Why Are We Making Pre-K Drop-Off So Hard?

Folks iyykbhenyh
— This was a comment made under a piece by me in The Wall Street Journal about how we are criminalizing parents who let their kids wait in the car while they run an errand. The commenter is named Pushpita Prasad and I salute her! – L. 

Pushpita Prasad: Here’s another very common scenario that plays out daily across America.

Drop off at schools/daycares/pre-schools. You pull into the parking with the kid you actually need to drop of and their younger sibling — who often falls asleep during the drive. It could be raining/snowing/cold/hot outside. Your car in the lot is surrounded by other parents pulling into and backing out of spaces as they make their own drop offs and scurry off to work. Into this scenario of confusion, you need to brutally awaken your sleeping baby/toddler (the one not being dropped of) and drag them both across a parking lot filled with people and cars in a hurry, drop the older kid off and make the return trip back through same parking lot. The whole process can not take more then 5-10 minutes, but instead of being able to leave a sleeping baby safe and warm in you car you now have one who one whose sleep cycle has been disrupted, who has been exposed to inclement weather and who has been needlessly subjected to the hazards of being walked across and back a chaotic parking lot.

There’s a needless trend to criminalize an ever broadening range of normal human behavior and activity and I salute the author for doing her bit against it.

Lenore here again: I have heard about this at many a school and pre-k, with school administrators insisting — maybe even believing — that this is for safety’s sake (and threatening to turn parents in to the authorities, if they don’t comply). I love how this letter points out the reality versus the delusion: WHY is it safer to wake and drag a kid, than to leave and quickly return? It’s not. Drop the worst-first thinking and you realize that our society has been trained to see normal convenience as proof that a parent is negligent. 

Wake up, baby! It’s time to schlep across the parking lot. And then — will you please fall right asleep again?


196 Responses to Why Are We Making Pre-K Drop-Off So Hard?

  1. Marianne August 2, 2013 at 11:29 am #

    I totally agree with this except for the 5-10 minutes part. It’s more like 2-5 min for a preschool drop-off. I’ve btdt and totally left my baby sleeping in the car, rules scmules, and I had my arguments ready for anyone who dared to challenge me. Thankfully, no one ever noticed and of course nothing bad happened.

  2. QuicoT August 2, 2013 at 11:30 am #

    We really need to push back against this kind of idiocy.

  3. Shelly Stow August 2, 2013 at 11:31 am #

    “There’s a needless trend to criminalize an ever broadening range of normal human behavior and activity….”

    Fair warning: I intend to plagiarize that line as often as possible.

  4. Karen August 2, 2013 at 11:34 am #

    If there needs to be someone watching the cars, why not have a staff member or a volunteer parent stand there and watch them in the mornings, and then everyone could leave the babies in the cars? But I agree that even without that, the babies are safer in the cars than they are crossing the parking lot. I do think my younger ones found it an exciting part of their day to see the preschool, even if only for a minute.

  5. Warren August 2, 2013 at 11:36 am #

    The problem is too many people give into the schools demands, because they are not willing to cause a scene or confrontation. So they just go along.

    The problems from just going along are you are giving up your parental control, and making it easier for them to do the same to others.

    If a school staff member threatened to call the authorities on me in this case……..I would hand them my cellphone and insist they do it. And then demand to speak with their superior, and demand discipline against the staffer for disrespect, overstepping their authority and sheer stupidity.

    Until people start standing up it will only get worse.

  6. Emily August 2, 2013 at 11:37 am #

    This is going to sound crazy, but when I was in kindergarten, my parents dropped me off at school in the parking lot, and I’d……wait for it…….walk inside to my classroom by myself. That was the standard operating procedure in 1989-1990 (for kids who didn’t walk to school alone/with friends or siblings, that is), and nothing bad happened. Why don’t people do it that way anymore? It seems so much simpler.

  7. mystic_eye August 2, 2013 at 11:41 am #

    Ok, firstly, I know I’m being that person but this is the 10th car seat picture I’ve seen this morning where the seat is being used completely improperly so here it goes:

    *Shoulder height: rear-facing (which this baby should be, clearly) at or BELOW the child’s shoulders, not 5 inches above.

    *cheat clip: if you have one (many countries do not instead their straps are positioned differently) but if you have one it should be AT THE ARMPITS, not over the squishy abdominal cavity.

    And, the straps should be tight enough that you can’t pinch the fabric (horizontally” and no after market padding between the baby and the seat, or the baby and the straps. So whatever orange and yellow thing behind the baby is, it shouldn’t be there.

  8. Earth.W August 2, 2013 at 11:44 am #

    Let the children leave the car and enter the classroom on their own for one, I guess.

  9. Brenna August 2, 2013 at 11:47 am #

    I totally agree – and what about the poor parent with TWO younger kids? Now you’re trying to schlep an infant seat, while wrangling a toddler who doesn’t understand yet about road rules, while getting the pre-K or K kid into the class. How exactly is that safer than leaving the two of them buckled up? There is NO reason that you shouldn’t be able to either leave them in the car for the 2-3 minutes it takes, or even more common sensically, LET THE KID WALK IN THEMSELVES!!

  10. Busymom August 2, 2013 at 11:51 am #

    First, I am a mother of four and I never left my younger ones in the car because it wasn’t a couple minute drop off, we usually had to wait. Second, I am a preschool teacher. Again it’s not a couple minute drop off. Yes, some parents come in and leave quickly. A lot of parents want to talk. Sometimes the preschooler doesn’t want the parent to leave, sometimes they want to show the parent something. There’s any number of things that happen on a daily basis that keep the parent in the classroom. I have had parents run in and out because their child was in the car, sleeping. I get that but an infant in an infant car seat can easily be carried in without waking them.

