The dotter has been at her preschool, selected mainly for convenient location and because a buddy of mine had her kid there and liked it, since two months after she came home with us. It's a touchstone for her, an achor, because she's been there so long. Oh, her teachers come and go, but we keep in touch with some of them, and her friends come and go, but we keep in touch with them, too. One of the things I worry about (hey, it's me, I've got to have something to worry about, eh?) is how things are going to change this year.
She's going to be going into kindergarten.
Real school. "Big kids' school", as she puts it.
We've already enrolled her in summer day camp--mornings in one portion, afternoons in the swim camp. I'm sure she'll have fun...but...but...it's a big change.
While the preschool was, as said above, chosen mainly for convenience, it has turned into a good learning experience. Right now, they're learning sounds to go with letters, sight words, the months, the seasons, and, to top it all off, a goodly dollop of religion. Aside from one teacher who I thought sucked, all her teachers are good teachers--interested in the kids, involving them, nurturing them, letting them learn at a relaxed pace that fits their needs.
What's "big school" going to be like?
My various buddies on lists and blogs who are teachers, or who have kids in school, or who are both, regularly rant about the current atmosphere in public schools--the "teach to the test" approach that has been the inevitable spin-off of NCLB.
The parents of first-graders say that their kids are already aware of the tests, and the need to do well on the test--and it's making their kids (first-graders!) anxious.
The parents of older kids say that their kids are regularly switched out from regular lessons into weeks of practice tests before The Test.
The teachers grit their teeth and complain about school administrators futzing with curricula...all in the name of "passing The Test". About how in certain grades, the social sciences go poof, because they're not on The Test. About how music and art and PE are ditched, because they're not on The Test. About how they're not allowed to do what works with this group of kids, because it's not "proven" to work for The Test. And The Test is the be-all and end-all for funding for the school...
Teachers and parents report on rah-rah pep sessions before The Test that emphasize to the kids just how important it is for the school that they pass.
Hell's bells--this sort of talk just freaks me out. The dotter is in that stage of learning at her own pace, just beginning to realize that letters can add up to words, beginning to fiddle with the notion of how, if you take the number six, it's two more than four, and isn't that kind of neat?
I don't want have the dotter's interest in learning things turned into an anxiety-provoking grind. I don't want her to learn test-taking skills. I want her to learn stuff. Science. Math. Art. History. Geography. How to play soccer. I want her to make volcanoes. I want her to build model French forts out of popsicle sticks, or Spanish missions out of sugar cubes, or whatever the standard build-a-historic-building theme is here in our state. I want her to learn that reading is fun, rather than a chore.
Apparently, enough parents have had enough of the Testing that they have put pressure on their congresscritters to Do Something About NCLB. NCLB is up for re-authorization this year, and Republicans and Democrats are joining together to try to work some changes into the reauthorization.
Standards are great. Standards are good. We need standards. But from what I've heard from folks on the ground is that the standards approach that is fostered by the current NCLB structure isn't working. That it's making things worse, rather than better.
I have a very vested interest in seeing how this all plays out.