lots of pressure on young children in school, etc - Mothering Forums

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Old 02-24-2005, 02:43 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I was in the waiting area of ds's speech therapist, and had a discussion with 2 other mothers there. We live in a city. The first mother's son is in K in a suburb's school district (I'll call her Jan) and the second mother's daughter is in 1st in our city's school district, but not at the school our neighborhood kids, and possibly my son, will attend. I'll call her Maria. In short, these are public schools in our city but not the ones ds would attend.

So Jan says her son's school is "awesome"--that they are all reading by the end of K. Maria seems a little stressed when she talks about her daughter's school. She says they learn 10-20 spelling words every week, and have a spelling test every friday. They are graded on it, and to get the highest grade possible, you must get every word plus bonus words correct, other wise you get the equivelant to a B grade. They also have math quizzes, and a ton of other stuff that she listed off. And of course they're expected to read. They have homework every night. Jan says that her school does homework every night in first grade too.

Jan says "they must be prepared for college". LOL (it's either laugh or cry!) I jokingly say "don't they have 12 years to prepare?" and Maria laughs and agrees.

Maria says her dd also takes dance, gymnastics and piano, on top of all her school work. She is seven. I ask her mother and the little girl, in a positive tone, if she enjoys school. The little girl says "It's too much!!" and slumps back in her chair.

This really makes me sad. I know it's not an issue that's new to mdc, but it's so interesting to me. Why are we expecting so much so young now? I know that not everyone agrees with my pov, and I respect that, but I just don't get it.

And since I don't agree with this, how do I keep my son from it? I don't want to homeschool him--he's in preschool now and loves it, he's someone who has to be around people all the time (and to him I don't count, lol). he's in montessori now but it's expensive for us--i'm a sahm and dh is a student, and it's a 15-20 min drive to the school each way. Which we could do longer but I was hoping that we'd like the local K and could do that (it's supposed to be a neat international school). I'm definitely going to check it out...

But anyway, that conversation was so interesting to me. I don't know if I did it justice here, I'm not good at retelling conversations
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Old 02-24-2005, 04:41 PM
 
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It could be just those mothers' POV. My kids have always had homework in grade school too, but it really wasn't anything more than learning math facts or spelling words. 1 sheet a night, perhaps, and some reading.

Since we're already a reading family, the reading "log" that they wanted us to keep was NOTHING (both kids ended up getting rewards in first grade for reading so much, and I had no clue we'd read more than what the "norm" was.)

Unfortunately, some parents think that kids go to school and that the learning process stops there and that they shouldn't have any responsibility to further it at home "That's what the teachers are getting paid for." and Heaven forbid that homework might cut into THEIR time.

Please, take into consideration that this wasn't aimed at YOU, but at parents I have talked to IN GENERAL.

ETA: If school seems like too much, what about all the extracurriculars? Seems that the mother needs to prioritize things, IMO.
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Old 02-24-2005, 05:24 PM
 
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This is one of many reasons why we chose Waldorf. I think kids are being pushed too early and too fast. Childhood only lasts 18 years. Also, I worry about burnout for kids that are being pushed too much. I often wonder if this pushing too soon is the real reason our schools are failing and children are not thriving.
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Old 02-24-2005, 08:30 PM
 
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My ds is in kindergarten (public school). He has homework maybe twice a week and it only takes about 5 minutes or so to complete. Still, I think homework in kindergarten is ridiculous. I guess it is in preparation for the onslaught of homework in the first grade. Sheesh. He isn't signed up for any extracurricular stuff right now. He did take a gymnastics class that was 1 hour a week for 6 weeks recently but it was really just tumbling for fun.

When he's not at school, I take him to the library, he plays with his friends at the park, we play together at home, we read books, etc. He is, after all, a child. These are the things he should be doing at this age. What ever happened to having a childhood?
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Old 02-24-2005, 09:29 PM
 
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I just wanted to add to my previous post that I don't think homework is needed at this age, but that I'd take everything that was said in that particular conversation with a grain of salt. The little girl said it was "too much", but it seems like she's overscheduled otherwise too and maybe (??) she was referring to all of it?

I stand by my point that some parents don't want to deal with ANY homework though, where IME, I've worked through some homework with my DCs and I could explain things better to them than the teachers could (more one on one).
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Old 02-25-2005, 02:07 PM
 
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Find out what they are asking for in the school your child will be going to. What is required will vary from school to school, even those in the same districts.

