Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Hot Topic: Is school becoming all work and no play?

An SF K Files visitor suggests that you check out the following article in Science Daily. It definitely raises some interesting issues.

All Work And No Play Makes For Troubling Trend in Early Education

ScienceDaily (Feb. 12, 2009) -- Parents and educators who favor traditional classroom-style learning over free, unstructured playtime in preschool and kindergarten may actually be stunting a child’s development instead of enhancing it, according to a University of Illinois professor who studies childhood learning and literacy development.



  1. I heard that Francis Scott Key Elementary has SPELLING TESTS in Kindergarten... can that really be true?

  2. This doesn't surprise me; reading instruction now begins in kindergarten, so why not spelling too? I doubt they are doing words like "hemisphere" or "contiguous", probably more likely Dr. Suess words like cat and hat and mat and pat.

  3. The issue isn't really what words they're spelling, it's that it's being taught in a test format. Is that really appropriate for kindergarteners?

  4. 2:29

    I agree completely. My kid could read and write before he got into Kindergarten, but I still think testing kids that young is wrong.

  5. Taking tests is a part of life. I think it depends on how much pressure is associated with the test. Have they started giving "grades" in kindergarten too? Didn't used to.

  6. At my son's kindergarten he does practice simple words on dittos, and I guess he's probably expected to spell those right, but he also writes a weekly journal entry -- and we parents are supposed to help him sound out words but are specifically told *not* to correct spelling errors. I really like this -- it builds confidence in writing and encourages him to use harder words than he would otherwise try. I try to guide his spelling just enough so that the teacher will be able to understand what he is saying (so that she can write a response, which she does, in simple words that he can sound out). So from this I was thinking that spelling words correctly is not really an emphasis in kindergarten, but maybe I'm mistaken or maybe it varies from school to school.

  7. In public schools, the higher the test scores, the more likely you are to see play incorporated into the kindergarten day. No such luxury for the kids at struggling schools despite the reams and reams of research on teh importance of play in early childhood education.

  8. A lot of people believe that middle-class kids and low-income, at-risk kids need entirely different models of education -- sincere, non-racist people.

  9. "In public schools, the higher the test scores, the more likely you are to see play incorporated into the kindergarten day. "

    I don't think so, at least not at the mostly Chinese Elementary schools, they really drill the kids at those schools. Sad.

  10. 12:12 PM

    Easy there. My son is in Kindergarten at FSK. The school had a spelling bee and the Kinder classes had a list of "stuck in you head words" to practice at home.

  11. My kids in Kg at an SF public have a TEST every Friday. Spelling, simple phrases, sentences. Until another parent begged to change it, the results of these tests were posted for all to see on Friday. My kids developed homework and test anxiety after two weeks. It's terrible.

  12. 10:53: Which school? Please tell us.

  13. My son - at public kindergarten - gets tests periodically. The teacher is very casual about it, makes it no big deal for the kiddos. In my opinion, it's a great way for them to get used to the idea of testing, and also for her to gauge who needs extra help. I do feel that this works for the young class because of her attitude about it.

  14. I think it is sickening and harmful.

  15. This sounds like something parents would want to ask about when they take their tours next fall, so that the people who are sickened by such early testing can avoid applying to schools which test in K.

  16. Indeed.

    There's a reason why they don't start testing until 2nd grade, doing so before then is entirely developmentally inappropriate.

  17. Well, I'm not a big fan of testing, but to the extent it is done in a way that does *not* stress the kids out and helps in the evaluation process, I can see its utility including potentially in kindergarten. In particular I am thinking of an evaluation tool that was used to see how much of the immersion curriculum my kindergartener was picking up, which helped us to identify some problems at the beginning of the year and then, after working on those problems, a subsequent use of the same tool helped to determine that he was picking up much more of the material as the year went on. He does not seem to be aware that he was tested; at least he has never mentioned it as an issue.

  18. The top-tier privates incorporate more play and don't assign homework until later grades so young children have more play time afterschool.

