I must be on learning kick lately. First ruminating about teaching at home and now this. Do I not know it’s summer?!
I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot over the past year. It started when browsing my Facebook feed and seeing a lot of article links with titles such as, “Are Kindergarteners Really Ready to Start Reading?” and “Have Schools Replaced Too Much Recess with Classroom Time?” Then I’ve heard and read about kids who are Toddler’s age (3 going on 4) who can practically recite the Iliad and can beat a high schooler at a geometry pop quiz.
I can’t help but wonder … are (we pressing) kids (to be) smarter nowadays than when we were young?
This is a hot topic, I know. There are arguments on both sides. But here is what I see:
- Kids are now expected to be able to read by the end of kindergarten. A few years ago (was it the new Common Core standards that mandated the change?) the requirement was reading by the end of first grade. Now, a lot of kids can handle this new requirement; I was starting to read by the end of kindergarten – because my older sister wanted to teach me, not because Mrs. Joppe (I remember her!) taught us in kindergarten.
- Toddlers know between 10 and 20 shapes. I
mean, my kid knows what a circle, square, diamond, star, etc. are. But can she tell the difference between a pentagon, octogon, and decagon? No. (Will she learn the numeric prefixes? Maybe. I mention them, but not in a strongly didactic manner.) Can she point out a rhombus? No way in hell. Can at least some of her friends? You betcha! Hell, I didn’t know what the f*&^ a rhombus was until high school … because I didn’t need to know it until then.
- In competitive gymnastics, the routines were recently made more difficult. I’m talking USA Gymnastics, which I realize is a very specific example, but hey – I’m a big fan of gymnastics and an ex-athlete. For example, the main level 6 floor tumbling pass was a back handspring to a back tuck. Now that’s in level 5! All major skills were moved down one level. Elite gymnastics has insanely difficult tricks now, so is USA Gymnastics just trying to flow down the higher requirements accordingly? Wow – that sure makes things hard for kids … at least to my eyes.
I don’t know if kids are learning everything appropriately at the moment. I don’t know if we’re pushing them too hard. I try not to push my own kids too hard, but at the same time I love learning (nerd alert!) and am finding that I do enjoy teaching them things – so I end up telling them “fun facts” probably all day long. (Do I sound like Sheldon Cooper and his geeky “Fun With Flags? Sorry … yes, I just might.)
All I notice is the stark difference between my more carefree youth and the increasingly academic emphasis places nowadays. We parents see this in school and sports environments! A lot of my fellow parent friends fear burnout – because we read about it happening (thank you, ScaryMommy and Huffington Post – my parental paranoia is growing because of you) and perhaps see its plausibility.
Do you think we are putting the pressure on our kids to be smarter and achieve more earlier than we did?
I think a lot of kids can handle knowing what a nonagon is and reading in kindergarten. Heck, I secretly hope my two girls fall into that group. And I think they can handle it if we approach this delicately and don’t set them up for burnout. Is that even possible?
I guess we’ll find out in a decade, huh?
Do you think kids are expected to know more at an earlier age than we did?