Friday, December 04, 2009

Little Scholar and Mama's Issues

Today I had my first parent-teacher interview ever. Xander is 4.5 years old and in the Junior Kindergarten program in Ontario. We have a 2 year Kindergarten here, where the kids start when they are 4 (have to be 4 by December 31st). It was explained to us that it is the old Kindergarten program, but split over 2 years and reinforced the second year.

I have mixed feelings about this. I love that Xander is going to school. He's eager and intense. He needs something to keep him busy. Honestly, I am not it. I wish I was, but my failure as a parent lies in being unable to keep up with this child. I am often overwhelmed by his intensity. And the break alone makes school attractive to me.

On the flip side, he is only 4, for crying out loud. It's young to be in school. And I am desperately seeking to make school be a positive experience for him.

Thankfully, it seems to be positive. He loves going. He thinks having a group of friends to hang out with is fantastic, and he seems to like his teacher enough (though nothing like his exuberance over his preschool teachers). The report from the parent-teacher interview was glowing. His little report sheet had an A at the top of it. Makes his Type A, school lovin' mama proud.

Now, that said, the main areas the teacher would like us to work on involve writing. Especially his name and especially the lower case letters. Xander writes his name. In uppercase letters. And here is where I run into issues: what does it matter if a 4 year old child writes his name in upper or lowercase letters? Also, although he knows all of the numbers to see them (and can all but count to infinite), he cannot write a single one. Umm, yeah, we've had a detailed conversation about how this child has yet to pick a hand. The last couple weeks he's been using his right had a fair amount, but the few weeks before that, it was the left hand. He switches when he want to write on the other side of the paper or when the hand he had first gets "hot" (direct quote, I kid you not). So, it seems reasonable to me that he would not be writing lowercase letters or be worrying about writing numbers.

I was sent home with a little workbook that he is to practice writing his name in and a request that we have him sing his ABCs and point to the lowercase letters as he does it.

Homework. At 4 years old?!?

Is it just me or does that seem ridiculous to anyone else?

I tried it out tonight and at the mere mention of "homework", my little fellow dissolved into tears. He told me flat out that he was "little" and that "only big kids should do homework". I agree! And still, we did it. Under duress. The ABC part anyway. I am not sure we will do that again. He knows his lowercase ABCs, so this seems redundant (he occasionally mixes up b and d and q and p), and I think that kind of stress for someone so small is pointless.

As for the "practicing his name" thing...uh, yeah, I think that will sort itself out when he picks a hand and when he grows a bit. So we abandoned the little workbook and got out a book on tracing that I had picked up a while back.

My own faith in the school system is shaky. I have wondered (not for the first time either) if homeschooling is a better option. It wouldn't be for me, but would he be less traumatized? And wish we had the money for private school or Montessori. But alas...

Still, I watched Xander tracing happily for more than 30 minutes and yelling out "I hit the nail on the head Dad!" (he's trying to figure out how to use that saying) each time he traced a letter. And Liam beside him, scribbling away on a blank page with his own marker. They were happy. I was getting supper together. And really, the tracing is accomplishing much the same thing, but without the trauma prescribed by his teacher.

Sometimes Mom really does know best.


Heidi said...

I have so many of the same reservations. And yes, I also find homework for little kids absolutely absurd. I fear I will be a teacher's worst nightmare. I feel really strongly that kids are only kids once - they're only little kids for an even shorter period of time - and they'll learn best by exploring and questioning and doing all that sort of stuff. Does it matter in the grand scheme of things if he doesn't write lower case letters at the age of 4? No. Really, does it ever matter? I think kids would be better served if education emphasized what mattered and allowed kids to work at a individualized pace.

But I'm running away with myself! ;) Just know I'm totally with you and am so stressed about Gabe going to school next year!

Lisa said...

I think that homework at 4 is WAY out of line!

mapsgirl said...

In JK we were never told that she had to write her lowercase letters. Only has she had to focus on that this year (in SK now). And at almost 5 she understands and is becoming a little more consistant.

I dont' think your homework needs to be as structured as the teacher has set out. We got our first peice of "homework" this year. She had to decorate a paper gingerbread man. And I must say, it was fun!

I have found a lot of printable writing sheets online that DD has found fun! You can't even tell they are home work. Also, her Leapster 2 is a God-send. She's writing letters and numbers and doesn't even think of it as learning. Just a couple thoughts.

And for SK next year, he'll probably have a different teacher with a different teaching style. (that is more the issue we're having this year).

But you do have to follow your heart and your mommy instinct. If you don't want to push him, then don't. He needs to continue to like school. Hugs. This mommy thing isn't easy.