I did some ranting yesterday about the foolishness of half-day kindergarten and one of my FB friends, Christina, pointed out that her children did quite well with a half-day program. So did mine. But times have changed and expectations have changed drastically. Her comment made me think back nostalgically to the first years that I taught kindergarten. We did so much more in the areas of art and science. We painted and cooked and did science experiments and went for walks to collect leaves. We no longer have time for such luxuries. We spend too many hours each week learning to read.
I have only one memory of my own kindergarten experience- making a sugar cube igloo. A silly thing, but apparently it made an impact. I went to that school only briefly and then we had to move. I don’t remember going to another school and I don’t have a report card or photo for kindergarten, only first grade. That was the year we moved from Highway City, near Fresno, and out to a dairy in Madera, so perhaps they didn’t have kindergarten. I don’t remember.
What I do remember is learning to read.
I learned to read by standing in the front seat of the car next to my father the summer after I turned three. I don’t recommend that method to anyone…simply reporting the facts! We spent a LOT of time in the car- going to work, traveling, moving, Sunday drives, shopping, etc. I was the first child so my parents spent a lot of time with me and indulged in my favorite pastime- asking questions. Apparently I was fascinated by billboards and my recurrent question was “What that say?” I memorized the answers and soon learned to “read” all the billboards and signs between our house and our usual errands. Then slowly but surely I transferred those words to other signs around me and by the time I was in first grade I knew dozens of words that were unfamiliar to my peers. By the time I reached fifth grade I was reading at a high school level on those little cards they made us test with each week. I only remember that because I had to stop early in the year- there weren’t any more cards in the set for me to read!
I say that not to brag, but as a testament to what Christina said. We got by. We learned. We managed to get an education and have careers and lives with an entirely different set of guidelines and expectations. I wonder sometimes if we aren’t setting some of our children up for failure by asking them to do too much too soon. At other times I wonder why the students in my class know SO LITTLE and have such poor vocabularies and conversational skills. Perhaps people don’t talk to their children enough. Maybe they don’t take time to answer questions. I know for a fact they don’t do something my own parents did often- read. I can remember Dad sitting in his chair reading the encyclopedia volumes we got as premiums at the grocery store! He was fascinated by new facts and shared them with all of us. Mom read novels and magazines purchased at flea markets. Poverty never kept us from being educated!
So every aspect of education gives me mixed feelings, hope and regret. We do what we can, where we are, with what we have…and hope that it is enough. But I always regret that we can’t do more.