Category Archives: Kindergarten

Forget Ragged Mommy, Meet the Ragged Teacher.

Seriously, I am overwhelmed at the depth, length and breadth of information that has simply to be entered into systems for record keeping, let alone actually teach the class, prepare lesson plans, keep strictly up to date with state mandates, all the while, try to keep a jovial or at least civil face to the students.

My 6-year old in doing very well in her new school. She loves it, I love it. Still, I’m alarmed at the information thrown at them. For example, here are her courses for the year:

courses

Seriously, kindergarteners now have social study and science. I can’t even begin to describe the website portal that parents have access to. Every single thing they do, I can see on this portal, as well as how my child has performed. Guess what? The poor teacher has to input this information every day or every week. For eighteen students. I can click on each of these subjects, open up the attendance records, see the individual aspects studied weekly as well as the grade again. Holy crap. I kid you not, as a parent, it’s almost a full-time job to keep up with the information flowing forth. I can’t even fathom what the heck these teachers have to do to get it all in there. And that’s just the main portal.

Then we also use Study Island, which (oh joy!) covers the Common Core standards for reading and math. Here are both that she has to complete over the course of the year. We’ve now begun getting assignments here for homework.

Study Island1Study Island2

THIS IS JUST KINDERGARTEN, PEOPLE!!!!!! It blows me away. Again, having said all that, whatever way it’s being done must be OK for the kids because my child still jumps into the car as happy as can be. We get homework on a Monday and have to hand it in on Friday. I usually insist we blow it all out on Monday night while she’s still fresh from the weekend and that way she’s free for the rest of the week. When it comes to the online testing, I do have to fight myself to not lean her towards the correct answer. I must be doing well on that issue because she did fail a test so we redid it, with fewer distractions around, and she did just great.

Books she's covered this month.
Books she’s covered this month.

As a parent, we have to keep a reading log every night because there’s a very heavy emphasis on reading at her school. Reading can mean we read to her, she reads to us, or a combination of both. Basically, they want to ensure expose to books. They have an Accelerated Reading program and for every book a child is involved in, they complete a little test (3-5 questions) and get points for correct answers. It sounds pretty bad but with every point added, rain drops are added to a sunflower and they get to make the sunflower grow. My little girl has been gobbling up the books just to make that sunflower grow and covered more than enough this month to be involved in the monthly AR celebration.

Then, our overworked teacher also keeps up a classroom website on shutterfly to send out information or downloads. The poor woman has to be working at least 12 hours a day. In our parent/teacher conference a few weeks ago, she showed us the Dolch list of sight words that the kids are tested on at the beginning, middle and end of the year. From our old school, I know how to motivate my girl with sight words so I took the entire list and made sight sheets, Here’s the PDF list of Sight Words if you’d like to use them. Feel free. I offered them to our teacher and she was so grateful, she sent it out to all the parents. Every week, I add a new sheet to the fridge and at night, we’ll go through the words. My girl loves it when she nails a word she didn’t know before. So this method works very well for us, right now.

It’s every teacher that gets worked to the bones, day in and day out. No matter what the grade, no matter what the subject. The paperwork involved alone is mind-boggling. I can easily spend an hour every day going through the various portals and websites gathering information. And I’m not the one teaching.

So for the love of God, be nice to your child’s teacher. They don’t work 8am – 3pm, having this cushy life with long vacations and days off. They work their asses to the bone, every single day.

When Children Aren’t Children Anymore.

Naturally, it wasn’t until I became a parent that I began questioning the normal societal rituals that our children go through. School has become one such ritual that I am increasingly scared by. The United States, ever competitive, must-always-be-best, has created an environment that in order to get ahead, you have to do more. It sounds logical, right? For instance, in my girl’s old school, the county school board mandated an extra hour of school every day (for all elementary grades, even kindergarten) to try to rectify the bad test scores of the previous year. Thankfully, I’ve been able to move her to another school that not only doesn’t have this extra hour of school work, but it has much more play time (recess every single day and PE three times a week). The difference in my child has been staggering. She is so much happier when she comes home from school, less stressed, less anxious about the next day. Think about that – I’m referring to a five-year old being less stressed about school.

