I don’t get it.
My son is 5 years old. He is an energetic, inquisitive, happy boy in kindergarten.
Why does he have to write exactly between the lines .. I just don’t get.
Do you remember kindergarten back in the days? A time of making friends and learning how to play, a time full of outdoors adventure and laughter, a time to get acquainted with school and start your education journey on the right foot: with a passion full of wonder and fondness of school.
Yeah, these days, not so much.
Kindergarten open house, I got a huge fat packet full of guidelines, assessment criteria, and a long list of sight words. Turns out, they not only need to recognize those words, they also have to know how to write them. As in spell them, in their weekly dictation.
I looked around, are you sure this is the kindergarten open house? Not grade 1? And why aren’t the other moms as shocked as I am?
Before going on, you have to know something about my son, he is the most amazing boy ever (of course I believe that I am his mom). The first time he was assessed, he got a stomach ache and they called me to pick him up. I quickly figured out there is nothing wrong so I asked, “What’s wrong sweetie? Is your tummy ok now?”
DS: “If I tell you the truth will you send me back?”
Me: “No don’t worry, we are already close to home. What’s wrong, is everything ok?”
DS: “My tummy is ok now, but I wasn’t ok in school.”
Me: “Why? Did you want to go to the toilet and didn’t?”
DS: No. Ms. S. was asking us about all the letters and their sounds and I forgot some and I got so scared then my tummy started to hurt.”
What kind of pressure is my baby under that he has a stomach ache because of being stressed out?!!
Me: “It’s ok baby. You shouldn’t be worried or scared. Everyone makes mistakes. That’s how you learn. Even your mom and dad make mistakes. It’ ok.”
DS: “Only you say that mom. But Ms. S. won’t.”
Me: “Of course she will! Do you want me to ask her tomorrow?”
DS: “Yes please! Can you mom?”
Of course I went home and sent Ms. S. a long email expressing, not very shyly, my honest concerns about their ways and how stressful the environment is. I took my son next day and she explained that it was absolutely ok to make mistakes. He was happy, I wasn’t.
I found myself in a very difficult situation, trying to balance the school’s requirement, with what I felt appropriate for my son. I wanted him to love learning and education. I wanted him to love reading and exploring. I didn’t want him to hate school and didn’t want homework to be a daily battle.
So we practiced phonics playing I spy. We practiced reading CVC words playing the frog in the pond game. And we practiced recognizing sight words by hanging a word on the fridge and making it the ‘passcode’ for opening the fridge. I tried the best I can to make it fun for him.
The day came to attend the parent-teacher conference. They will discuss his performance so far. I was worried and was ready for a heated conversation. Then she said:
“Your boy is very special. He has a sense of maturity that I don’t see in the grade 2 and grade 3 boys. He is very polite, eager to learn, and gets along with everyone. But… “
I didn’t really care what came after the ‘but’. I almost cried there in front of everyone. I did it! I always knew my son was amazing but lets face it, every mom thinks that of their child. Hearing it from his teacher, even when I knew academically he wasn’t on par with his fellow students, gave me the validation that I needed. My hard work and sacrifice has all been worth it. Even through my many mistakes and self doubt, I didn’t fail him and helped mold him into an amazing boy.
“But … he still doesn’t know a lot of the sight words and can’t spell most of them. He also has trouble spelling phonetically and constructing sentences. And he needs lots of work on his handwriting.”
I don’t really care. My boy is everything I hoped and wished him to be, even when I am not around to watch. That, I am so very proud of, and is harder to teach than any sight word or phonic.
Me: “Does he do the work assigned to him in class and listen properly?”
Ms. S.: Yes.
Me: “Do you believe he is doing his best?”
Ms. S.: Yes.
Me: Do you see any improvements since last month?”
Ms. S.: Yes. But the assessment criteria…
Me: I don’t really care what it says. I don’t compare him with what they say he should be doing or even with his classmates. My benchmark is his work the month before and if I see an improvement and feel he is doing his best, I am happy. I think you should do the same.”
The parent teacher conference was in December. He now knows most of his sight words, knows how to spell some, can construct a sentence though still has a bit of trouble spelling phonetically. He can read CVC words easily, except for the e and u sounds he takes his time with.
Yes I am proud of all his work and what he has done so far. I am also proud of what he will do till the end of the year. But I am mostly proud that together, we created a fun learning experience and I am happy to say he loves school, and he and his sister fight over who will do homework with me first.
DS: “Mom, I’m going to grade one next year.”
Me: “Yes you are! That’s so exciting! New playground, new classes, and maybe even new friends. I’m sure you will have so much fun!”
DS: “Can you please ask my grade 1 teacher if its ok to make mistakes, just like you asked Ms. S?”
This boy … his wife will be the luckiest girl in the world!