In My Opinion

Ana Veciana-Suarez: Let’s not forget the play part of kindergarten

 

My eldest granddaughters, identical twins, are graduating from kindergarten in a few days. Just 6 years old, they already read chapter books, as do most of their classmates. I don’t think I accomplished that until second grade.

This is as much a boast — watch me puff up with pride here — as it is a way of recognizing that kindergarten sure has changed. Long gone are the days of finger-painting, of learning those incredibly difficult skills of sharing and sitting still. In the digital era, where the emphasis is on academics and technology, our 5-year-olds are expected to have all those social skills and study habits well before they start their first year of formal school.

Today’s version of kindergarten is where you prepare for life, for college, for your career. I’m not exaggerating. The twins had a career day this week. I suspect they want to be professional princesses, à la Disney.

Just a generation ago, the twins’ father was not assigned the kind of daily homework that is common now. When he was their age, he could not add or subtract, though I think he might have been able to sound out a few words. He had not a fraction of the science knowledge his daughters now possess, either.

The boy wasn’t a slacker. Nor was I an inattentive mother, though I must confess that the early child-rearing years are something of a blessed blur. But the expectations were different then. When he was 6, my son could tie his sneakers all by himself, a lost art in the age of Velcro, and he could tell time on an analog clock — skills that now seem quaint.

In my day, a time where families had only one phone and one TV (with rabbit ears and four stations max), kindergarten wasn’t even mandatory. Those who attended went for a half day. Many mothers didn’t work. And 5-year-olds did not know their way around an iPad better than their grandparents, because there weren’t any such devices.

This was the kind of kindergarten setting that inspired the 1986 international bestseller, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, one of those books that joyfully captures the valuable lessons learned early in life: Play fair. Don't hit people. Put things back where you found them. Clean up your own mess. Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.

If written today, Robert Fulghum’s book would no doubt be different. Not bad, mind you, just different, a reflection of a changed world where standardized testing rules, where there’s a lot more information to cram into a school year, and where play is a tightly choreographed indoor sport instead of a free-for-all in the backyard.

I’m a vehement proponent of discipline and academics, but I find myself wondering whether our good intentions haven’t gone awry. Last month, a school in Elwood, N.Y., axed its annual kindergarten play for fear that the tradition was taking time away from “preparing children for college and career with valuable lifelong skills.” Does the decision sound as ridiculous to you as it does to me?

Another of my granddaughters will begin kindergarten this fall. Her mother, my daughter, works with her daily on word families and number recognition. The pressure is high and the stakes . . well, the stakes seem to grow exponentially every year.

Still, I hope that along with math problems and sentence writing she’s given plenty of time to master the serious subjects of childhood. Skipping rope. Climbing trees. Playing tag. Goofing off. You know, the kind of activities that inspire dreams.

Read more Lifestyle stories from the Miami Herald

  • Teens, young adults using melatonin more

    Melatonin is growing in popularity among teens and young adults who are trying to regulate their sleep cycle, but experts say using good sleep hygiene such as sticking to a consistent sleep-and-wake schedule is a better solution.

  •  
 <span class="cutline_leadin">MOMENTS BEFORE TRAGEDY:</span> A  video  shows the girl, in pink shorts and braided ponytail, with her hands clutched around the grip of the submachine gun.

    In My Opinion

    Ana Veciana-Suarez: A 9-year-old with an Uzi? That’s crazy

    There is nothing, absolutely nothing logical or sensible or worthwhile in having a 9-year-old learn to use an Uzi. No reason, none whatsoever, for a child to handle a fully automatic gun.

  • Wine

    Marvelous malbec deserves to be discovered

    In a restaurant in Buenos Aires, I ordered a “half” parrillada, so they plunked down only about five pounds of beef on the grill on my table.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category