Let Them Talk and Play

Author, Freelance writer, and educator - Margie Gelbwasser

Author, Freelance writer, and educator – Margie Gelbwasser

Today, I have a special guest. Margie Gelbwasser is the mother of SJ’s best friend (which counts for a lot in my house). She is also a real live successful author in addition to being a freelance writer and teacher.

Margie has written for a variety of magazines including SELF, Ladies’ Home Journal, Writer’s Digest, The Parent Paper, and Parents. She is also the author of two young adult novels. INCONVENIENT and PIECES OF US. You can find out more about Margie and her projects on her website, www.margiewrites.com

This is what my son was able to do by the end of kindergarten:

  • -explain the difference between square, rectangles, hexagons, and octagons
  • -read a pie chart and bar graph and make his own bar graph
  • -survey people and record their responses with tally marks
  • -read and explain main idea and main characters and draw connections to his life and the world from the stories
  • -write simple sentences

This is what I did when I was in kindergarten:

  • -napped
  • -played Pop Goes the Weasel
  • -rode around on those plastic sticks with a pony head at the end
  • -built picture frames out of popsicle sticks
  • – learned letters and numbers too

It’s a different world today, isn’t it? And while my kid had an awesome year with a fantastic teacher, the differences in what kindergarten is today compared to what it was makes me sad. The intense academic push starts so early. Kids should be socializing and building with blocks and playing, but with the push for more and more testing, all that stuff falls by the wayside. And what happens to the kids who are not ready to distinguish between hexagons and such at 5? There’s no data that shows feeding them so much so soon creates brighter kids. In fact, studies show the opposite (here’s a link to one such study: http://hepg.org/hel/article/479).

My son will be going through the same school system I did. Back then, we had home ec and shop in middle school. We also had a guitar elective that everyone had to take. Now the “elective” is an additional math class. To be honest, I HATED shop. When our teacher told us horror stories about what could happen if we moved the mechanical saw the wrong way, I was certain I would be the one in the class with blood gushing from her limbs. As for home ec, we had to make a stuffed swan. I got a D. So, yeah, not my favorite classes, but for many kids, these are the places they can excel. And, yet, in districts all over the country, these classes are the first to go.

Who do we blame? Washington? State governments? Parents? Yes, yes, yes. The parental role in this is scary. I know parents who hire tutors for their four year olds because they want them to be reading before kindergarten. I was part of a mommy group on FB where one parent was freaking out because her five year still used—brace yourselves for this one—his fingers and tally marks to count, rather than doing all calculations in his head. I left that group because the situation made me so angry. Too many parents today are so stressed about academics and making their kids the best (not the best versions of themselves but the best of all the kids in the universe) that they don’t stop and think about the things their children are gifted at.

What’s my current concern? I wish my six-year-old could tie his shoes. Seriously. But I’ve been too busy doing worksheets and extra math prep to teach him. One mom I know said she loved an afterschool program because one of the many things they did there was teach her kids to tie their shoes. I think as years go on, we’ll have a nation of young adults who can do the Pythagorean theorem, while wearing velcro dress shoes. Do companies make velcro sneakers for adults? Let’s get Tommy Hilfiger and Rebok on that mission because we’re going to need it.

Before you think I’m one of those parents who doesn’t care if her kid succeeds, think again. I want him to do his best. That’s it. If he works super hard and gets a C, so be it. If he can get an A but chooses to slack off, that won’t fly either. I just want him to never lose his creativity or love for learning.

16 thoughts on “Let Them Talk and Play

    • Good luck with that. It certainly is not. Isn’t hard to teach them all the subjects as they get older? Do you give them a program or do you teach them based on what you know?

  1. Times have changed! My son is taking Floral Design this year in high school because until he is a Junior, he can’t take extra “core” classes – he has decided that it will give him more options when he goes to look for a job next year and then reminded me “mom, you said that I should have fun in high school”. Okay – yeah – I can’t argue with my own words! But he’s struggled in one of his AP classes, not because the work was hard, but because the class is so boring – not every student has learned how to learn while they are having fun – they’ve been taught that learning is serious business and there is no room to play. That saddens me – but he’s learned to adjust and tone down his personality in order to make the other kids comfortable! School is so different now!

    • It’s true learning can’t always be fun, but in the age where are a lot of these kids are taught very visually from the beginning, it’s important to try and incorporate activities that can help that visual learner. And re floral design. Wow!! We don’t have that class here! Does he like it?

  2. We had home ec. in middle school too, and I use what I learned in there EVERY DAY OF MY LIFE. I guess now we have the Food Network so schools can shut down the kitchen classrooms. 🙁

    • We had home ec also. It was not a strength of mine – to put it mildly. I remember the teacher taking me out of the room and giving me a lecture when I could not thread the needle. Was not pleasant!

  3. I have been an elementary teacher for twenty plus years and I can tell you that the last ten years has been a steady push to do more, teach more, and score higher. I was told by my administrator last year, that there was not enough time in my day for a scheduled 15 minute snack and choice time. Most of these decisions are not driven by parents or teachers but those higher up, farthest away from my 21 first graders.

    • I hear you. Remember the old adage if you reach one child you have done your job? Now, if you reach just one, you will be let go as soon as they can find a way to get rid of you.

    • Yep, totally agree! I feel the administration would like things to go back to the way they were too. They see it’s hard on the kids. But you have to do what the state, etc. says.

  4. I so agree with you. Most of my friends have had their kids in tutoring programs when they were still in daycare because they weren’t pleased with how little “education” time their kids were getting. We’re talking 2 and a half year olds here. It’s sad. I push my kids to learn a lot, but when I’m the one teaching them, it’s all done in fun and with common, every day activities like cooking or grocery shopping. There is so much to learn in the real world. Schools will teach the way they teach; there’s little we can do about that.

    • That does sound like much. I sometimes wonder where all this came from started. I know it is a competitive world but come on now.

    • Totally true about learning in the real world! Your comment reminded me about an old Roseanne episode. Roseanne came to Darlene’s school for career day and took the home ec class grocery shopping. They couldn’t believe how much food cost and what went into preparing meals for a family. Can teach a lot about math and inflation with grocery shopping.

  5. All kids learn in different ways, at different levels, on different schedules. The all for one and one for all education being pushed today is a product of the me me me attitude of many parents. And if it can’t be them, well they will be darned sure it is their kids spotlight in which they shine. Disgusting. Home School folks, or form home school groups that actually teach kids in the best way for them to learn. I am a retired university English teacher, I will never teach in the US again. How can we teach anything new when first year college students require so much remedial attention?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *