Thursday, September 13, 2012

So much to post on...but first a rant.

This Tuesday, I went to two open houses, one for the elementary school and one for the junior high.  First of all, they overlapped the scheduling.  Umm..that's dumb.  Second of all, is it just me, or is this some heightened form of helicopter parenting?  That's what I felt like, but on the other hand, I did find out several things.  The first one of which will be my rant.

Elena goes to all day kindergarten from 8:20 till 3:40.  I think this is much too long, and she comes home exhausted each day and cries half the mornings about having to go to school. However, I figured, it's kindergarten, they'll have lots of play time and recess, and she'll adjust.  At the open house, I received a detailed schedule of their day.  Guess how much time they have for recess during the entire day???
15 minutes!  

Seriously??  I would be exhausted with the schedule they have these kids on.  I literally cried when I was telling Leo about it at home that night.  (Okay that might be a bit of postpartum hormones.)  She does have PE for 55 mins, 2 or 3 days a week--it varies.  But that's not the same as unstructured play and downtime.  Here's her schedule:

8:20-8:30 Morning announcements and pledge
8:30-8:45 Calendar (reviewing days, months, seasons)
8:45-9:00  Phonemic Awareness (ABC chants, sight words review)
9:00-9:45 Writer's Workshop (kid writing)
9:45-10:30 Extended Learning/Developmental Centers
10:30-10:48 Handwriting
10:48-11:18  Lunch (this does not include recess time, I asked)
11:30-12:35 Math/Science
12:35-1:30 Specials (Art/PE/Music/Library)
1:30-1:45 Recess
1:45-2:00 Snack/Quiet time
2:00-2:20 Themed Interactive writing (science/social studies)
2:20-2:35 Shared reading/read aloud
2:35-3:20 Literacy Centers/Guided reading
3:20-3:40 Pack & Stack/Dismissal

So is it just me, or does this seem crazy?  And the teacher kept explaining how the district upped it's standards this year, and kids have to be reading at a 1st grade level by the end of kindergarten, and how they're requiring more sight words to be memorized, etc.   Really?  I know I'm the odd person out by not having Elena in preschool, but Kindergarten, I thought, was still supposed to be a transition into regular school.  But not only that, I would want my older kids (1st graders, 4th graders, etc) to have more recess too.  Even the national recommendations are at least 20 minutes of recess a day.   

My father referred to my school district as "abusive," and said that "No educator in the country would consider that as developmental appropriate for that age group."

My good friend who has a ten year old brother in an elementary school nearby--which is rated the number 1 elementary school in the entire Houston area, and one of the best in the state--told me that her brother is being treated for anxiety.  And the problem is the pressure he feels at school.  That's insane.  She herself went to a the number 1 ranked high school in Houston, and she said BYU (most of her classmates went to Ivy League schools) was easy for her, but that wasn't necessarily a good thing, because she was so burnt out from high school when she got there and she felt that her high school had been too extreme and not in proportion to the needs of preparing for college and a career. I definitely want my kids challenged in school, but this is too much. 

Back to play, here's some tidbits I found.

 In a comprehensive review of numerous studies on play, researchers found evidence that play contributes to advances in "verbalization, vocabulary, language comprehension, attention span, imagination, concentration, impulse control, curiosity, problem-solving strategies, cooperation, empathy, and group participation" (Smilansky & Shefatya, 1990). Recent research provides additional evidence of the strong connections between quality of play in preschool years and children's readiness for school instruction (Bowman, Donovan, & Burns, 2000; Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, 2002; Shonkoff & Phillips, 2000). Further, research directly links play to children's ability to master such academic content as literacy and numeracy. For example, children's engagement in pretend play was found to be positively and significantly correlated with such competencies as text comprehension and metalinguistic awareness and with an understanding of the purpose of reading and writing (Roskos & Christie, 2000).
The Importance of Being Playful. By: Bodrova, Elena, Leong, Deborah J., Educational Leadership, 00131784, Apr2003, Vol. 60, Issue 7

Because of the positive effects of physical activity on attention-to-task, it is recommended that elementary school teachers consider implementing physical activity sessions throughout the school day in the form of recess and classroom-based physical activities.

Impact of short bouts of physical activity on attention-to-task in elementary school children Matthew T. Mahar Activity Promotion Laboratory, Department of Exercise and Sport Science, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC, USA

When youth participate in at least 60 min of physical activity every day, health benefits accrue, such as healthy bones and muscles, improved muscular strength and endurance, reduced risk for developing chronic disease risk factors, improved self-esteem, and reduced stress and anxiety (Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee, 2008).

So I'm going to write a letter to the principal and superintendent of the school district voicing my opinion.  Also, I am definitely holding my other children back a year before they start kindergarten and I'm going to start looking at other school districts nearby and charter schools.  However, the reason we moved to this area WAS the schools.  Elena is in the Spanish two-way immersion program, and I really want my kids to stay in a immersion program for Spanish.  So my options are limited.  (See me now banging my head on the table.) What to do?  What to do?

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