  11. cathy August 2, 2013 at 11:53 am #

    ridiculous. i was just reading the gesell institute’s classic series on child development, (published in 1979) and in the ‘your six year old’ book, while discussing signs of readiness for first grade, they ask: ‘can he travel alone in the neighborhood (four to eight blocks) to store, school, playground, or to a friend’s home?’

    oh, how far we’ve regressed!!

  12. Adriana August 2, 2013 at 11:55 am #

    My boys were 13mos apart. So when I had to drop off the 4 year old I’d leave the 3 year old in the car. It is maybe 2-5 min to walk them to their classroom and sign them in. The school always said in their newsletter to please never leave children in the car during drop off. I ignored them and was never told anything in my 3 yrs going there.
    I was not going to take both boys out in the rain just to get one to class.
    I did find out the law in my state and now I leave my kids in the car if they ask and we follow the state law. My boys are now 13 & 12, with a 5yr old sister, so yeah sometimes they don’t want to come in with me. So far no one has ever said anything to us about it.

  13. Cristina August 2, 2013 at 11:55 am #

    The problem is, that one parent who forgets the kid in the car and the kid fries. Then, it’s boo hoo all I wanted to do was drop my other kid off!!

    I agree with another comment above, how about let the kid walk in alone?? Heaven forbid we teach them independence. Or here’s another crazy idea, just wake the sleeping one!! Really the parking lot is a war zone?? Come on!!

  14. Cece August 2, 2013 at 11:56 am #

    Call me crazy, but I leave the smaller child in the car. I have the kind of car that you can keep it running (for heat/ac) and lock it and walk away with the key. Just today, my daughter threw up on the way to school (yippee.) but I still had to get her older brother to preschool. She stayed in the car while I took less than 5 minutes to drop off Cam. There was no way I was bringing her out of the car (in just undies because she threw up all over her dress).

  15. JJ August 2, 2013 at 12:01 pm #

    I know Lenore has written about the topic before but there is a trend toward convenience for parent = bad and lazy parent/doesn’t-deserve-be-parent-like-I-do. This is so wrong. First, convenience is not the antithesis of good parenting, the two are not mutually exclusive. Second, why shouldn’t convenience to the parent be factored in? For instance best practices in medicine factor in patient convenience. It is not the number one factor but its naive to think it doesn’t play in. It could be argued that you are overall a better parent if you give yourself the freedom from doing every tiny little thing that makes an infinitesimal difference in the chances that your child is “safe” an instead use that energy to do something that matters (or to be less stressed out and cranky around your family which believe me is a real concern).

    And, to boot, the littler kid is safer left in the car.

  16. anotheranon August 2, 2013 at 12:01 pm #

    I have a friend who lives around the corner from our kids’ school (literally a 2-minute walk). She has actually left her baby sleeping at home in his crib to do school pick up/drop off. People just assume her husband or mom is at home. Sometimes they are, but I know (because she told me) that sometimes they are not.

    I say good on her.

  17. anotheranon August 2, 2013 at 12:03 pm #

    Also, Cristina, the cases where the parent forgets the kid and the kid fries occur when the parent forgets to take the kid to daycare and goes to work with the kid still in the car. That has NOTHING to do with the above-described scenario.

  18. Kimberly August 2, 2013 at 12:06 pm #

    We have 2 different procedures depending on which program you are talking about.

    Mainstream PK program – Kids can walk, ride the bus, or be dropped off. They have a special ID tag they were clipped to their clothes that gives their home campus and way home. They go directly to the GT classroom where they are watched until the bus that takes them to the early childhood campus picks them up. (While this is technically not a SPED program it serves at risk kids. Many don’t speak English and delayed speech is common so the tags are very helpful.)

    Peagus/PCPD (I think I got the acronym correct) is a duel program Peagus kids are the potty trained 3 – 4 yo children of staff members. PCPD kids have some sort of condition or delay that requires intervention. This may be a cognitive delay, severe speech delay, hearing or visually impaired. The children who need it get OT, PT, Speech, taught to use various tools for the hearing/visually impaired. This is in addition to a great play based Preschool curriculum. Those parents and the parents of two life skills units can drive up the bus drive to the back doors near those 3 classrooms. Sometimes they just let the children out to walk in. They can see through the door to the classrooms. If they need to come in and have another little one in the car. There is a staff member at the door greeting walkers and bus riders who use the same door. He can step out to watch the baby. During pick up they knock on the door and if they have a little one in the car a staff member will step outside. But usually they just bring the student out.

    Dismissal – the kids get off the bus and are formed into groups for how they get home from our campus. This is when the tags are especially important. Staff members take the groups to their dismissal location (Porch for pick ups, 2 different spots for walkers depending on direction walkers must be picked up by an older student or adult, day care cafeteria, buses stay in the gym.

    I LOVE Peagus/PCPD
    I had a student who’s littler brother had Downs Syndrome. The parents were told he would never walk, talk, speak, and they should just give him up to the state. (This was just a few years ago not decades ago). When the big sister entered our Mainstream PK program – our staff found out about little brother. They got the parents to enter him in our intervention program. The boy runs, will talk the ear off a statue, reads, writes. Yes he will probably always need some type of support but he is going to to be able to hold a job and do much of his day to day living on his own.

  19. Warren August 2, 2013 at 12:09 pm #

    Sorry, I really shouldn’t comment on this.

    Why? Because the only time one of my vehicles entered a school parking lot was as follows:
    a) drop off after a morning dentist or doctors appointment

    b) pick up and drop off for lunch…….a once in awhile treat for dad and girls to go to Mc Ds.

    c) school function, or volunteering

    This is because even in Jr Kindergarten they either walked, or bussed. Yes they walked to the bus stop.

