Home » Tales from kindergarten » Kindergarten 8-28-13

Kindergarten 8-28-13

Kindergarten is hard work. There are so many expectations, so fast. I heard today that every child is going to be tested on the alphabet by the end of the week. There are a few who just won’t get it. School has only been in for three weeks. They are five. They can’t get it this fast. Sometimes things take a while.

So many kids don’t have help at home. This is regardless of whether their parents speak English or not. For some, school is all the time. Some parents know that just like with plants in the garden, children need a lot of nurturing. You can’t just plop little Susie down in front of an “educational” video and think that you’ve done your part.

There was a little girl last year who was from the Congo. She was here with just her Dad. At the beginning of the school year she could speak only French and didn’t know the alphabet. At the end of the year she was reading “Go Dog Go” to me.

The difference? Her Dad made regular trips to the library and got books for her. He read to her. He encouraged her. He worked hard to teach her outside of school, and it showed.

There was a boy last year who was from Ethiopia. Have you ever seen the Ethiopian alphabet? It looks nothing like the English alphabet. It is all squiggles and dots. I think it is beautiful, but confusing. I think that if I was raised with it I’d have a hard time helping my child with schoolwork. His parents learned fast, and taught him. He flew through class. I rarely had to tutor him, which is a shame because he was a delight.

The most interesting thing is that I ended up tutoring the English-speaking children as much as the non-English speaking ones.

I have a theory that native English speakers take school for granted. I think that they don’t get how hard it is to learn the alphabet, to read, to count. These are essential skills and they are the building blocks for everything else. If you can read and count, you can do anything. If you can’t, you are in big trouble.

If you were raised in America, you might not appreciate what a blessing it is to have free, mandatory public education. Plenty of people knock our educational system, but it is a far sight better than in many countries. Sure, our system could use improvement, but the biggest thing we can do for the future is to work on education at home.

Don’t wait for the school to teach your child something, do it yourself. School doesn’t stop at 3 p.m. Take all the energy and focus of homeschooling and add it to public school. Don’t wait for legislation to improve the schools. Go to the library and get books. Make sure your child is filled up with facts and information.

Every foreign parent I see at the library gets non-fiction books for their children. Almost every American parent lets their kids get picture books and comic books. The difference is dramatic. You get out what you put in. The foreign kids are shaped and molded. The American kids are allowed to grow up like weeds.

If we really want to “be number one,” we need to start acting like it.

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