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.