Given the design of modern American education, one cannot blame young mothers for gaming the system to give their own children a competitive advantage in schooling. Dr. Ann Densmore EdD in an article in Harvard Health pointed out that many parents are responding to the shift in what kindergarten has become.
“Standardized tests and other pressures have changed the trajectory of elementary education. This isn’t your mother’s kindergarten! Gone are the days when kindergarten teachers hold up a letter and ask the class to name it. Today, kindergarten is drawing, writing, literacy, reading, and science and math and all those subjects that kids didn’t used to get until first or second grade.”They have made such a mess of American education. Gone are the days when learning was a gentle, playful thing. The following is also from the article in Harvard Health by senior editor, Nancy Ferrari:
Dr. Densmore doesn’t believe that holding kids back from kindergarten entry is the total solution. It isn’t necessarily better to have kindergarten classes full of 6- and 7-year-olds. One way parents can help prepare their children is to ensure that there is adequate facilitated play in preschool. That means adults engaging with children during play to help them develop negotiation skills or to share complex ideas. “Research shows that play actually leads to improved academic skills. In this fast-track world, it may be hard to believe that play is critical for brain development, but it is. Play, which is really a child’s ‘work,’ contributes to cognitive, physical, social, and emotional growth. And it is the cornerstone of a child’s well-being,” Densmore told me. The National Association for the Education of Young Children offers lots of information about the benefits of play and how parents and teachers can help facilitate it.I was one of those children with a late birthday, being born in November and beginning Kindergarten at age 4. That starting age was a thing my mother frequently said that she regretted, because it was long known in education circles, even before the popularity of redshirting, that age and maturity at the start of kindergarten could be a significant factor in student success. But when it comes to our own kids, we do have a competitive advantage to offer them even without gaming the system. Regardless of what month our children are born, as parents or grandparents, we can infect them with our own creative passions at a level appropriate to their own developmental interests and abilities.
On the community level, Densmore encourages parents to take an active role. Parents should talk with teachers, principals, and other parents. Look for preschools with facilitated play as the center of their curriculum. Challenge school committees to reconsider whether standardized testing in the lower elementary grades is a good idea. Pressure to prepare kids for these tests starts as early as kindergarten.
The simple rules are as follows: Start with the interests of the child. Move gradually from the known to the unknown, from the easy to the more difficult, from the simple to the complex, and from the concrete to the abstract. What better place is there to put these principles in play than in our own woodshops?
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