Monday, September 11, 2006


Did you read the September 11th issue of Newsweek? The cover reads "THE NEW FIRST GRADE Are Kids Getting Pushed Too Fast, Too Soon?"

Any parent with children in school should read this article.

Holly Hultgren, Principal at Lafayette Elementary school says:

"I worry that we are creating school environments that are less friendly to kids who just aren't ready...Around third grade, sometimes even the most precocious kids begin to burn out."

After reading the article, I was surprised at how many things in this article were specific to our Way Down In Mayberry school. Some of the concerns included parents waiting until their children were six to put them in Kindergarten because the school program is so advanced. Other issues were daily timed testing of math and reading as well as decreased recess, P.E. and music time.

My biggest problem with the school is their idea that everyone in the class should know exactly how their classmates size up on say for instance, math. This presents itself in what the teacher calls a "party". It goes something like this.....

The teacher says that the class is going to work towards the math goal of X. This party may be something like a "fruit kabob party". At each level of math that you can get signed off on, you receive a fruit for the party. If let's say Suzie get her multiplication tables completed then she may get an apple for her 4x tables or a pineapple for her 6x tables. The higher you get on your multiplication, the better things you get for your kabob.....maybe marshmallows or chocolate. On the board in your class is everyone's name and a picture of all of the different fruits/candies that can go on your kabob. As you complete your multiplication, you get to put your cut-outs of the fruits on the board.

Imagine walking in to a classroom and seeing some children with one or two fruit cut-outs next to their name while others have a plethora of fruits and candies next to their name. Everyone in the class knows EXACTLY how smart or not-so-smart you are at multiplication. As the "fruit kabob party" approaches, of course you can imagine the stress that some kids can feel.

Now I have had the displeasure of attending a "fruit kabob party". Some kids only have a few apples and bananas on their kabobs. Other kids are smacking away at chocolate and marshmallows loaded with pineapple and oranges.

How degrading is that? Is it just me? What are we teaching our children?

I have talked with the teacher about this. She sees nothing wrong with it and says that this has been a proven method of teaching . Now my son has her this year. How will he feel if he doesn't succeed on his timetables? How will he feel towards the other children if he does very well?

As other parents are spending every last dime of their paychecks on a mortgage to get in to an attendance area of one of the highest performing schools in the Northwest, I am thinking about how to get out. With a waiting list of 600+ to get into the school, you would think that I've gone bat-shit-crazy on wanting to pull my kids out. Maybe I have.

What do you think?


The Analyzer said...

As a mom of a kid with no fruit on his kabob -no shit- except in his class it was a hot fudge sundae, and he knew (along with everyone else) that he was the one keeping the class from having the damn party, I say pull them. That school is tailored to a very very specific individual, and out of my 4 I think I might have 1 that will excell there. Do your family a favor and reduce everyone's stress. Besides, our kids have their entire lives to read fast and take lots of tests. Why push them now?

Jennboree said...

I say pull out of the school. There is a reason more and more kids are homeschooled (not that I have an inkling of patience or want to do it). I'd ask how is that proven to be an effective method? Is that just something the teacher throws out there to get parents to shut up?

I was shocked and horrified when I moved from Missouri to Texas in 5th grade only to find that there was NO RECESS in my school! It still bothers me.

Children learn best when not stressed. Bumper sticker? Should be!

MomSquared said...

I'm not sure what they are teaching them..besides bad eating habits.

Food = reward.

Eek. As if we need another generation of americans with that idea. Although I realize that wasn't the point of your post!

I don't want to homeschool, but I wish I could get someone else's mom to teach my kids. :)

Katie said...

Okay, I normally just read and do not comment but this i can not pass up... You should really get them out if at all possible. For their own good, for your family, and for our society. We can not continue to stand by while schools leave kids out and use being better then other people as a form of motivation. It is this kind of thing that leads to people with no empathy and who are beating others and putting others down in order to feel succesful. Okay, I know I have a huge bias on this issue, but these are my thoughts. Do what is best for your kids and family, but i would encourage a change.

geezette said...

geezette says: As a teacher and a parent in a previous life, the only thing important about school is that the child feels good about going. Children will learn what they will learn and in twenty years the only thing that matters is that they will have good memories and maybe a degree in hand!
Your job as parent is to protect your child from being destroyed by a system that will never really understand how children learn or what motivates them. You can only hope that a few of their teachers do understand. (She says, stepping off the soap box)

Shoshana said...