  20. pentamom August 2, 2013 at 12:10 pm #

    Busymom — that your experience was different doesn’t mean that Pushpita’s story is inaccurate, so what you felt was necessary in your situation may not be *necessary* in hers. Parents “want to talk?” Well, they might “want” to, but that doesn’t mean they have to, if they choose to manage the situation differently. And I’m guessing a given mother can judge whether her child is able to be dropped off without waiting to deal with separation or the child needing to show her something.

    “I get that but an infant in an infant car seat can easily be carried in without waking them.”

    Newborn to four months, maybe. After that, it really depends on the child.

  21. ~Kathy August 2, 2013 at 12:11 pm #

    Busymom, it is an assumption on your part that ALL sleeping infants in a seat can “easily” be carried in without waking them. You’re first assuming the infant is in a seat that can be removed from the car without unbuckling it…more and more people are using convertible seats which do not just “pop out.” You are also assuming every baby is a sound sleeper and would not be woken up by the noise of the parking lot, or the noise of the school. I’ve had very light sleepers, who would wake up if they caught a breeze across the face, or if there was a sudden, louder than normal noise.

    The idea that parents need to walk their kids in is stupid. Are today’s children so much more incompetent than we were in the 80’s, when our parents pulled up to the door and we walked in by ourselves?

  22. SKL August 2, 2013 at 12:14 pm #

    To the preschool teacher above: you can’t give parents enough credit that maybe they KNOW they have a kid in the car and can (and do) adjust their dropoff time accordingly?

    To the warner about hot cars: I would venture a guess that no child has ever died in a hot car due to Mommy forgetting that she’s supposed to return to the car after dropping off Junior at preschool.

    To “that person” about the car seats: thank you. Many parents don’t know how exactly things are supposed to fit, and most of the time “that parent” couches her correction in an “if you really cared about your kid” tone, which you did not do. Refreshing!

  23. SKL August 2, 2013 at 12:16 pm #

    My kids’ preschool wasn’t weird about this, until the cops came and made them distribute a note (signed by the cops) saying they would take “appropriate action” if they found kids left in cars during dropoff / pickup! I posted here about that at the time. Ridiculous.

    I still want to see a comparison of young kids killed in parking lots vs. young kids killed because of being left in a hot car during an errand.

  24. SKL August 2, 2013 at 12:17 pm #

    And I’ve been having problems with my shoulder. It would be more than an inconvenience for me to drag a full infant carrier everywhere I went. Surely I’m not the only one.

  25. Twin mom August 2, 2013 at 12:20 pm #

    I have one in school and when the twins were babies it was tough carrying them all into preschool. So the twins would stay in the car and I would run K into school. I also do this when getting gas. I am not hauling 3 kids who want candy or junk into the store when they are capable of waiting in their seats. I remember waiting in the car while my folks ran into the store. I loved listening to music that my parents hated!

  26. MamaB August 2, 2013 at 12:23 pm #

    From http://www.kidsandcats.org, a website dedicated to showing the dangers of leaving kids in cars. Interesting that their own graphic shows more kids are killed in back overs and front overs than from being left in a hot car. They also had another statistic that only 12% of kids who die from heat related injuries in the car are intentionally left in the car, the overwhelming majority are forgotten or get in the car on their own. Seems to me their own statistics show that it is generally safe to do the very thing that they claim is so awful. http://www.kidsandcars.org/userfiles/dangers/shared/fatalities-pie-chart.pdf

  27. Richard August 2, 2013 at 12:33 pm #

    One you’re at 5 or above, the school should ideally be set up with a lane close to the door where the kids could get out of the car, have their last hugs (or not), and walk to the building under the watchful eye of a singular attendant. The parent never needs to be more than 5 feet from the car. Is this really such a problem for some people?

  28. SKL August 2, 2013 at 12:33 pm #

    Mama B, I have spent some time reading up on the whole “dying in a hot car” thing. It is a horrific thing, partly because it usually happens to a well-meaning parent or grandparent who was out of his/her usual routine. But when parents drop off / pick up at preschool, is there really any likelihood of forgetting to go back to the car pretty soon? Really? Even on the hottest day, there has been no case of a child dying in a car “within minutes,” and even if that were possible, wouldn’t a parent notice it was that hot outside? We’re not talking about parents leaving their kids outside of bars while they go in and get drunk. Why do people insist on ignoring reality?

  29. SKL August 2, 2013 at 12:42 pm #

    Richard, a lot of pre-Ks are part of daycares, and the daycares nowadays have procedures that require the parent to go in. When my kids were 5 (in a KG connected with a daycare), they needed my fingerprint to get inside. So at least some of the time, just dropping off the child is not enough.

    Also, most kids start pre-K at age 3 or 4, which might feel too young for certain kids to go in alone.

  30. Amy August 2, 2013 at 12:49 pm #

    There were usually enough parents coming and going, and standing around talking, that I could say, “could you make sure my sleeping infant doesn’t spontaneously combust while I run her sister inside?” I made a lot of good friends that way… We traded off. It was fine.

    When the weather sucked and no one was outside, I unapologetically left the little ones in the car, and no one batted an eye.

  31. Natalie August 2, 2013 at 12:51 pm #

    Carrying a baby in a car seat, in addition to the days’ lunch, blankets needed, maybe diapers, who knows? Even if you don’t have back or shoulder problems, It’s all heavy.

    Give the parents a break! And who cares if the drop off is 2 – 5 min or 5 – 10 min? Does it matter? A parent isn’t going to forget their kid in the car during a drop off. They won’t just forget and accidentally spend the entire day at preschool.

    And what if the baby wakes up, realizes that they’re all alone, and starts to cry? Gosh, babies crying because they want something? That, like, never happens.

