I’ve been stewing about this for a few weeks now. My son is 2.5 years old and his daycare has started sending “optional” homework packets home. The activities include sorting by color and shape, prewriting skills (a.k.a tracing letters), decorating Xeroxed pictures of pumpkins, and then writing a little story about how this poor pumpkin came to get rice, noodles, and miscellaneous bits of paper stuck to it.
While I appreciate the home/school connection this provides, the teacher and curriculum developer in me has to sit back and think about the inappropriateness of assigning children this age homework. I realize we don’t have to do it, but I also want to show that I support the efforts of my child’s teacher and I don’t want to send the wrong message to my son. This seems to be my first “parent who is also an educator” conundrum.
I think that with all of the pressures schools are facing with standards and testing, preschools are stepping up to become the new kindergarten. What I’d like to do is have everyone who is writing these standards, sit down in a room, and take a moment to reflect on the happiest moments of their childhoods. I’d hope it would lead them to the conclusion that young children need to PLAY! They learn from play, they love to play, they were born to play-not do homework-at least not yet.
Children have lots of time to learn the skills needed for school, and they’ll be able to do that more easily if they have mastered the social and emotional skills that come along with regular old, self-regulated play. The Alliance for Childhood has written a very interesting report about this called, “Crisis in the Kindergarten: Why Children Need to Play in School.”
My son does come home from daycare with paint on his shirt, skinned knees, and other evidence that at least part of his day was messy and fun, so I am hopeful that he isn’t going to be completely burned out academically by the time he’s five. I don’t want to become that parent, but I also want what is developmentally appropriate for my son. Have we as educators gone too far to “prepare” our students for the rigors of the classroom? Are we sucking the fun out of childhood? I sincerely hope that we aren’t.