My oldest is in Grade 1. She has homework some nights, it is reading 1 sheet, or doing her 10-12spelling words. My kids are allowed 2 extra activities(not including the ones at school) at a time. Tirza is in Sparks and Basketball right now. She wants to go in soccer or baseball in the Spring. Basketball will be over then. She will be taking swimming through the summer. She joined the art club in the fall, it was a month long. She joined choir and the reading club at school, both are done at noon.
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Old 02-25-2005, 04:49 PM
 
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I think that it is going to vary from teacher to teacher, as well. My older dd (age 6) is a first grader, too. Her kindergarten teacher was very good, didn't pressure the kids & my dd still learned to read quite well by the end of kindergarten. I think that reading was just easy for her, honestly. Her teacher this year, on the other hand, is like a dictator. We have been struggling with it all year & are in the process of trying to get her moved to a different class for the rest of the year. I realize that it is late in the year, but she is destroying my dd's self esteem & our efforts up to this point with the teacher just have not worked out.

We have spoken with parents who have kids in the other first grade classes at the school, & there is a large discrepency btwn what is expected in the different classes. My dd has 45-60 minutes of homework each night (a worksheet, 20 minutes of reading to us, math & word flash cards & spelling sentences). We honestly don't do all the flashcards b/c she knows the info already & it is just too much. She is also being pressured to work faster & do more, more, more all day in class. The teacher keeps them in at recess if they don't get enough done. I'm kind of ticked about the situation right now, but I will try not to rant!

Anyway, the other classes have no more than 15 minutes of homework/night, no flashcards & much different in class expectations. My dd has high abilities, but she is not a fast enough worker for her teacher.

My game plan from this point forward is to pre-interview the teachers in the grade that she will be going into & find out which ones I feel are a good fit for my dd. Her current school does not allow parents to request specific teachers, but some do. You can either request the specific teacher who you think will not put your kid in a pressure cooker or, as I will be, write a letter requesting a "type of teacher" who is _________ (you fill in what you think would work for your kid.) I try to describe the teacher I like here. Or ask the teacher that you like to see if s/he can try to get your child into his/her class next year. Even if the parents aren't given input, the teachers often have some input on which kids they get in their classes.
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Old 02-25-2005, 10:06 PM
 
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Why are we expecting so much so young now?
IMO, this is because of the many panic-promoting books that were published about American public schools back in the late '80s and early '90s. School kids in the US--even those who were at the top of their classes--were way outperformed on tests, particularly in math, by students in many other countries around the globe. Remember all those news stories that showed kids who thought the Civil War happened in the 1970s? Thus the spread of accountablity standards and standardized tests in most states and then the No Child Left Behind Act. Also, American children were performing poorly on the NEAP (I hope that's the right acronym), which is supposed to reveal the state of our public schools. It is embarassing, that US kids have been performing poorly and I don't discount the asserstions in those books,--and it is true that our country must import educated people from other countries for demanding math and science positions-- but I think that it's misguided to try to fix this problem by heaping academic pressure on kindergarteners especially when underlying social causes for poor academic performance are ignored.

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how do I keep my son from it?
I withdrew my dd from school--I know you don't want to do that, but I've been talking to the parents of her former classmates. These are third graders and in our state, they take the state's accountability standardized test. I'm hearing about teachers yelling at kids about passing their tests. Our superintendent has instituted standardized tests that are taken four times a year which asses a child's ability to pass the big test in May. I'm hearing about kids who are loaded down with homework--much of it ridiculous busy work or more practice filling in ovals. I'm hearing about 8 year olds who have so much homework that they can't play at all after school. I'm hearing about a dumbed-down curriculum that focuses narrowly on what will be on the test. One mother I know has been simply telling her son that he doesn't have to finish his homework. She'd rather he had time to run around. Her child is getting a hard time from the teacher--remember this is an 8 year old--even though his mother writes notes explaining that she doesn't want him to do the homework. For example, on a lengthy math worksheet, she'll tell him to do every other problem, so he still gets the practice he needs, but has time to play. I think more parents should take a stand and rebel if they think their children are being pushed too hard at a tender age.

