Tuesday, December 17, 2019

10 Things to Discuss With Your Child Before the Family Christmas

For our Christmas party we make crafts, drink Grinch juice and hot cocoa, make gingerbread people and do a small optional gift exchange with dollar items. It’s an opportunity for the children, especially the 3.5yo+ children, to discuss and practice societal norms and expectations before heading to family events and the mayhem and high emotions involved.

It teaches:

1. Giving is hard, especially if the item being given is something you really want.

2. Gifts are new toys and you shouldn’t expect someone to be willing to share their new toys, and you may not want to share yours, either. And that's okay.

3. Wait your turn to unwrap a gift. It’s not WWF.

4. Unwrap with care, gifts can be broken.

5. Show gratitude when opening a gift. Someone put a lot of thought and effort into getting it especially for you.

6. It’s the thought that counts. Keep any displeasure at the gift to yourself.

7. Offer kisses, hugs, high five, handshake or a simple “Thank you” to the person who gave you the gift, depending upon your comfort level with the giver.

8. You may politely decline personal space invasion. “I don’t feel like a hug right now. May I shake your hand?” Understand that there may be people around you that are your family, but you don’t know them or know them well. They will want to show you their love, but it may be uncomfortable for you.

9. Ask consent before you invade a person’s personal space, especially little kids who may feel overwhelmed and may not know you well. “Can I give you a hug? Ok. How about a fist bump?”

10. If things get overwhelming, it’s ok to ask your parents for a retreat time to some place quiet for a few minutes to just talk it out and relax.

We also talk about that opening presents is about opening presents, not playing with presents. That time will come afterward.

They know about being responsible and picking up, but those lesson can be lost in the mayhem, so we talk about that, too.

A time of joy and family can be overwhelming to young children. I try to prep them a bit to handle it as gracefully as possible.

parenting, child care, daycare, preschool, pre-k, teaching, holiday, holidays, Christmas, xmas, kids, children, 

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Reading Taught Wrong

I've done posts about how I teach reading. Now I want to do a comparison of what I think I do right compared to how I believe traditional instruction does it wrong. 

Can all my methods be incorporated into a traditional setting? 

Absolutely not. There is not the time. However, some of what I do can be, and should.

1. Expectation that children can read

Pretty much every developmentally on-track child can read by the age of 7 when they enter the next Piaget level of concrete operational. In many countries, reading instruction begins at the age of 7 when every child can be successful. Each child is unique. I've had children read at 3 and many more read at 5. However, EXPECTING every 5 year old to be able to read is not developmentally appropriate. Yet, we do that in this country. Under 7, it should be the child's choice and ability to read early, not an expectation. Under age 7, children are in the preoperational stage, where they CAN learn symbolic representations such as phonics and early sightwords.

Making their own books with markers
and cardboard to read to their friends
2. Teaching methods

Children under the age of 7-8 learn through movement and play. Which is how I teach early reading skills. Yet, traditional instruction has children sitting still and being instructed, which is again not developmentally appropriate.

3. Time and attention

Children have an attention span of, on average, one minute per age, increasing to 2 minutes at the age of 5. So a 5 year old has an attention span of about 10 minutes. This is greater if they are learning through play and movement and engaged in the activity. However, traditional teaching has them sitting in a group for up to 30 minutes and listening to a teacher or one another, or waiting their turn to read aloud. Again, not developmentally appropriate. My instruction takes no more than 5 minutes at any one time. The best is that they ASK for it, and they will choose to keep practicing and playing with it on their own after the lesson. Because, you know, it is FUN and ENGAGING, developmentally appropriate and at their skill level.

4. Skills introduction

Pre-reading skills are begun here from birth. Turning pages, left-right convention, one-to-one correspondence, crossing-the-midline ability, etc. I will use a baby's finger to point to the words as I read them. After doing this daily for 2 years, it is muscle memory for them to do it themselves. Kindergarten classrooms focus so much on reading, that they forget that there are pre-skills necessary for success. When those pre-skills are not embedded, reading is much more difficult.

5. Letter names

I could care less if a child knows an A is an "A". It has no bearing on reading. I do, however, care that a child learns the phonetic sound for an A, which is absolutely necessary in teaching reading.

6. Upper/lowercase letters

Uppercase letters comprise such a small percentage within print. I teach uppercase, lowercase and phonics simultaneously. Just as a child can learn mom, mama and mommy all have the same meaning, so can a child learn that A, a, and aaaa have the same meaning. Traditional methods often focus on a "Letter of the Day" or week. Again, random letter recognition has NO BEARING on reading, yet so much school time is wasted on this. Knowing that lowercase a stands for aaa DOES. It is the most important instruction, but done through meaningful experiences, not isolated instruction.

7. Phonics

Phonics are music. Traditional methods want to teach phonics as written symbols first, without recognizing that phonics are tones, lilts, blends of sound. They are magical sounds with meaning. Teaching them as this, brings them life and a richness that traditional methods simply don't engage. Much of my early reading skills learning is done through music. I start exposing phonics of lowercase letters to my kiddos at the age of 2 1/2. They often have them down by 3.