I don’t discard the vital importance of an education. It’s how we educate that worries the crap out of me. More, more, more! More homework, more hours, more studying. This all comes at a cost and the cost is our children don’t get to be children anymore. Their own interests are tossed aside, natural never-ending energy isn’t being expended, and nonstop testing rules the classroom.

The first quarter of the 20th century saw huge leaps forward in education and productivity, but as the decades have marched on, our educators have forgotten these lessons. Superwoman was already here to breathe new life into education, beginning in 1907. Thankfully, Montessori is growing rapidly throughout the United States. Click here for a more information on it. It focuses on the growth and individual interest of a child, addressing individual needs, autonomy and responsibility. None of these things exist in the current public school system.

And what about play time? Take a look at Finland’s school system, which is #3 in the world, by the way. They didn’t pile on the work, the lessened it. After every single class, children get to go outside and play for 15 minutes. After every.single.class.

Not only do Finnish educational authorities provide students with far more recess than their U.S. counterparts75 minutes a day in Finnish elementary schools versus an average of 27 minutes in the U.S.but they also mandate lots of arts and crafts, more learning by doing, rigorous standards for teacher certification, higher teacher pay, and attractive working conditions.

The more, more, more, attitude of school, hunker down those kids, burying them in books is suffocating our children. Clearly, our current educators do not see a parallel between our childrens’ education and the exploitation of the middle class in the early 20th century either. Previously, average factory workers were expected to work six and seven days a week to maximize output in factories. On May 1st, 1926, Henry Ford mandated that his workers could only work 40-hours per week, five days a week, as well as almost doubling the hourly wage to $5 per hour. Yes, you can thank Henry Ford for pioneering the five-day work week, because it became, and still is, the industry standard.

The news shocked many in the industry but turned out to be a stroke of brilliance, immediately boosting productivity along the assembly line and building a sense of company loyalty and pride among Ford’s workers.

So why can’t our educators at the top see that less is more? Less nose-to-the-grind and more play for children. Happier children have an open mind to learn. Strung out, overworked children do not. Homeschooling is on the rise, private schools and public charters are exponentially gaining popularity. People will do anything to avoid going into public school. And for all of us that say “well, I went through public school and it was fine,” the public school you and I knew is not what it is today. It is very, very, very different.

Pay teachers what they deserve. Every teacher I know works a minimum 10-12 hours every single day, throws in extra time on the weekend and even then, might not be able to catch up on paperwork. Considerably raise the salary of our teachers and not only will productivity rise, the desire to become a teacher will increase too. Flood the school market with teachers clamouring to teach and you’ll raise the overall quality of the teacher in the classroom. Raise that quality of teacher, and you’ll start to generate a better education system. When both the teacher and student are respected, are able to be whom they were meant to be, whom they want to be, the entire school system will win.

Confronting a Bully on the First Day.

10708783_10152475639178860_6213760241580596127_oYesterday, my hurricane began kindergarten at her new school which was a rousing success. She came home happier than I’ve ever seen her when coming home from school.  She did talk a lot about a boy in her class that was making lots of bad choices, and it eventually came out that he hit her in the chest. I asked her what happened after he did that, and she told me that she informed Ms. Y (her teacher) and the boy was removed from the classroom temporarily.

Forward to this morning. I wanted to walk my love into her classroom and talk to Ms. Y about the entire day yesterday. No other children were present in the class as we spoke and it sounded like the issue with the boy was being addressed appropriately. Then my girl announced she wanted to talk to the boy about what happened. As we moved along in topics from school binders to supply lists to P.E. being three times a week (for real!!!!!!), as well as recess every day, I began to bid my girl farewell with our usual kiss and hug, when the door opened and the particular boy involved walked in the door with his mother. Ms. Y explained in detail to his mother what happened and his poor Mom looked like she wanted to die on the spot. Ms. Y told him that my daughter wanted to speak to him about yesterday’s occurrence, so she and the boy moved to the other side of the room. My girl stood right in front of him, ready to have her say.

She wasn’t indignant about it, she wasn’t spiteful, she didn’t even seem hurt. She was genuinely trying to be helpful and watching her handle that situation just took my breath away. She told him that he should think about how others will feel before he acts, that he should keep his hands to himself and never hit. That if something is upsetting him, to use his words and think first, before acting. I watched in amazement as my daughter, on only her second morning at this new school, was calmly confronting and trying to guide a child that had wronged her. It took everything in me not to cry with pride. What she said probably won’t change his behavior but it might make him think twice before he messes with her again. Because she won’t take it lying down. In fact, she’ll face you head on with it.

