Our kids finished up their fifth week of school today.
This year we have a junior, a fifth grader, a fourth grader, a first grader, a kindergartner, and a preschooler.
And I’m concerned about kindergarten again.
It has nothing to do with the teacher. I’m more concerned with what kindergarten has become here in Connecticut and in the whole country in general.
It’s too much. Way too much.
I wouldn’t say that Number 6 is unhappy. He doesn’t really complain about going to school. He generally walks off the bus happy.
But every day he says to me, “Mommy, I don’t have any time to play anymore.”
He gets on the bus at 8 a.m., and he doesn’t step off of it until 3:45.
By the time he gets inside and unpacks his backpack and eats his snack, it’s after 4:00.
If I’m going to get him into bed by 8:00, that gives him four hours. Four hours to decompress, play, eat dinner, take a bath, enjoy a relaxed bedtime routine, and get into bed.
And that’s if he doesn’t have to be dragged around in the car to an older brother or sister’s baseball game or swim meet.
On those days, there’s hardly any time at all.
I find that I am telling my son to hurry up! so that he can wind down.
That’s messed up!
There’s not enough down time. Not enough play time.
And in a month when we turn the clocks back, he will have no time to play outside at all when he gets home.
He’s only five. It’s too much.
If most of his school day was made up of loads of opportunities to play and be creative, that would be one thing.
But it’s not.
Our five-year-olds don’t need to learn how to sit in a chair for extended periods of time.
They need to learn how NOT to sit in a chair for extended periods of time.
This morning my little guy came downstairs at 7:25. He was fully dressed. He did that on his own, which is saying something for his level of competence and independence at five years old.
“Mommy! I got myself dwessed so I have time to play with Legos before I go to school!” he told me.
He sat down in the kitchen and ate his breakfast with his sisters, finished up around 7:45, and went upstairs and brushed his teeth.
He came downstairs and I helped him put his sneakers on. We got his lunchbox out of the fridge and put it in his backpack and then got his sweatshirt on and zipped it up.
“Okay, Mommy!” he said, “I’m gonna go play now.”
It was 7:58 and we had to walk outside to wait for the bus in two minutes.
I told him he didn’t have time to play. And he started bawling.
He is admittedly a little bit dramatic at times, but in this instance, I can’t say I blame him.
My kindergartener does not have time to be a kid.
He needs lots of time to be a kid every single day. For like a whole bunch of hours.
That down time I mentioned earlier? That four hours between the minute he steps off the bus and the time his head should be hitting his pillow?
That doesn’t even include homework.
No, he doesn’t have a lot of homework.
But he has sight words he’s supposed to study and a calendar full of activities he’s supposed to complete each month.
And you know what?
He’s not doing it.
I am not making my kindergartener do homework.
His homework should be NOT doing homework.
His homework should be building the “robots” he likes to build with Legos, and chucking the apples in the backyard that have fallen off of the trees onto the ground at the fence and riding his bike and getting dirt under his fingernails and playing in the leaves and reading books with a grown up for pleasure and dressing up and playing cards and Candy Land and doing puzzles and swinging on the swings and playing in the sandbox and just, well, having fun.
And if the majority of his day at school isn’t spent doing that stuff with other kids, well, then that is going to be my priority at home.
He’ll learn how to read. He’ll learn how to write. He’ll learn how to sit. He’ll be able to keep up with whichever foreign kids are apparently so much smarter than the ones here in the United States.
But I could give a rat’s ass if that happens this year.
This year, at least when he’s with me, the most important thing my kindergartener is gonna learn is how to keep having fun.