I am *so* glad I took my own daughter out of school. I feel my homeschool maintains excellent academic standards. Dd is learning Latin and ancient history. She's reading good-quality literature, writing compositions and doing creative writing, studying grammar, spelling & math and still has hours each day to do what she wants.
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Old 03-01-2005, 12:49 PM
 
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The one thing that has been helpful in putting it all in perspective for me during these school years is, you don't have to do it just because "they" say you do. I am only willing to spend a certain amount of time per evening on homework. They are at school enough hours per day and deserve a break with fun family time--which can be a learning experience as well. There are so many ways to learn and school is just a small part of it. If my children get upset about not finishing things, I just tell them to tell their teacher that if there is a problem, to contact me. It's never been a problem. The only way to change things is to push back. It also serves as a reminder that all children are not the same. You never stop being an advocate for your child.
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Old 03-01-2005, 03:38 PM
 
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We're dealing with the "too much" issue right now as well. My ds is older though, he's 10 and in the fourth grade.

It has gotten to the point where he is doing hours of homework each night - I'm talking at least two hours, usually 3. There have been many times where he comes home at 3:30 and does homework until dinner, does his chores and goes back to homework until bedtime.

My dh is a 5th grade teacher and tried to present his concerns to ds's teacher but she brushed him off, so he contacted the principal but I don't see that anything will be done about it. She's older, set in her ways and seems resistant to change.

It seems ridiculous that he spends all day at school, only to come home and spend hours on homework. We rarely get to spend evenings together as a family because of this and dh is livid about it.

I've been pushing for homeschooling for awhile now, and dh was somewhat resistant but now he's talking about writing me a curriculum for a year and taking ds out of school to see how it goes.
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Old 03-01-2005, 06:02 PM
 
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Originally Posted by luvtjones
We're dealing with the "too much" issue right now as well. My ds is older though, he's 10 and in the fourth grade.

It has gotten to the point where he is doing hours of homework each night - I'm talking at least two hours, usually 3. There have been many times where he comes home at 3:30 and does homework until dinner, does his chores and goes back to homework until bedtime.

<snip>

It seems ridiculous that he spends all day at school, only to come home and spend hours on homework. We rarely get to spend evenings together as a family because of this and dh is livid about it.
This worries me. My dd is only in preschool, starting kindergarten next year (Maybe, I kinda want to hold her back, she is the youngest in her class). I won't allow dd to come home and do hours of homework. If it's a requirement, then I will have to look into different options, or homeschool her. She only gets one childhood. Rather than doing homework I would want her to be laughing and playing outside after school.
Over Christmas break my niece came to visit from out of state. She is in forth grade and she had math homework that I had to do research on the internet to help her with her with, and I am a college graduate. While she was here for one week we worked for at least two hours a night, so that she wouldn't have to do it all when she got home. This was Christmas "break".
I can understand review sheets being sent home so that parents and children can go over what they learned that day. Keeping it fresh in their minds and keeping parents informed about what the children are learning, but over 45 minutes a night in elementary school is wrong to me.
Mostly I think kids have too many scheduled after school activities. A couple of things a week is enrichment, something every night is stress. When I was a kid I had soccer and piano, and no homework until high-school. I used to play out in my yard with my friends till dinner. Those memories are burned into my mind forever, I never became a pro piano player, and I still hate soccer. lol.

-Janna, independent mother of dd, Ms. Mattie Sky born on my 25th birthday, 06*23*2000. My Mama Feb.21,1938-Sept.10,2006
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Old 03-01-2005, 09:54 PM
 
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In an interesting side note, a couple of months ago, the front page of the Sunday Washington Post was about how some Korean families send their kids to school in the US to get away from the super-intensive Korean educational system. Usually the mother and the kids set up a household in the US and the father stays in Korea and works and they all get together infrequently when the father can fly here. In Korea little kids are in school well into the evening and they go to school on Saturday and time to play, apparently, is just a pipe dream. And kids who aren't top performers in their schools won't be able to get into University.
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Old 03-02-2005, 03:32 AM
 
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A foreigner's input...

I grew up in Ireland and only moved to the USA when I was 22. During the Irish equivelant of elementary school (ages 4-5 through 12-13) we tended to work pretty hard on different topics, mainly math and Gaelic, with additional time spent on English, history, geography, etc. On top of that every Thursday evening we had an hour of singing training (basic songs in English and Gaelic, scales, etc), and on Friday evenings after our lunch break we had a ten minute spelling test then the remaining two hours to do at least one composition (often times one in English and one in Gaelic); afterwards we did art and crafts. It was a two teacher school with forty-ish students, each teacher taught four different classes/years but it tended to work out well.