8. Giving meaning to symbols

Traditional instruction has children practicing phonics unconnected to anything engaging. They are taught as representatives of a letter symbol, and the letter phonics are taught individually, one letter at a time. Nothing engages a child more than attention to himself. By beginning spelling with children's names, they have an instant buy-in. We do it with their name songs each morning. After they do their spelling song for their name, we review the phonics. The children quickly learn how to spell their friends' names and how to sound them out. We sit in this stage for awhile.

Miss A 2yo, yeah, she did this
9. Timeline

As stated, we will sit in a learning stage for awhile to ensure that the children are fully engaged and have MASTERED a particular skill/stage before moving forward. Traditional methods push through a curriculum agenda, and poor readers are dragged along, often not mastering skills but sliding through.

10. Developmentally appropriate

Children up to age 7-8 learn through play and movement. Phonics here are learned through music and games. I will make a phonetic sound and the child will run and jump on the letter laying on the floor. Early reading instruction here begins with simple sightword sentences with a movement component and some silliness. "I am a ______." goes on the wall in large letters with dots under each word. Each child takes a turn reading the sentence and putting his finger on the dot for one-to-one correspondence, adding in the word. Whatever the word is the child chooses, the whole group acts it out. This adds an element of anticipation and surprise, keeping the whole group engaged. The next week it may be "I can ______." always adding only one or two new sight words at a time. Then the sentences can be combined. "I am a MONKEY and I can CLIMB TREES." Further along, I will write in the words and we will sound them out phonetically after they do the movement, before moving to the next child's turn. For another game the current sightwords are attached to the wall and the children run around and I will call out a sightword as they come around and they hit it with a swat frame. Learning always has a movement attached in the early stages.

11. Books are engaging and complex

Our early readers are created around the child. "My name is...," "I like..." The books I teach with are from Nora Gaydos [affiliate link.] The stories are repetitive, building skills slowly with the ability for mastery, but complex and rich with vibrant illustrations. The children want to know what is going to happen next, which keeps them moving forward and eager to read another book. And, they are very appealing to both girls and boys. Often traditional methods focus on very simplified books with simple illustrations. The focus is on the READING rather than the STORY. We focus on the story, with the reading as a by-product. We talk about the characters and the story, working on comprehension and analytical thinking. Again, engaging the child with what he is reading, providing meaning and context. Children learn new skills because they are useful and fascinating, not because someone says they have to do so. Retention and mastery are dramatically higher when children are engaged with their learning. The Gaydos books also introduce phonics, digraphs, blends, sightwords and advanced reading skills in a perfect timeline for easy mastery. Often, books used in schools do not.

12. Individualized instruction

Since I read books individually with each child, they are never allowed to develop bad habits. They flow through reading instruction in a very linear, clear method. Instant, constant correction keeps them on the correct path. Traditional methods of group instruction at the early stages of learning to read allow children to become muddled, develop bad habits and become afraid to speak up about their confusion or to participate out loud for fear of sounding wrong and being corrected in front of their peers. Individual instruction and attention is simply something that doesn't happen in traditional settings to the extent that it needs to in order to create excellent early readers.

13. Optimized Instruction Time

The children here have a choice of whether or not to read. Some days they are engaged in something else and don't want to do it. Some days they will read 5 books in a sitting. Some days they are tired and unable to focus, and I will decide that this is not the day to be reading. Traditional settings don't have that option to optimize instruction time.

14. Sight word Instruction

I believe that everything is learned better in context. My children learn their sightwords more through reading and me telling them that it is a sightword, than learning individual sightwords through other activities. Traditional methods teach a sightword then the child reads a book focusing on that sightword. It just isn't as engaging and meaningful. Any word is a sightword if a child sees it enough, and time spent reading, which occurs through engaging stories, is what makes a good reader. Once we get enough sightwords and phonics to begin reading my Nora Gaydos books, reading instruction occurs through READING only. Only if a child is having a really odd, difficult time with a specific word or sound will I add non-reading instruction, which is usually just a few seconds, a few times a day, for a few days before he will get it down pat. This focused attention to a specific issue for a specific child is more impactful than a general instruction to everyone.

15. Reading aloud

Children still in the preoperational stage have a lot of trouble reading silently. Or, they simply CAN'T. They also have a lot of trouble with comprehension, even if they have the ability to sound out and recognize words. Asking a child under 7 to read silently is not developmentally appropriate. My 5 year olds need to hear those phonics to spell out words and read. They need to associate the letter and word symbols to the sound representation. In traditional settings, unless reading together as a group, this can be unreasonable in a class of 28. One of the benefits, is that the children will correct one another if they hear something another child says that is off or wrong. They also will ask one another for assistance, and they usually provide the same answers I will give, such as "try to sound it out," "that's a sightword," "igh says I," and not just give the correct answer. Teaching another is a powerful learning tool. 