    Once I saw a daycare worker standing outside by a car with the kids she was watching (they were on the grass) because a parent had left the other kid in the car while they did pick up. Standing there to make sure that the kid would be okay in the car until the parent came back. It really is silly.

    As for letting the kids walk in themselves? Three words. Sign in sheets. Two more words. State regulations.

    Did you read that article that Havva posted? It was horrific. And you’re right, from a change in routine or just a slip of the mind. Not intentionally, not from a pick up/drop-off, and forgotten for hours.

  32. Ravana August 2, 2013 at 1:02 pm #

    At the Catholic school in town they have volunteer greeters who come to the curb and escort the children under grade 2 to their classes. Parents stay in their cars. They feel this is safer for the kids (all kids must get out at curbside), prevents truancy and tardiness (they are walked into the school to the correct classroom) and doesn’t tie up traffic as much.

  33. Katie August 2, 2013 at 1:03 pm #

    Nothing wrong with leaving a kid in a car for a few minutes for a drop off. Yes, it’s about making it easier on the parents, but given it’s not dangerous what’s wrong with that. No need to be a martyr like the helicopter parents.

    That being said the one part I don’t care for it talking about parking lots as if they are some overly hazardous place. I don’t really think most of our parents hesitated to do either. When I used to live in the suburbs there was a bus stop at the end of this parking lot and I would always see the mom drive her giant gas guzzler 200ft to the other side of it to the bus stop.

    So I do have to say I’m not a big fan of people acting like parking lots are some super dangerous thing either. We even take a short cut walking through one some mornings.

  34. Michael Powe August 2, 2013 at 1:07 pm #

    Modern technology to the rescue. If you buy a new car, you can get the keyless entry option. This allows you to leave the car running (AC/heat, radio &c) while running the errand — /and/ lock the car.

    Alternatively, without keyless entry, a remote start option: after you get out and key-lock the car, use the remote starter to start it up again. Now, the child is fully protected: temperature controlled and possibly a soothing audio inside a locked car.

    I have used both. It’s quite nice to feel that your kids are /safely/ locked in the car while you run that errand or drop-off.

  35. Cyn August 2, 2013 at 1:42 pm #

    I’ve got an interesting one. Where we live, they’ve broken up the elementary schools into K-2 schools and 3-5 schools. When our daughter was in K-2, there was a drop-off AND a pick-up circle outside of the school and there was never a problem. Now she’s in the 3-5 school and we have to go in to the building to pick her up in the afternoons (we can still drop off in front of the school in the mornings). So, what the district is telling our children is, “You were perfectly capable of safely finding and getting into your family’s car when you were in Kindergarten, but not when you are in 5th grade.” I’ve never been given a satisfactory answer for why they think a 5-year-old can find the correct car and get in safely, but a 12-year-old cannot. And of course, they magically can again when they’re in 6th grade.

  36. Warren August 2, 2013 at 1:52 pm #

    Just a question.

    Would any of these schools deny entry to a registered student, if you just sent them into school, and said to heck with the sign in, fingerprints and other hoops they want you to jump thru?

  37. pentamom August 2, 2013 at 1:52 pm #

    “At the Catholic school in town they have volunteer greeters who come to the curb and escort the children under grade 2 to their classes. Parents stay in their cars. They feel this is safer for the kids (all kids must get out at curbside), prevents truancy and tardiness (they are walked into the school to the correct classroom) and doesn’t tie up traffic as much.”

    That’s excellent! At the Christian school my son went to back in the dark ages (’97-2001) they had a similar setup, with a duty teacher out front in the morning and afternoon so the kid could just be dropped or picked up but would be under someone’s eye constantly until they were inside the building or back in their own car. I don’t actually think that’s even necessary, but if you’re going to insist that a kid can’t walk from a car to a door safely, that’s the way to do it. It was a very small school, but a larger school could easily do it just as well with volunteers.

  38. SKL August 2, 2013 at 2:20 pm #

    Where my kids go now, which has preschool through grade 8, there is no general sign in, and I’ve seen KG kids walking themselves in. I don’t know what the law says (or doesn’t say) as far as who needs to maintain sign-in sheets and all that jazz. I don’t know what the preschool parents do; I assume most walk their kids in just because. It’s hard to tell who’s in what grade because there is such a range of ages and sizes in each.

  39. Uly August 2, 2013 at 2:21 pm #

    I actually do know of a case where the mother forgot her kid during drop-off.

    Or, rather, she forgot she had already dropped the younger one off at his own preschool (he usually was the second one) and, upon finding the car empty, immediately called the cops. Several hours later, after they’ve been searching the woods and the lake, she remembered that he was at preschool.

    Well, it’s a happy ending, anyway.

  40. SKL August 2, 2013 at 2:29 pm #

    Warren, where my kids went thru KG, there was an inside door that was locked, and you needed to do the fingerprint + computer clicky thing in order to unlock the inside door. I suppose you could buck the system and send your kid in there, but you’d be called out on it. At some point it’s easier to go with the flow until you age out.

    With my kids in various different summer camps this year, it’s been interesting how they all have different requirements. Some of them are cool with you dropping off and picking up at the curb, no signature required (and if you live close, your kids can walk there alone). Some have volunteers at the drop-off and pick-up area so all you have to do is drive up and they bring the sign-in/out sheet to your car. Some require you to physically go in and sign. One required me to go in to retrieve my kids, but nothing else. These are all “school-age” camps for kids around age 5/6 thru whatever.

  41. In the Trenches August 2, 2013 at 2:32 pm #

    Chances of kid in car being carjacked by a stranger = infinitesimally small, negligible.

