Today Reece celebrated his 100th day of kindergarten, along with Groundhog Day. I never did this when I was in school, but it seems to be the norm at least around here these days. To celebrate the occasion, each child in his class made a poster displaying 100 items of their choosing.
Since he loves wearing rubber bands around his wrist, we thought that was the perfect thing to collect. With the help of our neighbors and friends, we were able to collect more than we needed and he’s very happy to build a collection from the leftovers.
Aside from the celebratory aspect of today, I thought this would be a good time to reflect on his first several months in the California public school system.
You may recall that prior to his first day of kindergarten, I was feeling rather anxious. I was afraid that his natural creativity and curiosity would be stifled, that he wouldn’t get enough time to play, that there would be too many worksheets and too much homework.
We are supporters of the public school system and never dreamed of considering private school for our kids, so I surprised myself when I seriously considered keeping Reece in his preschool for its kindergarten program in order to preserve his love of exploring and experimenting.
California schools don’t have the best reputation, but fortunately for us, we’re in a decent district and our local school is known for being pretty good. In the end, we decided to be a part of our immediate community and stick with the school we can walk to.
I’m glad we did.
The education system in this country has plenty of faults, but there are a lot of things to like about the choice we made to keep our son in his assigned school.
Walking to school is mostly everything I dreamed. I grew up having to take a bus to school or get driven there and I always envied the characters on my favorite TV shows who could just walk. It’s a little more than a half-mile and with Reece the slow walker that he is, he actually rides his bike while I jog with Emme in the stroller, otherwise we’d never get there! It’s a great way to start the day with our bodies moving and our blood flowing. When we’re forced to drive to school because of the weather or otherwise, I try to do jumping jacks or something else with Reece instead.
He gets adequate recess time. The official kindergarten schedule lists two recess periods, but lucky for us he has a teacher that more often than not throws in a third recess towards the end of the day. I see so much on Facebook about kindergarteners barely getting one 15 minute recess a day, so I am very thankful that Reece gets so much time to move around as 5-year-olds should.
His teacher is the child-whisperer. While not the stereotypical bedazzled-sweater-for-every-holiday type of teacher, his teacher is soft-spoken, calm and structured. She gets the kids in a routine and speaks to them sternly when needed, but without raising her voice. The kids know what to expect and it works well.
The class sizes are small. I am thrilled that we got so lucky this year and Reece’s class only has 21 kids. I have heard horror stories of classes being packed with more than teachers can handle, so I feel fortunate that we got a good year with less kids.
We are a part of the community. This was one of the biggest reasons we decided to keep Reece in this school when we could have either kept him at his preschool or applied for a transfer to a “better” school within the district. I wanted to see our neighbors as we walked to school. I wanted to get to know the people who live around us. I love that when I find out where his classmates live, it’s always right around the corner. It’s a good feeling to be a part of the community where you live.
And now back to those faults I mentioned.
There is so much sitting. This has been one of Reece’s major complaints from day one, even though he’s more used to it now. Yes, he has adequate recess time and gets to move around throughout the day. His teacher is good about rotating the groups of kids so that they are moving every 10 minutes or so, if only from one table to the next. But still, they are sitting a lot of the day.
There are so many worksheets. This was a major concern of mine going into kindergarten and sadly, it’s true. Reece comes home with about 20 worksheets every week. At preschool, he loved the outdoor learning areas, like the science center where they could explore with their own hands the concepts they were learning about. In kindergarten, science is more about worksheets. Sure, they look at bugs or cut open an apple, but after that they are doing worksheets about it. I know they need to practice writing and math and all that, but a more hands-on exploration would be nice. Guess I’ll have to sign him up for outside activities to get more of that. Which leads me to…
Kindergarten is overly academic. Just as I feared. Watching your kid learn to read, write sentences and do math is pretty cool, but I still think five years old is too early to push it. Reece loves to learn, but not in a sit down and let’s do this worksheet sort of way, and I’m concerned this is going to discourage him and lead him to think learning is boring. This boy wants nothing more than to build and create things like real working robots, rocket ships and tree houses (and is crazy disappointed when we tell him that we aren’t skilled enough to do any of that), so I’m trying to use the approach that he needs to learn all this stuff to get there. I never want to see his desire to create fade away.
So there you have it. One hundred days in and not too shabby even if it’s not everything I ever wanted. I’d love to hear from you about your child’s kindergarten experience!