Mr. G 5yo
Reading ability, and time spent reading and being read to, are the key to a child's future success. Time spent on reading instruction is never wasted. I wish traditional school settings could incorporate more of my methods and allot more time for individual instruction. 

So many children under the age of 7 are being labeled failures for not being able to read, when they are simply just not YET in that developmental stage where they have the ability. The joy of reading and learning is being stripped from them for simply being young children. That is something I can't forgive or forget.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Halloween Sensory Bin

Lots of choking hazards, so children under 3 AND children of any age still putting items in their mouth, are only allowed to play under direct, strict supervision.

Learning activities:
  • Sorting by orange/black/white
  • Sorting by pumpkins/skulls/bats
  • Sorting by item
  • Counting to 5/10/20+
  • Matching bugs
  • Stick puppets
  • Retelling "5 Little Pumpkins"
  • Role playing "Witches Brew"
  • Retelling "5 Little Skeletons"
  • Make a skeleton
  • Patterning
  • Scoop/pour/transferring
What's in it?
  • Main fill is black and white beans
  • Qtips for bones
  • Orange/black/white pom poms
  • 2 bags of bugs (Dollar Tree)
  • Skull/pumpkin/bat erasers (Dollar Tree)
  • Gold pipe cleaners
  • Mini caldrons (Dollar Tree)
  • Stick puppets, Frankenstein and pumpkin

  • White cloth pieces
  • Bats (Dollar Tree)
  • Orange/black/white feathers
  • Stick ghost puppets
  • Bag of plastic eyeballs (Dollar Tree)
  • Bag of plastic skulls (Dollar Tree)

  • Packing peanuts for ghosts or bones
  • Large styrofoam pumpkins

 Mr. R: "The beans are his bones and muscles."

 A favorite activity of the 2 year olds.

They figured out that they could take apart the eyeballs, fill them with beans, and put them back together to make mini maracas.

I found that they really liked just tearing apart the packing peanuts. Still a great fine motor activity and since they are free..."Go for it!"
preschool, daycare, pre-k, child care, childcare, Halloween, sensory, sensory bin, learning, activity, activities, counting, dramatic play, child, children, kids, homeschool, homeschooling, boy, girl, scary, ghost, skull, witch, bat, spider, skeleton, pumpkin

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Siblings Blessing or Burden

A conversation with a client this week:
"How did he do with having his baby brother here today?"
"I was afraid he would try to do too much. He's very responsible with him and likes to help out." 
"I let him know right off that the baby was MY job and MY responsibility and that if I needed him to help out as teacher's helper, which is his job this week, that I would let him know. He went merrily off to play."

You may think that siblings are a gift of one to another. That can be true. However, they are often a burden and that burden is created by adults.

One of the best gifts you can give an older child is to say about their younger sibling:

"He is NOT your job. 
He is NOT your responsibility."

I have heard so often, "Take care of your baby brother!" as a parent leaves. Seriously, that is the last thing they say as they walk out through the door. A 3 or 4 year old child is left with that as their parent's final farewell. 

It is a massive burden. 

It strips away your older child's childhood.

Children do naughty things. Children get hurt. Children get hungry or sad or frustrated and cry. As adults we know we can't make a child's life perfect for them, but a young child has no clue and just gets anxious, frustrated, fearful and depressed when they understand the futility and POWERLESSNESS of the position they have been tasked with by their parent.

It is not a good thing for either child. 

1. It teaches the older child to lie. If it is his responsibility, then he will do anything to make sure the younger sibling doesn't get into trouble. This means lying about what happens, usually blaming another, innocent, child.

2. The older child will do anything to make the younger child happy. That often means assisting them in participating in something physical the older child is doing, which can be dangerous or inappropriate for the younger one. The helping can take the form of lifting the child or in other ways manhandling the child that could cause harm, or placing them higher or on more precarious places than a younger child should be accessing. 

By getting into physical positions with help, the younger child doesn't build the necessary skills to do so independently safely, and by not getting there himself, he lacks any knowledge of how to get out or down, let alone safely. Helping a child do anything physical is always a bad idea. They need to get there on their own, with some coaching, not physical manipulation. 

3. Also in making the younger child happy, the older one may sneak foods, steal toys from others, harm other children to allow their younger sibling to have an undeserved turn at an activity and in many way undermine the foundations of a good community. 

The older sibling wouldn't be doing this without the weight of responsibility, so it is turning a perfectly good child into one who is doing not good things, and developing not good habits. 

The younger sibling, on the other hand, is learning that she can get what she wants whenever she wants, doesn't have to wait, how to bully, and getting spoiled.

This week:

"[Mr. H], that is NOT her toy. Just because she wants it doesn't mean she gets it. It is not your job to make your sister happy, but it IS your job to follow the rules and be a nice person. Please give that back to him."

