Is Kindergarten Too Much, Too Early?

Big Kid 80

My oldest boy, Riley, turns 5 this August. After some hemming and hawing over the issue, we've decided to keep him in his current daycare school for another year, where he'll attend their kindergarten program. The plan is to start him in public school kindergarten next year when he's 6.

The memories I have of kindergarten mostly center around the excitement of donning our smocks (which were always just an adult's button-down shirt worn backward), doing art projects, working with paste (the kind in tubs, which you'd trowel in thick white smears onto your paper with wooden tongue depressors), playing some weird game with balls and a rolled-out parachute, riding the bus on a field trip, singing "O Tannenbaum" at Christmas, and finger-painting (the cool, plasticky feel of the paints! The sense-pleasure of dragging your fingers through a particularly big glob of it, creating divots in the colors!).

I know there's more to kindergarten than just getting covered in nontoxic Crayola products, and that's why we're not enrolling Riley this year: I have some misgivings about his readiness for some of the more structured aspects of big-kid school. Still, I did imagine that the majority of a kindergarten curriculum was focused, as I oh-so-vaguely remember it, on creative learning.

So it was kind of a shock when I was talking to a friend of mine this weekend, and she described her kindergartner's homework load. Just about every day, she told me, he comes home with at least one worksheet to fill out. Front and back, sometimes. Mostly math problems, pattern recognition, that kind of thing. Not only that, but their school district's art budget was cut, and they only get art class once a month. 

Art once a month? And homework?

The homework itself doesn't sound that great to me (every day? Really?), but the next thing she said really worried me: "It's turned into this constant battle at home, getting him to do it."

I won't get into the whole sordid story of my academic experience, but suffice to say it was not good, starting from a very early age, and one of the contributing factors was homework. Specifically, the fact that I hated it—the busywork kind, the time-sucking front-and-back worksheets—with all my soul. I fought with my mom about having to do homework, and I eventually lied about whether or not I had any homework. My grades were ... very bad, as a result. My teachers were thoroughly frustrated with me and didn't bother hiding it. At one point, I got pulled from a gifted reading program because I didn't turn in my math assignments.  

Now, I'm not saying I didn't Meet My Potential and My Life Path Was Altered because of homework; clearly the fault was mine. And if I see my kids starting to head down a similar path, I'll do what it takes to help them get back on track. I'll do anything to try and make sure my kids aren't as miserable in school as I was. 

But. BUT. Does it have to start so early? It's not that I think kindergartners should never have homework, but ... oh, shouldn't we be asking them to collect leaves or count all the things in the house that are shaped like rectangles or draw a picture of their favorite bug or something, instead of doing page after page of this?

It makes me sad to think that as early as next year we might be arguing with Riley over how he has to do his homework before he can go outside and play. It worries me that he might be planted at a desk all day instead of playing with globs of paint. 

The overall topic of this blog is life balance, and for the most part, I'm writing about my own pursuit of it. I suppose this is the first time I've given serious thought to the balance in my kids' lives, and how school might change it for all of us. Even kindergarten

Read more of Linda's column Mom, Interrupted

elementary school, kindergarten


To add a comment, please log in with

Use Your CafeMom Profile

Join CafeMom or Log in to your CafeMom account. CafeMom members can keep track of their comments.

Join CafeMom or Log in to your CafeMom account. CafeMom members can keep track of their comments.

Comment As a Guest

Guest comments are moderated and will not appear immediately.