  19. 11:46 ...

    there's a difference between screening for learning disabilities and having regular spelling and math tests for kindergartners. All Kinders in public school are given the Brigance, to see where they are at, academically and I have no objection to that.

  20. Testing KINDERGARTENERS??? Posting test results? WTF?!?!??!?!?!? PLEASE tell us which school?!?!??!?!?!

  21. It sounds like Clarendon.

  22. Mmm - probably one with a big Chinese population.

  23. 4:56 pm on Feb 17th -- is the reason why different models of education are needed for "low income" vs middle class kids because in most middle class families there is support at home?

    Of course its not true across the board, but in my mind a lot boils down to the parental/guardian support at home to read with child, practicing writing journals etc etc.

    So the result is that in the classroom the teacher has to spend more time on basic drill like work for those kids, given the time constraint.

    It is sad. But no one said life was equal or fair.

  24. There's a strong link between spelling skills and reading (I'll look up the research for you if you like; I don't have any links at my fingertips but it's there and it's current). We stopped doing spelling tests back in the low-expectation era of the whole language movement. It was a mistake: as a teacher, I noticed a quick improvement in reading and writing when I returned to weekly spelling tests for my first graders. Kindergarten might be a little early, but I have a feeling that the children themselves are less horrified than you people are!

  25. Might there be better ways to teach than testing?

  26. Sure, there are lots of ways to teach spelling. There are lots of ways of assessing besides pencil-and-paper tests, too. Still, I really doubt a short spelling test is causing much stress. It seems like many children actually enjoy challenging themselves to get as many right as possible, though, and benefit from the quick feedback.

  27. There are lots of ways of assessing besides pencil-and-paper tests, too.

    Yes. The Brigance is mostly observation and oral. Taking a running record while a child reads is an assessment. Watching a child interact with his or her peers to check in on that child's social-emotional development is a test of sorts.

    Still, I really doubt a short spelling test is causing much stress.

    That depends a lot on the teacher, I think. I occasionally ask my K students to take a spelling test in the traditional pencil-and-paper way. But the framing around all of this stuff in my classroom is that the purpose of testing is to test me: Did I teach the skill in a way students could learn it? Some of it? All of it? None of it? We talk about this for literally months in advance: I am paid to teach the students what they need to know. Their job is to let me know what I didn't teach well so I can solve the problem.

    The posting test results thing is becoming more popular at more grade levels every year. I know teachers who think it motivates students; I find it alarming myself.

  28. It is interesting to me that this thread has generated 29 comments in such a short time, yet the thread on managing recess has been up for a week, and only has 5 comments. Apparently we are drawn to controversy more than solutions. Just something to think about.

  29. Managing recess is easy, get more adults on the asphalt and have them coordinate organized games instead of a free-for-all.

    I can't tell you how many schools I've seen who have 100 kids out on the playground with only one adult present, and that one adult is reading, eating, or on a cell phone. There's laws and guidelines about student to teacher ratios and supervision on playgrounds, but SFUSd hardly ever adheres to those guidelines.

    Have your school adopt the RESPONSIVE CLASSROOM approach, responsiveclassroom.org
    and have recess BEFORE lunch, so the kids don't wolf down their food in a rush to go play. It makes recess better, it makes lunch better, and it costs NOTHING to do, it is just a schedule change.

  30. But if you "manage" recess by having adults organize activities and games, you are reducing kids' opportunities for unstructured play, which experts agree is critical (see the article that kicked off this thread). Especially since so many schools have done away with unstructured time in the classroom.

  31. My son is in Kindergarten at Clarendon JBBP, and to my knowledge he has never been tested in class, other than the Brigance test. He is somewhat competitive, so if there had been a test I think I would have heard about it.

    As part of his weekly homework assignment he is asked to write a sentence about a picture he has drawn. The teacher specifically told us to encourage him to write freely, sounding out the words himself, and to not focus on spelling.

    My personal opinion is that testing at this age is ridiculous. I am already annoyed at the amount of homework. At 5 he already hates doing homework, and I’m afraid that attitude will spill over to learning in general.

