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It’s never too early to freak out over kindergarten

Submitted by on Sunday, 1 June 2008 No Comment

Originally published Sept. 16, 2007, thehive.modbee.com

There are roughly 347 days between Big Guy and kindergarten, depending on where he winds up going. Is it too early for me to start freaking out?

Because that’s exactly what I’ve been doing since Back to School night Friday at his preschool.

Surrounded by two other moms and myself, Big Guy’s teacher lamented the problem of teaching 4-year-olds to do what they need to do to be ready for kindergarten these days. “I have to make them sit here at a table for part of the day, when they’d all rather be playing and running around and being kids.”

I share her sorrow, which is why I’ve always shunned flash cards and such, preferring to let a kid be a kid for as long as possible. I fear, though, that those days are drawing to a close.

Don’t get me wrong: Big Guy is no dummy. He nails most kindergarten readiness lists, such as this one at greatschools.net:
  Enthusiasm toward learning. Is he eager to explore and discover? Is he comfortable asking questions? Does he persist even when a task is difficult?

Comfortable asking questions? Dear God, he’ll wear you out.  I could do with a little less comfort.

* Language skills. Does she communicate her needs? Express her feelings appropriately?

Oh, but, yes. “I’m frustrated because you’re not letting me have fruit chews,” he said today. Following quickly by stomping and crying, but, hey, at least he got it right at first.

* Ability to listen. Can he follow simple instructions? Is he able to listen to an entire story without interrupting?

When he feels like it. “Put away your clothes, please.” “I don’t want to.” Guess he gets bonus points, though, for expressing his feelings appropriately. And he will listen to an entire story, often without interrupting, over and over and over again. Anyone want a well-used set of Franklin Turtle books? I am so  ready to move on to another character.

* Desire to be independent. Does she separate from parents for the school day? Is she starting to take responsibility for her personal belongings?

Responsibility waxes and wanes. He did a great job Saturday at packing his bag for his soccer game. I was ready to be really impressed until he left it sitting by the door.

* Ability to interact with children and adults. Is he able to share, compromise, take turns and problem-solve?

He has “taking turns” down cold. He always knows when it’s his turn because Little Guy has had (fill in the blank with the most desirable toy du jour) too long.

* Basic letter and number awareness. Can he sing and recite the alphabet and recognize some letters? Can he count to 10 and identify numbers one to five?

He loves singing the alphabet. Over a microphone, even. Problem is, he loves singing it like Rob Halford. Oh my achin’ ears.

* Strong fine-motor skills. Is she able to hold and use a pencil? Cut with scissors? Is she learning to write her name?

Eek. A problem area. His gross motor skills are great – that’s educated talk for running and jumping – but Big Guy’s always been weak here. He loves to paint, but never with a brush. He likes crayons well enough, but still prefers to scribble.

It’s a classic case of people preferring to do what they’re interested in and good at. Guess it runs in the family, which is why I got a C in   The History of Math   — a class allegedly so simple even jocks and journalism majors could ace it — my senior year in college.

I’ve tried to work on it over the weekend, in a non-flash card sort of way. I already had taught him a little trick to learn to write the first letter of his name, so I tried to think of one for the letter A as well.

“Oh, no! I’m falling on my side!” I said as I drew one slant. “Oh, no! I’m falling off the side, too!” said the other slant. “Quick! Someone has to hold them together,” as the horizontal line was added.

Which seemed to do the work. Sometimes the A’s still look more like H’s, but at least it’s still fun.

Because if learning becomes a drudge at age 4, heaven help me by the time he reaches junior high. 

Copyright 2007 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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