I do noticed that. This year, my 7-year old second grade comes home with daily timed math test. He always aced those. No problem. He gets extra music time with his weekly piano lessons. What worries me though is the tight schedule they put this second graders.

I had just pulled them out of a private school where every day they do 4 hours of secular studies (as in like most schools are studying) and another 4 hours or Hebrew studies, like what kids would be learning in Israel. That was fine for a while, but then I started seeing my kids losing weight, just a tad more neurotic.

Heck, wasn't school supposed to be fun? Weren't school supposed to make them want to learn, not stay away from. They're going to have another 10+ years of primary school to finish, I can't have them hating school now.

I am not sure I'd home-school them, but I'd probably move to a move relaxed school invironment. Maybe a Montessori*sp?* where they'd learn at their own pace maybe. I'll have to see. It will have to be non-sectarian though. I noticed most Montessori in these area is affiliated with religion.

Anonymous said...

Pull them out FAST! I hate that method of teaching. I was one of those kids that were in the "low" reading class, and it humiliated me to no end. Talk about low self-esteem. Do yourself and your kids a huge favor and take them to a different school. I'm sure there are much beeter ones that will suit your needs.
Good Luck.

I'm Just a Girl said...

My son is not in kindergarten until next year although he's in his third year of Montessori (which is run differently than the public schools), so let me play devil's advocate. I think in general our society is raising children to expect rewards for doing nothing. They show up at their baseball game for example, and win a trophy. "Yay, you're ALL winners!" That sort of mentality has been going on too long because we're all too afraid of hurting kids' feelings. They aren't being taught to strive and work for a goal before they earn the reward. So that could be the mentality this school is coming from, i.e. we're not going to hand out a ribbon to a child everytime they complete a math problem. BUT...I don't necessarily agree that posting each child's score is healthy or fruitful (no pun intended). There has to be a happy medium. If the wait list is that long they must be doing something right. Before pulling out I would talk to the teachers and/or gather other parents together who might share your concerns. Or just show up at the next PTA meeting with those parents. If that were happening to my son, in a school I otherwise loved, I would do everything I could to pat them on the back for encouraging kids to work hard but also work with them to change the way it's broadcast, so that kids aren't panicking because someone else has more apples. Make sense???? Good luck with whatever you do.

MomToTracyNSheri said...

The fruit-kabob party is evil. It must be destroyed.

I am now going to hijack your blog slightly for my own thoughts on what is wrong with traditional education methods.

The class always moves too fast for some kids and too slow for others. Why the hell aren't kids grouped by ability? That way, there will never be a bunch of kids sitting around doing nothing while the teacher works with the kids who are struggling, and no one will ever be made to feel bad while the kids for whom it comes easy soar ahead? What is the problem with this philosophy? Why is everyone so against this??? Academic ability does not define the quality of an individual. By mixing all the kids together regardless of ability, we are not "equalizing" anyway - we are doing exactly the opposite. If we can let go of that idea, and just put kids in the class that works best for them, where they will get the attention THEY NEED, then everyone will learn to their full potential. This is so clear to me.

Okay, sorry 'bout that. It had to be said.

tallulah said...

Wow! Thanks for all of your comments. I love having a world of opinionated bloggers I can bounce ideas off of. I love when you can play devil's advocate as well. And thank you, most of all for listening to my ranting!

Lynn said...

I agree that if you love the school try to change it, but don't wait too long. Around third grade I turned into a daydreamer and I am also an excessive talker those two factors make me a slow worker at times. My teacher taught both 3rd and 4th grade so we had to spend a lot of time working on our own. For practical reasons, I'm sure, he had a chart on the board with the subject down one side and the student names across the top. As we finished the assignment for each subject we went to the front of the room and marked an x in the box. That is the year my self image took a nose dive. That alone wasn't the only factor but I do remember wondering why I wasn't as smart as the rest of the children. My self esteem did rebound later in life, but why put kids in that situation?

cloudscome said...

I hate the fruit party strategy for all the reasons others mentioned. It is certainly possible to motivate kids to strive for their best and love learning and work hard without that kind of public shame competition. Do you have a Friends' school in the area?

KaY said...

You know what is best for your kids. A school's reputation is only that. A reputation. If you do not approve of their methods, then you have every right to seek another school that you will be comfy leaving your kids with.