  32. I am with 4:10 PM.

    I grew up in Europe and we have excellent education. My siblings and I didn't go to first grade until age 7, neither one of us was able to read beforehand and all we did was play before entering first grade. All of us are college grads and successful. I don't recall ever having had a test before grade 2 maybe even 3. - That being said, I have twins (just turned 5) who are the youngest in their K class (private Montessori), one of them spells phonetically and is starting to read, the other one is till at the stage where you need to spell out the letters or copies. Both have a eagerness to learn and I find nothing wrong with this. Both have homework and so far it's not a burden, BUT I do find it largely unnecessary, especially during the week, when they get home tired. - I strongly feel teaching should be playful at this age and kids should be allowed time-outs if they get tired. Life is tough enough, why would we want them to get all stressed out at such a young age? Really, is there a reason other than the parents fretting over it?

  33. I think teachers are in a bit of bind in re homework. Some parents want and expect it: lots and lots of it. Some parents don't want it at all. Many aftercare programs assume the children will bring homework with them, and that the homework will be something the kids can complete mostly independently. And some K students love, love, love homework while others loathe, loathe, loathe it.

    ...All of these pressures lead to dittoes, I think. It provides work for those who want it and is easily dismissed by those who don't.

    It might be worth asking the teacher how seriously he or she takes homework completion.

  34. I agree with 11:24. It is definitely worth asking the teacher how seriously he/she takes homework completion. Many kinders are very excited about getting homework at the beginning of the year, but that can wear off quickly as they face the realities of their after school programs (where support for assignments just isn't available), their other activities and classes after school, and their parents' work schedules. Some parents say they don't like lack of play time in school, then also complain that the homework is "too easy." Teachers are trying to please a wide audience, and most are quite flexible in their homework standards for such young students.

    Kindergarten has definitely become more academic, but the state mandated standards require it. First grade work is based on the assumption that a certain level was competently reached in K, 2nd grade work based on what should have been learned in 1st, etc. It catches up with the kids pretty fast, and by 3rd or 4th grade you start to see wider and wider discrepancies. It puts a lot of pressure even on kinder teachers to make sure their students are going to be able to succeed in the next grade.

  35. Here are the English Language Arts Kindergarten Content Standards from the California Department of Education. This is just the English portion of the content standards, there are also Math, Art, Science, History, Social Studies, and other content standards. The content standards are what your kid is supposed to know when they have completed Kindergarten:

    1.0 Word Analysis, Fluency, and Systematic Vocabulary Development
    Students know about letters, words, and sounds. They apply this knowledge to read
    simple sentences.
    Concepts About Print
    1.1 Identify the front cover, back cover, and title page of a book.
    1.2 Follow words from left to right and from top to bottom on the printed page.
    1.3 Understand that printed materials provide information.
    1.4 Recognize that sentences in print are made up of separate words.
    1.5 Distinguish letters from words.
    1.6 Recognize and name all uppercase and lowercase letters of the alphabet.
    Phonemic Awareness
    1.7 Track (move sequentially from sound to sound) and represent the number, sameness/ difference, and order of two and three isolated phonemes (e.g., /f, s, th/, /j, d, j/).
    1.8 Track (move sequentially from sound to sound) and represent changes in simple syllables and words with two and three sounds as one sound is added, substituted, omitted, shifted, or repeated (e.g., vowel-consonant, consonant-vowel, or consonant-vowelconsonant).
    1.9 Blend vowel-consonant sounds orally to make words or syllables.
    1.10 Identify and produce rhyming words in response to an oral prompt.
    1.11 Distinguish orally stated one-syllable words and separate into beginning or ending
    1.12 Track auditorily each word in a sentence and each syllable in a word.
    1.13 Count the number of sounds in syllables and syllables in words.
    Decoding and Word Recognition
    1.14 Match all consonant and short-vowel sounds to appropriate letters.
    1.15 Read simple one-syllable and high-frequency words (i.e., sight words).
    1.16 Understand that as letters of words change, so do the sounds (i.e., the alphabetic
    Vocabulary and Concept Development
    1.17 Identify and sort common words in basic categories (e.g., colors, shapes, foods).
    1.18 Describe common objects and events in both general and specific language.

