Six reasons why we are pulling our son from kindergarten

Six reasons why we are pulling our son from kindergarten in the public school

  1. Sitting still for 7 hours a day is not developmentally appropriate for five and six year olds.

The first week of school, our son was beyond exhausted at the end of the day. Our normally energetic, spirited boy who loves to ride his bike, climb trees in the yard, and run away from “bad guys” was too tired to play outside. Even on the most beautiful warm days of September and October, he would say he wanted to “go inside to rest.”

My husband and I thought it would take time for him to adjust to the long school day. Six weeks into school, his behavior only worsened. He fluctuated between being despondent and clingy to irritable and cantankerous. The slightest event would set him into a fit of inconsolable crying.

We kept my son home from school three days within the first six weeks of school, because we thought he physically could not handle the rigor of attending school those days. After the third absence, we received a letter in the mail with a copy of his attendance record threatening that legally he can only miss up to five days of parent excused absences in any given semester. (In other words, the school does not trust parents to make intelligent decisions for their children’s health and well being).

  1. School interferes with his innate desire to learn and his creativity.

Children are naturally curious and eager to discover the world where they live. My son loves to read and with his own initiative has learned a great deal about space, plants, the water cycle, and other subjects. Ask him the order of the planets or which planet he would like to visit, and he will enthusiastically answer.

Before he started kindergarten, our son would draw intricate pictures and write elaborate, creative stories with multiple pages of story lines and illustrations. Since the start of school, he does not have the energy or enthusiasm for such imaginative works.

During the school day, he has no choice in what or how he learns with recess being his only opportunity to play.

Upon returning home from school, my son has exactly 3 hours to do homework, practice piano, eat dinner, take a bath, and read stories before bed. This leaves little or no time for playing. Every night, kindergarteners at his school have homework.

The teacher informed us that if a student does not complete his homework at home, he will use recess time to complete it. One night, I worked with my son to complete all of his homework, except I did not force him to color the assigned picture.   With a degree in early childhood and eight years of teaching experience, I rationalized that the four pages of coloring worksheets sent home that day was enough fine motor practice. The next day, he was held in from recess to color the picture.

  1. Worksheets are not developmentally appropriate for kindergarten.

I understand teachers are under immense pressure from government mandates and administrators to teach prescribed curriculum and facilitate more and more standardized tests. However, five year olds are still five year olds, and they should be learning through play. Period.

“Play is the work of the child.” – Maria Montessori

“Play is the highest form of research.” – Albert Einstein

“The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct.” – Carl Jung

If you doubt children can learn through play, please learn about Tools of the Mind. It is an early childhood approach to preschool and kindergarten that centers on play. It was featured in the New York Times bestseller, Nurture Shock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. It’s not just possible for children to learn through play; they learn so much better through play. In one school district in the U.S., teachers were selected at random to teach the traditional curriculum or Tools of the Mind. The spring standardized tests revealed the Tools of the Mind classrooms were almost a full year ahead of their peers in the regular classrooms. Personally, I have used Tools of the Mind in my kindergarten classroom the two years I taught kindergarten and witnessed the success first hand. Play is not only possible but imperative for children.

  1. The rewards and punishments offered at schools undermine children’s intrinsic motivation to learn.

In the first week of school, my son came home dismayed. He said, “I sat on the carpet and listened to the teacher like I should, but I didn’t get a Rosie Buck.”

Over and over again, research has proven the more external motivators given to children, the less intrinsic motivation children have. With this knowledge, why do educators continue to offer rewards for every little sign of “good behavior?” Look at the tasks teachers are asking students to complete. Would you be motivated to spend a week or more completing a standardized test? Would you want to fill out another meaningless worksheet? Instead of asking, “How can we motivate students?” We should be asking, “Why aren’t students motivated?”

  1. Schools smother children’s creativity and critical thinking.

I’ve worked as an educator and I’ve attended workshops on critical thinking skills; I’ve printed out and referenced Bloom’s Taxonomy. Every classroom in the country could have Bloom’s Taxonomy plastered to the walls, but it would not solve the problem of critical thinking. Higher level thinking skills can only be practiced when students are encouraged to think freely and have their opinions and ideas valued. In traditional classrooms, the only ideas rewarded are the “correct answers.” This does not breed an environment for critical thinking. The traditional classroom fosters anxiety and fear of failure.

After a month of school, I asked my husband to look through the papers and craft projects our son had brought home from school and find one – just one paper or project that showed some sort of self-expression or creativity. What did he find? Mostly coloring worksheets (e.g. color the leaf marked “red” red, color the scarecrow’s hat labeled “blue” blue, trace the numbers on the number line, etc.). He could not find one example of my son’s vivid imagination.

