This weekend some friends were at our house and I overheard a conversation between two 30-somethings and my daughter, age 5. It went a little like this: Them: "How's kindergarten?" My daughter: "Hard." Naturally we all turned and looked at my 5-year-old and recounted how awesome kindergarten was, for us. She later explained that kindergarten is way harder than pre-school because she has a schedule and she has to do things like math, writing, and other things -- on a schedule. Clearly it was the schedule that was getting to her, but it reminded me that my own kindergarten experience was much, much different. I was eating paste and trying to learn how to tie my shoes. Maybe learning the pledge of allegiance, unless that came in first grade.
Then I had a conversation with a 15-year-old in our neighborhood, who goes to a school that it's quite possible my own kids will attend, and now I'm totally freaking out.
This teenager explained her schedule like this: Home by 4 p.m., snack & study until dinner. Have dinner, study for a few more hours before bed. She does this every week night. And this particular weekend, she was taking a couple hour break from studying, then going right back home to study some more on a Saturday night. Really???
I will admit that I did not have the most challenging education experience. I was a bright kid who didn't have to study more than once a week for maybe an hour. Classes I didn't enjoy, like science and math, I attempted to study more often, but usually didn't. I also know for a fact there weren't any kids in my same class who were putting in hours like this teenager. Even the not-so-bright. (Which, incidentally, this young lady is not. She's taking Honors and AP classes.)
When did studying become a full-time job? When did kindergartners start realizing there are things like "schedules" and being annoyed by them? As someone who truly values education, I fear that I still don't have the stomach to make sure my kids are studying for hours every single night. I know I have bright kids, who also happen to love to learn. But I also loved to learn, yet I spent more time with my boom box and my Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books than I did cracking open my chemistry text. How do I inspire my own kids to buckle down, when I kind of think that much work for a kid is bullshit?
Maybe I am (and my husband, who is totally with me on this) just a Gen X slacker who doesn't value hard work. But both of us have done fairly well for ourselves in our respective fields, and we did not spend hours hitting the books in high school, Jr. high, and not even once in grade school. Yet, that seems to be the norm today.
Even though I think it's an odd observation, I don't have any sympathy for my kindergartner who is having a tough time with a schedule. She's going to have to learn that's the way things work eventually. But I really don't want my kids to turn into study zombies in a few years. Maybe this will work against them, but I just don't get it. Isn't there time for that kind of craziness? Like finals and getting your advanced degree?
Does the intensity of our kid's school work freak you out too?