    2.0 Reading Comprehension
    Students identify the basic facts and ideas in what they have read, heard, or viewed.
    They use comprehension strategies (e.g., generating and responding to questions, comparing
    new information to what is already known). The selections in Recommended
    Literature, Kindergarten Through Grade Twelve (California Department of Education, 2002)
    illustrate the quality and complexity of the materials to be read by students.
    Structural Features of Informational Materials
    2.1 Locate the title, table of contents, name of author, and name of illustrator.
    Comprehension and Analysis of Grade-Level-Appropriate Text
    2.2 Use pictures and context to make predictions about story content.
    2.3 Connect to life experiences the information and events in texts.
    2.4 Retell familiar stories.
    2.5 Ask and answer questions about essential elements of a text.
    3.0 Literary Response and Analysis
    Students listen and respond to stories based on well-known characters, themes, plots,
    and settings. The selections in Recommended Literature, Kindergarten Through Grade Twelve
    illustrate the quality and complexity of the materials to be read by students.
    Narrative Analysis of Grade-Level-Appropriate Text
    3.1 Distinguish fantasy from realistic text.
    3.2 Identify types of everyday print materials (e.g., storybooks, poems, newspapers,
    signs, labels).
    3.3 Identify characters, settings, and important events.

    1.0 Writing Strategies
    Students write words and brief sentences that are legible.
    Organization and Focus
    1.1 Use letters and phonetically spelled words to write about experiences, stories, people,
    objects, or events.
    1.2 Write consonant-vowel-consonant words (i.e., demonstrate the alphabetic principle).
    1.3 Write by moving from left to right and from top to bottom.
    1.4 Write uppercase and lowercase letters of the alphabet independently, attending to the
    form and proper spacing of the letters.

    KINDERGARTEN Written and Oral English Language Conventions
    The standards for written and oral English language conventions have been placed
    between those for writing and for listening and speaking because these conventions are
    essential to both sets of skills.
    1.0 Written and Oral English Language Conventions
    Students write and speak with a command of standard English conventions.
    Sentence Structure
    1.1 Recognize and use complete, coherent sentences when speaking.
    1.2 Spell independently by using pre-phonetic knowledge, sounds of the alphabet,
    and knowledge of letter names.

    Listening and Speaking KINDERGARTEN
    1.0 Listening and Speaking Strategies
    Students listen and respond to oral communication. They speak in clear and coherent
    1.1 Understand and follow one- and two-step oral directions.
    1.2 Share information and ideas, speaking audibly in complete, coherent sentences.
    2.0 Speaking Applications (Genres and Their Characteristics)
    Students deliver brief recitations and oral presentations about familiar experiences or
    interests, demonstrating command of the organization and delivery strategies outlined
    in Listening and Speaking Standard 1.0.
    Using the listening and speaking strategies of kindergarten outlined in Listening and
    Speaking Standard 1.0, students:
    2.1 Describe people, places, things (e.g., size, color, shape), locations, and actions.
    2.2 Recite short poems, rhymes, and songs.
    2.3 Relate an experience or creative story in a logical sequence.

  36. Wow, really? Back when I was kindergarten I learned how to sit on a mat and drink my juice...

  37. TEachers should not be giving homework because parents want it or because children want it.

    The only justifiable reason to give homework in my book would be if reputable research showed it enhanced learning or retention.

    So far the research seems to indicate the opposite.

    Parents are not experts in education and children would eat icecream for breakfast, lunch and dinner if we'd let them.

    A kindergartener will get a lot more out of unstsructured, free play than from doing piles of worksheets at home. Yes, there are some kids who like to be told what to do and have structured activities all the time, including homework. But these are PRECISELY the kids that need to learn how to occupy themselves and be more self-motivated and inventive. They need unstructured time to learn how to do that.