4. The older sibling spends so much time worrying and care taking over the younger child that they lose the ability to just play, be with their friends, and relax. They are constantly on the lookout for the younger one, and constantly intervening whenever anything goes even a bit sideways. 

The younger sibling doesn't learn proper coping mechanisms, patience, and social norms. Gaps can emerge in their development when the younger one is pushed by the older one into participating at a higher level before ready. The younger one isn't allowed to develop at their natural pace.


Mr. R to his friends: "I can't play right now, I need to get [baby brother] calmed down."

Me across the room: "He is NOT your responsibility. He's mine. He's fine. His bottle is almost ready. Go play."

5. When things go wrong, and they will go wrong, the older sibling feels responsible. He wasn't watching close enough, he wasn't near enough, he wasn't good enough to keep the younger sibling from getting hurt, either physically or emotionally. 

Couple that with a parent or adult that immediately demands harshly of the older sibling, "What happened?" It makes that burden even weightier. The proper response is to take care of the younger one, reassure the older one, and casually ask the older one if he saw what happened without a harsh grilling.

6. I have seen parents punish an older child for what a younger one did. Why? "You are old enough you should have stopped him or at least come and told me what he was doing!" Again, making the older child responsible, rather than acknowledging their own lack of parental supervision. 

It isn't fair to rely on a 3-6 year old to supervise an infant - 5 year old. There are plenty of videos on Youtube showing what children can get up to when left unsupervised. GOOD KIDS. For just a few minutes. Be the adult. Supervise your own children or hire someone else to do it. Take parental responsibility and don't lay it in any way in your older child's direction.

I, my brother and mom
I know many adults who hold resentment, and even trauma, due to a burdensome responsibility for their sibling(s) placed upon them by the adults in their lives. It can not only alter and even eliminate a happy, content childhood, it can change a person for life. 

I have a friend whose little brother died from a drug overdose when they were teens. She still blames herself nearly 50 years later for not being able to intervene enough to save him. She was tasked with taking care of her brother from an early age.

Give your child the gift of a sibling, not the burden.
parenting, parents, pre-k, sister, brother, sibling rivalry, development, child care, childcare, daycare, preschool, toddlers

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Children and Boredom

I received this question from one of the people I am mentoring:

"How can I create lessons so that the children won't be bored?"

It got me thinking about children and boredom, because the two just don't mix.

All human beings are born with an unlimited capacity and drive for exploration and learning. Infants use all their senses to explore anything and everything with which they come into contact.

So what happens? Why do children get bored? Why does it seem to be more of a problem these days?

I can tell you exactly why children get bored:

They aren't allowed to entertain themselves. Babies should be held and interacted with as much as possible in the early months. Often, though, babies continue to be held, contained and entertained most of their waking time when they should be exploring on their own. Babies today are held, placed into stationary contraptions or placed into safe areas with limited, non-rotating toys. Babies don't need baby toys, they need exploration opportunities. Give a baby a whisk and even at 4 months old their eyes light up because it is something NEW and to them, extraordinary. That word EXTRA-ordinary. It can be an ordinary object, but to a baby or child, anything new is extraordinary. From 6 months on, children need to be down, freely exploring new and varied materials, textures and environments, building and utilizing skills.

They aren't allowed to do individual exploration. So often today children are told what to do, where to go. They aren't allowed to venture forth to check out the world on their own. I had a conversation with a mom who was very irritated that her one year old kept moving the backdoor back and forth one day while she had it open. She couldn't get the little one to stop. I asked why she wanted the child to stop. She didn't have a good answer, she just felt it was not appropriate behavior. I explained how moving the door back and forth shifted light patterns, shifted any breeze patterns coming through the screen door, had heft for gross motor control practice, probably created noise changes as he could hear outside and inside noises differently, he was learning about arcs and physics. SO MUCH LEARNING at play, with a mother demanding that he stop.

They aren't allowed to play as they wish with items. "That's not how we play with cars." "That's not a toy." "No, here's how you do it." "Stack the blocks up high." You wouldn't think saying something like "Stack the blocks up high," would be a bad thing, but it imposes our own idea of what is to be done with the blocks, rather than the child's. Maybe she wants to line them up, or use them as pretend food, or carry them in a purse. So often we want adults and teacher playing with children, but too often the play is then directed by the adult and their narrow in-the-box view of how play should go. Children don't just "think outside of the box," to them, there is no box. WE adults create the boxes for them. WE limit their imagination. WE limit their ability to play and explore. By suggesting how a child should play, our powerful influence through how they wish to please and imitate us, eliminates immeasurable ways that THEY may have chosen to play. 

They are told no. It's a freakin' spatula. Let the kid play with it. Before taking an item from a child, really assess if it is necessary to do so, or if you are simply making a knee-jerk reaction because you don't see it as a "toy." We need to get out of the idea that children need toys and into the idea that children need to explore anything and everything around them that is safe to do so. So your toddler loves the Tupperware. Let him play with it. It will wash. Create a home where your child will only hear NO if a situation is unsafe, meaning where she will harm something valuable, herself, another person or living thing.