    Chances of kid being hit by car driven by parent dropping off other kids = the highest possible, actually. If you ‘re going to be hit by a car as a pedestrian, this is likely where it will happen.

    The choice seems obvious.

  42. Jespren August 2, 2013 at 2:44 pm #

    I agree with what several others have said (in more gentle terms): why the *bleep* are parents putting up with this?? If we’re talking a private school, okay, maybe they have some ability to force the behavior if you are worried about being kicked out, but a public school can’t refuse to let a kid in to class became Mommy didn’t check them in with little brother in tow. My church, much to my great chagrin, recently decided the check in system with it’s handy matching number so you could be summoned during service if the kid needed you was suddenly a verification system for pick up. I told them in no uncertain terms that I *would not* be treated as a criminal until I could ‘prove’ I was a parent, advized the nursery worker I *would not* be showing my number sticker when I came to pick up the kid, and then threw the ‘proof’ away before I went to pick them up. Schools, nurseries, day cares, they do not own your kids, tell them ‘no’ and simply refuse to comply with insanity.

  43. SKL August 2, 2013 at 2:50 pm #

    It’s not that parking lots are dangerous per se. But some kids are unsafe in parking lots. We’ve all seen toddlers who will dash away without a thought while their parent is carrying stuff or whatever. Some parents have more than one or two kids, and it’s not possible to always hold every kid’s hand while unlocking a car door etc.

    When my kids were in daycare, there was a set of twins whom nobody could control together, including their parents. The parents had to take them out to the car one at a time, holding their wrist in a death grip, or they would run off. Just extremely impulsive kids. I don’t know what their issue was, but the fact is that they were not safe in the parking lot. They were like this until they were at least 5 years old.

  44. Wendy Hathaway August 2, 2013 at 3:41 pm #

    How about this insanity? When my daughter was in Pre-K/Early Child Care I tried to have my very capable 13/14 year old Freshman in High School daughter walk her younger sister in and out, as I waited in the car circle. Because the plan was for the oldest to walk the 8 minutes from our house, through a park, and to the school on some days and they could play together at the park on their way home. After a few days, I was notified that a “registered guardian or parent” (as per the “County Rules of Child Care” ) are the only ones able to sign a child in or out. I tried to fight them on it and actually contacted the County and asked for proof. While the County said there were no such regulations, they did say that each school/center could establish their own guidelines and regulations. Really? A freshman in high school, who is legally able to stay alone at home by themselves and nearly start driving is unable to assist a child in doors? It’s all very, very ridiculous. I am expecting to be reprimanded soon for me dropping her off and letting her walk in to her dance and gym classes soon!

  45. Gary August 2, 2013 at 3:49 pm #

    “I have heard about this at many a school and pre-k, with school administrators insisting — maybe even believing — that this is for safety’s sake…”

    Lenore, I do Environmental, Health & Safety for the fourth largest company in the world in my industry. Trust me, these clowns have no clue about “safety”, if they like I can go to their school and do a hazard assessment that would make them wet themselves.

    Sorry, no YouTube video today, got company coming for the weekend and I am cleaning house. 😉

  46. Coccinelle August 2, 2013 at 3:49 pm #

    Where I live it’s not illegal but I could get a 100$ ticket. They seem to say that they mostly give tickets if the temperature is “too high or too low”.

    The funny thing is that it’s certainly persuading people into not letting their children in the car but does nothing for parents that would forget their children in the car. You just can’t do anything against mistakes.

  47. Gary August 2, 2013 at 3:55 pm #

    “My kids’ preschool wasn’t weird about this, until the cops came and made them distribute a note (signed by the cops) saying they would take “appropriate action” if they found kids left in cars during dropoff / pickup!…”

    Awwww man, I have the PERFECT one for this too…

    it’s by NWA so maybe it’s best I don’t link it.

  48. Stephanie August 2, 2013 at 4:00 pm #

    This reminds me of when my son was in kindergarten. During the winter, my infant daughter came down with pneumonia. Normally I walked my son to school, but due to the cold weather and my daughter’s pneumonia, I drove him one day. After school I had several parents amazed that I had simply dropped my son off, rather than walk him into school. Most parents hung around outside the kindergarten fence until class started, you see, so lots of them noticed my son coming up apparently on his own. It didn’t turn into a problem or anything, but I had several say they could watch my son in the morning if I needed to do that again.

    And yes, the school had a yard duty in the kindergarten play area too. They didn’t like parents waiting in the play area because that made it too full for the kids to play, which is why everyone waited around outside the fence for their kid’s class to start.

  49. Puzzled August 2, 2013 at 4:11 pm #

    So, wait a second. If you drop the kid off, and drive away, and they won’t let them in without a fingerprint, will they just leave the kid outside, unattended?

  50. Havva August 2, 2013 at 4:22 pm #

    I had a minor version of sending my daughter alone. This was when she was 18-24 months old. Her classroom was in sight of the sign in table, and just around the corner from the parking validation station. At some point she indicated a desire to just get to class. So I said “okay, you know where your room is go knock on the door.” (She couldn’t reach the door knob.)

    In those 6 months (and she did this frequently) there were only a handful of times that anyone opened the door for her. Several times I approached to hear her care givers asking one another a bewildered, “What is [name] doing out there? I wonder if we should do something?” Her class mates had it figured out though. They all gathered and talked to her through the window. And at least one of the times she was let in, it was the tall escape artist in the group who opened the door for her. I could probably have improved results by talking to her teachers about it. But they never asked, and it was strange and interesting to watch.

  51. Katie August 2, 2013 at 4:25 pm #

    @In the trenches

    And do you actually have any statistics on kids hit in parking lots?

    Statistically I’m pretty sure if you round to the nearest whole number they both sit a zero.