The difference between twenty years ago and today is that back in the 80's we didn't have many mandatory tests - there were occasional assessments but they were 5-10 minute jobs and weren't the focus of our education. Different teachers in different schools tended to focus on different aspects of the varied curriculum, e.g. the teacher we had in the first room was quite well balanced across the board and squeezed in some more music than the other lady, while the lady in the second room focused, as mentioned above, on math and Gaelic so I personally don't have as much knowledge of history, geography, social sciences or, believe it or not, the down 'n dirty syntax of the English language. Having said that I believe I've got a good aptitude to understanding and writing the language, just don't ask me to define the core elements of a sentence or explain the difference between adjectives and adverbs

We had homework from about the age of 6 onwards, when we got into the third year. At this stage we had a few words to learn, which mostly was a case of writing some short sentences. We'd also often have a bit extra, maybe to learn a poem or song, write a short essay (two or three paragraphs) or draw something. As the years progressed the amount of homework increased but it was rarely something that took more than an hour, and honestly I fudged or skipped most of it, being the wreckless youth I was. When we got to secondary school, the equivelant of middle/high school in the USA, the homework load took a sharp increase, but that's for another day.

One interesting anecdote. I tended to do poorly on the weekly spelling tests, in which we had to write out the spelling of maybe 1/3 to 1/2 of the words we had learned during the week. While my classmates would usually get e.g. 8 or 10 out of 10, I'd usually get around the five or six mark. The odd thing, though, was that I tended to be the person my classmates asked for the spellings of different words, and more often than not I was correct.

Regarding homework, yes it is needed, school isn't a daycare, and parents need to be active in helping their children learn and grow.

So, where was I? Ah yes.

In elementary school we learned a good deal of information and those, like my brother and I and a other students, who were somewhat ahead of the average in some topics were given chances to do occasional more advanced work in-class, e.g. more advanced math problems. However the one difference I feel between growing up then and the USA today is that we were still allowed to be children - we had mandatory play time where we played different sports, we often had an extra P.E. time during the week where we were taught something new (e.g. how to play Gaelic football rather than idly kicking a ball around), and we weren't expected to spend our entire nights doing homework. We also started school after 9am rathern than 7am some schools do, so could get the rest we needed. And you know what? We still grew up to be doctors, lawyers, high-end Java developers (my brother), etc.
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Old 03-02-2005, 04:50 PM
 
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I also feel it is very sad the way "I've seen" these little children being pushed too fast too hard when it comes to school. Not just homework either. I feel the school expects "too" much from even Pre-k students. My oldest was told he couldn't remain attending the K he started at because the principal didn't think he was "ready" for it yet. Because he didn't sit still well enough or listen well enough, etc... This was his first time in a school environment..they didn't care-these little robots..oops I mean children were expected to sit in their seats quietly with their hands folded in front of them and ...
Although she said he wasn't listening he had learned soo much in just a couple of months it was amazing! One thing that will stay in my mind forever is how the principal decided to suspend him from school one day for something but instead of punishing him the next day(which would of been Thurs.) she waited to tell me on Thursday so she could punish him Friday..which friday happened to be the day of the Christmas play they were in. So he wasn't allowed to attend she said something like she didn't want him to misbehave and ruin it for the other children. So when he found out he couldn't go he was really upset...I told him don't worry you can be in it next year and you know what he said? "I don't want to!" I was so sad for him! That's only one experience...their are many and my nephew also was suspended and punished all the time in Pre-K because they just expected too much of him and he used to love school..but now he doesn't want to go..he says he hates school.
I think they need to ease up on little kids...they're just kids! As far as the homework issue..well they're in school for 6 hours! That's a long time...they shouldn't have to then come home and spend another couple hours doing MORE school work.
Sorry this is so long I get really heated about this topic :LOL

RayRAy

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Old 03-02-2005, 06:03 PM
 
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Originally Posted by AuntRayRay
One thing that will stay in my mind forever is how the principal decided to suspend him from school one day for something but instead of punishing him the next day(which would of been Thurs.) she waited to tell me on Thursday so she could punish him Friday..which friday happened to be the day of the Christmas play they were in. So he wasn't allowed to attend she said something like she didn't want him to misbehave and ruin it for the other children. So when he found out he couldn't go he was really upset...I told him don't worry you can be in it next year and you know what he said? "I don't want to!" I was so sad for him!

to your little guy. What an awful thing to do to a child.
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Old 03-03-2005, 12:24 AM - Thread Starter
 
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as i read this i had a reply for each of these posts--they're all so interesting! i don't have the time now though, but thanks for all the responses.

auntrayray, ditto to what rhonwyn said. that's horrible
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