How Kindergarten taught my kids to ‘hate learning’

I feel pretty strongly that kids shouldn’t hate kindergarten. They also shouldn’t fail kindergarten. My two did both!

They should be given a safe and enriching environment in which to learn through play. Kids at that age naturally want to learn about everything around them, including letters and numbers.

There is nothing to gain and so much to lose by forcing kids to learn to read and write before they’re ready- and that’s not even addressing special needs. When you toss learning disabilities into the mix, you end up teaching kids to believe that they are inferior, stupid, and worst of all – that they hate to learn.

I know whereof I speak. It took two years after his kindergarten experience before my son stopped insisting that he ‘hated to learn’ or do ‘school work.’ My daughter, who used to sit and do letter and math worksheets for fun, now can’t stand them. After one semester of kindergarten, she stopped liking anything you refer to as ‘school work.’

This is why, if you ask them what they did for school that day (which people do…I trust that it is out of habit rather than trying to make sure I actually ‘taught’ them something that day…) they will respond with something like “Oh, we didn’t do school today!”

I’m usually equally divided with pride that I successfully taught them in ways that didn’t resemble what they experienced as ‘school’ in kindergarten – and gripped with concern that I’m about to have to ruin all that effort by explaining (typically in great detail) to the inquisitor what ‘facts’ my children actually learned that day when they were ‘just having fun.’ ::head:table::

Things that they love doing or watching suddenly become torture as soon as you mention anything about ‘school’ or ‘learning.’ This breaks my heart. Learning is the most interesting thing we do in life! Anything you do – unless you sit and stare at the wall all day (and you’re probably still learning SOMETHING) involves learning in one way or another.

There are about as many ways to learn important information as there are people who need to learn it. My goal is to provide information to my children through methods that best fit the ways they each learn. Why in the world should we force kids to learn in ways (or at a pace) that not only don’t fit their needs, but actually deter them from a desire to learn?

The traditional school setting did not provide my children with appropriate ways to obtain information for their learning profile. Sure, I could force the school system to provide what they are legally required to provide for my children’s ‘free and appropriate public education’ – but it’s not my job to fix the system. It is my job to raise my children and to be sure that they are adequately prepared for adult life – with minimal trauma from under informed or over pressured teachers.

It is my well considered opinion that kindergarten is too young to learn that you hate school- or that you don’t measure up to the apparent standards someone (who knows nothing about you) has set. It is too early to be taught that you are not smart enough or can’t keep up with expectations.

This article from The Washington Post explains a number of great points regarding troubles with current kindergarten requirements.

I just barely resisted quoting the entire article…you should definitely read the whole thing – and/or watch the video– but here are the highlights. This is exactly why both of my school aged kids only made it halfway through Kindergarten before begging to homeschool (and why I agreed with them whole heartedly).

“Research shows greater gains from play-based programs than from preschools and kindergartens with a more academic focus…

We are setting unrealistic reading goals and frequently using inappropriate methods to accomplish them…

Kindergarten has, since the 1980s, become increasingly academic — with big pushes from President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind and President Obama’s Race to the Top — and today many children are being asked to do things they are not ready to do…

Teacher-led instruction in kindergartens has almost entirely replaced the active, play-based, experiential learning that we know children need from decades of research in cognitive and developmental psychology and neuroscience…

Two recent studies show that direct instruction can actually limit young children’s learning.”

~Washington Post

In even the short time between my son’s kindergarten experience and my daughter’s, expectations have been raised. She also struggles with a learning disability but quite obviously is stronger in reading and writing than her brother. She can read better than he currently can (he is profoundly dyslexic, though very bright…but that is a topic for another day) and certainly better than he could in kindergarten, yet her grades were lower than his had been.

When I inquired about this in a conference with the child study committee meeting I requested, I was told that the report cards can be misleading to parents. I pointed out that I compared their grades and their actual tests side by side and that she had more correct answers but a lower score. I was told that kindergarten has gotten more challenging in the two years since my son was there.

They explained that they were all being held to higher standards and even kindergarten has been affected. They then told me that even though it was possible that my five year old daughter could actually fail kindergarten, and that she has a known learning disability, they did not feel that she needed any additional help through special services.

That did it for me. Not only were the schools doing it wrong two years ago, they still are – and it’s getting worse! They expected her to perform beyond her ability and weren’t even willing to go any extra distance to meet her where she was.

She had gone from begging to go to school three months before, and being so excited to learn that she could hardly stand the wait, to begging us to let her stop going.

Two for two so far, public school system. I’m not impressed.

You can have my children for the majority of every day, of every year for 12 years if you are up for the job- but you can’t break them. You can’t take a child who is dying to learn and in three months strip away that desire to the point that they recoil at the use of the words ‘school’ or ‘learning’.

You’re doing something wrong. That’s why we don’t do school anymore. You missed your chance…and a lot of other parents agree with me.

Sent from my iPhone