    I’ve only known one person hit by a car in a parking lot and they were an adult and didn’t have any permanent injuries from it.

    So no reason for people to become excessively afraid of parking lots just like there is no reason to be excessively afraid to leave a kid in a car.

  52. SKL August 2, 2013 at 4:25 pm #

    Puzzled, I assume they would call me and read me the riot act if I just dropped my kids off.

    Before the fingerprint machine, they had a number pad, and my kids always typed in the password to get in, since they were about 3. I could have dropped them off to do that, I suppose, but then they “upgraded.” :/ I asked if I could use my kids’ fingerprints instead of mine, but I just got “the look.” 😉

  53. SKL August 2, 2013 at 4:29 pm #

    Katie, yes, tots do get hit and killed in parking lots and driveways. That site that someone linked above has some stats. At least sitting in a car seat, they are in one place. On the ground, they could dart here and there unexpectedly.

    I would say the parents would know best whether their particular kid is safer in a car or in a parking lot.

  54. Crystal August 2, 2013 at 4:57 pm #

    I am a small woman with 3 children ages 5 and under. We run/bike to preschool, along with the family dog. He won’t let ANYONE near the toddler and baby while I’m dropping off the oldest! 🙂

  55. marie August 2, 2013 at 5:18 pm #

    I would say the parents would know best whether their particular kid is safer in a car or in a parking lot.

    Thank you. It is good to hear good sense.

    Katie…PLEASE tell us what kind of car you drive. Maybe I should get one like it. What kind of gas mileage do you get?

  56. In the Trenches August 2, 2013 at 5:22 pm #


    Yes, I have some stats; it seems that being hit by cars as a pedestrian is the second-most common way for kids to die. And about half the kids hit by cars are at or near school, and apparently hit by other parents. We need to quit driving our kids to school if we can. Cars are incredibly dangerous. Unless your child is a paratrooper in a war zone, I don’t think there’s much more danger (s)he could face.


  57. Papilio August 2, 2013 at 5:27 pm #

    @Crystal: Is that a bakfiets or a regular bike with child seats, or yet something else? Do they fall asleep in there too?

  58. Katie August 2, 2013 at 6:04 pm #

    @In the Trenches

    Tried to pull up your link put it didn’t work.

    I totally agree though that parents need to quit driving their kids to school unless it’s absolutely needed. What the schools should really do it make the drop off a good ways away to discourage it. Also way to many parents driving 2 kids to school in giant tanks they don’t need.

    And I do think if we are going to focus on improving safety for kids, this would be a good area to focus on. I’m just also saying let’s not become afraid of walking kids through a parking lot either or walking to school. After all there are many health benefits to it.

  59. Katie August 2, 2013 at 6:05 pm #


    That awesome, dogs are wonderful!

  60. Katie August 2, 2013 at 6:09 pm #

    @SKL “I would say the parents would know best whether their particular kid is safer in a car or in a parking lot”.

    That’s exactly my point. Where I disagree is now some people including the person Lenore quoted and yourself seem to be saying it’s horribly dangerous to take kids in a parking lot which it’s not and saying there is something wrong with a parent who takes their kid through a parking lot and judging that parent.

  61. Tina August 2, 2013 at 6:36 pm #

    Just to introduce a different scenario that we face indefinitely: dropping any of my kids off, anywhere…with a disabled child in the car. He’s 10 years old, 70 pounds, 5’0″ totally healthy, but quadriplegic. I park in the shade or leave plenty of windows cracked, leave some water for him to drink, and go for it. 2-5 minutes, worst case. No one has ever said a peep and thankfully so. I’d love to explain to them how awesome it is to load and unload a child with hips out of socket and scoliosis IN and OUT of a car (or other seat) numerous times a day. It’s not healthy for either of us, so in the car he stays. Arrest me. 🙂

  62. S August 2, 2013 at 6:44 pm #

    My mom would pull up to the curb and a teacher would greet me at the curb. Isn’t this easier than all the other suggestions?

  63. SKL August 2, 2013 at 7:29 pm #

    Katie, I never said a parking lot is horribly dangerous, I said some kids are not as safe in a parking lot as in a car seat. Had you seen the kids I’m talking about, you would probably agree. (Unless you just prefer to disagree.)

    My kids have been in parking lots thousands of times, usually without me holding their hands even. But they were never the type to run off and position themselves behind a moving vehicle.

    I do drop my kids off at school (in the parking lot) because it’s 5 miles away and we don’t get bus service. Even the closest school is about 3 miles away. Urban planning at its best. :/

  64. SKL August 2, 2013 at 7:30 pm #

    And Katie, I meant to say, I saw nobody judging the moms who take their kids through a parking lot (except if they do so while driving an SUV).

  65. Natalie August 2, 2013 at 7:41 pm #

    Probability goes between 0 and 1. Unless the odds are 50% or higher, rounding to the nearest whole number will be zero. There could be a 49% chance of something happening, which is a VERY good chance of something happening, and it would still round to zero.

  66. Natalie August 2, 2013 at 7:45 pm #

    The whole kids dying in parking lots issue was to show that the fears about leaving kids in car seats don’t make any sense if you are concerned for the kid’s safety. The point is that it’s safer to leave your kid in the car. Not that your kid will die in a parking lot.

  67. bmommyx2 August 2, 2013 at 8:37 pm #

    at my son’s school the drop off is not so bad, it’s the pick up. There is a drop off / pick up circle that moves pretty fast in the morning, but I do see lots of parents park & bring the siblings along. At my son’s school they don’t have on campus parking so you have to park in the church lot across the street. I refuse to do it. I often pick up my son a few minutes late so we don’t have to be in the car so long at pick up.

