Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Redshirting: good for your little boy, but bad for America?

I should be napping (Emma keeps waking us up before 6 a.m.)...but instead I'm researching kindergarten "redshirting." We already decided to hold Emma back a year because her birthday is one day before the Sep. 30th cutoff. If only we hadn't decided to be induced lo those five and a half years ago, it probably would not have even been a decision at all.

Right now I'm researching redshirting for Charlie. Word around the sandbox is that people are redshirting June birthdays now, especially boys. Charlie's birthday is June 8th. In Virginia, where we live, school doesn't end until well into June. That means if we redshirted him, he would be turning seven at the end of kindergarten. He might as well be growing a mustache and wearing just sounds kind of weirdly old to be in kindergarten doesn't it?

So, at first I was all, no way are we redshirting Charlie. And then now all the chatter about redshirting has got me to of course I fired up the internet to see what it has to say about it. The answer is lots, and like most internet searches, it has left me feeling even more confused than before I started. Confused, but full of good quotes and statistics! Like, here's a good one:

Fred Morrison, a developmental psychologist at the University of Michigan who has studied the impact of falling on one side or the other of the birthday cutoff, sees the endless ''graying of kindergarten,'' as it's sometimes called, as coming from a parental obsession not with their children's academic accomplishment but with their social maturity. ''You couldn't find a kid who skips a grade these days,'' Morrison told me. ''We used to revere individual accomplishment. Now we revere self-esteem, and the reverence has snowballed in unconscious ways -- into parents always wanting their children to feel good, wanting everything to be pleasant.''
Hmmm...yep. That pretty much sums me up. And what's so bad about wanting everything to be pleasant all the time? (said the girl who likes to have her marshmallow and eat it too.) Here's the article where that little nugget came from.

And, eeek! Take a look at this passage from the same article:

Robert Fulghum listed life lessons in his 1986 best seller ''All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.'' Among them were:

Clean up your own mess.

Don't take things that aren't yours.

Wash your hands before you eat.

Take a nap every afternoon.


Were he to update the book to reflect the experience of today's children, he'd need to call it ''All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Preschool,'' as kindergarten has changed. The half day devoted to fair play and nice manners officially began its demise in 1983, when the National Commission on Excellence in Education published ''A Nation at Risk,'' warning that the country faced a ''rising tide of mediocrity'' unless we increased school achievement and expectations. No Child Left Behind, in 2002, exacerbated the trend, pushing phonics and pattern-recognition worksheets even further down the learning chain. As a result, many parents, legislatures and teachers find the current curriculum too challenging for many older 4- and young 5-year-olds, which makes sense, because it's largely the same curriculum taught to first graders less than a generation ago. Andersen's kindergartners are supposed to be able to not just read but also write two sentences by the time they graduate from her classroom. It's no wonder that nationwide, teachers now report that 48 percent of incoming kindergartners have difficulty handling the demands of school....

Furthermore, as Elizabeth Graue, a former kindergarten teacher who now studies school-readiness and redshirting at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, points out, ''Readiness is a relative issue.'' Studies of early-childhood teachers show they always complain about the youngest students, no matter their absolute age. 'In Illinois it will be the March-April-May kids; in California, it will be October-November-December,'' Graue says. ''It's really natural as a teacher to gravitate toward the kids who are easy to teach, especially when there's academic pressure and the younger kids are rolling around the floor and sticking pencils in their ears.''

Ugh...I have already changed my mind like three times since starting this post...and now I have to go pick up Charlie from preschool. Right now I'm just thankful he has at least another year of playdough and blocks.

What does everyone think about this redshirting thing? Anyone want to chime in?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Good things come to those who wait

Here's a really interesting article from The New Yorker about how important it is to teach our children to wait...and then reward them for their efforts. Sadly, I think I'm an eat-the-marshmallow kind of girl. My parents are going, "yep, you are, and this article explains a lot." You'll see what I'm talking about when you read the article. Whatever you do, don't think about eating marshmallows while you're reading it. You're already thinking about it aren't you?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

Four out of five of us are sick today. Brandon is being a real trooper and trying to act like he is not sick. He's been making all my mother's day dreams come true by accommodating my bi-annual urge to rearrange the furniture. And now he's organizing our garage to make room for all of the furniture which is either too broken or ugly to stay. Anyone need a broken toddler bed, broken train table or ugly kids' table and chairs? Anyway, I'm really due back on the couch now..hope you're all having a swell Mother's Day!