Our daughter started kindergarten this year and yesterday she received her first public school assessment- not from an actual person mind you, but from a computer “game” that teaches letters, sounds and word recognition. This program concluded that she is performing at a pre-kindergarten level. Awesome. So it begins; our first foray into standardized testing, curriculum and goals. It’s hard not to get hung up on the phrase (so kindly highlighted by her teacher) “preforming moderately below grade level and in need of intervention”.
Mind you, if they were dutifully working on a math computer “game” she would be kicking some major ass- that is where her focus has been lately. On Monday she comes home with a thick packet of weekly homework, due back to school on Friday. There are 4-5 math related worksheets that she voraciously devours. Counting and numbers have been her recent obsession. Apparently learning numbers, word problems, math models, counting groups and those little stacking cubes get her motor revving. Good for her! Math was never my thing, nor my husband’s, so I will foster any sense of pride or affection for that subject. Her head just isn’t in the phonics game right now.
As for me, I will embrace the simple kindergarten mathematics while I still understand what the hell is going on. I have seen the new “core curriculum” and I will be damned if it doesn’t take 4 grown adults, an online session at the Kahn academy and a strongly worded letter to my congressman to figure out what the hell happened to simple multiplication! Why are we drawing 81 little hash marks and grouping them into bundles of 9? What a complete waste of time and graphite! There are no memorized times table?? Really? That shit was the bane of my existence in second grade, but once you know it, you use it all the time! Seriously. It’s like one of the only things we learned within the confines of a math class that we use consistently in real world application. Ever.
This shit is important: If my playdoh recipe calls for 1.5 cups of flour and I want to double the batch so my children, who are incapable of sharing, don’t fight over it all day, we need to multiply 1.5 cups x 2 = 3cups of flour.
I didn’t have to get out my counting bears and chop some heads off to model 1.5. We learned to do some math in our heads. Sure, you can’t see my work- that is why it’s called mental math. It’s done in my mind…and I use that shit all the time! I can barely keep up with my car keys, let alone a baggie filled with math manipulatives for when I need to estimate the potential damage I am about to inflict upon my Target card. But hey, I saved 5% paying with my Red Card- I had better get out my colored stacking cubes to figure out my savings!
While we are in the very early stages of her public schooling career, I want her to be free to delve into subjects that interest her. At 5 years old, focusing on one skill until mastery is developmentally age appropriate. She is fine. I know this. One day she will tire of those worksheets and want to figure out how to read the Frozen Level One reader on her own. Hopefully soon. I am tired of reading “Big snowman, little snowman, RUN RUN RUN!”
Eventually she will want to sound out words and letters, but in the meantime- I need to remember that all kids are on their own individual time scale. Some of the kids are almost a full calendar year older than my sweet baby. She is the youngest in the class and where she may fall short in reading comprehension, she makes up in spades with maturity, kindness and respect. She is a thoughtful friend, an enthusiastic student and a loving daughter. These are the goals that really matter in life- a good attitude and a zest for experiential learning. She wakes up each day ready to have fun and that’s the kind of intelligence there are no “fill in the bubble” tests to quantify. The Emotional Maturity Test. Hell, many of us would fail it as adults, let alone as a little 5 year old girl navigating the halls of elementary school.
So, dear computer program evaluation, I will not let you discourage my sweet girl from her passion of learning. We will work harder to implement our popcorn words into our daily routine, but it will not define her learning abilities, especially after 6 weeks of school.
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