  38. there are worksheets and there are worksheets. i imagine every school is giving some variation of the same thing for kinder homework. my daughter is in K at clarendon jbbp. she gets an assignment every monday that is due thursday. it always gives the kid three options, and only one of them is typically worksheet-type homework (the others are activities you do with your parents, like finding everything in your house shaped like a rectangle or putting 100 pieces of something like popcorn in a bag in honor of the 100th day of school). the worksheet part of it involves practicing writing upper and lower case versions of one letter a week and using high-frequency words they can sight-read in sentences (sometimes). my daughter likes to draw and her homework each week takes about 30 minutes. so that's what her class/program is doing. i like the way it provides a slow, piece-by-piece introduction to reading, writing and counting. it's not arduous and she seems to look forward to doing it (for the most part). it has definitely been part of the building-block structure that has led to her developing beginning reading and writing skills.

    i definitely get the age-appropriateness of more play vs. more academics for most 5 to 6-year-olds. but i do want to point out that there is a not-insignificant minority of children who find linear academic lesson-type learning thrilling. i did. my kid seems to. it doesn't have to mean you are unathletic or not well-rounded or not socially gifted or uncreative. i remember feeling really liberated and independent when i could read to myself; it was a huge moment and i wouldn't have delayed it one minute. i really think some people thrive in a learning environment that emphasizes process. i write adult fiction now, and every day i am reminded that there is no creativity without process, structure and discipline.

    2 cents.

  39. Try asking the particular kindergarten teacher what the goals of his/her particular homework program are, how the homework is presented and what kind of follow-up happens in class. Research can't take into account the immense variability between different teacher implementation styles.

  40. 7:12 your point that teachers shouldn't give homework because parents (or children) want it is well taken, but I question how realistic it is. In my experience, unhappy parents in turn make for unhappy principals, and unhappy principals can not only make teachers' lives hellish, they can cost an untenured teacher their job. Parents rarely take it on faith that teachers and schools know best how to educate their children. For example, many will complain if it appears that their child's teacher is not providing their child all the "opportunities" that the other teachers do. As long as one's colleagues give homework, a teacher runs the almost certain risk of parents complaining to the administration if they don't also give homework.

    Ridiculous? Yes, I think it is. It's also something I've seen firsthand. There is a great deal of pressure to homogenize classes because no one wants to risk their child not having a perceived advantage that another child has.

    It's also been my experience that many parents start asking "when will the homework begin?" on the first day of school, or even sooner given the chance. Not "if" but "when". Meeting parent expectations is HUGE, particularly at schools that depend on parent fundraising and involvement to support their programs.

    Sorry, but parental pressures and school politics can easily become more important that research-based best practices. Money talks, and as long as schools are woefully underfunded I'm not sure how we change that.

  41. NONE of the top tier privates give homework in Kinder. Or first grade. Not even French-American or Hamlin, which are considered among the most academic.

    Why do you think that is?

  42. 8:05 it's probably because they understand that homework is useless for such little kids. At least for little kids that come from literate families who read and practice basic math skills with their children on a regular basis anyway. Does assigning homework actually encourage parents who are not academically-oriented to do these things? I tend to doubt it, but I do believe that giving the kids homework is one way that schools attempt to make that happen in homes where such activities aren't taken for granted. You won't find too many of those families in private schools.

    Oddly enough, private schools seem to be less influenced by parental whims than public schools. That's my perception, anyway. Why parents would think their children should be getting homework at 5 and 6 years old is another question I can't answer.

  43. Teachers should not be giving homework because parents want it or because children want it.

    The sentiment that teachers should use only the best research and their own experience to make educational decisions is laudable, but - as others have noted - out of touch.

    I don't think teachers should, say, have to encourage their students to eat the low-quality, commodity proteins the school lunch program offers. I don't think teachers should have to spend their own money or write grants to get basic classroom supplies. But that's how it is in public schools.

    Moreover, education research is so politicized that I'm hesitant to believe any of it without significant study of the research, its funders, its critiques...and so on.

  44. Which political interest group stands to benefit from less homework?

  45. The group that stands to gain from research showing that no homework at all in k is best are the parents who identify so closely with their children that they can't bear to see their children undergo any stress, and are unable or unwilling to compel their children to do anything even mildly unpleasant.

