Tuesday, January 13, 2009

1/13/09 Back to preschool

We got Gabriel's weekly "bookbag" yesterday, with the book, the book's journal, and writing activities for that book. I begrudgingly withheld judgement on this lovely new imposition on our time until seeing it, but now, I'm positively stunned. What on earth is this about?

The "Activity for Writing" for this week's book is to help the child make a poster -- a poster?! about raising ducks. "Write some words together that explains what was drawn." In discussing the book, we can ask the child "How many words in the sentence?"

Then there's a paper titled "Ways for Parents to Write with Children," which says the parent and child work together to create messages and stories -- but the parent does the writing! "This is an opportunity to demonstrate how writing works and to draw attention to letters, words and sounds."

?!!?!?!!!! Did we just timewarp back to preschool?

The journal's printed pages are duplicated in several languages, and the supporting papers explain that if we're more comfortable reading in our home language, that's fine, it still shows the child the "how" and "why" of reading. Hmm, wonder who they have in mind -- perhaps the millions of English learners whose immigrant parents don't speak English? Like they have time for this? And who picked Cupertino for this program?? There are many, many immigrant parents here (a majority, I'm sure), and many English-learning parents, but they're mostly highly educated and committed to sending their kids to medical school by age 10. This program isn't aimed for them.

The incredible thing is that Gabriel's class has had to do daily independent reading since day One, but this program suddenly instructs the parents to do the reading -- and writing.

It's so awful, so inappropriate, so ridiculous I'm not even going to worry about it. Dave thinks we should at least get Gabriel to read the book and write a sentence or two in the journal; I think that's busywork that only adds to our already considerable homework load. If he wants to read the book, great, but I just can't add to the time I (we) already spend standing over him budging him to do homework. Good grief, give the kid some playtime already.

By the way, tonight's regular homework included, among numerous other things, coming up with 5 words with the phonogram "ey." I'm good at word games -- Boggle, Scrabble, crossword puzzles and I go way back -- and I couldn't come up with much more than eye, key and grey ("they" was their example so we couldn't use that) offhand. Dave gave up and Googled. Gabriel also had to come up with 5 words with "th," which was pretty difficult for him, and he needed to be walked through it. This is not easy homework! So after this effort, which was only 1/4th of tonight's homework, he's supposed to "practice writing letters with the assistance of the parent" and do a "picture walk"?!

I just can't imagine what the school is thinking with this. The program is perhaps a decent suggestion for English-learning parents who are concerned that their kindergartner isn't reading at all yet, but it's completely inappropriate as extra required work for overall very proficient first-graders. Especially first-graders who are already expected to do a lot of far far more challenging work.

The good news is that the book itself is pretty good: Robert McCloskey's "Make Way For Ducklings." Julian enjoyed it. He sat down and read it cover to cover.


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