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Old 09-22-2010, 02:41 PM
 
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Dear teachers,

I just read through an old thread that was accidentally revived by someone - regarding kindergarten expectations. The OP on that thread discussed how her child's teacher expected students to write sentences based on books they read, on their own, and how her child was not ready for such a task, encountering various difficulties as a result. Various posters insisted that this is normal for kindergarten and should not be regarded as "too difficult".

Towards the end of the thread someone else pretty much screamed "insanity" to the whole thing. I could not agree more; but just because I agree with that poster does not mean my anxiety is not going through the roof as my son approaches his kindergarten year.
He just turned 5 in September, he is still in a pre-K program, and will be 6 when he starts K next year (Thank Goodness).

As a foreign-born person who remained perfectly illiterate until the age of 7 (when we judiciously started the alphabet in school...A, B, C...make that read very slow, btw) and who did anything but poorly from an academic standpoint, I cannot help getting more outraged, stunned, speechless, scared, anxious ...and everything in between, as I become more familiar with the unbelievably messy and standard-less K-12 education system in this country.

From where I stand right now, all I can see is a huge, confusing, pettily competitive, standard-free ugly game approaching, with all the weight falling on the shoulder of already overwhelmed parents.

Until recently, I knew everything about American higher education (which is my line of business) and virtually nothing about k-12. Having become a mother 5 years ago, this obviously had to change.

I just can't help but think that if this society assumes it is perfectly normal for 5 yo-s to express themselves coherently in writing, independently...just who exactly are supposed to be those people who taught them:

- the alphabet
- reading
- well-organized lines, crutches/ canes, ovals, half circles, etc on lined paper,
- writing letters
- writing groups of letters
- spelling
- writing words upon dictation
- writing sentences upon dictation

... BEFORE the age of 5, as prerequisites for reflecting in writing on a story read in class, completely on one's own!!!

I suppose the correct answer would be:
"why, an involved parent at home, this is who!!".

I do appreciate the "involved parent" concept and have always tried to be one. However, from exposing your small children to a variety of learning opportunities in pre-K to...providing full-blown instruction that would have them up in arms by the age of 5, ready to be actual writers ...that is an extremely long and completely ridiculous road!!

Parents happen to also have some "fine print" in their lives, such as a...job, a career to advance, bills to pay, appointments to schedule, play dates to organize (unless you want your child to become a complete social freak, playing forever on his own in the dead neighborhood), meals to cook (ideally from scratch, especially for those who don't necessarily fancy the idea of getting cancer by the age of 45), rooms to clean, laundry to do, clothes to iron, household to organize, extended family to still give a D**n about,...and oh, let's not forget defending themselves from critics who look at them in disgust for not finding the time or the motivation to exercise and keep in shape, imagine that !!!

In all honesty: what exactly are American teachers expected to do in kindergarten with their students, besides expecting students to write independently, out of the shiny blue?

By this, I don't mean "teachers being expected to expect from students", - to be read "parents".
I mean: what kind of concrete hands-on instruction should I expect that teachers will PROVIDE in class?

It is my impression that the system has reached a point where it is exclusively based on parents' competitiveness and/or market-driven fears and anxieties, and ultimately on their desperation to secure a decent fate for their kids in the future vicious job market.

Are nightmarish parental visions of Asian kids mastering calculus, novel reading, piano, cello and quantum physics by the age of 4 what drives America's current k-12 Education system?

My final question would be:
what should my son know, concretely, by the time he enters kindergarten next year?

I am so sincerely sick of the mystery, anxiety, and PC climate surrounding the issue of kids' academic skills. I keep hearing "every child develops at his own pace, just expose him to blah, encourage him to do his best but don't push" and all sorts of other vagaries. Sometimes I am under the impression that the "don't push" has become a code for "don't push yours so I can push mine in secret, easy head start, yay!".

I would appreciate any advice regarding the concrete academic skills that my 5 yo SHOULD have (or HAD BETTER HAVE), pushed or not pushed, just in case he ends up in a kindergarten such as the one the poster in question had her poor child in.

At the age of 5, which he turned in September, my son DOES know the following:

- all alphabet letters, lowercase and uppercase, with the occasional mix of b and d.
- can read four to five letter words, sometimes more complicated, when prompted to sound out (and when he chooses to be focused enough).
- can also read many words in my native tongue, which is also his primary language.
- can read short sentences, when prompted to sound out every word (again, when he chooses to focus; often times, his eyes simply fly all over the place, usually in search of pictures. I interpret it as a sign of "I'd rather be doing something else, what kind of crazy land did you give birth to me in, that I am expected to read fluently at 4-5?").
- can easily write first name; not so well last name, which is more complicated.
- can write in lower case letters almost any word, if helped with spelling.