  1. What the school values and what we value as a family does not align.

Of course we want our son to be able to follow directions and take orders from another adult, but that is not the only or most important skill we want him to have. As far as I can tell, the school values “good” behavior over everything else– how to do what you’re told to reach the correct answer in order to not miss recess and possibly earn a Rosie Buck.

If You Give a Housewife a Vacuum…

My grown stepdaughter and boyfriend fly into Austin tonight.

In preparation, Mister and I watched Meet the Parents.  We took notes of what not to do.

Mister’s not going to talk about snakes or milking cats.  I’m avoiding the word “pooh-poohs”, which is rather difficult considering I have two toddlers in the house.

I prepared for their arrival in other ways, as well.  I cleaned both high chairs, washed the bathrooms, made cookies, bought snacks, wrote a message on the fridge using Bunder’s alphabet letters, rewrote the message after Mister chastised me, made the beds, hid some toys, etc.  I reserved my final task for naptime today – SCRUB THE KITCHEN FLOOR.  I thought globs of dried yogurt might gross out our guests.

Right after I lay both kids down in their separate rooms for naps, I eagerly attack the kitchen telling myself, “Your cup of tea and quiet time will be a delightful reward for cleaning the kitchen floor”.  (I know that sounds a little pathetic, but I hope you other SAHM’s can relate).

Before I can wash the floor, I have to find it underneath the assorted crayons, colored pencils, stickers, toys, and dog bowls.  Therefore, I pick everything up and carry a few chairs into the living room.

Afterward, I drag out the vacuum and alternate vacuuming with the hard-floor nozzle on the main areas and the straight nozzle in the corners and edges.  When I make my way to the fridge, I notice the vent at the bottom is loaded with dust.  I attempt to vacuum the dust, but it doesn’t budge.  I kneel next to the vent, and try to remove it.  It seems stuck.  I lie on the floor looking for a release latch placing my face uncomfortably close to the dust and dirt.  Nothing.  I kneel again and give a few tugs.  “Mister will kill me if I break this vent,” I half-heartedly worry as I yank harder.

The vent pops off and I place it in the sink to wash later.  With the vent removed, I clearly see how inept I am at house cleaning.  I start to vacuum the dust, dirt, Cheerios, and M&M’s at the front of the fridge only to discover a boatload of kids’ magnets.  “Ah-ha!  I’ve found the missing magnets!”

The vacuum nozzle doesn’t fit under the fridge, so I can’t easily rescue the magnets.  I go searching the house for something thin enough to use under the fridge.  Ideally, I’m looking for a thin yardstick, but all I can find is a yardstick in the shape of a rectangular prism (I’m showing off my third grade geometry skills).

Instead, I grab a piece of plywood from the garage.  I wrestle it around the kitchen island and onto the floor.  Too big!  What’s thinner than plywood?

In desperation, I grab a flyswatter from under the kitchen sink.  Sweet success!  It’s working.  I sweep the flyswatter from the far left of the fridge to the far right pushing out countless magnets covered in dust.  The flyswatter isn’t quite long enough, so I grab the part used for swatting flies to extend the handle as far back as possible.  I gag a little to be touching fly guts, but remind myself that I’m already nose deep in under-fridge gunk.

I vacuum the dust from the magnets before placing them in the sink with the fridge vent.  Then, I vacuum the area surrounding the fridge where the dirty magnets previously lay.  I crouch on the floor once more to survey the situation.

Yuck!  Thick dirt mats the floor under the fridge.

I hear Kiki cry.  Naptime’s over.  The kitchen sink is full of magnets and one large vent.

I didn’t even start scrubbing the floor.

What's under the fridge?

Just Write. 

E-I-E-I-O Duet

Both kids fuss and whine loudly from the back seat.  I stretch to grab their portable DVD player, insert a disk, and fast forward through what feels like twenty-seven previews.  All the while, I’m attempting to hush and comfort them, “I know.  I know.  We’re almost home. “

It’s hour thirteen of a fourteen-hour car trip.  “The last hour is always the worse,” I complain quietly to Mister as the kids settle into watching Disney’s Baby McDonald video.

“Are you ready to switch yet?  I’m more than happy to drive now!”  I tease.  Mister laughs.  No one wants the taxing job of entertaining the kids in the back seat from the passenger’s seat.

The song Old MacDonald starts to play from the DVD’s speaker.  Bunder joins in, followed by Kiki.  As so often happens with young children, a tense moment spontaneously becomes joyful.

See for yourself.  Pardon the raw footage.  I grabbed the closest device, my iPhone.  Oh, and don’t worry.  Kiki’s wearing frosting on her nose.  I swear it’s not boogers.

Just Write

Here Comes Peter Cottontail

Because traumatizing poor Kiki with Santa Claus isn’t sufficient, I took her to see the Easter Bunny.  I thought it’d be a good test of her tolerance of adults wearing large, ominous costumes.  See her reaction below.