So while I know I’ve screwed up a thousand times with this parenting thing, today, my girl made me stand tall and swell with pride, because she is as awesome as I’ve always known she is. As I left the classroom, I hugged and kissed her, and whispered in her ear how exceptionally proud I am of her. <3

Beginning Kindergarten All Over Again.

Last year, I entered my girl into a lottery for two local charter schools that are rated exceptionally well. Lottery time came and went and we heard nothing. Just a few weeks ago, I learned she was #90 on the waitlist for one of them and I didn’t even bother checking the second charter waitlist. Who needs that kinds of rejection? Then midweek, I received a phone call from the second charter that a spot had opened up for her. Whhhhhhhhaaaaaaaatttttt?????  It completely threw me for a loop and all of a sudden, I had to get days worth of paperwork together in three hours. I toured the school, asked questions that I wouldn’t have known to ask before (schedule, recess, homework, etc). I started feeling a little better and I enrolled her on the spot. That was mostly because the school is in such demand that they needed an answer almost immediately because hundreds of others were waiting in the wings. And I wasn’t going to let my girl sit in a school that is rated 5/10 when a 10/10 school was inviting her in. The new school groups students together based on ability, and thus teach to that level so no student is left waiting for others to catch up and other students are not left feeling inadequate.

I know this particular school is very heavy on academics. It’s a nerd’s dream come true, which works for us because both my husband and I are nerds. So is my youngest. I have a strong feeling they’ll make the fit with my daughter too. Something that intrigued me greatly is that the school provides after-school clubs for 45 mins. These happen on-campus, and are mostly free. Clubs like art, reading, music, yoga (yes, yoga for K-2 grades), a fitness club, poetry, creative writing, an environmental club, theater, younger singers, a gaming club. What’s not to love there? Then, when the kids get to the third grade, the clubs mature to science olympiads, math olympiads, sports, gardening, newspaper club and more. The kids have recess every single day, as well as PE during the week, along with art and music classes.

rainbowShe also doesn’t have that mandated extra hour of school every day, like her old school. The only extra time is optional and will be based on my daughter’s interest in the item. She has a school uniform now. I’ll be sad to see the rainbow outfits disappear but it is what it is. I’ll take a better education over fashion.

Tomorrow, my 5-year-old starts the new school. I was a little worried that she wouldn’t care for a transition so I asked her during the week if she liked her teacher, Mrs.V, and the answer was “No, not really.” Well then. For the record, I think Mrs.V is a great teacher and a sweetheart, but my girl did not take her to from the moment they met. After her final day at her old school came to a close (Friday), I drove her to her new school so that she wouldn’t have the weekend to wait and wonder, be anxious, about the new place and she was impressed. She liked it and I think we’re already off to a good start. She got to tour the four kindergarten classes, met two of the teachers and thought the rooms were fantastic.

My shoulders have dropped two inches and while I was still awake at 4am this morning worrying about it all, I have a feeling (a hope) that in a few weeks, I might even be able to sleep through the night, something that hasn’t happened in 6 weeks,  content that my girl is getting what she needs.

I hope.

Adjusting to Kindergarten.

Our first week was rough. Rough on the teacher, rough on me and mostly rough on my 5-yr old hurricane.  If I could do over the week again, here’s one thing I would do.

Prepare: Prepare her and prepare me. I know that sounds like a no-brainer and I thought I was prepared, but I actually wasn’t.  I never realized that she would be moving throughout the school during the day or have different teachers (art, music, physical education, computer lab, as well as her main classroom teacher). I have no idea why I never thought to ask when we met Mrs.V. It’s no wonder my paroled mental patient became a nightmare when she had absolutely no idea what was going on. I knew there would be a new routine to learn, but I didn’t realize how varied it would be, and thus, didn’t tell her to expect different teachers. I’m positive they have different approaches or rules to add to her confusion, and when in doubt, defense is the best offense. So she rebelled. For three days.

