NOTE: This post is intended more as a rhetorical question, WTF kind of thing. It's not aimed at parents, children, or teachers. If you're one of the handful of legislators who decide children's curricula in this country, then yeah, feel guilty or insulted, OR THINK ABOUT THIS. Otherwise? We're all stuck in this system together and my intention is not to insult anyone. Particularly not children.
I'm - well, WE'RE - in an odd sort of limbo situation here at my house. PA Cyber, the home schooling outfit we use, is in fact considered a charter school in this state. If I were to switch the Goober over to brick-and-mortar school, it would be treated as a transfer between two school districts, not a fresh enrollment. When I DID enroll the kid, it was done in person, with all the stuff (vaccine records, eye tests, you name it) that goes along with other public school admissions. We follow the same mandated state curricula as every other public school in Pennsylvania - we just do it at home, on the computer. The Goober has an official teacher with a degree and certificate and it is not me. I do not know how other states do this. I do not know how other home schooling outfits do this. I'm sure some home-schooling parents pull it out of their ass; I'm also sure that the majority of them follow a set curricula like I do, one way or another. I'm also sure there is HUGE variance between different public schools, private schools, home schools, and even classrooms across the hall from each other.
That said, because I'm home-schooling (sorta), I'm more intimately acquainted with what the Goober is learning than most parents probably are, whose children are in more traditional schools. (I AM NOT SAYING IT IS BAD OR GOOD, I'M ABSOLUTELY NOT IMPLYING ANYTHING ABOUT MYSELF OR OTHER PARENTS. IT JUST IS.) We're chugging our way through, and the Goober surprises me regularly, with what she knows and how fast she learns new stuff. She's reading well and learning to write and having a fine time. But I keep thinking one thing.
ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?
The stuff they're expecting these kids to learn is completely ridiculous. I understand reading is fundamental and writing is right behind it on the scale of importance. BUT THIS IS BLEEDING KINDERGARTEN.
They've got these kids doing illustrated journal entries, BEFORE they formally teach them writing. This is stuff I didn't do until second grade, thirty-five years ago. Today's science lesson involved first learning what a chart is, drawing one, labeling it, then sorting animals into it by habitat. ONE SUBJECT. ONE DAY. Social studies seems to be concentrating on traditional kindergarten-level stuff like what a family is and conversing without being irritating. Science is going on ad nauseum about what makes a thing living or 'non-living'. Fine. But then they've got the kids reading and writing with no real lead-in.
When I was in kindergarten in the mid seventies, we spent the year learning social skills, basic counting, colors, shapes, and letters. There were three of us in the entire school district who started kindergarten knowing how to read, and they didn't know what to do with us and basically ignored us for the year. (We played and hung out with the other kids. No drama from administration or us.) Now? Kids are expected to know all of that going in. ALL OF IT. This was explained to me; apparently the kids are supposed to learn all that kindergarten stuff in preschool.
Kindergarten was invented in the 1800s to basically acclimate kids to the idea of school, what to do in a class room, and lay the foundation for starting real school - FIRST GRADE, AS IN ONE - the next year. Now, what, they read War and Peace in first grade? Yes, yes, I know there are all sorts of psychological and educational justifications on why we're dumping all this shit on five year old children. I've read it all, while researching home school vs. formal school. They've certainly worked out their reasons and excuses.
Meanwhile, the problems children have in school here in the US are skyrocketing. Behavioral problems, developmental problems, anxiety, depression, you name it. Depressed five year olds. Statistically it's worrisome. No, it's horrifying. (Also, these charts with "unknown factor"? YEAH THANKS FOR THE HELP. Good gourd.)
But I wonder. (Of course I wonder. I think too much.) Is the problem really the kids, or the curricula? Imagine, it seems no one has done a study on this! Shock! Yes, some kids have problems. No, I am not claiming to know specifically what an exact cause for an exact child is. But here's a thought. Maybe so many kids are having problems, because we're pushing them too hard? Sure, some kids have always been able to read early, have been great at math early, have been skilled artists early. But is it fair to expect ALL THE CHILDREN to live up to that? Mozart wrote chamber music at age five. Should they expect all kids to do that?
Most of all, is it fair to the kids to have no fallback plan when they can't live up to it?