It’s kindergarten round up time all over Michigan! One of the toughest decisions parents have to make is about the education of their children. How do we meet the current emotional and academic needs of our babies while laying a foundation for their futures?
Naturally I began worrying about Sweet V’s school career the day she was born like any good mother would do. I will actually equate it to near panic. I had been teaching for 10 years already and I didn’t like the shift in education. I was getting frustrated with the expectations being put on my first graders. I didn’t want my own child to be a part of this new system. But I also couldn’t control the shift, and until I hit the jackpot, I couldn’t stay home to create the ideal educational plan for a home education.
I went to kindergarten in 1985. It was for a half day. We had different colored shapes hanging above our tables that told us which center we got to play in that day. We went to the orange carpet to listen to stories and my teacher played the piano and lead us in songs. She smelled like Chanel No.5. I played with Tinker Toys and Lincoln Logs. I loved the house center. And because my mom was a super star, she taught me to read before I started school and I zipped through every Dick and Jane book while the rest of the class learned letters. I remember making an alphabet book inside of a construction paper barn and my farmer was floating in the air. My teacher helped me color the grass up to his feet so he would be on the ground. I dictated stories to Mrs. Petzold and one of them got to be in the local newspaper. There was no pressure to learn to write. No pressure to learn to read. No pressure to do anything but just learn to share, play fair, follow directions, be kind to others and be away from Mommy for a few hours. I never took a pencil/paper test. Believe it or not…I made it through high school and went on to earn a graduate degree.
20+ years later (okay 30+ years) and Michigan kinders go to school all day. They are expected to read small books, write connected sentences, and do basic algebraic computation before finishing the school year. They are slotted into intervention groups by the end of September to make sure they show adequate growth on nationally normed assessments so teachers can keep their jobs. There is little time to play. Many schools have done away with center time and free choice. Some don’t even have a daily recess. #sadface Circle time and songs at the carpet are a rarity and you can forget about dramatic play in the house center. It’s not the teacher’s fault. It’s not administration’s fault. Our government wants college and career ready 5 year olds and we must comply.
As each year went by and V reached the precious age of 5, I continued to fret about how to navigate her education. Neighborhood school or charter with me? Kindergarten or Young 5’s? Her preschool teachers always told me how smart she was and I knew she was academically ready without a doubt. Her birthday was nearly 3 months prior to the September 1st cutoff for kindie and she was used to being away from me all day since she was 3 months old. But what is it that I value for the future of my child?
So why did I delay kindergarten? I decided that as intelligent as Sweet V is, I was not in a hurry to standardize her education and college prep her. I didn’t care if she learned to read at age 5 and I certainly didn’t care if she could write an opinion piece with a proper closure with or without support from the classroom teacher or learned to peer edit using an adorable graphic organizer from Teachers Pay Teachers. I didn’t care if she could find the missing addend or if she could skip count by anything other than 1. I didn’t care if she knew her 3D shapes or could recognize the Preprimer Dolch words or write the alphabet from memory with Zaner-Bloser perfection.
I cared that she used her imagination. I cared that she learned about community and sharing over selfishness. (still working it) I cared that she had time to play and self-regulate her choices and emotions during the day. (working this one too) I cared if she got a chance to rest a little bit halfway between her 9 hour day from wake-up to home. I cared if she got to sing and create art and play with numbers and letters. I cared if she got to build with blocks, dress up like a super hero, and squish her fingers in play-doh for one more year. I cared that she learned to care about her classmates and school and fell in love with learning. I cared that she got to be a child first and next year she can be a student.
I don’t care that she will graduate when she is just shy of 19. It’s a different world out there.
Current research suggests delaying kindergarten until age 6 because the educational changes do not match with the science of the early childhood brain. I’ve seen what this does as a classroom teacher, and I just don’t want it for my daughter. Now that I teach Young 5’s, I see how my babies blossom by June. The kids in my class have birthdays between April and December 1st. They all enter in September with a vast range of literacy and math skills, just like the kindergarten classes. But my babies get the opportunity to play a little more. Imagine a little more. Explore a little more. Rest a little more. They get to slow down their childhood for just one more year. The precious gift of time. This is the year of social and emotional growth that will prove to be much more useful in the real world than if my students can read at a level 8 by the time they turn 6.
Maybe V would have been fine in kindie. But she isn’t hurting because she got one more year to be little.
Lookout world. This ninja bunny is coming to kindergarten in just a few short months. I hope she doesn’t write her personal narrative on how her mom really likes to drink red grown up juice in a fancy glass or how she shakes her nakey bootie at me when she gets out of the shower.
Michigan is great. Parenthood is better. Try not to stress out about kindergarten and keep making your house a love filled home. High five for home!
Let us know why you delayed kindergarten in the comments.