Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What Ever Happened to Childhood?

I spent a lovely day yesterday chatting with friends and drinking tea while kids of all ages ran amok, played games, ate scones and made crafts. Throughout the afternoon big kids picked up books and read them to little kids or themselves, several board games were figured out and a rather elaborate game that involved characters and plot was created.

Days like this make me so thankful for the freedom and flexibility of our homeschooling lifestyle.

Driving to take my son to play basketball that afternoon, I noticed a number of tiny kids struggling backpacks that looked like they weighed more than the kids themselves. Later, while writing a letter in a cafe, I could overhear a number of conversations related to homework and school struggles. None of them sounded as though there was any love of learning taking place. Most of them seemed to be rather down on themselves and education, both of which made me sad.

It reminded me of a rant I wrote a few years ago for a newspaper about schools pushing kids too hard, too early. I know that not all schools push kids, but it does seem to be a trend. The baffling thing to me is that as a society we are going along with it.

What ever happened to childhood?!? 

Here's that piece- I'd love to hear what you all think about the subject:

"People who care about young children should be outraged by how much more academic work kindergarteners are supposed to be doing now than was expected of them in the past, including reading and homework. We should be questioning why or if and how this benefits our children.

Some kids have always been ready to read early, but are all children somehow now developmentally ready a year or two earlier than they were 20 years ago? The intervention programs label many children as slow, but they would have been right on schedule a few years ago. These labels will follow them through school and most kids will learn to live up to their label of being slow and inadequate. I would think that many of the kids aren't even slow, but just stuck in a system that is moving way too fast. It's the system of too high expectations too early that needs intervention, not the children.

What ever happened to childhood and time to play? Of course reading and literacy are important, but why at 5 years old? What's the rush? Do we need or even want our youngest children to be able to read all the newspaper and magazine headlines, many of which are about terrible violence in the world, or all of the advertising that you cannot avoid if you leave your home? Who is speaking up for the rights of the children to just be children? Five-year-olds need to be listening to and enjoying stories from books, not being forced to do worksheets that only frustrate them.

Many school children I talk to will read only for schoolwork or prizes, certainly not to gain information for themselves or because they enjoy it. Many end up hating it. Perhaps no child will be left behind, but many of them will grow up thinking they are stupid or slow and never learn to read for pleasure, find enjoyment in education or truly think for themselves. It doesn't seem like this is a system that is about the children anymore, but one that is about making money with textbooks, tests and intervention programs.

Next, will we move the ages of crawling and walking up a few months, and develop some programs to assist all these children who may have been fine on the old time line, but are just too slow these days?

I know there are plenty of parents and teachers who agree that this is ridiculous. I think we all need to stand up and speak out loudly for these kids. We shouldn't just accept this loss of childhood and force our kids to grow up sooner than they need to."

*****This article was originally published in the Record Searchlight's "Speak Your Piece" column and also is featured on the Homeschool Resource Center website.