Pishyah Pishyah

YES, IT IS!  When I was in K we were just learning our alphabet.  Most people would gasp at that but I think it was a great idea.  I firmly believe we push our children too hard, too fast, too much.

cafemama cafemama

My son is expected to start kindergarten at 4 years old (given the city's cutoff and his birthday) which just seems too young. But, then couple that with the increased structure and emphasis on homework, and I'm very concerned. A 4 year old boy just isn't made to sit through that much school work and I'm worried it will start him off on a bad path.

angie582 angie582

I don't really think it's too early for "all" children. some are more ready than others... for example My oldest was deffinately more ready for kindergarten, enjoys the homework (which in her school is just oin fridays for the weekend and is just 3 short pages) , and likes pushing her self..she asks for new tasks to learn.  BUT my 2nd daughter is not ready for it at all. she's 4 at the moment and is in preschool. she likes the creative things but doesn't like the simple math problems they give her so we're takeing baby stepps w/ her. I think it really does depend on the child.I think it's up to the parents to decide wheather the child is ready or needs more time..a little push is good but sometimes too much of a push can have a backwards affect on the child

APeve... APeveteaux

This is currently freaking me out. My daughter turned 4 in February and is still technically in pre-school. However, when we moved here we started her at pre-school that "tested" her and put her in pre-K and is considering putting her in the Kindergarten class in September. She has 2 - 4 sheets of homework every night. EVERY NIGHT. She loves doing homework, but I just don't see the point at her age.

Yes, she's learned a heck of a lot more academics-wise than she did at our artsy Brooklyn pre-school, and she loves telling me what she learned -- but she's 4! Since she loves it, and I clearly do not, I really don't know how to handle the whole situation. Argh!

elaine23 elaine23

It's almost like its a conspiracy to make kids robots with no fun or imagination.  Now they are starting it with babies....with "Your baby can Read". It's pretty sad.

nonmember avatar Eric's Mommy

I guess it really depends on the school. My Son is 8 and will be in 3rd grade next year, he has only had a few days where he has brought home any homework and it was pretty much just a page that he didn't have time to finish in class that day.

Lynette Lynette

and this is one of the many reasons I homeschool my kids!

nonmember avatar Marie Green

I was pretty worried about Kindergarten sucking the life out of my daughters, too.  When the time came, though, they were perfectly ripe and ready for it.  It's true that Kindergarten is now more like what we had in 1st grade- especially in the area of expecting the K's to be able to read by the end of the year.  But I found- through volunteering in the classroom- that there was still lots of "play-time" too.  Their classroom had a play kitchen, play mail room, art center, reading nook, etc.  Also, our kindergarten program only occasionally had homework, and when they did it wasn't due for a week or so and was usually a project of some kind.

(I would definitely recommend volunteering- even just an hour every few weeks- as it will give you a wonderful perspective of what's really going on in the school.)

Now my daughters are in 1st grade, and they have homework.  Their homework folder comes home on Monday night and is due back on Friday.  It's usually just a couple of worksheets.  But we also have to do spelling words every night, and it does add up.  Even so, I have not felt that it was too excessive, at this point.  

I think you will find that these things vary widely from school to school and even from teacher to teacher.  

nonmember avatar Nell

No kidding! My homework experience was extremely similar to yours and now I'm seeing my 2nd grader heading down this same road. I understand some of the time my little yakker has homework because she doesn't "stay on task" during the time she could do these things in school. This problem we are dealing with. My question is why in the world does this age child need homework every night?

I understand schools are so sucked into raising kids which they shouldn't have to do -shame on the parents who put our schools into this position. However, schools are supposed to be TEACHING - frickin' teaching! The stuff my kid is bringing is the curriculum these teachers are paid to know - we on the other hand are NOT paid to know this junk! Anyway - rant rant rant - sorry - it is truly tough and it scares me that me kid is heading down the education road I was on.


nonmember avatar Sahara

Whooo boy.  There is so much to say on this topic.  But I will stop at just this one thing: explore your options.  Look at what charter/magnet/special focus option schools you can transfer to and then look forward to the application process next spring.  Our neighborhood school has a great reputation, excellent test scores, lots of parent involvement, and all the rest.  But they also expected kindergarteners to sit at a desk and so lots of problem sets and worksheets.  That is a recipe for disaster for my oldest, so we will be starting him somewhere else next year and keeping our fingers crossed that it will work out.  

1-10 of 80 comments 12345 Last