  68. Jenn August 2, 2013 at 8:48 pm #

    When my children were younger, they attended preschool at the local YMCA OEYC. If you had a sleeping toddler/baby in the car and it was drop off, I just waited for another parent (who was often in a similar position) and we negotiated the drop off together. Pick up was another story because the only people who could pick up your child were the ones on `the list’ that you provided at registration. The staff at our YMCA told us that we could always phone them, and they would bring our child out to us, after enough other children were picked up so they would still be able to maintain ratio. I often needed them to do this and learned phone before pick up time, then arrive 5-10 minutes after pick up time so that the other kids could clear out. They never charged late fees as I was always waiting for them to come out. It was a great arrangement and it shows that some service providers will be flexible to meet reasonable needs.

  69. Donna August 2, 2013 at 8:51 pm #

    At my daughter’s pre-k, we would just pull up to the door and someone would grab the kid and they would walk to the classroom themselves. Afternoon did require coming in to pick up your child.

    Below Pre-K (same daycare) though you had to walk the child at least in the front door and sign them in on the computer. Once my daughter got to be about 3, I would sign her in while she walked back to her classroom herself so it took a grand total of 2 minutes to drop her off. In the afternoon, you have to pick up from the classroom and then sign out at the computer up front.

    But at daycare level, wouldn’t it predominantly be school-age children left in the car? I don’t know many people who send their older child to daycare while staying home with a younger sibling, except possibly during a short maternity leave.

  70. EE August 2, 2013 at 9:09 pm #

    What no one has mentioned though, is what I think Lenore talks about a lot here – building a COMMUNITY! I personally parked and watched/played with babies in cars while parents took older kids inside. I would hope that at pick up and drop off times where parents were forced to park that someone would know someone else and be able to swap kids for a few minutes (or bring another kid outside, or something). After 3 years of preschool, most of my friends are moms of my son’s friends!

    I purposely picked an awesome preschool that didn’t have hoops to jump through. They get the kids from the cars as we parents drive around the parking circle and then bring them to us at the end of the day (after they’ve been playing OUTSIDE). Most Moms & Dads get out for hugs, but they will even buckle and unbuckle kids if necessary (I’ve seen it done often when grandparents pick up).

  71. Warren August 2, 2013 at 9:48 pm #

    LOL, so many are still missing the point.

    It is okay to leave your kid in the car for a few minutes. You don’t need to trade off, ask for or beg for other parents to stand guard.

    It is absolute insane that parents are willing to accept a school, daycare or whatever dictating how they handle your own kids. Maybe one day parents will grow a set and take back their parental control. Instead of giving in, because it is easier. The right path is seldom the easy path.

  72. SKL August 2, 2013 at 11:27 pm #

    Donna, at the daycare my kids went to (and probably many others), it was age 6 weeks through KG, and many people waited until preschool age (3 or 4) to put their kids in, because their purpose in doing so was socialization / learning rather than child care. So there were some who left their baby / tot in the car as they dropped off their preschooler.

  73. Donna August 3, 2013 at 9:06 am #

    SKL – I suppose that is true for some daycares. It is an extreme rarity where I live, probably because there are plenty of preschools that start at age 3 around town that run on a traditional school day (or half day) as opposed to a traditional workday. The SAHMs (or SAHDs) that I know are much more likely to choose one of them than a traditional daycare.

  74. pentamom August 3, 2013 at 9:30 am #

    Another case where you might have the older kid at PreK/younger kid in car is if you choose to have your child do PreK at the actual school where he will be attending K and beyond. Many of the private schools around here have that option. In that case, either an employed mom who has to drop the younger sibs off elsewhere, or a SAHM, might have the issue.

  75. Puzzled August 3, 2013 at 10:38 am #

    Warren – as a teacher, I feel that that ship has already sailed – not for the individuals here, certainly, but as a society. We here account for a tiny percentage of the whole – if all of us refused to go along or to compromise, it wouldn’t wake everyone up, mobilize a mass movement, etc. The other parents out there (full disclosure – I’m not actually a parent) are on the side of the schools, PMIC, and so on. How do I know? Think of it this way – we’re talking here about the battle of how to get kids to school – but once we’ve accepted that they have the right to demand our kids from us, why quibble about the details?

    Ironically enough, they probably don’t even need mandatory attendance laws anymore. It’s enough that they have constant threats for dissenters – we won’t let you have jobs, we won’t let you have licenses, we’ll stick you in ‘therapeutic’ prison, we’ll drug you, we won’t let you participate in society – combined with an economy that makes SAHM/D an almost impossible dream.

  76. Donna August 3, 2013 at 11:28 am #

    @pentamom – I agree that at most preschools/schools you will have some kids with SAHMs and younger siblings. I was talking specifically about daycares which are predominantly used by children in families in which all parents in the home work so all children under school-age would be going inside.

    But my impression may just be a local custom in my area in which preschools and daycares are two separate things before pre-k (age 4). SAHPs don’t use daycare for socialization; they use mother’s groups, preschools and mother’s morning out programs in my area so it would be highly unusual for the issue to even arise except during pre-k afternoon pick-up (drop off use a drop-off lane so nobody except the kid gets out) if the daycare also has a lottery-funded pre-k program.

    And pick-up being what it is, I’d probably hesitate to leave my infant in the car alone. It could be 15-20 minutes before I could get out of that place some days.

  77. Donna August 3, 2013 at 12:36 pm #

    @ Warren – I don’t think it is allowing the school to dictate but conceding that we only have so much control over society.

    I don’t worry what my school will do other than the large possibility that the school will call the police. Unlike burglary, murder, armed robbery, etc. in which very clear things must be done to make up the crime, child endangerment laws are extremely vague. Just about anything under the sun can be child endangerment if the greater society deems it dangerous to children. Therefore, the crime of child endangerment is defined by the current societal view of proper child-rearing.