Every day when I picked her up, I asked her how her day went. Last week’s verdicts:
Monday – “bad”
Tuesday – “bad”
Wednesday – “Ugh”
Thursday – “not too bad”
Friday – “a little good”

Today, she declared “tiring” and she looks tired. There was a struggle when it came time for homework (really, do kindergarteners need damn homework every single night???).

So here’s what I’d say to you – ask exactly what happens during the day. I asked and was told they would be doing art, music, etc, but I didn’t even imagine in my wildest dreams that they would move these little beings around the school as they do. Ask for a rough hourly schedule, even just for one day.  Do this before school starts so you don’t piss off the teacher when she’s wrestling a pack of wolves on the first week. That way, everyone is a little more prepared than we were.

Bad Parenting Day #778

I know I’m in trouble when I feel a little jealous of people who can lock their kids in a closet.

stretchkinsThe kindergartner was walking with me through a store last week when she spotted the highly coveted unicorn stretchkins. I am supremely confident that she would play with it for an hour tops, and then it would join the rather large pile of discarded teddy bears in the playroom. Our rule now is that we only buy toys for birthdays or Christmas, and if they want something specific, it’ll go on their wishlist until the next occasion. She had a rare freak out when I let her know we weren’t buying it that day. I turned it around to tell her that it was good she was upset, because that meant she really wanted it, so isn’t she going to have a nice birthday! Sneaky, I know.

Today, I picked her up from school and along with the 3-year old mental patient, headed off to go back to the store. Made the drive OK. Even started the shopping OK. Until we had to walk by the stretchkins. I shut down any requests quickly, naively thinking that was the end of it. Until my 5-year old decided to try emotional blackmail.

Her: “I can’t believe you aren’t going to buy that. I really want it.”
Me:  “I am going to buy it, just not today. I’ll buy it when it’s your birthday.”
Her: “It really hurts my feelings.”
Me:  (silence)
Her: “Did you hear me? It really hurts my feelings.”
Me: “We’ve gone over this. It’ll make a great birthday present.”
Her: “I don’t understand why you won’t get it now. If you don’t get it now, it’ll change my love for you.”
At that point, I actually started laughing which wasn’t too smart. The beast was already riled up.  Now she was vying for anything she could to gain ground. Demanding Hello Kitty yogurt. Grabbing a book that was for her brother. Rebuking any consequences I was giving her. After about 10 minutes of insufferable behavior, and aware other people are around me so I can’t really scream the immense frustration I feel, I do something I have never done before.

She was standing on the side of the shopping cart. I simply picked her up and placed her next to a freezer aisle. Without a word, I walked away. I didn’t even glance back as I walked forward, wondering how far I needed to go before this bluff was called. It wasn’t far. I got about 15 feet away, and I heard a sobbing, “Moooooooommmmmmmmmmmm.” My intention was not to make her cry, it was to jolt her out of whatever attitude was going on. And it worked.

We discussed how I was never going to leave her there, that I merely needed some space because her attitude was something I couldn’t  be around. I told her how much I love her but that she needed to rethink how she was speaking and behaving. Then I told her to give me the biggest hug she possibly could, give it her best shot, squeeze me so tight that I couldn’t breathe (I should be careful here!), and she did, laughing hysterically. And that was the end of the effing stretchkins.

Mental note has been made. She will never come to this store with me until after her birthday.

Aaaaaand it started. The kindergarten struggle.

KindergartenEven before Meet the Teacher, the signs were there. My spirited five-year old didn’t want to go. When we entered the classroom, my tornado did all she could to avoid the teacher. During that visit, I learned about the extra hour that has been tacked onto the school day. That alone had me terrified and consumed my entire weekend. I’m already dubious about the lack of organization in this school. Carpool on the first day was bedlam because newbies like myself were screwing it all up. No one told us what to do. Just like no one explicitly explained the extra hour on the school day. Or what activities the kids do. There has been zero communication from the school apart from a robo call telling us the date of Meet the Teacher. I feel like I’m flying blind so now I’m getting a glimpse of what things are like for my child, who has no idea what is going on.

