Thursday, July 31, 2008
Why, oh why, do so many parents want to send their babies off to school so quickly? Little children who aren't even five yet, and won't be for 3-4 more months are being put in kindergarten because their parents think they need to be academically challenged. At age four. Start school early.
Do they realize that their little ones will be in school for at least the next 13 years? Why do they want to put an abrupt end to the pure freedom of childhood and throw them into a classroom where they are expected to sit still and be quiet for hours at a time? Why do they want to send them away so early to a place they will spend 7 hours a day, 5 days a week, 180 days a year, for the next 13 years?
These early years of childhood are so fleeting. I'm so glad my parents were wise enough to realize that, even though I probably could have handled school early, having taught myself to read at age 4, they didn't push to put me in kindergarten when I wasn't even 5 yet. I have a December birthday, and many of the parents I know who are doing this have children with birthdays in November and December.
I hear all sorts of reasons: she's so smart, he'll be bored at home, etc. I don't buy it. I think the real reason is that they don't want to have to deal with their children all day. They want them to be someone else's problem. Parents, for some reason, don't think they are smart enough to challenge their children and nurture them, so they turn them over to the schools. I think it's very sad indeed.
My oldest will be starting school on August 11th. He has a May birthday, so he has been 5 for a few months. Because he is a boy, I was a bit wary early in his life of starting him in school the fall after he turned 5 because I knew from personal experience that boys can be a bit immature in the early years of schooling and even up through high school graduation, so it's best to start them later, not earlier. Now I feel comfortable with putting him in school because he is ready. However, I feel like his real childhood is coming to a halt--the carefree days of playing dress-up, drawing to his little heart's content, looking at every book in the house, spontaneous day trips to the library, and swimming after lunch are all ending when he starts school in just over a week. It makes me sad and leaves me wondering if I gave him enough time for real free play or if I let him squander away these precious short years watching TV. Sure, he'll have summer vacation, but it's not the same as the freedom of the early childhood years. In my house, he'll have to keep up his skills during the summer so he's not behind when the next school year starts. I'm sad that his young years of free childhood are coming to an end. I'm excited because he has so much potential--he has demonstrated his giftedness time and time again. But those early years are over for him. He's a big kid now, in a whole new phase. And once the first one goes off to school, the rest follow closely behind.
You can bet that I will not be putting my two boys, whose birthdays fall in September and October, in school before they are 5. School will start, they will turn 5, and they will wait for the following fall to go to kindergarten. I did preschool at home with my oldest, and I intend to do the same for the rest of them. I want to cherish my time with them because it's very short. I'm not going to be pushing them to start school just because every other parent is trying to get their children into an early learning program. No way.
I want my kids to have a childhood.