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, 

College vs. Daycare Costs

"Childcare costs more than some local universities.
The annual tuition at TSU is $7,776.
The tuition at MTSU is $8,080.
The average cost of care for an infant in Nashville is $8,523 a year, and that's just for one child." - Cathy Gordon WSMV News 4 February 25, 2019
I can't believe this narrative still exists. Let's break it down. Being conservative with the numbers given in this article.

$7776/12 hours per week/32 weeks for 2 semesters = $20.25 per instruction hour for tuition.


$8523/10 hours per DAY/5 days per week/50 weeks per year = $3.41 per instruction hour for daycare.

Many children are in care for longer and many providers do not take time off, for an even lower per hour daycare cost.

$3.41 and $20.25 are not exactly the SAME cost.

Then lets look at what is involved in instruction - college classes to ADULTS who have FULL responsibility on what they do, where they go, getting their own food and bodily functions taken care of, and on their own as to whether they even come to class or bother to learn.
Daycare - an individual solely responsible to keeping small humans ALIVE, fulfilling every single one of their emotional, physical and mental needs and teaching them basic life skills like how to eat, dress, poop on the potty. Providers deal with bodily fluids on a regular basis, teething, tantrums, and so many other things for $3.41 per hour. Not even babysitting wages which are $10-15/hour these days.

Additionally, only about half of the $3.41 goes into the pocket of the daycare provider, the other half goes towards your child's food, toys, bedding, art and craft supplies, etc. So a daycare provider is only making a net income of $1.70/hour/child. Quite a bit less than any college professor, and not nearly as much as any college administrator.

Really? Same cost/same service? Uh, NO.

What we should be asking is why does college tuition costs $20.25 per instruction hour when students are often in large classes, rather than $3.41 per hour for an infant in a group of 4-6 with personalized loving care.
Tags: child care, daycare, college, tuition, costs, comparison, preschool, state, university