- Counts to 100 (or almost).
- Does simple mathematical operations: additions, subtraction (with illustrative materials).

He DOES NOT:

- read fluently and independently. He must be prompted and assisted to do it, otherwise, this is not something he will choose to do on his own; he does like to be read to a lot - which he gets at least twice a day.
He also picks up books and looks through them on his own, most probably at pictures. When he is on his own, during quiet time, I doubt he attempts to decipher text. Without prompt, he is simply not there yet.

- write independently; he has no desire whatsoever to attempt to write words on his own, let alone sentences. If he does it, he does it with me, upon my prompt, with me dictating letter by letter. But I would not count this as writing. For now, I would count it as "pushing".

Millions of thanks for any expert advice!!

Last edited by syracusa; 09-22-2010 at 03:45 PM..
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Old 09-22-2010, 04:07 PM
 
7,768 posts, read 9,334,690 times
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Your son will be fine. All my kids were expected to keep journals in kindergarten. Two of them were able to write coherent sentences (spelling doesn't count), and the third drew more, wrote less. All were acceptable per the school standards. Most kindergartners do not enter school with the ability to read fluently. They learn basic "sight words" during the year.

If your son has had any nursery school he will be on level or above his peers. Children are not tossed out of kindergarten in the US if they are behind! In our experience the class might be broken into small groups while they are working on academics. Those that need more teacher involvement get it, without holding the others back.
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Old 09-22-2010, 04:22 PM
 
Location: Denver, CO
1,206 posts, read 2,738,275 times
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Sometimes it's very hard to find the time doing a lot of things just to keep the household running. However you do still need to provide access to the child, by having tons of age-appropriate books around and having an environment that stimulates interest in learning. I didn't push my kid to read at 5 unlike a lot of parents around us, but by merely having a lot of books around my son would just pick them up occasionally and start reading. He went from not reading to reading at 3rd grade level by Kindergarten. He also had these flash cards he got as a gift from a relative that he played with which taught him math (like multiplication by the end of 1st grade).

Kids are pretty resourceful and can pick up a lot of things on their own. Sometimes I feel elementary school is just a way for our society to teach how to conform to social norms.
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Old 09-22-2010, 04:23 PM
 
397 posts, read 452,060 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by syracusa View Post
I am so sincerely sick of the mystery, anxiety, and PC climate surrounding the issue of kids' academic skills. I keep hearing "every child develops at his own pace, just expose him to blah, encourage him to do his best but don't push" and all sorts of other vagaries. Sometimes I am under the impression that the "don't push" has become a code for "don't push yours so I can push mine in secret, easy head start, yay!".
I think your kid will be far ahead of most kids in kindergarten. You will have some kids reading at a 1st grade level, and others who still have problems with their A, B, Cs (let alone writing in complete sentences).

Personally, I would probably fit in the crowd that think "every child develops at their own pace" (Not, sure If I am doing so with an ulterior motive). Don't get me wrong, I will push my children when they reach high school; but, I'm not sure if I really buy into the idea that early childhood learning (especially before early elementary) means that much later on. None of my siblings went to Kindergarten or preschool, and all of them went to the Ivys. Heck, I don't think I could count to ten until 2nd grade, but ended up winning a few regional math competitions during high school. Go figure.
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Old 09-22-2010, 04:26 PM
 
3,568 posts, read 3,208,960 times
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Thank you, Mattie.
All in all, I am pretty sure by now I am going to be like Alice in Wonderland as this will be a brand and (brave ) new world for me. Extremely different from what I knew growing up, when virtually ALL children showed up in first grade without ANY knowledge of the alphabet, with the exception of an extremely few whose parents may have shown them before a few letters on the OIL bottle or what have you (I was one of them).
In writing, we spent the first half of the 1st grade year doing the proverbial sticks, canes, ovals, hooks and other prerequisites of cursive writing - which we started in the second half of first grade. We never printed in writing. I only learned how to print in lower case letters when I arrived in the US at the age of 26.
Everything was done slowly, judiciously, with the expectation of a well organized, neat notebook, and with clear standards in mind.
Based on the educational philosophies favored in the US, this might seem too boring, repetitive, backwards, etc - but I don't remember anyone disliking it or encountering any serious difficulties. It was simply time for everyone to learn to do that.

