Sunday, June 12, 2011

Anti-educational, pro-childhood

Last week I was having a conversation with a colleague and she was asking about the school E will attend for kindergarten. "Did you have to have her IQ tested to get in?"


"No," I replied. "It's not that kind of private school." I was glad to be able to give that answer, because are people really testing their preschoolers for kindergarten admissions? She told me it's big in her neighborhood, and that some families even get tutors for their kids to pass the admissions tests. I was incredulous, but it's not even new: you can enroll your preschooler in kindergarten test prep classes.


A college student knocked on our door yesterday. At first I thought she was asking questions for some educational study. She asked about the kids and how they're learning and what we hope they'll learn next and how we encourage their learning. Ultimately, I learned it wasn't a study; she was selling educational materials under the pitch that we want to help our kids be the most ready they can be for kindergarten. She wanted me to buy encyclopaedic trivia books and educational software.


"Isn't it great?" she asked. "So often parents have the old classics to read with their kids, or new story lines based on their favorite characters, but they say it's hard to find anything that has immediate appeal and is educational at the same time." I had to agree. The materials looked great. "And this way you can spend the summer making sure your oldest is the most ready she can be for kindergarten, and there are great materials here for the younger two. We all want the best for our kids, right?"

"Are you interested?" Her face flickered with shock when I said no. I sent her along, and I'll tell you why:


I'm okay with our kids not reading paragraphs until they've started their formal schooling. I'm okay if they can't do multiplication tables in their heads yet. I'm okay with the focus of their down time being spent barefoot in the grass instead of in front of a computer screen.


They are smart, and they will learn those things in time. But this summer, we're not doing workbooks and we're not enrolling in classes. We're planting flowers and catching bugs and stacking rocks and teaching G how to hold on to his popsicle, because right here, right now, this is the skill that matters. 
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