Friday, September 3, 2010

Great Expectations

I use that Charles Dickens title with the attitude of Mark Twain.

Great expectations.. that is what we have for our children. Right? What parent doesn't? We want to see our children excel in life, and live the American dream in persuit if life, liberty and happiness. We want to prepare them and do everything we can to make sure they are able to live their lives to the fullest.

I think we may be getting carried away.

Recently a group of moms I am in was discussing how much kindergarden has changed since we were that age. I am astonished at what is becoming the "norm" for 5 to 6 year olds. You may have noticed along with me and several other moms, that there are a ton of pics of kids on Facebook. 5 year olds literally passed out after a day of kindergarden. I have been reading about how instead of "play time" (which has many important and real developmental benefits for younger children, by the way), acedemic materials such as math and phonics and science are being crammed into those young brains fast and furiously in the hopes that some of it will *stick* and give them a leg up on... what? First grade? Life? These pictures depict small children just home from a DAY in kindergarden, and passed out around 3:30 in the afternoon, and sleeping through until the next morning. I've read where some of the 5 or 6 year olds have homework EVERY DAY! I recently read of a school district in Chicago that extended their hours to 8am. until 5p.m.

You have got to be kidding me.

What ever happened to playing with blocks? Using play dough? Coloring? Having stories read aloud to a group of kids sitting on a cheery rug? Playtime with other children? Milk and cookies?

Apparently these things are to "infant" to be part of kindergarden anymore. Apparently the fine motor skills that block stacking, cutting, pasting, or coloring develop aren't needed to learn to write anymore. Apparently creativity is no longer an important part of mental development (for learning how to think out of the box later in life... we know as adults that solutions seldom are easy as something found in a text book and we have to get creative sometimes). Oh, forget the milk and cookies. Every kid and his brother are lactose intolerant now, and cookies aren't a nutritious snack, so that is out.

I am all for instilling a sense of work ethic into our kids, and striving for excellence and all that, but is this rigorous type of schooling neccessary for our 5 to 6 year olds? Is it even healthy? I don't think it is.

Oh, and as a home schooler, don't ask me about socialization of our children. Given the current trend of working our youngsters to death at an early age in school, I can guarentee my kids are getting more "socialized" than the 5 year old who spends all day in a classroom with his peer group, unable to play because of all the crammed information he is getting, and then crashing and burning when he gets home until the next morning.

I honestly don't get the whole socializing thing anyway. What is so important about having time with their age group? My oldest is a teenager. I don't know of any teenagers that I want him emulating. My children thankfully have grown up around older people, and are able to talk to them as comfortably and naturally as they can a child. When they grow up and have a job or a family, they are certainly NOT going to be around only their peers. All age groups will (and should) be a part of their life, and they should feel comfortable and natural around all ages, not just their peer group. The adults they converse with generally have good communications skills, manners and knowledge. Why would I want them spending more time with snotty nosed little brats who scream, yell, hit, or get petulant at the least provocation? I don't need them learning any more bad habits or attitudes. They have plenty of their own already. I don't need my teenagers thinking it is normal and right for them to hate their parents, siblings, and all authority figures. A little time with their friends is fine. But I don't want them getting their "socialization" skills from their peer groups. No thank you.

There are may other benefits to home schooling. Abbi at Proverbs 31 Living lists a few very sweetly here. Please take the time to read her excellent post on parenting with less stress. I totally agree with her post on this!

So, while the kids in public school are working hard at learning things they will forget before they hit the sack that night, and then coming home to be too tired to do anything but crash on the couch, we are going to be doing hands on projects as much as possible, with lots of time to swim, bike ride, play Wii, watch a movie, play kick ball, or just hang out together as a family. There is something to be said for a gentler, slower pace of learning. Actually there is a lot to be said for it. Your brain will generally retain more information if it is given over time, and repeated. Cramming may give you some facts.. but for a short time. I crammed for many tests while I was in school. I don't remember anything from those cram sessions now. It got me some good grades, but no real knowledge or appreciation for the material I was studying. I certainly didn't enjoy it.

More and more I am so glad we are home schooling. It isn't easy, and it keeps this mama very busy, but I wouldn't do it any other way. I would hate to subject my children to the abuse that some of the school systems inflict upon their students in the name of "education".

End of rant. I'm going to plan a fun day of learning with my children.


...they call me mommy... said...

Amen! :)

Kathy said...

Rant away,mama! Couldn't have said it better myself!