#WorthRevisit: Kindergarten, Harvard and the Arts

As my youngest child graduates from 8th grade tomorrow, I was looking back in the archives for mentions of kindergarten. I thought about sharing some funny stories from TheKid’s kindergarten days–but then I caught sight of this, which brings to mind how grateful I am that TheKid has had more than his share of opportunities to participate in the arts right along with academics. From April 2014:

There’s outrage all over the Internet right now over the cancellation of a kindergarten student performance because it would take away instructional time needed for the kids to become “college- and career-ready.”

I’d like to join my voice to the disagreement with the school administration; I’m all about encouraging students to participate in the arts. But I take issue with what a lot of people are saying:

“KINDERGARTNERS ARE GETTING READY FOR COLLEGE?”

Well, yes. Yes, they are. That’s why the arts, and recess, and physical education are so important. College is not all about performance on the SAT or ACT. It’s about using your knowledge, skills, abilities and interests to learn even more.

I had a school principal tell me once that kindergarten students are not preparing for college. That was in response to my concern that my daughter and her classmates were not being taught at all for an entire month while the kindergarten teacher was caring for a terminally-ill parent and the school failed to provide substitute teachers. Instead, whatever grownup (or, in some cases, eighth-grade girl) was available for the next half-hour would babysit the kids. They watched movies and played all day for a month.

Because the principal would not take calls from kindergarten parents and the situation was never addressed, we removed our daughter from that school. Suddenly the principal had time for a meeting with me, in the form of an exit interview. She defended her decision not to provide the class with a substitute teacher by telling me, “It’s kindergarten. It’s not like we’re getting them ready for Harvard.”

Not surprisingly, that school only lasted two more years before closing due to lack of enrollment. Here’s what the school looked like the last time I saw it.

wpid-0112141301b.jpg

Schools do need to find a good balance between instructional time, play time, physical activity and the arts–on every level of education. Emphasizing one of these at the expense of the others is disastrous for the students and does no service to society.

Yes; kindergarten students are preparing for college–maybe even Harvard. They do this by learning reading-readiness skills, counting and doing simple math, looking at the clouds in the sky, drawing pictures with sidewalk chalk on the playground, practicing music for a show, and perfecting their kickball skills. It’s all important, and good teachers and principals are needed to keep it all going and support that learning. Like the building blocks the kindergartners use to make towers and castles, the skills the children practice as five-year-olds lay the foundation of the work they’ll do later.

worth revisit

I’m linking up with Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for #WorthRevisit Wednesday, a place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link up with fellow bloggers!

#WorthRevisit: Mrs. Quimby’s 6 Best Back-to-School Tips for Parents (and one from me)

Worth revisiting today: a back-to-school article I published at RealHousekeeping.com earlier this year. Two months in, this is a good time for students and parents to evaluate those homework habits.
Back-to-School-Tips-from-Mrs-Quimby-@realhousemagEven though my personality has always been way more Beezus than Ramona, I’ve always loved Beverly Cleary’s Ramona series. Now that I’m a parent, I notice the many ways Ramona’s mom has been a sort of parenting mentor for me.

Mrs. Quimby is absolutely not a helicopter parent. She fosters independence in her children when it comes to schoolwork, helping around the house, and entertaining themselves. Here’s how she does it:

Set clear expectations. In the Quimby household, everyone knew what was expected of them regarding homework, study, chores, and behavior. There were no surprises, and routines were in place to make sure things got done.

Hold firm. Mrs. Quimby, while compassionate, stuck to her guns regarding things that mattered: respectful behavior, schoolwork, chores, and saving money. Temper tantrums did not sway her. Once, when Ramona squeezed an entire tube of toothpaste into the sink, she made Ramona spoon it all into a container and use it until it was gone.

Be prepared. Ramona’s parents always made sure she had plenty of paper and crayons—the supplies she needed as a primary-grade student. I take my cue from Mrs. Quimby by stocking up on extras of the items on my children’s school supply lists, and I make sure to lay in a supply of poster board at the beginning of the school year to avoid those Sunday night runs to the office supply store.

