Wednesday, August 27, 2008

small-child-keep-busy institute

Here is an article I just read and felt strongly enough about to share with those interested. (I subscribe to a Wondertime newsletter, initially only because the abfab Catherine Newman writes her weekly blog Dalai Mama for them.)

The article is about kindergarten and different teaching philosophies. Also, there is a list of eleven ways to make a "good school great" -- again the focus is on early childhood education.

I've always been more than a little interested in elementary education (okay, any education), but I think about preschool, kindergarten and the other elementary years more often now that Pic is three (and a half). Recently a new-to-the-program woman with school-aged children (I think one is in elementary school) told me that her children didn't have PE. What?! Um, okay. How that's a good idea, I just don't know. I have to get outside at least a little everyday to feel healthy. Pic definitely does also. I am so frustrated with this mindset that our children need to be able to pass tests to be considered successful. What about Pic's physical well-being? I suppose one could argue that that is my domain, that I need to make sure she gets the exercise she needs, but I think it's unfair for children to not have a chance to get outside (or into some open space, if the weather sucks too much) to release pent-up energy. If Pic ends up not having PE in school, I'll definitely make sure she stays active, but I feel like this mindset (the no physical education...not my own) is setting kids up to be large lumps of inactive, unhappy people.

In the eleven tips on making a good school great section (which does have eleven tips...two are labeled #6), tip #4 is "Advocate for recess." Since when do we need to do this? Don't kids get recess? I know that it's been a while since I was an elementary-schooler (go Jets!), but has really that much changed?

One of the things I've been worried about is having to schedule every moment of our lives once Pic reaches elementary school. I don't want to be the kind of parent who has her child signed up for twelve activities at once. A parent who is also participating in her own twelve activities. This lifestyle might work for many, but I can't imagine it. I want Pic to have time to be a kid. To go to the park and play with friends. To do yoga and pilates on the living room floor with me (yes, I want Pic/Mamma time, but I don't think that's too much to ask).

I agree with Nelson's statement, "We'd [he and his wife] heard of schools where administrators boast, 'We teach our kids in kindergarten what other schools teach in third grade,' and thought that absurd. We didn't want to rush the academics." I don't understand the rush. Why can't my five-year-old be just that?

I don't know too much about these issues yet. I'm not an elementary school teacher and Pic has a couple of years before she joins the ranks of elementary schoolhood (word coining, not at its finest), but I doubt the situation is going to be rosier by the time she enters kindergarten.

After I've written all of this, there's another consideration (or many more). It's nice for Jack, Nelson's son, that his parents have the means to get him to another school, but not all parents can do this. I have a flexible schedule (and I hope to continue to have one) and I can plan to take Pic outside so she is physically active, in case she ends up in a school with no PE. Some parents work ridiculous amounts of hours (Cardo works more than full-time/40 hours a week, but I still think we're lucky) at one or more jobs. I'm feeling frustration just thinking that these parents are stuck with whatever local schools have to offer. I don't know that I'll ever have to deal with the situation, mainly because I have access to information and I have spare time that many other parents might not.

Also, I feel sympathy for teachers. Poke is a teacher and when she tells me the ridiculously meager amount of time she has to teach subjects such as history, I feel a bit of despair.

Okay, enough freewriting. I'd like to hear others' reactions to the articles or insight on anything I've written. I know that my ignorance and idealism are both great, so I need some education myself.


kate said...

I haven't read the article yet but I wanted to comment before I forget what I was going to say.

Regarding PE: My kids have PE twice a week. I can't imagine them not having it. They LOVE PE. Sometimes I wish though that they had computers or something instead of the second PE day.

Regarding recess: Sdaly, that part of your story rings far too true. We have no scheduled recess time. The kids get to play before school and at lunch. Everything else is scheduled waaaaaaay to much for me to try to fit in ten minutes of outside activity. Ugh. I hate it.