This week we got a press release from the school district about its upcoming kindergarten awareness and pre-registration event (see the story in this issue on Page A-3).
What struck me was how much kids are supposed to know before they enter kindergarten.
When I was a kid (yes, my school was held in a cave with bison painted on the walls), all we really had to know was how to take a nap. In fact, I majored in nap time in kindergarten, a skill I've never forgotten and still use often to this day -- even at work.
But we didn't have to know very much else before we started.
Today, kids are expected to know their ABCs (by singing the song), be able to recognize capital letters, print their name, and recognize rhymes. According to the press release from the school district, they also need to know "the eight basic colors."
That was all it said, and it suddenly struck me, "what are those eight basic colors?" Around here, we work in the three primary and three secondary colors (in fact we print using exclusively the secondary colors). That's six. How about black and white as the other two?
Wrong. In fact, none of us in the office could come up with the eight colors a kindergarten student is expected to know. (Try it real quick before you go on).
So I called the superintendent of schools, Tim McMurtrey. He got seven of the eight right, and then wound up having to call the kindergarten teacher to ask her what the full eight were. Then he e-mailed me back. They are: red, green, blue, yellow, orange, purple, brown and black -- your basic Crayola eight-pack.
Obviously, we don't spend enough time with our crayons today (some of my letter-to-the-editor writers appear to have graduated to the 64-color pack, but that's another story).
More importantly, neither Tim or I, who both hold advanced college degrees, would apparently qualify for kindergarten.
We are obviously not smarter than a kindergarten student (a fact many of my letter-to-the-editor writers would agree with, but like I said, that's another story).
Today, at all levels of education, kids are being asked to learn more than ever before. The world requires it. Simple reading, writing and arithmetic just won't cut it any more, and kids need to have that stressed to them by their parents. Falling behind in school could be disastrous to your entire life. Parents need to push their kids to succeed and work with them so they graduate with the tools needed to survive in the 21st century.
Ten thousand hours of video-game experience by the time you graduate just isn't going to get you very far (and if you don't graduate, plan on spending your life asking people if they'd like to super-size those fries). The same time committed to homework, however, will make a huge difference in achieving success.
There isn't a single required class where you're not going to need the knowledge from that class at some time in your life. If you don't learn the material, you pay for it down the road, either economically or in frustration because life isn't working the way you want it to and you don't know why.
Parents are the vital link between teachers and students in helping their children learn and succeed. Look at what a kindergarten student has to know on the first day of school. It's up to the parents to be the teachers up to that point -- a role they should never really give up.
Now, if I can just find my eight-pack of crayons, with a little study so I don't look stupid in front of my grandchildren, maybe I can pass the kindergarten entrance exam.