Navigating Your Kids

Experiences and perspective on the School Years

Stop the Insanity: Drilling and Testing in the Early Years–Part 2


safe_image.phpIf you are a parent of one of these fabulous kindergarten or pre-K kids who are not interested in ‘school’ as it is, do not let yourself be isolated and intimidated and second-guess yourself.  You know much more about your own kid than you are led to believe, and you may have to seek out other options, at least for a while.  Kindergarten used to be the time to learn to listen, learn to share, learn socialization skills, and acquire the other benefits of free-play–problem solving, imaginative play and getting along with others.  But now the pressure is on and the testing is the ultimate measure of kindergarten ‘success’.  While there are many ways to learn, there are also many ways to assess learning individually, without creating the angst and frustration we are now seeing in these kids.   We seem to be interfering with developmental stages and skills necessary for learning, and in the process creating frustration for the child and parent.  This frustration is often manifest as disinterest, ‘lack of focus’, not cooperating, etc., and is more often than not punished.  The child learns that school is a place that they don’t want to be, a place where they get in trouble, and lose natural curiosity and interest in learning.   The current agenda is interfering with the acquisition of these skills, replacing the developmental time with learning activities for which most may not be ready or capable of mastering.  Yet we press on, and test, and label, and punish.

For years there has been a glut of commercial products marketed to parents to enhance education of their little ones and make them the  brightest star on the stage–language videos, flashcards, computer programs, you name it.  Even the politicians are getting on the bandwagon–Hillary and her Village even came out with a political campaign recently to encourage pediatricians to promote early literacy.  Hate to break it to the old gal, but she is late to this party.  Any mom, any parent, any pediatrician knows the natural desire of the heart is for a parent to spend time with the child and share a book–not only for the learning, but also developing the association of reading with love and nurturing.   The one thing that may not have been advertised about the commercial videos is that they actually slow the acquisition of language–the thing that builds vocabulary is human interaction with the child.  Imagine that….the parent’s heart desire is exactly what the child needs…, there was a Grand Design, or something.

The drilling, testing and frustration that has invaded the early years is a crushing blow for many kids, and the end result is a kid who hates anything to do with school.  One can only wonder how many inventors, artists and gifted thinkers we are destroying in the first few months of school. Take a look at the TED talk by Ken Robinson on how school kill creativity at an early age….the current trends only worsen the problem.  Maybe we should take a lesson from Finland, one of the best school systems in the world, which does not start formal schooling until the age of seven.  The bottom line is this:  do not let your child be robbed of his/her natural curiosity or love for learning.  Take the initiative for your child and be his/her advocate, and put testing in it’s place.   Nationwide there is a growing movement of parents opting-out of standardized testing Many early childhood teachers may agree with the inappropriateness, but may–for any number of reasons– not be able to take action.   And finally, you don’t really need Hillary or her village to tell you to do what you enjoy as a parent and what your heart tells you to do—read with your kids.  It’s an investment of time that has enormous benefit far beyond learning to read.

TIP OF THE DAY:  Read some of the opinions of independent education thinkers… may be surprised to see what people are saying outside the local school district regarding the current educational practices.

Author: Frances

Frances Graham is a practicing pediatrician and mother of two teens with a keen interest in all aspects of education.


  1. I agree we are putting additional stress on our children. I have wondered how many of children diagnosed with ADD and given drugs that alter their personality today would have needed them if they had been given this extra time to learn the social skills and developed a desire to learn.

    • No doubt. Kids sent in for evaluation come with what seem to be a pre-prepared script with all the buzz words…’can’t focus, fidgets, gets distracted’. For me, the school’s input is becoming meaningless, and a problem for the genuine kid with a problem.

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