We do for them rather than teach them. Maria Montessori said, "Never do for a child what he can do for himself." I live by that. Even the two year old here is folding towels, sweeping, helping to dress herself, etc. The goal is to raise competent, resourceful, polite human beings. We do them no service when we don't allow them opportunities to practice and gain skills as soon as they are ready. When we shut down a child's emerging independence because we are too impatient, too time-crunched, we tell them, "You can't do it." "You can't do it well enough." "This doesn't matter." "Your needs are not as important as my needs." You find children try less hard. They try to do fewer things. They give up quicker. They begin to more and more look to the adults in their lives for what they SHOULD be doing, HOW to do it and WHEN. See where this is going?

We instill unnecessary fear. "Get down from there before you get hurt." One of the worst things an adult can do is to save a child. Instead, they should teach the child how to get out of the situation on his/her own. If it happened with your back turned once, more than likely it will happen again. Giving skills rather than help is a much better approach. Rather than helping a child gain skills to be competent, we tell them they are NOT competent and not to do something. This is more true with girls, but it is true as well with boys, especially in our helicopter parenting world. We shut children down, not allowing exploring, risking, learning, allowing them to find their own limits, to learn the skills necessary, to set goals, grow and accomplish. Children in fear will not attempt new things, even simple ones, either completely or at least not without hesitation. Children living with a sense of bravery will assess risks, make a determination, and proceed with knowledge, experience, and skills. They will seek help in their endeavors as necessary, and be willing to face failure.

LOVE this:

We don't embrace failure. Failure = First Attempt In Learning. From the beginning children are taught the "right" way to do things. If they don't do it the "right" way, they are corrected at least, put down at worst. The one thing we have majorly forgotten is the importance of praising EFFORT. Effort will get children farther in life than anything else, but we praise perfection over trying. So they fear trying because they fear not being able to do it perfectly. While some children are natural perfectionists, in general, this need to be the best, to be the smartest, to be perfect, is instilled by adults. The freedom to fail is one of the greatest gifts we can give to children. 

We don't give them time. Children are expected to conform to adult schedules. It's time for this, so let's go. No matter what children are doing, they are expected to abandon it without fuss to be moved to the next "important" activity as deemed by the adults in their lives. They aren't allowed to immerse themselves, without any type of time limit, in exploration. That sense of impending loss hovers over them constantly as they play. We put their toys away, their activity away, when the time is up. There is no leaving it for the next day, no chance to come back with a new perspective to tweak and re-do. There is little chance to fully explore, to their heart's content, materials and experiences. 

We expect them to play with toys with a purpose. The toy phone is a phone. You push the buttons on the phone. You listen to the sounds it makes. You pretend to use the phone. This takes almost no imagination and there is almost no exploration past about a minute of initial introduction. It is what it is, it does what it does. Unstructured toys such as blocks, can be ANYTHING. They can be animals, people, food, etc. Their only purpose is what the child makes of them. These are the toys they need. 

We don't provide free outdoor time in a true outdoor space. Children are outside at home in manicured yards. Most child care facilities have large climbers with mulch underneath. Period. Children aren't finding pine cones, bugs, digging in the dirt and carrying buckets of stuff from one place to another. They aren't allowed to use sticks as magic wands, swords, markers, dolls. They can't go barefoot to feel the grass, rocks, mud. "Don't touch that!" "Don't get dirty." Even when outside, we tell children very often that the outside is NOT a place for exploration, when it is the ULTIMATE place for exploration. 
Children today spend less time outdoors than any other generation, devoting only four to seven minutes to unstructured outdoor play per day while spending an average of seven and a half hours in front of electronic media. [source]

They don't do art, they do crafts. How often do children bring home these perfect crafts that look identical to everyone else's in the class? This isn't art. This isn't imagination and exploration. This is doing what you are told, with the expectation of perfection. Give a child a lump of clay and they can spend an hour with it, if they have experience and feel comfortable in being a true ARTIST. They should be allowed to explore materials, their viscosity, their malleability, their weight and other properties. THEN can they create their own masterpieces with them. When we have children do pre-determined crafts, we box up their innate artistic genius. 

They aren't exposed to a variety of music. Kids songs are great, but children are born with musical ability. Exposing them to zydeco, Indian flute music, Asian music, classical, blues & jazz, not only gives them a greater musical perspective, it lets them find their own musical passion. Dancing, making music and listening to music are all another form of exploration that many children are severely stunted in doing.

They are given electronics as a quick solution. Rather than having a child make a mess or having to assist them in exploration, it is much easier to just plop them in front of an iPad or TV. When they claim to be bored, an easy solution is to provide electronics. Electronics for children benefit adults, not children. Children need to be using their imaginations and exploring their real world, not escaping into a fantasy one.