See Bunder's cheesy grin

Prior to placing her on the Easter Bunny’s lap, I asked her, “Kiki, will you sit on the Easter Bunny?”

She clung to me, shook her head no, and verbalized a very distinct negative.  I asked, “Will you stand next to the Easter Bunny?”

She shook her head vehemently and again answered, “NO!”

Therefore, I did what every other cold-hearted, holiday loving, picture craving mother does.  I ripped her from my arms, placed her kicking and screaming on the bunny’s lap, and danced behind the photographer cheering, “SMILE!”

I know I’m not winning any mother-of-the-year awards.  However, I think she’ll thank me when she’s older and has a funny picture to show her boyfriend.

Linking up with Just Write

Best Laid Plans of Mice and Moms

I remember teaching my third grade students to think like writers – to live like writers.  I encouraged them to see their lives through the eyes of a storyteller.  Oh, how I loved teaching writing.

I miss those students.  Some days I think teaching a class of twenty-two children belonging to other people is easier than managing a day with two children belonging to me.  I digress…

Just as I taught my students, a continual narration runs through my head regularly.  As I experience a long drive in the car with my kids, I imagine the parts I would tell you.  Certainly, I’d include this conversation:

“Mommy!  Mommy!  Open your eyes!  Mommy!  Mommy!  Open your eyes!”

“Bunder, I know you have lots to tell me, but Mommy really needs a nap.  Will you please be quiet while I sleep?  Watch your movie or color with your crayons.”

“Okay Mommy.  I’ll be quiet so you can sleep.”

“Thank you, Pumpkin.”

Ten seconds pass.

“Mommy!  Mommy!  Are you asleep?  Mommy!  Are you asleep?”


Sometimes, I’m so caught up in watching the story unfold, narrating it in my mind that I forget to react.  I forget to parent.  I know!  I’m that lady- the one sitting back all calm and reflectively watching my children wreak havoc on innocent bystanders.  Such was the case earlier this week.

All day Sunday and most of Monday morning, I built anticipation with my children to visit the Butterfly House.  “Oh, I can’t wait to see the butterflies!  I can’t believe the blue Morphos are back!  I wonder if one will land on me again this year.”

Why do I do this?  I’m not certain.  Is it to extend the fifteen-minute trip into a grander excursion than it really is?  Is it to encourage cooperative and obedient behavior prior to the journey?  Or is it my own twisted masochistic tendency?  I think the latter.  Surely, after this many years as a stepparent and parent, I should know better.  All too often circumstances outside of my control ruin my schemes.   Ah, the best laid plans of mice and moms.

Truly, I blame myself for Monday’s calamity.  After all, I stoked the fire of excitement for Bunder and Kiki.  I built the Butterfly House up so high, not even Godzilla could climb it.

I thought these thoughts as I watched my offspring kick and pound on the doors of the Butterfly House Monday morning.  Over their shrieks and cries, I attempted to read the sign to them, “Closed on Mondays.”

They didn’t hear me.  I stepped back and observed.  Dreadful to admit, I wished for a video camera to record their tantrums.  No video camera existed, so I pressed record in my mind – narrating the story as I watched.

Seconds, (okay maybe minutes later), I snapped out of my trance as other parents tried to console my kin.  I tried not to laugh (okay, I did laugh, but I tried not to – shouldn’t that count for something).

For the benefit of the bystanders, I said all the things a parent should say in such a situation, “Oh, I know you’re upset.  I’m upset, too.  I feel frustrated that the Butterfly House isn’t open today.  See the doors are locked.  We can’t go inside.   Don’t worry.  We’ll come back tomorrow.  Blah, blah, blah.”

I said all this while I half carried, half-dragged Bunder and Kiki toward the car.  This was not an easy task with a 25-pound toddler, 35-pound toddler, and 10-pound diaper bag.  But of course, I deserved it.  I was the nitwit who set up this disaster.

At least, we made it through the doors on Tuesday.

unBEARably Crabby

I lay Kiki down for her usual mid-morning nap, even though she doesn’t seem tired.  I shower while I listen to her babble in her room.  I think, “How will I ever shower once she gives up her morning nap for good?”

Her talking fades, quiet ensues, and I linger through the process of dressing.  Ten to fifteen minutes later, I hear a shriek, then another, then a “MAAAAAAAA-MEEEEEEEEEEEE!  MAAAAAAAA-MEEEEEEEEEEEE!”

I wait a few minutes, knowing she had not and will not nap this morning.  Ahh, the all too familiar dance – two naps are too many- one nap’s too few.

Our day continues, and I notice her heavy eyes before lunch.  I rush through the meal and attempt an earlier naptime for Bunder and her.  Alas, I’m the only one sensing this urgency.  Bunder and Kiki conspire against me.

