Is Kindergarten the New First Grade?
It is according to Newsweek, whose cover story last week made the oft-repeated point that kids are under too much pressure, too soon.
As I've pointed out before on this blog, I'm skeptical. Certainly, there are schools that make kids do too much pointless homework. And certainly some kids aren't ready for academic work at age five. But plenty are. They're jumping at the bit to start reading and doing fun things with numbers. That kindergarten is starting to nurture this curiosity -- rather than just involving nap and playground time -- is not a bad thing.
Indeed, I'm not sure about the point of kindergarten if it's not going to have an academic bent. In this day and age, most children have some experience dealing with other kids in social settings by age five -- through day care, private preschool, or public preschool programs like Head Start. Kids do arrive at kindergarten with a wide range of skills, which makes excellent teachers who can accommodate individual children's needs a necessity. But we shouldn't lament that now schools are saying it's OK -- and maybe even worth a little pushing -- for kids to start reading in kindergarten. If all grades were challenging kids more, we wouldn't have so many of the educational problems we do.