Let Kids be Kids

In the newspaper today was an article about the new Early Learning Centers in our district. In these centers, kids as young as 3 will be taught literacy and “classroom skills” (eg: how to stand in line, go to centers, etc.). The centers only go up to 2nd grade, and all the work is more intense. The reason? Too many children are deemed to be unable to read at grade level by 3rd grade, and so the powers that be are trying to find ways to avoid that happening.

Some thoughts: it seems that every year I hear about school systems seeing that some kids are falling behind and saying that the solution must be do things earlier and with more intensity. Usually there are also then articles from those who are experts in childhood development saying this is the wrong approach and that children learn by play, which needs to be encouraged. Somehow the school districts never seem to pay attention to that.

How many adults could sit quietly, keeping completely focused, for an entire school day? Not many, I’d wager. But these students are expected to do so. In the article, there was a description of a 1st grade classroom. A group of students was sitting at the teacher’s desk to have discussion time with her, and it mentioned that one girl was instead standing and jumping/dancing around while answering questions. Now, my daughter is in 1st grade, and does the same thing. It’s perfectly normal for a child that age.

In the article, though, it was mentioned that most teachers wouldn’t allow that, and don’t understand that children learn in different ways, but that this particular teacher knew the girl was engaged in the lesson and so was okay with it. How sad is it if our teachers don’t know that this age-appropriate, developmentally appropriate? I remember when I was teaching 3rd grade. I had a student who just truly needed to be standing and moving around to do his work. I made an agreement with him where he could do that, provided he was within reach of his desk. Suddenly, his behavior problems weren’t a problem, because he was able to do his work. When I praised him and recommended him for an accelerated program, though, I was met with skepticism.

My own children wouldn’t do well in a program where they had to sit quietly for hours on end. K needs to walk around to think about his ideas. C needs to bounce around. Often they try to sit on my birthing ball to do their work. And really, I don’t want them to just sit still all day. Don’t we hear every day about the obesity problem and that children (and adults) aren’t active enough? Why would I then want to make them develop the habit to be sedentary during most of their waking hours?

So really, I just want kids to be allowed to be kids. It’s how they learn best. Maybe we should change our methods to match their reality and development, instead of expecting them to just be quiet and sit still to make our lives easier.

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