Guest Post from Christine Borja:
It was September of 2008 when my oldest son, Zamiel, started his first day of Kindergarten. I, like many mothers, cried the minute he sat down in his classroom. He was a big boy now. He was entering a new phase in his life, yet I still remember the first day I held him in my arms as a newborn.
Do you remember how Kindergarten was? I definitely do. I long for the days where I could spend my time coloring, drawing, playing with glue, and making fun shapes out of Playdoh. I also long for the 15 minute naps and the mid-morning snack of graham crackers and a nice tall glass of milk. And, we mustn’t forget recess. Ah, those were the days. The first couple of days Zamiel came home with stories of playtime during recess, who his best friends were, and piles of artwork, as well as papers documenting his penmanship skills. Then, he started coming home with a “Tuesday Packet,” which consisted of a red folder inside a white envelope. “Mommy, I have homework!” exclaimed my most enthusiastic 5-year old. Homework? Since when were Kindergarteners assigned homework? This was something neither my husband nor I were prepared for, but definitely excited about. Inside the red folder, the two flaps were labeled, “Homework” and “Leave at Home.” That’s simple enough, I thought. Inside the “Leave at Home” flap were papers filled with a variety of information, from what’s going on in the classroom, to all the different events going on at the school, as well as helpful tips from teaching your child how to improve on their reading to fun art activities. The “Homework” section consisted of a math problem, as well as matching exercises, and cut and paste exercises. Week after week, my husband and I sat down with Zamiel to help him with his homework. For all three of us, it was a wonderful and challenging experience.
What does a typical week in Kindergarten look like? My son’s week consists of Music Class on Mondays and Wednesdays, P.E. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and Computer Class on Thursdays as well. Sounds a little like Middle School, doesn’t it? When it comes to enhancing their reading skills, the teachers incorporate silent reading time. This is when the kids choose a book from the classroom and read quietly as individuals for about 15 minutes. Afterwards, the teacher splits the kids into small groups, and each one summarizes the book they just read to their classmates. They have also learned how to write a small summary about a story that was read to them or from a book they read individually. It’s a mini book report! Also, every Wednesday, Zamiel comes home with a new book he chooses from the school library. And if that’s not enough reading time, every month we list all the books he’s read along with the number of minutes it took for him to read each book. The total amount of minutes is tallied up and the form is given to the teacher on the respected due dates. This particular exercise builds the kids’ reading skills, plus, they receive a prize at the end of the year for all those minutes read. It’s a great incentive!
As a parent of a Kindergartner, you work with your child on their writing skills, but mostly it boils down to penmanship, making sure they dot their “i’s” and cross their “t’s.” Nowadays, schools are taking it a step further. Yes, they still help the kids perfect their uppercase and lowercase letters. The kids are also learning the art of sentence structure, making sure it’s in proper form. They are also learning a variety of ways to describe certain objects and events. Just yesterday, my husband and I attended our second Parent-Teacher Conference. Zamiel's teacher, Mrs. Haroldson, shared a “How To” paper Zamiel completed for class. I was quite amazed at how detailed and to-the-point my son was. His instructions were as follows:
“I’m going to tell you how to open a Cheez-It bag.”
“First, pick it up.”
“Move your fingers to the top of the bag.”
“Lastly, twist and pull.”
Amazing, don’t you think? I was surprised, yet, not completely surprised at how my son described the act of opening a Cheez-It bag. It definitely blew my mind. I couldn’t help but smile uncontrollably after seeing this.
If after reading this small section your jaw isn’t dropping, wait till you hear about their counting activities. When your child is only 5 you truly don’t expect him or her to start counting by 5’s or 10’s, not yet anyway. Well, my son has now learned how to count not only by 5’s, but also by 10’s, 2’s, and also counting backwards. Now, I don’t remember learning how to count this way in Kindergarten! Wasn’t that 3rd or 4th grade? While we’re on the subject of numbers, he is also learning how to correctly write a math formula, whether it’s addition or subtraction. The kids are provided with math problems called Exemplars. These are basically word problems. They can be as simple as, “Sally has two apples and David has 3 apples. David gave Sally one apple. How many apples does Sally have now?” The kids are instructed to draw a picture then write a formula. Addition, subtraction, and I believe multiplication is just around the corner.
With all of these expectations, how could a Kindergartener keep up, let alone the parents? It’s completely overwhelming at first, but I personally think it’s a wonderful thing schools are teaching our kids these skills early on. It keeps them ahead of the game, keeps them on their toes, and it truly keeps them challenged. Not only that, it makes us as parents truly want to be an ongoing part in our kids academic lives. Who knows, we might learn a thing or two from them as well.