By the time my son enters K next year, he will have had a little less than 3 years in preschool. I have to say though that what he's been doing at home with me is 100 times more advanced than what he does at preschool (a school with a very "prim" and "prized" reputation, for whatever that's worth).

While we work on actual reading and writing at home (I just had him write his own thank you cards for his B Day) he still just cuts out simple shapes at preschool, some basic coloring, little art projects, nothing too academic.

Now this should be more than fine, theoretically speaking, if I did not hear about so many children reading and writing fluently by the time they enter K. It is pretty clear to me that parents at home coached them in that direction, because cutting out shapes in preschool is not going to magically teach them how to read and write.
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Old 09-22-2010, 04:35 PM
 
2,911 posts, read 4,232,974 times
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I'd suggest you contact directly the school that your son will attend next year and ask for an informal meeting to get an idea of what they expect, as each school district can have different objectives and focuses. At the very least, check their website and see what they have listed as info on their Kindergarten pages.

For instance, in ours, the entire first grading period of 6 weeks is taken to assess the children individually, in addition to easing them into the routine, schedule, rules and practices of the school, classrooms and lunchroom. So expectations are that they will have kids who know virtually nothing all the way for kids who know everything they will be teaching during the year. This assessment allows them to know how they need to teach individual children and the class as a whole.

Taken directly from one Kindergarten class, this is what the learning objectives are for the second grading period:
Language Arts
This six weeks in Language Arts we will begin our reading groups. You will see a reading bag come home periodically. Your child is to read their book to someone and retell the story. Please make sure you
sign and return the reading log promptly. Read! Read! Read!

Math
This six weeks we are focusing on 2D shapes, solving story problems and subtraction. We will continue to work on addition, number formation and comparing numbers.

Science
The science concepts for this six weeks is the natural world and water. This will include such things as:
how water flows, ponds, lakes and oceans. We will also explore rocks as part of our natural world.

Social Studies
Our focus in Social Studies will be on jobs, needs, wants, goods, services and most importantly spending and saving.

Then also:

Language
Recongizes first name
Writes first name
Knows print moves from left to right, top to bottom
Produces rhyming words

Math
Counts sets to ten
Sorts/compares by color, shape, size
Recoginizes shapes

Social Studies
Identifies self by first and last name
Knows birthday

Science
Identifies five senses
Identifies appropriate health routines

Physical Education
Marches
Holds pencil

As you can see, it's not what you were thinking it to be. So, check with the actual school for the best answer.
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Old 09-22-2010, 04:37 PM
 
3,568 posts, read 3,208,960 times
Reputation: 3246
Quote:
Originally Posted by Moonwalkr View Post
However you do still need to provide access to the child, by having tons of age-appropriate books around and having an environment that stimulates interest in learning.

I didn't push my kid to read at 5 unlike a lot of parents around us, but by merely having a lot of books around my son would just pick them up occasionally and start reading. He went from not reading to reading at 3rd grade level by Kindergarten. He also had these flash cards he got as a gift from a relative that he played with which taught him math (like multiplication by the end of 1st grade).
I risk breaking my neck by stumbling on books lying all over the place every day. (Yes, they're also expected to pick them up and put them away). We have bookcases, baskets with books in every room, bathroom included, as if we're a darn bookstore. He has access to more than enough educational material and yes, he sees us reading.
There are tons of books, worksheets, pencils, paper, scotch tape, and scissors always at their disposal (not without costs to me, as I find myself in constant motion, picking up after their super messy "art projects"). I will admit I keep educational games, like flash cards, paints, etc, in a separate place because otherwise they would be spread all over the house in one hour top; but I do take them out every day.

HOWEVER, he is clearly not one of those kids who will be left with some educational materials on his own, and he will just start reading, like magic. In fact, I am still not quite sure how this is even possible, especially in English, unless the child is so gifted he will seriously hurt throughout life.
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Old 09-22-2010, 04:53 PM
 
3,568 posts, read 3,208,960 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thomas_Thumb View Post
Don't get me wrong, I will push my children when they reach high school;
I understand where you are coming from.

The extent of my parents' involvement in my education was one phrase communicated to me in first grade, in a very straightforward and "I mean business" manner:

"You will not come home with a grade below 9". (1-10 scale).