Can’t you just see them – whispering in the corner?  Bunder saying something like, “Hey, Kiki!  You know what would make Mom really crazy?  Let’s run around acting wild, screaming from room to room, and when she calls us or asks us to do something, let’s ignore her.  When we sense she’s finally had enough and she picks us up to put us in bed, let’s kick and scream some more and flail our arms accidentally hitting her in the face.”

I can see Kiki listening to her big brother’s words, nodding her little head, and solemnly agreeing to the plan.

All right, maybe my imagination has the best of me, but haven’t you ever thought your children were hatching a secret plot to destroy your last shred of sanity?

By the time I place Kiki in her bed, she shows all the warning signs of being overtired.  She fusses a lot before falling asleep, sleeps for only an hour, and wakes like a big, Mama Grizzly, unBEARably crabby.  (Stupid pun – I couldn’t resist – too much Dr. Seuss these days).

Nothing makes her happy: no binky, no cup of milk, no lovey, no dancing on my hip.  She cries and cries.  I take her temperature.  She cries some more because I won’t let her eat the thermometer.  I begin to dread the clock.  “How am I going to make it the rest of the day?”  I think.

I wake Bunder a little early, usher him to the bathroom, dress him, shoe them both amid protests, and head outside for a walk.

Instantly, everyone’s running and laughing.  Mother Nature is one of my favorite besties.   Spring is pretty awesome, too.  Thank God for sunshine and warm weather and flowers!

Pooping in Public

Kiki pretends to bite Bunder who sits next to her in the shopping cart.  Bunder screams hysterically, “She’s going to bite me!  She’s going to bite me!”

Sometimes Kiki does bite Bunder, but only when she deems necessary (e.g. he takes her toy away, bonks her on the head, pushes her down, etc.)  In the shopping cart, she’s doing it to experience Bunder’s fun reaction.

I distract them with snacks, mini Nilla wafers and yogurt raisins.  They eat quietly, while I attempt to find juice with the least amount of arsenic in it.  “Did Consumer Reports recommend Mott’s or was it Juicy Juice?  They didn’t test the H.E.B. brand.”  Bunder distracts my thoughts with the one sentence all moms in public places dread to hear…

“Mommy, I have to go poop.”

Because I’m trying for the mom-of-the-year award, I attempt to talk him out of it. “Are you sure?  We’re almost done shopping.  Don’t you think you can wait?”

He refuses.  I sigh and ask the closest sales associate for directions to the restrooms.  Of course, they’re on the exact opposite side of the store.

Approaching the restrooms, I look for a family room.  “This will work,” I talk to myself.  “I’ll just push the cart with Kiki into the bathroom like I do our stroller.”

Oh, wait.  My cart is full of food and my options are “Men” or “Women.”  (Recently, in my foggy Mommy state, I took Bunder into Men’s room thinking, “Okay.  He’s a boy.  Gotta go in the boys’ room.”  I saw the urinals and snapped out of my daze).

I throw my huge diaper bag over my shoulder, because I don’t dare leave my wallet, iPhone, and snot rags in the middle of the supermarket aisle.  I unstrap and heft Bunder out of his seat.  Then I do the same for Kiki hoisting her on my hip while balancing the diaper bag and holding Bunder’s hand.

“Don’t touch ANYTHING,” I hiss at both of them.

Inside the restroom, I gag at the smell.  Bunder instantly drags his fingers across the metal stall doors.

“Don’t touch!  Don’t touch!”  I scream.

I choose the largest stall and try not to retch at the sight of the less-than-clean toilet.  I glance around at my options for placing Kiki.  I can’t hold her and hold Bunder on top of the four-foot high toilet at the same time.

I cringe as I set Kiki standing on the ground next to me.  “Don’t touch anything,” I warn for the umpteenth time.

She instantly walks to the door and grabs for the latch.  “No!  No!”  I scream, “Don’t touch!”

I wipe off the toilet and examine Bunder.  “I guess I have to remove at least one shoe.  Otherwise he won’t be able to straddle the toilet,” I think.

“Okay, Bunder, Mommy’s going to take off your shoe.  No!  No!  Don’t sit down!  The floor’s dirty.  No!  No!  Don’t grab the toilet.  Hold onto me for balance.”

I set Bunder on top of the toilet in an awkward position.  It looks as if he’s doing the splits over the toilet and about to topple into it head first.  I squat next to him holding his torso to steady him, but he grabs the toilet in between the toilet seat where I didn’t wipe.  “No!  No!  Don’t grab that!  Put your hands up here,” I move his hands to the seat.

“Uh-uh!  What’s Kiki doing?”  I think as I glance behind me.

“No, Kiki!  Don’t touch the floor!  What’s in your mouth?”

We finish, and I take turns holding each of them up to the sink.  I try to balance them on my knee while scrubbing their little hands.

We make our way toward the back of the store, as I daydream about showering them with disinfectant.

When will I learn to quit grocery shopping?

Just Write


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