you make it amusing to read.

  2. Anne

    Does your library have computers in the kids’ area? Ours does, and Sam likes to go there and abuse … er, experiment with using the mouse. I like it because it’s not my computer.

  3. teresa

    I do not even know where to begin except that this will be the post that you receive the most comments from.

    Is is okay if I say that they do not have a clue?

    AND that thank the universe Henry has parents who have more than a lick of self-esteem to KNOW that their child kicks a and no school with all of thei add inducing strategies is going to change perfectly perfect Henry.

    Good thing I only have one minute to respond.

  4. susan

    I guess computers are a fact of life — but dodgeball? Yikes. It says alot for both you and Dave that Henry is comfortable in his own cute skin.

  5. Christina

    That seems absolutely crazy that they expect 5 year olds to have “mouse skills” when they start kindergarden. And I dont understand how a computer can be educational until you can read…what sort of “educational” computer games are they doing??! Makes me think of those leapfrog “educational” toys.

  6. Beth

    People keep telling me the same kinds of things. A friend me that if my kid wasn’t reading by the end of kindergarten, he’d be “way behind.” (this person was from Phoenix, by the way. I’m wondering if urban areas are more high-pressure?) Alessandro’s teacher, though, told all the parents not to worry about it during orientation–she said that if your child isn’t reading by the end of K or even first grade, it was OK. In the mean time, I just talked to a friend in Australia whose child is in a Waldorff (or Steiner) school. They are just starting to teach his daughter to read, and she’s 8!!! That seemed a little weird to me…
    At any rate, I have to say that homeschooling is much more appealing to me than it used to be.

  7. Teresa

    instead of computer class could they offer a local agriculture course or knitting or boat-building or story-telling or animation or lego building?

    How about buying Henry his own laptop so he can youtube whenever
    he wants and master mouse skills, all the while keeping the blood in the most ancient part of his brain.

    As you know my kids do watch tv. I still think they have long attention spans, just not for most of the boring stuff that happens in school.

  8. Julie

    A friend of mine’s mom, who is a former kindergarten teacher, told me her still-teaching friends say that kindergartners are supposed to be reading at some crazy level (Level 2? or something? whatever that means?) by the end of the year. And that’s in Wiscasset (Maine).

    Waldorf: I have heard about them not teaching them to read (or showing them any books, even, which I could never manage) until they’re 8. I think the idea is that they form their own personhood and get their esteem chops or whatever, and explore the world without worrying about “learning” and so when the alphabet is introduced, it’s as easy as pie. Which is sort of an intriguing concept, but I’m not really sure I’d want to experiment with it on my own kids (too late for that, anyway!). The other thing about it is that I know lots of people who have sort of half Waldorfed, but we don’t live in a Waldorf world, and how do people do it full bore these days? I’d be curious to know if anyone knows of a family who went all-out Waldorf. Were they normal? Or the kind of people who are likely to embrace an extreme? Do the kids seem happy or neurotic?

    Anne: of course! The library! Why didn’t I think of that??

  9. mary

    Oh, my, where to start? I’ve been teaching small children for twenty years, so I’ve seen a lot of changes over the years. I’ve been teaching kindergarten for the past eight years. I love teaching and I love kindergarten! However, each year I get a little more annoyed by the complaints of parents. Please remember that the STATE decides what we will teach. The STATE sets testing requirements. The STATE decides which classes are important. The STATE adopts textbooks. Get the idea? Teachers do what they can to make things fun and to help children learn. We are often overwhelmed by the conflicting issues of education. Plus we teach 20-30 children in one room, all day, with limited budgets. If you really want to help your children, go to school board meetings, volunteer at school, and write your congressman.

  10. Christina

    Re: Waldorf-I am totally confused about how I feel about Waldorf. Sometimes I think their ideas sound fantastic (imaginative play, focus on nature, freedom from media) and other times I’m totally turned off (reading so late, its anti-semitic background, and at times all the singing and sweeping and natural wood seems a bit much). I do know that there is a board on mothering.com forums for those who are in “recovery” from Waldorf and that i have heard that there is a cultish aspect to some of the schools, so I guess there are some people who really go all out in the Waldorf world and end up with some issues. I have also heard that for children who have been in Waldorf schools k-12 there can be significant gaps in their education, notably in the hard sciences. But I am no expert- a lot of people here are really into it and love it and they dont seem weird.

  11. Julie

    Mary: I completely, completely agree. I certainly hope that none of what I’m saying comes off as anti-teacher, because I know what you’re saying is totally true, about the state dictating what is taught and on what schedule. Also, I love Henry’s teacher. She was definitely what made the whole conference seem ok — she was reporting some facts/issues, but also said a lot of things like, “You know, this is just who he is, he isn’t one of those boys who is running full speed and crashing into a wall for the fun of it, and that’s fine.”

    I wish I could volunteer at the school more. I already have Future Guilt because I know I’ll be able to volunteer more in Zuzu and Eli’s kindergarten classrooms due to fewer and older children at home. We did go on the two field trips they had, but those didn’t so much seem like volunteering as showing up/satisfying another aspect of Eli’s firehouse fetish. But I did like just being there and knowing all the children by name.

    Which maybe brings me to my stickiest issue with this all. I certainly have no problem with the teacher, and I might have some problem with the state-mandated curriculum, but I’m itchiest about the other students, and how Henry isn’t like the other kids, and how is this going to affect him in the future?

    Mary, over your years of teaching, how gradual has the push for early academics been? Has it just been since Bush and No Child Left Behind? Or has it been a creeping thing since you started?


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