    Not that there couldn't be some validity to those particular studies, but there does seem to be a tremendous hunger among certain parents to glom onto this particular body of data as the final word. Keep in mind that we know about learners changes all the time.

  46. 12:15, on the other hand, enjoys making her kids miserable.

  47. I don't think 12:15 has kids, I think 12:15 is one of those burnt-out teachers who hates parents and treats children with contempt.

    Guess what? We can be against homework and drilling YOUNG children but still make 'em clean up their rooms and mind their manners.

    Go figure.

  48. Here's what I can tell you from experience: the sooner your kid starts getting homework, the sooner you will get the idea that you should be "helping" with it, and the more years it will take you (and them) to get the idea that you should stop. Don't start!

  49. If parents shouldn't help kids with their homework, who should? The SFUSD math curriculum includes homework specifically designed to involve families. Teachers at most schools are expected, if not commanded, to send assignments home, and there is simply no way the children could complete it without help from someone.

    Your complaints should be directed at the district, not at individual teachers who are meeting the requirements of their jobs.

    While I agree that 12:15 does come off bitter, please try to understand that teachers do have to deal with a certain segment of the parent population that seem to believe that exposing their children to any experience that isn't 100% happiness and light is unconscionable. Life just isn't like that, not even when you are 5, and you can't protect them from everything.

  50. If the child can't do the homework without help, it isn't appropriate homework to send home.

  51. I don't mind making my kid work hard if the end result is that they are learning.

    But mind-numbing worksheets and busy work do not result in better retention or understanding...

    And if the goal is to teach time management, well, that can be taught in middle school (no need to teach that in K.)

  52. here's an interesting NYTimes article:

  53. Katherine Michiels School addresses this issue. It's more appropriate for Kinder than any other school I toured. Lots of play that, both free and structured time inside and outside that incorporates learning thru actual discovery. My daughter is thriving in this beautiful school.

    I encourage you to check it out!

  54. None of the top tier private give homework in kinder. NONE.

  55. Pardon me if I'm not too impressed with the allegedly "top tier" private schools. They have beautiful facilities. They are very, very good at marketing themselves. Other than that, I'm not convinced that they do anything special. Take a look at their curriculum as posted on their websites: there's nothing particularly forward-thinking happening at any of these schools. Guided reading? Community circles? Whatever -- public schools have been doing those things since the 1990's, at least. Public schools, meanwhile, are finding ways to succeed not only with the most privileged children (who would succeed anywhere), but also with children from the neediest families.

  56. 7:25.

    I hear you in that most private schools use the public Cal State curriculum to base their school academic from. BUT look at the stats for private that do not give homework early. I know Katherine Michiels (KMS) does building, experiencial learning, digging, gardening and other playing activities to learn. No sit down and learn the letter of the day stuff. You may not like it or agree with it, but it is different.

  57. I guess an interesting question is fe the parents of the kids at KMS or other privates -- are they likely to be more highly educated individuals who would read to their kids anyway, hw or not, who would take their kids to museums and other intellectually stimulating places,, who may actually have money to spend on enrichment programs (such as sports, piano, etc etc).
    You see, I wonder about kids who come from the projects, or kids whose parents work three jobs and do not have time to spend reading with them, or kids who have parents who are flat out illiterate and are not able to read to them. So, if school doesn't teach them ABC etc then who will? I am totally for the free spirit, learning by discovery methodologies but I'm not sure of the practicality.

    Just seems looking only at the school as if it existed in a vacuum is wrong. Its the whole picture. School is just a tool.

    You know what really sad, its the high drop out rate in HS, its the high failure rate of students on the CA HS Exit Exam -- from what I hear, a really basic test (testing what 9 and 10 th grade English and Math in the 12th grade,... uh, what's wrong with this picture).
    And the really really sad, disgusting part for our society is that Community Colleges are basically having to pay to re-educate these kids. We as tax payers pay twice, three times over because CC is much more expensive than K12 (in terms of cost of delivery of education).