It had such an impact on me that I literally did not deliver anything below 9 until I reached high school. My parents spent a total of zero hours sitting with me, coaching me, checking my homework or doing anything other than taking a look at my report card. They were busy playing Canasta games. . I wouldn't know.
But the expectations for very high performance on my part never changed.

In high school, they hired some tutors for intense prep for admission into University. The Math requirements for university was complete Inferno and could not have been passed without heavy tutoring.
As soon as I got in, first try, they considered their job done.

To this day, I believe that if you don't push hard in high school (and possibly middle school too, 5-8), the trick is not going to happen.

But the insanity of expecting 5 yo-s to read and write fluently, that I don't see. Teaching such things at the superficial, cursory level (the spiral method?) is maybe why so many end up with poor reading comprehension, terrible spelling, writing, grammar, as well as terrible handwriting. I don't know.

I still believe there is a time for everything.

Last edited by syracusa; 09-22-2010 at 05:09 PM..
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Old 09-22-2010, 05:08 PM
 
3,568 posts, read 3,208,960 times
Reputation: 3246
Quote:
Originally Posted by hypocore View Post
I'd suggest you contact directly the school that your son will attend next year and ask for an informal meeting to get an idea of what they expect, as each school district can have different objectives and focuses. At the very least, check their website and see what they have listed as info on their Kindergarten pages.

For instance, in ours, the entire first grading period of 6 weeks is taken to assess the children individually, in addition to easing them into the routine, schedule, rules and practices of the school, classrooms and lunchroom. So expectations are that they will have kids who know virtually nothing all the way for kids who know everything they will be teaching during the year. This assessment allows them to know how they need to teach individual children and the class as a whole.

Taken directly from one Kindergarten class, this is what the learning objectives are for the second grading period:
Language Arts
This six weeks in Language Arts we will begin our reading groups. You will see a reading bag come home periodically. Your child is to read their book to someone and retell the story. Please make sure you
sign and return the reading log promptly. Read! Read! Read!

Math
This six weeks we are focusing on 2D shapes, solving story problems and subtraction. We will continue to work on addition, number formation and comparing numbers.

Science
The science concepts for this six weeks is the natural world and water. This will include such things as:
how water flows, ponds, lakes and oceans. We will also explore rocks as part of our natural world.

Social Studies
Our focus in Social Studies will be on jobs, needs, wants, goods, services and most importantly spending and saving.

Then also:

Language
Recongizes first name
Writes first name
Knows print moves from left to right, top to bottom
Produces rhyming words

Math
Counts sets to ten
Sorts/compares by color, shape, size
Recoginizes shapes

Social Studies
Identifies self by first and last name
Knows birthday

Science
Identifies five senses
Identifies appropriate health routines

Physical Education
Marches
Holds pencil

As you can see, it's not what you were thinking it to be. So, check with the actual school for the best answer.
Thank you so much, hypocore.
I just cannot imagine how some schools can have these requirements yet others will expect children to do what that the OP was describing in that thread.

My son is now 5 and had he been born 10 days earlier he could have easily been in kindergarten. Again, thank goodness he is not. He would surely have been one of those children in that class, along with the OP's, who would NOT have written ANY sentence in his journal - because he simply doesn't write on his own. Period.
So I guess he would have ended up in the "baddy-baddy" corner, keeping company to the OP's child.

What really scares me is that I am a parent who happens to have a work-from-home, part-time job with an amazing amount of flexibility and wiggle room. I am certainly an involved parent, and I spend a lot of time doing things with them, making materials available for them, guiding them, reading to them, spending time with them, talking to them, etc.

What can be said of households where both parents have heavy, outside of home jobs, and where parents simply DO NOT HAVE the kind of time to allocate to micro-managing their kids' early educational development?
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Old 09-22-2010, 05:41 PM
 
2,594 posts, read 2,436,640 times
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As a former elem. teacher, I would strongly strongly strongly suggest going to your local school and setting up a tour. Most school principals are happy to give a prospective parent a tour and introduce them to the K teachers, as well as give detailed information about what the child is expected to know. They will probably even be happy to give you advice about what you can do at home. I can pretty much say that formal instruction will not be on the list. For the most part, in language arts, if you read to your child regularly, have books in the home, and provide opportunities to write (not instruction - opportunity), along with normal parental encouragement, that will be more than enough. Preschool at age 4 is also a very good idea - as much for the social and behavioral expectations as for the academic.

Go see the local school - that is the appropriate action and one that will probably leave you feeling much calmer and will likely alleviate most of your anxiety.
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