Unrealistic expectations

To the Editor:

I read with interest the article in the Caledonian-Record, titled, "School Turns Focus to Early Education." As a former nationally accredited family childcare provider and a gymnastics instructor for toddlers and young children, I have some thoughts as to why these behavior problems are occurring.

I have seen a trend in the past 25 years since my own children started school that disturbs me. Kindergarten used to be half a day. Teachers were not concerned that first graders started out not knowing their letter sounds. In an effort to improve our test scores of graduating seniors, there is a greater push to introduce academics at earlier and earlier grades. Dr. Leonard Sax, author of the book, Boys Adrift, states that our current trend of requiring five year olds to sit for long periods of time learning to read and write is as developmentally inappropriate as it is to teach a seven year old how to drive. Dr. Sax goes on to say that harder academics at earlier ages sets boys in particular, up for a sense of failure and that by third grade they hate school and start acting out.

Contrast this with Finland where children do not attend school of any kind until they are seven years old. Yes, at age seven they are behind American seven year olds, but three or four years later they are on par with American children and by the time they graduate from high school they are far ahead of their American counterparts!

Young children can best develop their brains for academic learning by moving! Climbing, rolling, jumping, hanging from bars on the playground are all activities that wire the brain for mathematics, spelling and reading. We are taking playtime and movement experiences away from our children which in turn stunts their brain development. "Movement is the architect of a child's brain."

This year in particular I have seen a higher number of kindergarten children from all different school districts, coming into our gym having meltdowns and regressive, clingy, behavior. Parents are distraught and telling me that their kindergarten children are exhausted, wiped out and stressed. Does anyone else find it sad that kindergarten children are stressed from school? Kindergarten's primary goal (in my opinion) is to teach children that learning is FUN.

I by no means am being critical of the wonderful people who teach our children, or of the St. Johnsbury School. This is a nationwide trend. I urge school board members, teachers, parents and administrators to consider what our current trend in academics is doing to young children. Perhaps this may be a contributing factor to the behavior problems. Is it the children or is it our unrealistic expectations of them?

Donna Reed

St. Johnsbury, Vt.

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