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Is your child ready for first grade? Earlier this month, Chicago Now blogger Christine Whitley reprinted a checklist from a 1979 child-rearing series designed to help a parent figure that one out. Ten out of 12 meant readiness. Can your child "draw and color and stay within the lines of the design being colored?" Of course. Can she count "eight to ten pennies correctly?" Heck, yeah, I say for parents of kindergarteners everywhere. "Does your child try to write or copy letters or numbers?" Isn't that what preschool is for?
"Can he travel alone in the neighborhood (four to eight blocks) to store, school, playground, or to a friend's home?"
It's amazing what a difference 30 years have made. Academically, that 1979 first grader (who also needed to be "six years, six months" old and "have two to five permanent or second teeth") would have been considered right on target to start preschool. In terms of life skills, she's heading for middle school, riding her two-wheeled bike and finding her own way home. It's not surprising that I came to this link via Lenore Skenazy's Free-Range Kids blog. What is surprising is just how shocking a jolt it is to realize how stark the difference is between then and now.
I'd probably be considered a free-range parent by today's standards; I've allowed a 7-year-old to walk to a friend's house unaccompanied and left a 9-year-old in charge of siblings. But the idea of a kindergartener walking "four to eight blocks" alone? Crossing streets? Turning corners? Even though I suspect I did it myself, I can't get my head around it. I have two kindergarteners this year (and one will be 6 in just a few weeks), and I check on them if I let them walk solo to the bookstore's bathroom. Yesterday, I watched one of them get lost in the grocery store, trying to go two aisles over to the freezer section, where she'd been not 30 seconds before. Two to four blocks?
But there it is, in the middle of the list, as though the ability to find your way around your world at 6 years old was quite ordinary. The country isn't different (Skenazy points out that crime rates are actually lower overall than they were in 1979). We're different, and not just as parents. A commenter to the post points out that her children's school doesn't allow students to walk home alone (even with an older sibling) until fifth grade. And it's a difference most parents are aware of already. But to see it laid out so clearly is to remember that it wasn't just my own mother who expected more from me than I expect from my own kids, but all the mothers. I'm not suggesting we loose our kindergarteners on our neighborhoods, and I don't plan to send mine romping any further than the yard. But I will try to broaden my ideas of what else they're capable ofâ€”besides math and readingâ€”this year.
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Is Your Child Ready for First Grade: 1979 Edition
By Christine Whitley, August 1, 2011 at 8:13 pm
In 1979 the blog author was 10 years old
A commenter reminded me, a few posts back, about the Louise Bates Ames series based on the work of the Gesell Institute of Human Development. Each book is titled Your _____ Year-Old (fill in the age). I have read all of them up until Your Five-Year-Old. Maybe by then I thought I had it figured out because I didn't order Your Six-Year-Old.
Last week a neighbor mentioned that she was reading Your Six-Year-Old (we both have girls going into the first grade) and that she found it really helpful. So I went ahead and ordered the book. A-HA!
Now I get it! The title says it all -- Your Six-Year-Old: Loving and Defiant.
So anyway, I ran across this very interesting checklist of items to assess whether or not your child is prepared for all-day first grade. This book was first published in 1979, so I have to say it comes across as quite dated at times. So let's take a look, shall we? The idea here is that about 10 yesses out of this list of 12 would indicate readiness for 1st grade.
1. Will your child be six years, six months or older when he begins first grade and starts receiving reading instruction?
2. Does your child have two to five permanent or second teeth?
3. Can you child tell, in such a way that his speech is understood by a school crossing guard or policeman, where he lives?
4. Can he draw and color and stay within the lines of the design being colored?
5. Can he stand on one foot with eyes closed for five to ten seconds?
6. Can he ride a small two-wheeled bicycle without helper wheels?
7. Can he tell left hand from right?
8. Can he travel alone in the neighborhood (four to eight blocks) to store, school, playground, or to a friend's home?
9. Can he be away from you all day without being upset?
10. Can he repeat an eight- to ten-word sentence, if you say it once, as "The boy ran all the way home from the store"?
11. Can he count eight to ten pennies correctly?
12. Does your child try to write or copy letters or numbers?
Based on this criteria, my six-year-old is ready for first grade, but just barely. Who knows if she can travel around four to eight blocks by herself? I've never let her even try! I'd probably be reported to the police if I did try!
She would probably be more appropriate (the authors suggest) for half-day first grade. I've never even heard of half-day first grade. Does that even exist anywhere outside of maybe a Waldorf School?
What do you think about this? Are we pushing and expecting too much of our kids these days? Or did we underestimate our kids back in the 70's?
"The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane." Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor and stoic philosopher, 121-180 A.D.
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