The wheels on the bus were going round and round Monday with the start of public school in my area. I am in a daze that school days are here for my first grandchild who just began kindergarten. Where did the time go? Wasn’t it just last week I was driving to work crying my eyes out that my daughter (now a kindergartener’s mother) might not be able to open her new plastic crayon box by herself?
Yes, kindergarten is traumatic for all involved. The wee one is thrust into an unfamiliar environment where he/she is away from mom and is expected to do rigorous things like sit still for certain periods of time and remain quiet while the teacher is talking. (Good luck with that!) It is no less traumatic for the parents who have to come to grips with the fact that their baby is no longer a baby. He’s on the road to spreading his wings and flying away from the nest. I’d venture to say that more tears were to be seen than backpacks on Day 1 of the kindergarten adventure. I admit, I shed a tear (or two) when my daughter texted me a picture of my grandson ready to leave for his first day out in the big school world.
Kindergarten is a place where little ones learn. Maybe we should take some time to learn about kindergarten itself. Mercifully, kindergateners merely have to attend kindergarten and not learn how to spell it. What kind of word is kindergarten? (Other than four syllables, of course.) Actually the word is from German and literally means a garden for the children. Gardeners grow flowers, but kindergarten teachers grow pre-schoolers.
Friedrich Frobel is recognized as the founder of kindergarten. Being German, he naturally named the program in his native language. The term “pre-school” is not German; however, kindergarten is a preschool education program. Its aim is to help a child transition from home to school. The concept of kindergarten arose in the context of the industrial revolution. School were encouraged for young children since mom, dad and older siblings were off at work in factories, a less than ideal location for rugrats to be underfoot.
But we’ve come a long way, baby, since Frobel’s kindergarten and my kindergarten. My recollection of kindergarten is limited. I basically remember doing crafts, and that’s about it. Not so today. Kindergarteners have to be assessed for their readiness to even start kindergarten, and I’m not talking craftiness. My grandson was asked to identify various basic words for his screening. Say what? Isn’t that the purpose of kindergarten–to teach little ones things?
So what does a “Kindergarten Readiness Screener” assess? Here are some items listed on a state education website. Can the student hold/use a pencil? (A pencil? Just ask the kid to text mom on a cell phone.) Can he share with others? (HA! Some adults would fail that test.) Is he able to stand/hop on one foot? (Ditto for intoxicated adults.)
Apparently kindergarten mirrors our performance-driven society. Before day one of kindergarten my daughter was given a list of vocabulary which her son is expected to know by certain points in the year. Guess coloring within the lines has been left in the achievement dust.
In Florida, kindergarten is not mandatory. It is a one-year program for children who have turned five on or before September 1st. The compulsory school age in Florida is six; therefore, kindergarten strives to help a child become “comfortable” in a classroom setting before he is required by law to be in it. I am not sure anyone is ever “comfortable” in a classroom; even kindergarteners have to endure nap time lying on thin mats on the hard classroom floor.
And, sadly, these days school is not simply about learning. It is about SURVIVING. Back in my early school days, the biggest concern we had was a fire in the school. We’d have fire drills where we learned to line up and exit the school building in an orderly fashion. No one was genuinely concerned about a fire really occurring. Today, on the other hand, kindergarteners will likely have to participate in active shooter drills. Wow! First the child is separated from his parent and once in the classroom we advise that the monster isn’t under the bed but toting a gun down the school hallways? Yikes!
Another change in kindergarten procedure is preparing for the first day. I don’t remember having to take anything with me to kindergarten on day one other than a new school outfit and a positive attitude. Kindergartens today need backpacks if for nothing else than to lug all the school supplies that they are asked to bring–crayons, paint, markers, crayon boxes, construction paper, scissors, etc. Good thing I’m paying all those taxes to support the schools–apparently the buildings with no supplies in them.
Kindergarteners are our future. Thus, providing them with safe and effective gardens to grow in is critical. But children are also delicate like flowers in a garden. Let’s not push them to hurry up and bloom by learning 100 vocabulary words by Christmas. There’s something to be said for allowing them to enjoy the sunshine of friendship and fun for a bit. Let’s not introduce them to performance anxiety off the bat.
My grandson had a grand first day of kindergarten. And no, I did not ask him what he learned. I inquired if he had a good time. He did and wants to go back. Now that’s a successful start to kindergarten. He’s able to cope with his new environment, but I’m still in a daze that I am a Mimi to an adorable and growing kindergartener.
JUST WONDER-ing: What do you remember about your kindergarten experience? If you are a parent, was your child’s first day of kindergarten traumatic for you? For him/her?