Monthly Kindergarten Homework

Across all of them, the distinction between early education and “official” school seems to be eroding.

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Much greater portions of the day are now spent on what’s called “seat work” (a term that probably doesn’t need any exposition) and a form of tightly scripted teaching known as direct instruction, formerly used mainly in the older grades, in which a teacher carefully controls the content and pacing of what a child is supposed to learn.

One study, titled “Is Kindergarten the New First Grade?

,” compared kindergarten teachers’ attitudes nationwide in 19 and found that the percentage of teachers expecting children to know how to read by the end of the year had risen from 30 to 80 percent.

The researchers also reported more time spent with workbooks and worksheets, and less time devoted to music and art.

But now that kindergarten serves as a gatekeeper, not a welcome mat, to elementary school, concerns about school preparedness kick in earlier and earlier.

A child who’s supposed to read by the end of kindergarten had better be getting ready in preschool.

And by second grade they performed worse on tests measuring literacy, language, and math skills.

The researchers told New York magazine that overreliance on direct instruction and repetitive, poorly structured pedagogy were likely culprits; children who’d been subjected to the same insipid tasks year after year after year were understandably losing their enthusiasm for learning. The same educational policies that are pushing academic goals down to ever earlier levels seem to be contributing to—while at the same time obscuring—the fact that young children are gaining fewer skills, not more. Steven Mintz, a historian who has written about the evolution of American childhood, describes an oscillation in the national zeitgeist between the notion of a “protected” childhood and that of a “prepared” one.

In a high-quality program, adults are building relationships with the children and paying close attention to their thought processes and, by extension, their communication.

They’re finding ways to make the children think out loud.


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