They buy in, like adults, to the concept that education = learning. That it takes a teacher to teach in an academic setting to learn. Actually, most learning takes place through children's observations and experimentation in everyday life. But children usually don't research, practice or experiment anymore on their own. They don't identify a passion and immerse within it. They don't push to learn things not taught in school. They simply wait around until someone tells them it is time to practice, time to learn, what to learn, what to practice. I remember studying botany over the summer, on my own, and my brothers wondering why I would have my nose in a book and off doing experiments when I didn't HAVE TO. The thing about passions, is that the HAVE TO is internal, not external. Children need to find internal motivation to increase their knowledge and skills without being ordered about to do so. This type of learning, is what sticks. When children have a passion, all other learning gains purpose and meaning. When I child develops a passion for trains, suddenly reading becomes a necessary skill, math had a purpose to count the cars on the track, and so many other taught skills suddenly become important and relevant. Things that were once boring, are now fascinating. There is suddenly not enough time in the day to learn and do all the things the child can come up with to perform.
My Mr. H was at his grandma's one day and she told me that he played outside, by himself, all day. Happily. She thanked me for that. 

One of the boys was in time out last week and played with a string on his sock the entire time. He continued to do it when he came out of time out.

I had a 6 year old boy come as a drop-in one day last summer. He entered my 1/2 acre natural backyard and immediately said, "I'm bored.' He stood around, asking to go in, until we did so. He had no clue how to play and explore. Once inside, he wanted to watch TV. He couldn't see a place filled with exploration opportunities. 

It is amazing that older children that I get in have to be TAUGHT how to play. They don't know how. They can't break past the tight constraints put upon them since infancy in how they explore. They don't have the capacity to rely on their own imagination and abilities. They need to be told what to do, how to do it, when, where, why. They have not lost, but been stripped, of their innate curiosity. 

This is why children are bored. A bored child is not natural. Play is how they learn, much more so than academics.

You notice the overlying reason children are bored? 

Unnecessary or limiting adult intervention in every aspect of their ability to play, explore. learn and entertain themselves, from infancy.

I find this very, very sad.
parenting, day care, child care, daycare, boys, girls, classroom, parenting, pre-k, kindergarten, elementary, learning, development, preschool, language, math, science, psychology

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Red Shirting Kindergarten

If you aren't familiar with the term, RED SHIRTING is a term used in college sports where a freshman is part of the team, trains with the team, but doesn't play. They are given a year to mature their skills before entering the fray. 

This term has become applied to the choice to allow young 5 year olds [as of the kindergarten cut-off age], children an extra year of maturity prior to entering kindergarten. 

This is more important for young 5 boys, those who turn 5 only a few months prior to the school cut-off date. In the U.S.A., this is almost universally right around September 1.

When the practice first started, it was used by affluent families to give their child an advantage in academics and sports. Now, with the pushing down of academic skills to developmentally in-appropriate levels in schools, the removal of recesses and free play time, and the requirements of sitting still and paying attention for far longer than is age appropriate, it is becoming a necessity for children born close to the cut-off date. 

When the K-12 education model was developed in 1847, life expectancy was 37 years. That is double now, but we are pushing academic expectations down and eliminating childhood freedom to develop normally. Children actually have MORE time available to develop, grow and learn, but we are pushing them to do academics that aren't even developmentally appropriate. 

Much of the internet hits on this topic are connected to a 60 Minutes pieces from 2012 and the book Outliers [2008, Gladwell.] If researching, please use CURRENT information. Since the introduction of Common Core Standards in 2009, which pushed required skill sets below developmentally appropriate practice [DAP], redshirting, especially for boys, has become not only more common, but necessary.
What seems to be the biggest reason that parents choose to delay their kids' enrollment into kindergarten?
It really does seem to be emotional development. In the data you can see, clearly, that this happens most for boys who are born in the summertime to highly educated parents. They want [their kids] to be able to walk tall into a classroom, advocate for themselves, be an active participant in their learning.

Dr. Suzanna Jones in her dissertation, Academic Redshirting: Perceived Life Satisfaction of Adolescent Males, found that:

On the Life Satisfaction Scale, redshirted students showed significantly higher levels of life satisfaction than those who had not been redshirted. The feelings described by subjects in the interviews offered substantial evidence that redshirted students were happy with the decision their parents made, and those who were not [redshirted] wished they had been. Although this was a small study, it suggests that parents who opt to redshirt their children may be setting them up for a generally more satisfying life later on.
Interviews with parents offered similar insights: “The parents of the redshirted students all said they would do it again, no questions asked,” Jones reports. “When I asked: If you had another child today born in the summer, what would you do? Automatically (they said): ‘We would redshirt.’ No considerations whatsoever. The non-redshirted group, seven of the ten said that they would redshirt the next time. Without consideration of anything—how they’re doing at school—they would just automatically, summer boy, we would redshirt.” 
One of my client's talked to her pediatrician last week about whether or not she should send her son to kindergarten next year. Her pediatrician, based solely upon her son's birthday and nothing else, said, "Absolutely not!" They discussed it further and her pediatrician said one thing that really stuck out to both of us, "The consequences may not show up until 6th grade." 

