"How many days?"

This was a question of some importance over the past few weeks. Lindy goes to Brentwood United Methodist Day School, and I’m on the board there. It’s something I generally enjoy doing, and I really think highly of the program, so it’s the kind of thing I like to support. Theoretically, my input is valuable as I the only dad on the board.

Early this month, some of the folks on the board organized a seminar of sorts in which teachers from the day school and an area kindergarten spoke on the topic of “Kindergarten Readiness”. In atypical fashion, Jenn made the time to go to this one… it sounded interesting and Jenn is into educational theory. The speakers were all folks known to us… Jenny Majors is on the board with me, Jenny Patton has taught both Aspen and Oakley (and hopefully Lindy next year) at the Day School, and Reneta Gilliland is Oakley’s awesome kindergarten teacher right now. With some caveats, my understanding of the overall message was this,

“Kids are under prepared for kindergarten. You should err on the side of red-shirting your child (either gender) and you should probably err on the side of having your child in preschool more.”

Taking that a step further, the explanation is that the schools are being forced to do developmentally inappropriate material in kindergarten in an effort to achieve higher test scores when testing starts, in third grade. [Author bangs head against desk.] OK, so I’m not an educational theorist, but I do know I hate it when assessment techniques affect that which they are trying to assess. (Had I been blogging at the time, I would have gone nuts when I learned Tennessee schools start so early each year so they can have more instructional days before testing. I can’t reconcile this with the fact that they cancel school on cold mornings and regularly watch movies in class.)

It is also widely accepted (amongst the people to whom I listen) that overall achievement by the end of high school is no higher than it once was. In fact, most indications are that the US is struggling to keep up. As I’ve said before, I do none of my own research, I merely assess thing others tell me and see if they compute. Here’s the malfunction for me, though.

  • We’re doing more advanced work in kindergarten.
  • Our achievement by high school is less.

The number of years is constant. The kids are “constant”. What’s different? Are we just going slower? What are we improving?

So, back to the question of “how many days?” This comes up at this time of year because we (parents) all have to choose the number of days we’ll send our kids to preschool next year. For Aspen and Oakley, we’ve done 2 days each in the year before kindergarten. (Aspen had Encore as well, a great Davidson County program.) Now we’re trying to figure it out for Lindy.

After listening to the seminar and all of the women talking about it, this is what I thought. “Um, yeah, we’ve been pondering sending Lindy before she was technically eligible for kindergarten. She runs with her big sisters all the time, she loves going to school, she’s pretty capable physically, and she missed the cutoff by 8 days. From my perspective, I really like the idea of my daughters having each others’ support at school, too. The more they can be there together, the better.”

So many folks are leaning toward sending their kids more now than before, because they want to be sure their kids are prepared, conditioned. There was talk at one point of adding a day school class that went Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday so that kids could get used to going three days in a row. But Jenn asked me such a great question the other day.

“If sitting in school for long periods of time or for several days in a row is developmentally inappropriate at age five, when these kids are going to kindergarten, then why are we making preschool more like kindergarten?”

Really, if a boy can’t sit still for kindergarten at 5 years old, will being forced to prepare as a 4 year old fix it?

I still don’t know for sure what Lindy’s going to do in 2010-2011. We’ve been told she wouldn’t even be allowed to go to kindergarten early (even though people can hold their kids back without second thought). I think I’ll hold my horses on that battle for the time being, no need to have a fight I’m not sure I’d want to win. (If we wait for Lindy’s natural school year, it’s a near certainty that she’ll dominate on the football field as a freshman.) But for now, I’m certain that Lindy will be a 2 day a weeker at the Day School in 2009-2010. That is, unless she convinces us to let her go an extra day, ’cause she loves it.

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