I'm one of those people who insist that play is young children's work. I hate reading news articles like this one, about a school that canceled their kindergarten play so children could focus on, "college and career". It frustrates me that kindergarten is no longer a gentle transition but the new first grade.
Children need to develop syllogistic reasoning abilities. Which doesn't happen until most kids are six so pressuring kids to learn reading and math before they are ready, really only amounts to rote memorization. They become echoes but they don't internalize and thus can't apply it to new situations. Studies have also shown that while kids who attend an academic preschool/kindergarten may test higher at age six, there really is no difference by age nine. Even more important, it robs children of the discover of learning; thus, taking away much of the joy. It's shoving it down their faces instead of giving them the chance to see, touch, and taste on their own.
I wish there wasn't pressure in younger grades for children to succeeded, especially in the form of standardized test. Don't get be wrong. I believe education should begin almost at birth, with good book and lots of manipulative(s). I think children should be introduced to the world around them in exciting ways that gives them an insatiable desire for knowledge. I'm not necessarily saying we should delay education. I just think we should focus more on fostering a love for education rather than constantly giving young kids hurdles jump.
There are some children who are ready to read at four or even three. There are others, however, where there cognitive development just isn't there. It is going to take three or four years for them to really get it.
I was one of those children. Up until forth grade I was in the lowest reading group. Luckily, I went to a great school were a reading resource teacher made me feel smart instead of behind. And I was smart; I couldn't make since of those words by myself but I had great comprehension skills. That she helped me continue to develop by introducing me to wonderful books. Around age eight something just clicked and all those letters suddenly made sense. So in fourth grade, when we got sorted in to reading groups I was no longer in the "lowest" group, instead, I was sent up to a fifth grade classroom. I don't know what gave that teacher so much patience. We did work on phonics and sight words but more than that she taught me the joy of books. My mom will tell you that the summer between third and fourth grade I practically lived in the library and I've been getting lost in books ever since. Now I'm far from a genius and I admit that my spelling and grammar can be atrocious. I, however, did fall in love with learning. So in high school I jumped at the change to take AP classes and I graduate college magnum cum laude. It was my love for learning, not necessarily my IQ that accomplished those things.
Even though that has been my experience and I strongly believe the words I wrote above; I still have fallen into the trap of trying to rush my children. I don't want my feelings of self worth to rely on my children's successes, but it's hard when you are at stay at home mom. Especially a homeschooling mom - it's your work! And sadly their academic achievements can become an idol. I've struggled with this with both my boys. Like me they are have great comprehension skills and will absorb books and facts. Their curiosity is unquenchable! They are smart in many, many, ways but reading and writing has been a struggle. Big Buddy understands all his phonics sounds and digraphs but his processing speed just isn't their yet. Reading aloud or on his own is still an endeavor. Mini Man for the longest time showed no interest in letters or numbers. I'd set him up with little games and he'd enjoy them and do fine but if I asked him to name a letter or to spell his name and he'd go mute.
Thankful, Jeremy has been a great encouragement. He reminds of the most important parts of my job: to be patient and encouraging, to make learning fun, and to expose them to vast amounts of interests/knowledge. It's not a race and they are learning. Which it what's the really the most important thing, right?
For most of May we took a break from our schooling routine - we had just started to paint our house and went on a couple trips to see family. Then one day, all on his own Mini Man sat down and wrote his name.
Inside, I had been struggling with the fact that except for making an 'M' he had showed no aptitude for memorizing or writing any other letters. Then all the sudden something clicked; the games we played finally made sense. Now he wants to write it all the time and has started naming/writing other letters.
It's hard not to compare and to stress but children learn at different paces. It much smoother for them and for us if we just embrace it. I'd rather create tortoises who have the stamina to make it to the end of the finish line rather than a bunch of hares who burn out too quickly.