Thursday, February 20, 2014

Easy as ABCs

Abby's preschool teacher seems very concerned she does not know all of her letters or numbers yet.  I'm still very concerned Abby won't eat carrots anymore and cannot breathe through her nose.


Abby's 5.  She is in preschool.  Since my chat with the teacher I've thought really hard about things and my conclusions are:

A.) Preschool is where kids learn to stand in line, sit criss-cross applesauce, and try not to walk around with their hand in their pants.  If they're wearing pants.  Basic readiness skills.  Pre = Before.  Before School skills.  Seems simple enough.

B.)  What happened to readiness anyway?  Did Common Core eat it?  This preschool is well sought-after and typically wait listed and now I'm learning why.  They move forward with academics.  Which is awesome.  If your kids is developmentally ready for that.  While mine rolls her eyes, has mastered a straddle split, and mispronounces "evidentally" yet uses the mispronunciation correctly, she is not developmentally ready for letter/sound recognition.  Her brain is soaking things in at such a rapid rate that it will soon be ready.  But not yet.  Right now she is busy making rainbows on every pond stone in our garden and I am going to support the live arts dammit.

C.) Part of me is tragically embarrassed that I, a former special education teacher of 5 years, cannot get her child to learn her ABCs by the end of preschool.  What kind of credentials do I hold if my own daughter hands me a Q when I ask for a K?  Bless her heart, she is pushing for accolades.   "Watch me read, Mommy!"  And I do.  I watch her recite three BOB books in their entirety and marvel at her ability to memorize.  What kind of determined spirit memorizes - verbatim- three books of words she does not yet understand are words yet.  A very bright and hopeful spirit.

And then there is this.  "Mommy, did you know "a" is a word all by itself?"  She's getting there, it's a process.
Despite the fact that I have worked on ABCs with her, Abby's teacher has given her nightly homework and I agreed to it, like a chump.  The first one was completed this morning.  She cranked out those As like a star student.  Then she colored each one in the center with pink.  Then she connected them so they wouldn't be lonely like a lacy Valentine.  Because she's five.  A bright and hopeful five.

I do understand that the teacher's heart is in the right place.  She wants Abby to keep up with the class.  She doesn't want to leave Abby behind.

But that is where the trouble starts for me.  Behind.  Behind what?  Behind whom?  Is Common Core such a threat to the educational system that it is now infiltrating our nation's preschool curriculum?  Will my daughter join the other 5-6 year olds in the fall and not be able to sing The Wheels on the Bus?  Will she be a poor line leader because she thinks S is a C because it makes the "sss" sound?  Will Abby kick other children in the shins at the water fountain because they can find R without singing the entire alphabet song?  Maybe yes for the last one if the kid is mean about it.  

I am in the process of letting Abby be her five:  painting by number on the porch (she does all the 1s, is exhausted, and asks for a snack after that), dragging her stuffed animals along for a walk causing neighbors to rubberneck, feeding her babydoll spinach instead of more Goldfish.  I am letting Abby be her five.

But I didn't at first.  After conferencing with her teacher, my knee-jerk reaction was to buy ABC puzzles, games, books, that make learning "fun!"  Only a mother like me cannot make teaching a daughter like her fun to save her soul.  When Abby kept calling E a V, I lost all worldly compassion and drilled her with direct instruction until we were both in tears.  My investment was too high, her risk was too deep and our frustrations imploded all over the living room rug.

Suddenly I am the one kicking kindergartners in the shins at the water fountain.  I felt like I was bullying her into learning to slalom before she learned to ski.  My girl tries and tries but covers up her understanding with silly faces and clever insight, "Mommy!  Why did the walrus have a baby?  Because it wanted to kiss her all the time."

Green witch.  Flying monkeys.

But no more.  I'm releasing my teacher guilt to the universe where it can feed stars.  I was a teacher in another life.  It was awful.  It was glorious.  I have nothing to prove to anyone.  It is over.  Right now, I'm Abby's mom with her best interest at heart and I can't forget that.  I'm the one who knows when she's ready for something or not.  She's showing interest in letters and she's getting there to learn them, gradually.  At her pace.  I'm the one who protects her from pressures and stress.  I will not be the one causing it.


ReneeK said...

Love this. Good for you. I don't have children yet and it's mostly because I have a ton of anxiety about them going to school!! (And lots of other things too but we'll limit it to school for this :) ) I start thinking about science fair projects, for example, and I'm DONE!! I put so much pressure on MYSELF as a child to do well in school, at everything really. My mother says I've been anxious since I started Kindergarten (didn't go to pre-school or daycare). I just remember school being so stressful, even though it came easily to me, and I don't want my kid to feel that way (if they have a personality like mine, that is.) I think about it with summer jobs too for teenagers. I've had a job every summer since I was 13! Did it teach me to work hard and be responsible and has it helped me in the long run? Absolutely! But what I wouldn't give for a carefree summer...we never get those years back. I know I'll have to decide how to balance teaching responsibility (and ABCs!) with letting them just be a kid while they have the chance. UGH, I don't know..... Parenting is hard and society makes it even harder I think. Hopefully I'll have friends like you when the time comes to help me figure it out :)

OSMA said...

Hi ReneeK, the fact that you are still reading this blog and don't have children is the biggest compliment I have ever had. Also, I hope coming here to read our trials and tribulations isn't scaring you away from having chidren if you so desire some day.

You and I sound similar as children. I had anxieties too but was super quiet about them all. I tried hard to be invisible but in a friendly way - the biggest Catch 22 ever :) I too held summer jobs since I was about 12 and babysat regularly before then. Please know that while you may have concerns and worries about their school, balancing it all, and possibly passing along your own anxieties, it really is a wonderfully terrifying journey. I've learned that raising children is almost more about them raising us. What I mean is that we can clearly see what's worth some anxiety and what's not(clean house, straight As, being supermom with a fulfilling career too). Kids have a way of keeping you grounded like I've never been before. Parenting IS scary but the things you worry about beforehand never seem to transpire. It's the unforeseen things you couldn't have done a damn thing about to prevent which throw you to the wolves. In that regard, you figure it out as you go along. But you do go along.

Believe me, you will have a friend who understands if you ever choose to have kids. I'm not going anywhere :)


Andrea Mowery said...

My daughter was in preschool 3 years and didn't know colors nor lowercase letters by kindergarten. She caught up, to say the very least.

Abby will learn ABCs when she's ready. Likely she knows them under the surface, and when they click she will fall into line effortlessly. Loving and encouraging her to be herself helps more than flash cards.