It's still rare, but there's been a troubling rise in suicide by children younger than 12.
...medical professionals and researchers have noted alarming increases in the last decade – deaths more than doubled from 2008 to 2016 – and rising numbers of young children visiting emergency rooms for suicidal thoughts and attempts. [source]
Another client's pediatrician: "If you can keep him out another year, I would strongly advise it."

In a blog post it reads, "Our pediatrician told me that if we have a child born AFTER March, we should wait to send them (the cut-off here is September 1st)."

Why? Because boys are entering school, being compared to girls who naturally show about an extra year of emotional and social advancement, along with the ability sit still, pay attention and follow directions. Girls with ADHD are usually not diagnosed, because even they have this ability to conform. When boys are not DEVELOPMENTALLY CAPABLE of performing at a similar level, they are termed bad, wrong, a problem. They are being labeled as LESS THAN from the moment they step into a school system. 
In some school districts, by the fifth grade 28% of boys had been diagnosed with ADHD. In other communities, being young for one’s grade increased the chances of being prescribed stimulants 20-fold.
This is even more relevant when you consider the link found between ADHD and increased suicidal thoughts and actions. 
The reasons for the increases are unclear. Few researchers have examined suicide before age 10, so little is known about suicidal thinking and behavior in young children.
 But as they look more closely, themes are beginning to emerge. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, which can make impulsive youth still more impulsive, was a common characteristic found in a 2016 study by researchers from Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus
The reason many countries do not being formal education until age 7 is because at that age nearly EVERY child, can be successful as they enter Piaget's concrete operational stage of development. The younger the child is at the time of entering school, the farther away they are from this very critical cognitive developmental advancement. 
Research has largely shown that the effects of redshirting on academics are positive, with older students likely to score higher on standardized tests than their younger classmates. One recent study by Northwestern University’s David Figlio indicated that later school entry was associated with higher rates of college attendance and graduation, as well as a lower likelihood of incarceration.
I currently have 3 July birthday boys in care who will turn 5 this summer. Two of the parents are having a debate about sending or not sending this fall. One set of parents knew from the time their boy was born that they would redshirt. 

Academically, I believe two of the three would be fine. While they are all exceptionally smart, the youngest one has more trouble listening to and following directions and processing stepped incremental instruction. He works better with back-stepped "big picture" instruction, which is not done in public schools. All the boys, however, are not able to control their emotions, still throw tantrums, have difficulty focusing and sitting still for any length of time. They have a VERY difficult time when they are not interested in the subject or activity, have been forcefully transitioned from a desired activity, or are anticipating the next one. 

Normal little boys, right?


However, in kindergarten these aspects of boyhood are NOT OKAY. 

In a study by John Hopkins University:
Notably, social-emotional readiness in kindergarten was a significant predictor of grade retention even after controlling for student scores on the other readiness domains of the MMSR, such as language and literacy development, cognition and general knowledge, and physical development and health.
It turns out that, by the fourth grade, students who entered kindergarten behind in social-emotional skills (the “Not Ready” group) were:
  • up to 80 percent more likely to have been retained;
  • up to 80 percent more likely to require special education services; and
  • up to seven times more likely to be suspended or expelled at least once.
The researchers also found that the most consistent characteristic associated with all three of these outcomes was being a male student.
One of the key elements of a successful student is how well their Executive Function has matured. Executive functions are "a set of skills that are essential for school achievement." They include:
  • Organizing, setting priorities and starting tasks
  • Focusing, shifting or sustaining attention and thinking flexibly
  • Regulating alertness and staying on task
  • Managing frustration and keeping emotions in check
  • Using working memory and recalling information
  • Self-monitoring and controlling impulses 
If a child doesn't have good executive function, at any age, they will have many more issues with behavior and academic skills. Executive function continues to mature into adulthood until about the age of 25. Girls' executive function usually matures earlier than boys'. 

When determining whether or not to redshirt your child, consider how well your child can perform the 6 steps the brain typically works through with good executive function skills when given an assignment/task:

1. Analyze a task. Figure out what needs to be done.
2. Plan how to handle the task.
3. Get organized. Break down the plan into a series of steps.
4. Figure out how much time is needed to carry out the plan, and set aside the time.
5. Make adjustments as needed
6. Finish the task in the time allotted.

An additional year of age also means an extra year of executive function maturity, which can lead to fewer behavioral problems and greater academic success, which leads, generally, to a more happy child.

We think of a kindergarten class as having a homogeneous group of same-aged, same-development kiddos. That's not true. Here's a table of birthday months [number in red] with ages, and developmental ages, that could be in a kindergarten class, last column. Consider that girls naturally have about an extra year-equivalent of "maturity," so this shows where girls would START off in comparison to the younger boys, at the purple line. Kindergarten girls would not normally act younger than that first purple line in their ability to conform to expectations within a class setting. The purple range also shows where redshirting boys would generally fall if held back.  

