As I was preparing all of Finlee’s (my 6 year old) school supplies for grade one, I started thinking how things have changed and quickly felt that first grade is the new university.
Finlee’s school supplies consisted of the normal crayons, markers and oil pastels, but on the other hand my husband and I had also just spent $1000 on a new IPAD for a free public school (this cost included IPAD, insurance, hard case, carry case, 20+ apps, stylus pen etc). Instead of sending him off to grade one to nurture his creativity, explore with art, connect with nature, it felt that instead I was sending him off to university.
The Pressure Is Real… First Grade is the New University
I’m a first time mom/mum with this school gig so I don’t have anything to compare too other then my own childhood. After talking with my Dad, speaking with my friends and also other teachers there seems to be a consistent message that there is far too much pressure being put onto to kids in prep (kindergarten) and grade one and quite frankly something has to change.
In the last decade, prep and first grade is less like a trip to Sesame Street and more like a university preparing our 6 year olds for an OP ranking. Years ago, first grade was where kids would learn to read, but fast forward to this decade and reading lessons are starting in prep and for those kids (like Finlee) who don’t cut the mustard by week 5 in grade one are now getting extra help through a school reading intervention program.
Instead of being outside in the sunshine, doing puzzles, learning letters and having snack time (like I thought first grade would be like), Finlee is faced with writing stories, spelling, having a reading groups etc. I am thank-ful for the 30 minutes a week he gets in swimming lessons, or the 1 hour Italian he gets every 2 weeks, but I still don’t feel this is the right balance for a 6 year old. Seriously though, how much are they actually retaining in their little heads when they have so much information they have to process.
Now if you don’t think they’re learning enough during their 5 day school week (insert sarcasm) you’ll be happy to know that there’s homework which includes:
- Reading their reader every night
- My husband and I reading to them every night
- Writing out words X 3 times per week
- Spelling out words to prepare the spelling test at the end of the week
Pressure on Kids to Perform at School and the Risk of Mental Illness
If schools continue to put this much pressure on kids, my biggest fear is that so many kids will start to hate school, burn out or start to get a variety of mental health disorders such as but not limited to: anxiety, depression etc.
Last year when Finlee was in prep (kindergarten), I noticed about half way through first term that he was emotional, not wanting to engage in his homework etc. When I explored this with him, he expressed to me that “his brain felt tired. I can’t sit still mommy/mummy. Sometimes I just want to play.” As a result, I introduced 1 day, every term I would wag school with Finlee because there are so many Benefits of Wagging School and Having a Mental Health Day in Kids.
Pay attention to your kids, follow your instincts and nurture them always, but even more so when needed.
Importance of Play for Kids
Schools are forgetting the many wonderful and important benefits that play provides for kids. I wrote a blog post a couple weeks ago called Understanding the Benefits of Play for Our Children and hope that parents and schools take a look at how much play can assist in the over all development of our kids when given the chance to play and to simply just be a kid.
For example, Finland embraces the importance of play and kids don’t even start school until the age of 7 in Finland. In the article 11 Ways Finland’s Education System Shows US that Less is More the author does a brilliant job at explaining less is more and how kids in Finland are still achieving just as much as our kids are.
Where to From Here…
This morning as I was helping Finlee with his homework and I heard him mutter under his breath “I hate writing.” This broke my heart. 6 year old’s should not hate writing, plain and simple. They should be eager to go to school to learn, make new friends and to slowly start to pieces of school into place.
I know I can’t change the school system, but what I can change is to ensure I continue to acknowledge Finlee’s feeling, put strategies in place like wagging school one day a term, do nothing on the weekends, limiting extra curricular activities etc.
Remember, to follow your gut. As the parent you know your child better than anyone else. Lastly, good luck and please know you’re not alone.
What are your thoughts about our school system?
Angela from Finlee and Me