    So - are these kids failing because they spent too much time doing hw in K, or because they spent not enough time (no one helped them), or what? Its a problem for the future of democracy.

  58. As an elementary teacher, I use games to reinforce concepts. Very easy to modify Jeopardy, or Concentration, to convey the difference between heat and temperature.

  59. 10:10

    the kids are failing because they have crappy home environments and are not even getting their basic needs met, like a good night's sleep or nutritious meals

    what the heck can SFUSD do about THAT?

  60. Even though kids get homework in K and first grade, it doesn't mean that they have to complete it. I have a PhD, but I don't force my kids to do their homework because I don't believe in homework at this young age. They are doing fine, I might add. They get a mark on their report card that indicates they don't hand in homework, but other than that, they are on track (3's and 4's) on everything else.

  61. KMS is at best a liberal, play enforced, kid centered school. It isn't anything like the "top tier" schools. i've heard it called an art school and dare I say a hippy school. it is diverse, and attracts a lot of European families for some reason. since all private schools offer financial aid, KMS is open to all families of all income levels.

    The bottom line for us is, is my daughter happy? comfortable? excited to learn? Or is she already dreading school and starting to hate it?

  62. Sisterkortney -- you've posted a few times now, each time extolling the virtues of KMS. Why are you recruiting so aggressively? Are you worried no one else will want to go there, and they'll have to close the school?

  63. "The bottom line for us is, is my daughter happy? comfortable? excited to learn? "

    My kid is all those things, in a PUBLIC SCHOOL.

    but I suppose you want us all to think that if we opt for public, our kids will be unhappy, hate learning, and dreading every minute.


  64. 5:42, I worry that your children might start to think that you don't expect them to do what the teacher tells them to do, or that you think they're somehow better than the other children in class. Be careful.

  65. mind numbing worksheets do not instill a love of learning. period.

  66. talk to your kid's teacher about the homework. you can say no, none of it. you can ask to only do a certain part of the homework packet. you can ask if supplementing it with your own "homework" is okay (we asked if our son could practice writing letters with the homework without tears worksheets as they seemed better than the ones from our child's school.) our kid does not enjoy his homework, and i didn't enjoy homework all through grad school. he does agree, though, that it feels good to finish it, and from what i can see the extra practice,although not thrilling, is helpful for basic skills and for letting us know what he is doing in school (especially the everyday math).

    all that said about homework--i do do do wish that there could be more play and experiential learning time in the early grades, and this is something parents can speak up for at pta meetings, ssc meetings, "balanced scorecard" discussions, etc. if your principal is not asking for parent input, approach him/her and ask how and when you can give it constructively.

    yes, we are in public.

  67. 10:21 am on 2/25 -- 10:10pm here...

    You are right. The District can't control what families do at home. And that is another problem of our society... we expect the schools do do it all.

    So say the child doesn't get a good night's sleep. Doesn't get a nutritious meal. Hears gunfire when he/she tries to sleep.

    So is a play based, etc type school going to help this child learn the basics of reading, writing, arithmetic, or would a more traditional 3R program work. Remember now, the school/teacher only has the child for so many hours, and 1 of up to 20 kids.

    Hard to say, but its hard to see how if no one shows the kid how to write letters how the child will ever learn it, growing up in an environment as I described above.

  68. "mind numbing worksheets do not instill a love of learning. period."

    I don't think it's that black and white. My daughter (in a SF public K) loves worksheets. I think she finds them challenging. She doesn't get homework, BTW.

  69. Why are so many (assuming it is not all the same person) defending homework in K by pretending to think it is that or "never" learning to read or do math? Whether from the projects or Pac Heights, it is appropriate for kids to learn to read up to 7+ years, and one can teach basic concepts (extremely well), without doing worksheets or sending home homework for very young kids. Obviously we all recognize that kids will be taught letters, reading and math (and want them to be!) but in appropriate ways at appropriate ages.

    There is a lot of faulty logic in the above arguments (but maybe logic and rational, independent thinking is not what they prize anyway).