So in the first month of kindergarten, the class students can range from an immature boy with an August birthday who has a developmental maturity of 4, to a girl with a September birthday who turns 6 right after kindergarten starts, who has a developmental maturity of 7. 

These two children are being compared. 

By keeping the boy out for another year, redshirting him, at the start of kindergarten he is now just turned 6, developmentally 5, being compared to a girl who is developmentally 7. Still not a fair comparison, but the boy is significantly more likely to be successful. 

Redshirting actually levels the playing field academically between girls and boys.
New ‘Redshirting’ Study Reveals That Boys Are Held Back More Than Girls — and It’s Actually Helping to Close an Achievement Gap Between the Genders
That gender disparity produces the important effect of dampening achievement gaps favoring girls over boys. Cook finds that if the third-grade tests controlled for differences in age, the existing difference in scores between white boys and girls would be 11 percent greater.
Every child is different. The last boys I sent off to kindergarten were twins 5 years 8 months. One still had a LOT of trouble sitting still, paying attention, getting his assignments done on time and correctly. The other one has flourished. 
Using data from the North Carolina Education Research Data Center, [Duke professor Philip Cook] traced the birth dates, kindergarten entry years, and academic performance of thousands of North Carolina students born between November 2003 and August 2004. Overall, about 6.7 percent of children in the state began school late...The mean effect of an extra year of age is positive, and striking.
Here's a quick chart to use as a non-scientific reference. If your child, boy especially, falls into a birthday month in the red zone, it would be a good idea to talk to your pediatrician, school administrator and research CURRENT studies on this topic. 

I just read a blog post from a woman who was strongly encouraged to redshirt her August birthday daughter by the school personnel. She didn't. She defended her choice and said her daughter thrived - academically. However, her daughter couldn't keep up physically and had trouble socially. They eventually took her out to homeschool. 

From a highschool friend who is an elementary reading teacher:

...I totally agree. If it’s an option to NOT send them, I think developmentally that is the best option. We continue to push these little ones to do more and know more at younger and younger ages, yet many are just not ready for the structured setting that school now demands. In my current district kinder students don’t nap and many are exhausted by the end of the day. I am a reading teacher and when I test students the first thing I look at is their birthday. I know that the summer birthday kids can’t just overcome the year gap that the September birthday kids have. The Sept kids were probably walking and developing many skills when the summer birthday kid was just being born. No easy way to make up that time.

On a personal note... My son has a July 17 birthday and is now 24. I have regretted sending him since about 2nd or 3rd grade. He is smart, he graduated 8th in his class of 180 kids. Intelligence was never a concern. But his maturity just wasn’t the same as other kids his age. By 3rd grade there was no holding him back [option], plus academics wasn’t an issue. I remember him saying he couldn’t believe when he didn’t get 2 recesses any longer. Fast forward to high school and he wasn’t able to drive for quite some time because of his age and the bus wasn’t very cool in high school. All the school dances his freshman year he couldn’t drive to so we had to take him, again not too cool. He did great academically in high school but socially he was awkward and always behind all of his friends which was a difficult time. Fast forward to college and he just wasn’t ready for that independence. He went close to home his freshman year and we were very involved because he was home a lot so he was successful. His 2nd year not so much. He went 3 hours away and struggled with balancing his free time and his school work. He was finally old enough to be independent and didn’t know how to balance everything. He is 24 and has struggled to figure out what he wants to be when he grows up. He has an associates degree and went through a line apprenticeship. He worked in the line field for 2 years and decided he wanted to go back in school. I am praying we are on the last leg of this journey but it’s been a long time coming. Graduating at 17 and going away to college shortly after that is just hard for kids. I truly believe you can’t throw a barely 5 year old in a kindergarten classroom and expect they will preform like the kids who are 6 or turning 6 soon. They need time to grow and develop. I know it’s not an easy decision but I experienced it personally and it’s been hard. [My son's] preschool teacher told us he would be bored if we didn’t start him, so we listened. I always wished we would have went with our gut feeling of not starting him until the following year.

D. M. former kindergarten teacher:

At least June through Aug. [birthdays]. I kept my Aug BD daughter back a year. Best thing I ever did!! A friend who is a reading teacher did with both kids. The other friend who taught kindergarten did with both of hers too.

Careful though. It’s not totally across the board. When I taught kindergarten I did come across a few who were ready both cognitively and emotionally.

Generally it’s usually much better to wait!!

C. M. child care provider:

My son will be 5 September 5th. He will go to Kindergarten at 6. Academically he is ready now, emotionally he is not.

The most common reason to NOT redshirt a child? Money. Even knowing their child would benefit from an additional year before kindergarten, many families simply can't afford an additional year of child care, or choose to put their money in another direction. Often, they believe that the choice is not really all that important in the long run.

It is.
tags: parents, parenting, kindergarten, school, pre-school, child development, delayed entry,