Every so often, especially at the beginning of a new school year, an informational chart goes around Facebook. This chart neatly and colorfully displays the “skills” children need before they enter kindergarten. These charts includes items such as:
- Identify uppercase and lowercase letters
- Count to 20
- Recognize colors
- Recognize shapes
- Spell and write name
- Recite birthday, phone number, and address
- Utilize comparative words
- Identify rhyming words
- Identify the begging sounds if some words
- Recognize twenty sight words
After perusing the “kindergarten readiness” chart with hyperfocused, laser eyes, parents of preschoolers everywhere begin to panic.
He only knows a few letters. I didn’t realize we were so far behind!
My child can only do one thing on that list!
My kid can count to ten! But that’s about it!
The chart gets shared a million and a half times and is accompanied by numerous wow, sad, and angry emoticons. Conversations ensue and parents commiserate with each other on what their children don’t know or what their children can’t do.
What generally follow next is an overall agreement between parents that kindergarten is the new first grade. (I swear that I hear/read this phrase at least once a week!). The conversation concludes with parents complaining about the nature of schools “these days,” offering their condolences, and giving suggestions on how to ensure that children learn said skills so that they are indeed “ready” for kindergarten.
Let me just say that these charts are ridiculous.
And I am convinced that their sole purpose is to incite mass hysteria among parents. No, really! Parents are already hanging on by a thread when it comes to school readiness. Parents are working their asses off to ensure that their child has an amazing childhood, an emotionally stable home life, a successful school career. Because who doesn’t want their child to have the best opportunities possible?!?
As a parent of a preschooler who will enter kindergarten next year, I will tell you that even though I am aware of the utter ridiculousness of these charts, I would be lying if I said they don’t make me panic, too.
Yes, my kid is able to complete the task on this list; he is hyperlexic, so numbers and letters are his life. But this list isn’t the only chart out there people. These are just academic skills.
Take a minute and Google “kindergarten readiness skills.” Go ahead, right now.
Do you see it? The charts/graphs/lists go on forever. If we want our preschoolers to be truly prepared for kindergarten then we can’t forget kindergarten readiness lists for social/emotional skills: Stand in line, Take turns and share, Raise hand and wait to be called on, Sit quietly, Follow rules for game playing, Understand and follow directions, Converse with peers…
And motor skills: Cut with scissors, Use glue, Hold a pencil correctly, Draw lines and shapes, Complete puzzles, Bounce and throw a ball, Run and climb, Jump, Hop on one foot
And self care skills: Button, tie, and zipper without help, Use the toilet, Wash hands, Use a tissue properly, Cough into elbow, Hang up backpack/put on backpack, Separate from parents…
Are you panicking yet?
The thing is, there is no preschooler that is 100% on all of these lists. If you ticked off all the boxes on the academic chart for your child, then there is a good chance your child is struggling with social/emotional skills or self-help skills (Ding, ding, ding, my kid!!)
Likewise if your child does not know her ABC’S yet, I bet there is a good chance there is something she is good at, even great. I bet she is fiercely independent and has been putting her own shoes on since she was two. Or maybe she is naturally lythe and athletic, and you can’t believe that some of those items are even on a gross motor readiness chart, because your child has been doing them for so long.
You see, all these skills are important. I get it. Nationally, we have finally begun to recognize the importance of early childhood education, and that has led to an increase in interest in preschool and kindergarten. But we are doing a disservice to our children (and we are driving ourselves crazy) when we put this kind of pressure on them.
Children, like adults, are diverse. There will never be a group of preschoolers who can check off all the items on all the kindergarten readiness lists. And would we actually want that? Since when has this kind of uniformity been a favorable choice?
Listen, I get it. I am the queen of panic. And I do believe it is important to make sure our children are ready for kindergarten. But remember, if you are researching kindergarten readiness and you are worrying if you are doing enough with your child to prepare them for school, there is a very good chance that your child will be fine. Simply because they have you as their parent. So just keep on keeping on parents. And believe me, your child will ace kindergarten like a pro.