Even though we are a home school family–or maybe because of it–I spend a good deal of time keeping my finger on the trends in public education. There is so much to think about when you consider how to educate your child and many factors go into deciding where and when your child will learn.
It’s the “when” that I’m thinking about today. A few days ago, a House Bill was introduced here in Georgia that would change the cut off date for children entering kindergarten. As it stands right now, a child has to be 5 years old by September 1st of the year they wish to enroll in kindergarten (in our area, school usually starts the first or second week in August). The bill proposes that for the 2015-16 year, children must be 5 by August the 1st. The date would be moved up to June 30th for the years after that.
The concept behind the bill is that children are not mature enough to enter kindergarten as an early 5-year-old or an older 4-year-old. State supporters point out that for some children, kindergarten is their first school experience and they’re just not emotionally or mentally prepared.
JC’s birthday is at the end of July, so we started thinking about his early education, my husband and I took this into consideration. As the rule stands right now, JC would have entered kindergarten a month after his 5th birthday and always be one of the oldest children in his class. Under the new rule, late summer babies would have what equates to two years in pre-k and not enter kindergarten until they are 6 years old. It’s a pretty big change, and parents are up in arms about it here in Georgia.
Before I was married and had a little one of my own, I taught pre-k at a private school. We followed the Creative Curriculum, which I liked a lot. Then, when the weather started to turn warm in the spring, everything got crazy because it was time to “prepare for kindergarten”. We were given a list of the things that our students would be expected to do when they got to kindergarten in the fall and had to have meetings with the parents to discuss their child’s kindergarten readiness.
I remember two meetings in particular, both with parents I felt had students that would not be able to handle kindergarten as they stood then. One mother of a little girl cried but said she wasn’t surprised, and that she wanted her daughter to be emotionally prepared and knew she wasn’t. The other mother was furious.
“I just don’t understand why he can’t write his name,” she said to me when I showed her his printing. “His older brother could write his name just fine, and his name is longer!”
I thought back to the day the child had written his name, knowing his mother would see it and wanting to do a good job for her. He had brought his paper over to my desk to work, away from his buddies who were done and distracting him. I remembered his concentration. I thought about how he didn’t write or read as well as the other boys in the class–but he was a kinder, gentler kid. He noticed things the other kids missed, and he was very artistic. In many ways, he was smarter than the rest of his class.
But he couldn’t write his name well, and that meant he wasn’t ready for kindergarten. And his mom was ticked off.
Part of me couldn’t blame her. And part of me was annoyed with her. It was the hardest part of being a teacher.
I think of that conversation a lot when I think of JC’s education. It’s one of the reasons I so fervently believe in homeschooling and letting kids learn at their own pace. Public school kindergarten is hard–even for kids that are in a pre-k program. There’s major structure, a lot of sitting still, and even homework. Some kids are ready for it–and some aren’t.
Will changing the age fix this? Or will it just make kindergarten even more hardcore than it is now? I think it’s good that lawmakers in our state are clearly seeing that the system that’s in place isn’t working–but I feel like this bill might just be slapping a band-aid on our state’s education problems.
What do you think about pushing back the kindergarten age? Would you “redshirt” your kid if you felt they weren’t ready for kindergarten?