Step aside. Mrs. Quimby knew that schoolwork was not her job. She created the environment for study, made sure everyone was prepared, then required her children to do what was assigned them. No hovering, no hand-holding, no nonsense.

Allow for a mess. She stepped over a large sheet of paper stretched across her kitchen floor for a couple of weeks while Ramona, along with her dad, illustrated a map of the state.

Leave room for kids to learn from their mistakes. Mrs. Quimby wasn’t one to hover over her kids, protecting them from ever making a wrong decision. She knew that mistakes can lead to learning experiences, and she (wisely) didn’t make a huge deal about it when they did. There was the time that Beezus, wanting to avoid a home haircut, saved her money to get a new salon ‘do…which wound up going very wrong, Mrs. Quimby offered a shoulder to cry on and a closed mouth. No “I told you so” lecture; just a listening ear.

I get the feeling Ramona’s mom would wholeheartedly endorse my own homework policy: “It’s not done until it’s packed!” I’ve been repeating that sentence several times a week for nearly two decades now. It’s all about the follow-through, kids!

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worth revisit

I’m linking up with Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for #WorthRevisit Wednesday, a place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link up with fellow bloggers!

One for the Books

Today the Church celebrates a priest I first learned about in grade school.

Public school.

(I’m pretty sure that would never happen today.)

Father Serra statue C JohnsonBut back in second grade in 1972, our Social Studies book had a whole section on the California missionaries, led by Father Junípero Serra.

I was fascinated.

Here were pictures, in my schoolbook, of men dressed like my uncle, who is a Franciscan friar. Here was the story of a priest who founded a string of Catholic churches throughout what later became the state of California at the same time the American Revolution was being fought in the eastern part of our nation.

In the Catholic middle school I attended, I learned about Father Serra again; Father Serra stained glass C Johnsonthis time the lesson was brought to us by speakers from the Serra Club, a group that promotes vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

As an adult, when I had the chance to visit California with Hubs in 1995, I made sure to see one of the mission churches there. California mission C JohnsonI’d love to take a trip along El Camino Real and see them all. They’re beautiful tributes to evangelization.

Here’s more about this energetic, dedicated Franciscan saint.

 

All images generously shared by Christine Johnson.

College Prep

There’s outrage all over the Internet right now over the cancellation of a kindergarten student performance because it would take away instructional time needed for the kids to become “college- and career-ready.”

I’d like to join my voice to the disagreement with the school administration; I’m all about encouraging students to participate in the arts. But I take issue with what a lot of people are saying:

“KINDERGARTNERS ARE GETTING READY FOR COLLEGE?”

Well, yes. Yes, they are. That’s why the arts, and recess, and physical education are so important. College is not all about performance on the SAT or ACT. It’s about using your knowledge, skills, abilities and interests to learn even more.

I had a school principal tell me once that kindergarten students are not preparing for college. That was in response to my concern that my daughter and her classmates were not being taught at all for an entire month while the kindergarten teacher was caring for a terminally-ill parent and the school failed to provide substitute teachers. Instead, whatever grownup (or, in some cases, eighth-grade girl) was available for the next half-hour would babysit the kids. They watched movies and played all day for a month.

Because the principal would not take calls from kindergarten parents and the situation was never addressed, we removed our daughter from that school. Suddenly the principal had time for a meeting with me, in the form of an exit interview. She defended her decision not to provide the class with a substitute teacher by telling me, “It’s kindergarten. It’s not like we’re getting them ready for Harvard.”

wpid-0112141301b.jpgNot surprisingly, that school only lasted two more years before closing due to lack of enrollment. Here’s what the school looked like the last time I saw it.

Schools do need to find a good balance between instructional time, play time, physical activity and the arts–on every level of education. Emphasizing one of these at the expense of the others is disastrous for the students and does no service to society.

Yes; kindergarten students are preparing for college–maybe even Harvard. They do this by learning reading-readiness skills, counting and doing simple math, looking at the clouds in the sky, drawing pictures with sidewalk chalk on the playground, practicing music for a show, and perfecting their kickball skills. It’s all important, and good teachers and principals are needed to keep it all going and support that learning. Like the building blocks the kindergartners use to make towers and castles, the skills the children practice as five-year-olds lay the foundation of the work they’ll do later.