Do Kids Have To Be Smarter Nowadays?

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

    Can you find the rhombus?!

    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?


24 thoughts on “Do Kids Have To Be Smarter Nowadays?

  1. I don’t know exactly what schools require kids to know now (they probably vary a lot) but I’ve heard enough parents and children complain to think that yes, perhaps too much emphasis is being placed on academics. I believe children are naturally eager learners and enjoy opportunities to explore and add to their understanding but academics don’t always get presented that way, do they? 😛 All kids learn at different rates so most classroom settings aren’t ideal (some are multi-level, I’m sure), and learning styles among children can be quite different! I don’t know, I think a lot of the education system is flawed but what can be done? I don’t pretend to know, lol.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The benefits of leading a homeschooled family! 🙂 You can tailor your kids’ education so much better than what they can get in a classroom. It’s true that kids learn at different rates and in response to different inspiration, so it’s nice to give them flexibility without piling on busywork!


  2. Great topic! I think that kids are naturally eagar and curious about life which is a great catalyst for education, but not nessarily ready for textbooks and classrooms. idk…I think when they are really young just give them a feast of knowledge and just let them explore their curiosities whether its shapes, dinosaurs, or reading. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good points. I love the phrase “feast of knowledge” …. It does let a kid learn about a lot of topics and choose what interests them. Kids are generally very eager to learn interesting things – yet worksheets and endless numbers and letters is a bit much, I think….

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I do often feel that we are pushing kids way too hard and are taking away their time to just be kids. I have a co-worker with a teenager who plays baseball and this kid might as well be an MLB player with how many practices, trainings, games, and so on he attends through the year. There isn’t time for family vacations, or even for the kid to enjoy a variety of activities. I don’t know why things have become this way but it is just too much.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Wow, that’s sad…. I hope the kid enjoys it (and some do!). Some sports can take up waaaay too much time. There are some children who legitimately should train that much – those who are so gifted and will end up being elite/Olympic athletes – but I bet most kids are overpushed….


  4. I’ve had this conversation SO many times with friends and colleagues. The expectations we place on young children these days is so much higher than ever before. Personally I feel like it is a detriment. Those who often set the standard do not seem to consider basic child development. There are a whole slew of issues that arise because preschool and kindergarten teachers are forced to teach so much content in order to “ready” children for first grade. Children are being punished for having “bad behaviors” aka acting their age, or being labeled with ADHD, or educational disabilities because we are not respecting the fact that developmentally not all children are ready to sit at a desk and learn at barely 5 years old. I am a big believer of learning to play and learning through play. Incidental teaching is extremely valuable and unfortunately is not able to be utilized due to the demands of state standards. I could go on and on about this. I don’t know what to do to change it, but I feel like as a parent I have to expose my children to as much as possible and play play play so when school comes they are ready to learn in the way that our country has decided education will be offered.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for taking the time to write this reply! I really see your point of view strongly. Young kids are wired to play and learn through experience, not desk learning. It really makes me think about the option to hold a kid back for kindergarten. My kid will turn 5 next September, so she’s eligible to start kindergarten, but she can also do another year of preschool. It’s a huge decision for us! It’s a huge decision for a lot of parents. You want your kids to be as prepared as possible for school while still wanting to love it – or at least like it – instead of dread it.
      I love your outlook of exposing your children to as much play as possible now!

      Liked by 2 people

      • You’re welcome. It is such a hot topic and one that is very impactful in my field, so I get fired up about it! haha!
        SUCH a tough decision. Definitely trust your mom/dad instincts. Loving school is helpful and what I wish everyone would strive for for their children. ❤

        Liked by 1 person

      • Our youngest was an avid learner from day one; she was reading at the end of pre-school and the teacher gave me the option of having her skip directly to first grade, especially since she was a January baby, making her in effect older than most of her peers. I went by how emotionally mature she was: who did she enjoy playing with the most? It turned out she never went with the older crowd. So I asked for her to continue her normal course, which we never regretted. Pushing kids too much can be counter effective.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yes, counter effective to be sure! I think those early years provide a lot more maturation than we realize, socially, so skipping a grade can really be costly.
          Funnily enough, my parents had the option to have me skip kindergarten as well, but they didn’t – and I’m very happy about that. I was always near the top of my class academically, but socially I always felt socially awkward even though I had friends. I guess I was shy. If I’d skipped kindergarten, I bet I would’ve felt miles worse!

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Absolutely.

    I really dislike how much kids are being pushed, especially at such young ages. They should be learning through play as much as possible. Sitting at their desks doing worksheet after worksheet is just awful, and so much is lost. And, gah, the stuff I read about the amount of pressure on teens these days is just scary. People have already made comments to LM about how if he goes anywhere less than MIT or does anything other than engineering, how he won’t live up to his potential. That makes me livid!

    Liked by 1 person

    • What, MIT?! That’s harsh … I hope he doesn’t believe them. I mean, I cheer engineering too, but I recognize there are other disciplines out there!!
      Learning through play is so much more effective – I believe for kids AND adults. I think that’s why historical fiction is so popular, too. It’s a fun way to learn about history.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. To be quite honest, I don’t think any adult has ever NEEDED to know what a rhombus is. I got my daughter this wooden shape sorter thing and it has a lot of shapes in it and I had to legit look up some of them because I couldn’t remember! But I completely agree with you that we are fast tracking everything. Current generation’s parents are petrified of not doing enough, not giving their kids enough, not teaching them enough. An older coworker of mine with 6 adult kids said to me that I look at my daughters obsessing about raising their kids right. She’s like, in my day, we did everything we could and taught kids right from wrong and we just ASSUMED our kids would be OK in life. You guys obsess about your children’s success. I want things to be easy going, more laissez-faire for my daughter. She has a whole life to learn lessons.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Right .. even as an engineer, knowing the correct name for a rhombus didn’t do me much good. I did well in high school math, though – so it got me grades. Sigh. I wonder sometimes that because society is advancing ever faster and we are making discoveries at record pace that we think our kids need to speed up and be ready for that an ever early age… Or maybe it’s the result of our generation being a little coddled. I don’t know, honestly. I try not to obsess – more so when I see others my age obsessing! It reminds me to chill out. As long as they are socially prepared, I believe they will do well.


  7. This is always a great topic to discuss. I tend to agree that kids are being pushed academically at a young age. Especially so in Asia where paper-chase is the only way to go (cue Singapore). When we were living in Bangkok, my daughter has homework everyday – and she was barely 4 years old. Two whole pages! Simple stuff, but still. And already doing the plus and minus. INSANE! I didn’t like it very seems so wrong. Here in the netherlands, the kids don’t have homework. 😀

    We do the nerdy stuff..but mostly try to make it fun rather than just rote learning. And yeah, kids do get smarter earlier too these days.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s interesting to hear the two cultures’ differences. I’ve heard the Netherlands is more laid back. I think that’s very reasonable! Save homework for when they’re older. 4yo?! Gimme a break!!!

      I like that attitude … fun learning. That’s how kids learn best, anyway. And that’s what leads kids to become adults who do life-long learning, read nonfiction, etc. Hurray!

      Liked by 1 person

        • Sometimes lazy is good, haha. No shame!! I think that at ages 5 and 7 homework is just busywork!!! Sometimes that’s good if you just need to prep dinner, but I don’t think it necessarily helps them to enjoy the learning, actually learn anything beyond what they already did in school, or keep them focused.


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