A B C magnetic letters on the refrigerator

Remember Kindergarten? Sitting in a circle, coloring, listening to stories, learning your ABC’s? That is how it was for me. Well, things have changed since then. As my children’s kindergarten teacher readily admitted to us, what used to be taught in first grade is now taught in kindergarten. By the end of the year, it is expected that most students are beginning to read.

Both Brother and Young Son were young in their kindergarten classes. They were just ahead of the cutoff date, both turning 5 in mid-October of the year they entered school. Many of their classmates were at least a year, or more, older than them. There is a readiness ‘entrance exam’ so to speak before kindergarten, and both my children went through with flying colors. Both were bright and precocious children, so I naturally concluded they were ready for kindergarten. And they were. At least they would have been ready for kindergarten as I experienced it.

But as I have mentioned, kindergarten has changed a lot in the last 25 years. When I was 5, we learned the alphabet and how to count. They don’t teach the ABC’s in kindergarten anymore. They assume the children know their ABC’s and go right into teaching letter sounds and reading basics. I don’t know when these kids learn the alphabet because it is not standard curriculum in preschool. I suppose they learn it at home. I just did not know they weren’t going to actually teach ABC’s in kindergarten. That just baffles me. Even after going through it with our first son, I didn’t know what was missing. I thought he was just a little behind the other kids because of his young age. I was so busy working and caring for a toddler at home, I did not have time to volunteer and observe the classroom.

As a result, two years later, Young Son made it all the way through an entire year of kindergarten without learning the whole alphabet. At the end of the year, he still couldn’t differentiate certain letters or write all the letters from memory. But he does know all the letter sounds. I thought, how could this be?

When I began to truly understand what was going on, I felt really let down. I still feel frustrated and sad thinking of it now. Why didn’t someone explain this all to me sooner? Why didn’t I figure it out myself before now?

Young Son, along with some of his classmates, were recommended at the end of the year to repeat kindergarten. That is when things got really real for me. If they are not teaching the basics of the ABC’s in kindergarten anymore and my son needs to learn the alphabet, how is repeating the year going to really help? We needed to go back to the beginning with him and give him a solid foundation to build on, or school would become a constant struggle and frustration rather than the enriching experience it needs to be.

That, combined with the factor of the boys young ages, made us think seriously about the option of homeschool. We discussed it through the summer. When we moved out of the area to a new city in September, we decided that I would stay home and homeschool our children for one year. Although it is not easy on us financially, to have me teach our kids instead of working outside the home, I feel positive that by putting their needs first, we are making the right decision. We may have to pinch pennies now, but knowing that we are investing in the future of our children gives me confidence. As long as I still live and breathe, I can work more when they are older. They’re only young once.

“Rather than work solely to acquire wealth, we need to do something meaningful, something directed seriously towards the welfare of humanity as a whole.” – Dalai Lama

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