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.

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About Mother Ruckus

Living the dream of motherhood and hoping to survive. View all posts by Mother Ruckus

6 responses to “Six reasons why we are pulling our son from kindergarten

  • Susy

    I remember having Dora pulled from her 4th grade teacher to be placed in a different room for similar reasons. It is CRIMINAL to suck the life out of our 5 year olds via systemic ‘sit in your seat,’ ‘fill out the worksheet’ pedagogy.

    We know more about how our brains develop than we have ever known… yet we continue to ‘teach’ with outdated methods that directly contradict what we crave and NEED as learners.

    I’m so proud of you guys for taking these bold steps… and saying, ‘This ain’t gonna happen to my boy!’

    All my love! ❤

    • Mother Ruckus

      Thank you, Susy, for your heart-felt feedback. I actually wrote this back in October when we did pull him from school. It was not an easy decision, just as home-schooling is not easy. After three full months of teaching him at home, I know we made the right decision. We have our lively, creative, playful son back!

  • Tara

    Amen, sister! We finished out the Kindergarten year, but I should have just pulled my son halfway through when I realized that it wasn’t working for him. We have been homeschooling this year, and he is so happy! And he loves learning again and once again plays and is imaginative. I didn’t realize that school could kill that spark of creativity, fun, and curiosity in a child until it happened to my son. Thankfully, all of those things come back once you have enough time away from that environment.

    • Mother Ruckus

      Tara, thank you for your comments! I’m so happy you’re having a wonderful time homeschooling your son. I’m sorry you had a similar experience with kindergarten. It is terribly depressing to take a child to school everyday when he hates going- especially when it is kindergarten. The term kindergarten originates from Germany meaning the child’s garden. A child’s garden should be a joyful, creative space. Good for you for creating that environment at home!

  • margarethoyne

    what on earth school(s) do this any more? my kids never experienced this in kindergarten, or any class room for that matter… and that was 15 years ago…..happy to see parents take responsibility for their kids but what about those kids who remain? they are the majority that will be voting, hiring and educating….maybe change within the system instead of running? just a thought.

    • Mother Ruckus

      Margaret, you bring up a very important point!
      “what about those kids who remain?”
      I agree. Something needs to be done for the majority of our nation’s children in public schools. The system needs to change.

      That is why I shared my experience and my decision to home-school via this blog. Like I have said, I taught in public schools for eight years. My father and grandfather served many years on their local school boards. I come from a long line of public school advocates.

      I believe in public education; however, I can not sacrifice my son’s health and well-being to better the system. You should have seen what he was like after six weeks of school. He wasn’t the same person. It was heartbreaking to watch my lively, imaginative son become depressed and despondent.

      I will continue to advocate for an education overhaul, but until I see real improvements I will pursue alternative education for my children.

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