As a new school years is again upon us, I’ve heard a lot of talk about the ongoing debate of how much pressure we put on young kids. Especially kindergarteners. Should they be playing more? Should they be reading already? Is a 7 hour day too much?
There’s no doubt that my 7 year old is able to do way more academically than I did at his age. The school system has changed drastically in just a few decades.
As a mom of an elementary age kid, and as a former elementary school teacher. I’m here to tell you, they can have BOTH. We can have kids that are reading more, learning more, and doing more than we did as kids. Kids can rise to high expectations without forcing them to sacrifice their youth.
We can have kids that learn through play. We can still have kids that enjoying running and jumping. Admittedly, there’s not a lot of free play in public schools these days, but structured play can be good for kids too. They can still be happy and well rounded. Structured play doesn’t have to mean we’re forcing kids to give up their childhood.
We can have both, my friends.
Teachers spend countless hours prepping and planning fun, engaging activities, games and other lessons that get kids out of their seats and moving while learning. I’ve seen play kitchens in schools with sight words labeling the items. I’ve seen kids walking the hallways with clipboards in hand participating in a seek and find game in groups. All the while, fostering collaborative work, encouraging reading, writing, and physical activities. And guess what? The kids didn’t look like zombies. They looked like kids having fun while learning. We can have both.
Reading early doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Accomplishing big things doesn’t have to be at the expense of their tender spirit, and in my opinion, it’s not. My son loves learning about animals and Star Wars, and Superheroes. He loves when we read novels out loud and his imagination runs wild. He loves that he can learn about his favorite topics while reading with a flashlight at bedtime. He chooses this activity. He’s not forced. He feels empowered by that skill. By his ability to read. He bonds with his brothers by reading to them. He entertains himself on car rides with a book in hand. And it makes me smile.
I’ve never been the type of mom to wish time away. I’ve always been the mom that begs to slow time, but as a new school year is fast approaching, I will embrace the structure and the play. I will encourage my kids to practice their skills and grow them. And I will encourage them to run and play and be silly.
We can have both.
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