The first day of Kindergarten arrived and I walked her to the auditorium, hopeful that she would enjoy it all. I picked her up eight hours later (yes, eight!!!!). I had dreams of delightful songs, fanciful art work, best friends for my girl. She got in the car, strapped herself into her car seat. I delightedly asked how her day was and she responded, “I didn’t get a star today. I wasn’t good enough.” Whhhhhhhaaaaaaaatttttt? Again she says, “I just wasn’t good enough.”  My heart breaks, my head starts spinning, I’m trying to focus on not crashing the car because of the seething rage burning inside me. This is what her first day of kindie has taught her? I’m crushed and devastated. We get home and I ask her for more details. Did Mrs.V tell you this? No. Did you make any friends? No. What happened? Nothing.

Again, I spend the evening crying (out of child’s view), cursing what I’ve done to my child. When I wake my love up for school this morning, she tried ever so hard to persuade me it was Saturday. We finally got out the door and I walked her to the auditorium again. I met Mrs.V and instead of turning into Momma Bear, I politely asked if she knew why my girl would say she wasn’t good enough. Mrs.V then explains that my hurricane wouldn’t participate in anything. When she was reading to her, asking what letter this was, my girl would respond with “No.” She apparently spent most of the day in the corner of the room, after my daughter recused herself from the activities. Her teacher said to give her some time to adjust.

I simply don’t know what to do. I know she’s a strong-willed child. A stubborn individual with her own agenda and own way of doing things. As a side note, I cannot possibly imagine who she got those traits from (insert dripping sarcasm). There’s a couple schools I’d love her to attend. One is a charter school that is very close by, but she is #90 on the wait list. The other does not have any open spots and will not accept a waiting list. I feel like we are trapped. Being new to this school stuff, I don’t know if it’s something that will iron itself out over a week or so, or not. I don’t know if it’s my daughter that is the problem, or the teacher, or both. It doesn’t help that the disorganization of the school has undermined my confidence. I keep remembering last year, when she attended another school. Unfortunately, they don’t offer elementary education. She ran into that classroom every day. By day two, she had made a card for her teacher to tell her how much she loved her. Now she is defeated. In Kindergarten. After one day.

Kindergarten – Terrified before we even begin.

1602140_10152085974543860_1758442243_oWe met with our teacher yesterday afternoon. The classroom looked great. My girl seemed excited. The teacher seemed nice. I was getting comfortable with the notion of her going to school. Since I’m a newbie at this school stuff, I asked her teacher what time I needed to drop her off. I remember looking at the school website last year and classes began at 8.45am until 3pm, so when does she need to be dropped off? Already, I thought the school day was horrendously too long for a 5-year old. I’ve always thought that. My girl is used to spending 4 hours at the playground. She’s always had infinite energy that needs to be expended. And then bombshell is dropped. The kind teacher says she needs to be dropped off at 8am. Whhhhhaaaaattt?  She tells me since “there’s that extra hour, I pick the kids up from the auditorium at 8.10am.”

I’m confused. What the heck is going on? Maybe there’s some super secret process I don’t know about. There’s nothing in the literature about this. What am I missing? Instead of asking her, because I already feel like an idiot, I go home in a state of shock. Aside from the average how-the-hell-am-I-going-to-get-her-to-school-at-8am freakout, I then remember I saw a sign at school that pickup is at 3.30pm. I turn to Google to research and to my horror, discover that her school performed in the bottom 33 of schools in our county for reading and the school board mandated that her school add an extra hour of studying every day. Oh.My.God. Now, the already ridiculously long school day just got longer. My 5-year old is supposed to attend school from 8.15am-3.30pm. I’m horrified. I’m devastated. I knew her school wasn’t the best in the county but oh dear God, I didn’t realize it was that bad. This board decision on school hours only came down 4 weeks ago so all my research, all my agonizing, over the past year was moot.

Last year, her VPK (Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten) hours were 9am-12pm, and she was burned out by March. This will have her strung out by Halloween.

Now I can’t stop crying. For the immediate future, my hands are tied. She will begin school Monday morning and I will see how it goes. I suspect that in a few weeks, I will be knocking on the doors of other local schools, requesting a transfer. If all else fails, I may have to turn private. I only know that I’m not having her completely jaded from school at the mere age of 5. Kindergarten is supposed to be fun. I know it’s only an hour more, but already the day is much too long for little kids. Now it’s just ridiculous.