Every so often, especially at the beginning of a new school year, a 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 beginning sounds of some words
- Recognize twenty sight words
After perusing the “kindergarten readiness” chart with laser eyes, parents of incoming kindergartners everywhere begin to panic.
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 follows 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 when a new school year starts!). 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.
These charts are ridiculous.
And I am convinced that their sole purpose is to incite mass hysteria among parents.
If you google “kindergarten readiness skills,” 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
- 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
- Successfully separate from parents…
The lists are so extensive, that they could make any parent panic.
The thing is, there are few preschoolers that are 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 missing or struggling with one of the social/emotional skills or self-help skills.
Likewise if your child still says “LMNOP” as one letter, maybe she has been putting on her own shoes since she was two. Or maybe she is naturally athletic, and you can’t believe that some of those items are even on a gross motor readiness chart.
Yes, all these skills are important.
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 (and us).
Children, like adults, are diverse. And there will never be a time when all the preschoolers in the country will check off all the items on the kindergarten readiness lists. I’m not trying to be pessimistic; we wouldn’t want our kids to be so neuro-similar.
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… That your child is indeed ready for kindergarten.
Simply because they have you as their parent.