Kindergarten has been an incredible experience for our daughter. We had concerns about adapting to a new school with a full-day curriculum, but those diminished within our first week. We could not have asked for a better program or teacher.
Recently, as our daughter read a short story to us, I sat in awe listening to her phonetically pronounce each word. She was concentrating. Hard. It took effort, and we praised her as the story progressed.
Was I reading in Kindergarten? I didn’t think so, but asked my mom to confirm. She assured me that my daughter is far ahead of what I was learning at her age. It’s funny how hearing “she’s far ahead” made me feel more confident in my child’s abilities… and my own parenting skills.
As much as we have loved the school, teacher, community and experience, next year we will be in another school as my husband has accepted a promising job with a new company. Finding another amazing school for elementary years has been a challenge, especially as we are not familiar with the area. (Is this preparation for the college search?!) We have enjoyed the private, faith-based environment and hoped to stay here.
Our search produced a small, private faith-based school for our daughter’s first grade year. During the tour I noticed that many of the requirements for first-graders were things my daughter has already learned. “It wouldn’t hurt to give her a refresher, and it might give her a boost in self-confidence if she already knows the stuff,” I thought. We scheduled a screening to test my daughter’s “readiness,”and I felt confident in her skills – especially reading.
To my surprise, the new school contacted us after the screening to express concern that our daughter is not reading. What?! “Well, she’s reading, but she has to sound-out most of the words. In Kindergarten, we expect our children to be able read a sentence seamlessly,” the Administrator told me. Just like that, my sense of pride was replaced with fear, concern, and blame.
“We don’t read to her for 20 minutes a day, so it’s our fault she’s behind.”
“We should have been working on reading instead of playing with toys and drawing pictures.”
“She’s behind and will need daily tutoring to keep up with the other first-graders.”
All of these thoughts – and many more – ran through my mind. Now as our daughter read to us, we continued to praise her, but instead of a smile, I wore an expression of concern.
“She’s fine, babe. She’s doing great,” my husband assured me. Still, I couldn’t help but wonder: is this really the standard for Kindergarten? Are my friends’ kids reading? Is she that far behind? Am I a bad mom for not pushing reading more in our home?
Our Kindergarten teacher has been incredibly open with communication, so I asked for some guidance. She explained that children each have their own style and pace of learning. Some are reading at a higher level, some are barely reading at all. It is certainly not a reflection of my “bad parenting,” but just how my daughter’s young brain is wired. We can continue to spend time developing her skills, making books fun, and providing praise each step of the way.
As I write this, I am reminded of a fellow mama who had posted a public plea on her social media around the holidays, stating that her daughter’s Kindergarten teacher threatened to hold the girl back a year because she was not reading. My degree is not in education, and I understand that Common Core Standards are “research-and-evidence-based,” but what about each child’s individual learning curve? Does not being able to read a few months into Kindergarten (or the year, in our case) mean that a child cannot progress to the next grade level? Gosh, it seems like these standards are set so high. What about time for kids to be kids?
There is a learning curve, for children and for parents. We can work hard at academics, as long as we get to play hard, too.
Oh, and an update on our school situation: we have opted for a different, private, faith-based Montessori school. The minute the teacher said, “We will work harder with her on skills she is struggling with, not only to help her master these skills, but also to empower her to know that she is capable of and can do anything she sets her mind to!” I couldn’t write the enrollment check fast enough.