Home > education, motherhood > Redshirting, Waldorf, and moving to Finland

Redshirting, Waldorf, and moving to Finland

There was an article about redshirting in the Times recently which dovetailed nicely with some conversations I’ve been having with other friends. redshirting, for those of you who are sane and not aware of this crap, is the practice of holding a kid back a year from Kindergarten so that she is older and more mature than the others and therefore more likely to succeed. A lot of literature says that those benefits wear off by fourth grade but some research indicates that in our track-obsessed schools, the habit of being better sort of sticks with the kids well into older grades.

My friend K says that in her (high-end, pricey, exclusive, Cantabridgian) preschool, almost all the kids are going to be redshirted. She’s so sick of it that she’s pulled her kid and put him in the public preschool. (Well, there are other factors, too. But they aren’t relevant to this post.)

I can’t help but think about how a lot of parents simply can’t afford another year of day care or preschool or whatever and need to get that kid into a publicly funded school. So once again, the rich get the advantage.

But more than that, I was reading the article and a few things leapt out at me. One was how in Finland, which doesn’t start school until age 7 (and even then, it’s much less “educational”), these age differences don’t appear. Another was about the pressure on kindergarten students to do:  to read, write sentences, be able to do all these thing which we really used to teach in first grade way back when.

Five year olds should not be doing worksheets. They should be running around, learning kinetically, interacting, discovering their inner worlds, building social alliances.

What amazes me is that even as we push earlier academics, more homework, and more rigorous testing, the quality of our graduates continues to spiral downward.

Back when I was a working woman, I worked at a well-known newspaper for several years. I had an intern who was about to get her masters in journalism and was doing scut work for me while looking for a job and finishing two credits. I will repeat: a masters. In journalism. And I had to rewrite every sentence she wrote for me. Her grammar was appalling, her vocabulary limited, and her grasp of style lacking. (Style is a big deal in the newspaper world.) What’s more, the basic skills of j-school had eluded her. She was going a piece on landlords and I had to walk her through every step: Call the landlord association. No, I don’t have the number, here, look it up on Google. Ask for the names of a few landlords who would be willing to be interviewed. Call those people. Set up interviews…. it was like leading a dumb dog through an obstacle course.

She graduated with honors that fall. I refused to write a recommendation for her.

We know so much about how kids learn and we’ve utterly failed to implement that knowledge in our schools. We know different kids learn differently — visually, aurally, kinetically — and yet we insist on teaching all one way. We know kids needs exercise to focus properly and we keep cutting  gym and recess. We know…

Christ. We know so much and it’s all so screwed up. How the hell do I fix this in the three years before The Child goes off to school? Because Waldorf seems the only solution but I can’t afford $12K for the only Waldorf kindergarten in the area.

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Categories: education, motherhood
  1. Wendy
    March 16, 2008 at 3:13 am

    Simply, try to find a private school that meets your criteria. That is what we did and I still have problems.

    They told me that my daughter should go to summer school after Pre-4. She didn’t. They told me that she was failing Kindergarten in the first quarter and then in the third quarter. She is not and is just a normal child that gets bored in the one rigid class (reading) she has. I see it as a way to get more money out of me. And it won’t happen.

    Regarding redshirting, many of the children in daughter’s class are 6 yrs old or turned 6 this year. She is 5 yrs old and will be 6 in June. There is no way I am going to leave her back. She is smart enough for her age and is doing just fine.

    I think once we stop trying to get kids to become little robots that just spit out info that is learned from a book or teacher and start being thinkers, we will continue to fall in the world.

    The reason daughter stays at her school despite the bleeding of more money from me, is because the school is unlike any other school I have seen. They are a little too high academic for my taste, but the rest makes up for it. Or she could go to Catholic school with those scary nuns. We are saving that for her teen years. LOL!

    Good luck

  2. elcynae
    March 16, 2008 at 3:01 pm

    I haven’t done the research, but I’ve heard good things about Montessori schools too. Though the name isn’t protected, so you have to find about exactly what a given school is, that calls itself that.

  3. March 17, 2008 at 10:59 pm

    Where I’m starting to rest on this issue is that school is only one place where M will learn. Even if he is expected to complete worksheets next year, he’ll come home to a house where he can draw on the walls,spill flour on the flour and yank carrots out of the garden. He’ll travel, go to the MOS, the beach, and have lots of unstructured time. I think he’ll be OK. (We actually have a few workbooks–he saw them at Costco and asked, so I bought them. Every once in awhile, he’ll take one off the shelf and work on mazes or tracing or some other pre-K/K skill.)

    Ideally, I’d head off and travel full-time….but I also know M craves relationships with peers.

    Montessori runs close to $20k in this area–at least the two in Cambridge do.

  1. April 19, 2008 at 11:23 pm

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