    So, while it is all well and good to say “fight,” many years of legal experience has taught me that I don’t like my odds in this fight in society today. I am nit guaranteed a jury of free range parents. My chances of getting 12 randomly chosen people who think that it is okay to leave my baby in a car while I drop my older kid off at school are poor. I can say this because I can identify 3 people from my town who are in a state prison as we speak for doing exactly that (or a very close approximation)w and 0 people who have been charged and acquitted. In an ultraliberal, inner city, not particularly tough-on-crime area. And when those stories were in the paper, there wasn’t a single commenter that said this was wrong. In fact, most thought the women (they are all women) should be hung from the nearest tree.

    That may be a risk worth taking to you and I would fully support you in your fight. Personally, I see no benefit to my child if I am in prison. I’ve made no point. I’ve won no battle. Nobody except her is mourning for me or thinking I was wronged. I’ve simply missed years of her life. So, yes, I would probably concede to the wishes of the school if I thought police were going to become involved. Not because it is easier, but because it is wiser until we can get society to turn the other way. You are welcome to think me weak for that, especially since I don’t really care one bit about your opinion on anything and am more likely to question the sanity of my decision if you agree with me than if you don’t.

  78. Donna August 3, 2013 at 12:48 pm #

    And I mean that we only have so much control over society until we change society. I don’t think we should lie down and do nothing.

    Civil disobedience only works if people are outraged that you are in prison for what you did. It doesn’t work if everyone believes that you deserve to be in prison for your actions.

  79. Coccinelle August 3, 2013 at 4:15 pm #

    “Before the fingerprint machine, they had a number pad, and my kids always typed in the password to get in, since they were about 3. I could have dropped them off to do that, I suppose, but then they “upgraded.” :/ I asked if I could use my kids’ fingerprints instead of mine, but I just got “the look.””

    Wait, are you saying the fingerprints story is not a joke??

  80. SKL August 3, 2013 at 4:24 pm #

    Coccinelle, I’m not sure what you are asking. It is a fact that during the last year my kids attended their daycare/preschool/K, the company “upgraded” the daily computerized sign-in process, which required my fingerprint to unlock the door and let my kids in. No joke. Was that your question?

  81. Michelle August 3, 2013 at 5:01 pm #

    Ideologically, I agree with Warren. The schools have absolutely no right to tell us what to do with our own kids, and we need to fight.

    But Donna is right, too. There’s only so much we can do so fast. CPS flat out told me that, even though they agreed I’d done nothing wrong letting my daughter play outside, they’d be forced to take action against me if they kept getting called. IOW, I can be completely in the right, but as long as other people complain about me enough, I’ll be forced to fight just to keep my kids.

    I made a compromise. My youngest daughter will stick with older siblings when she plays outside. I don’t think it’s right or fair that they can push this on me. I’m interested in finding ways to fight it and change things. But in the meantime, I’m not just going to pretend they can’t take my children away from me.

  82. SKL August 3, 2013 at 5:16 pm #

    I understand the feeling, Michelle. I am so glad my kids are getting too old for a lot of that nonsense. I look forward to the day when nobody will think twice about seeing my kids on their own, and in the mean time, I take very calculated risks. The last thing my kids need is another disruption in their lives.

    And I realize some people think that is another irrational fear. But the majority of people in my environment think I’m crazy to let my kids do some of the things I allow. If my own friends (and even my dad sometimes), who know I am a very caring mother, would think that, then how can I trust “the system” to give me the benefit of the doubt?

  83. Puzzled August 3, 2013 at 5:21 pm #

    Well Michelle, that’s the kind of thing where we can hit it on both sides. In many states (including my state until recently) it’s relatively easy to run for judge of probate, which often has jurisdiction over CPS. We can run for that, and after being forced to actually follow laws a few times, it’s likely they’d calm down, at least in that municipality.

    See, CPS is wrong, but they’re allowed to be wrong. That threat, we’ll take action if people keep calling, is the opposite of our most important legal traditions, but they can still take the kids away, and usually win – no judge wants to be responsible for giving children back to be killed, etc.

    See, on tv, CPS being overworked is supposed to be ok for us “we’re not taking your children, we’re too busy with these real cases.” In real life, though, it’s easier to act first, ask questions later, and that’s what you do if you’e overworked.

    So, to me, we ought to fight, but there’s at least 3 battlegrounds. Most importantly, we need to fight in the realm of ideas – we need the public on our side. Second, there’s the actual policy fight – calling or writing legislatures, running for office, whatever. The third battlefield is the one where it’s you against the accumulated power of the state with your kid as ransom. That’s the one where we prefer not to go. Fighting there, making that your battleground, is suicide.

    So, by all means, we should fight these rules. We should make sure our PTA is fighting on it, we should run for school board, we should run for selectman, whatever. But fighting it in ways that isolate you from other supporters, in front of your kids, with them getting hurt, is not the best answer.

  84. SKL August 3, 2013 at 5:23 pm #

    In fact, I was just thinking today that if anyone took a look at Miss E’s body to see if I were abusing/neglecting her, they might get the wrong idea. Miss E is allergic to bug bites and they leave horrible (but temporary) scars on her skin. It could initially give the wrong impression – especially since I don’t use meds or seek medical attention (they eventually go away on their own). And then you have Miss A, who at almost 7 is smaller than many preschoolers. Add the fact that my kids blab that I use corporal punishment, and it would not be difficult for someone to build a case against me if they tried.

  85. Andy August 3, 2013 at 5:25 pm #

    @Donna Everything that follows “many years of legal experience has taught me that” is the saddest thing you ever wrote here. And scariest.

  86. Peter August 3, 2013 at 8:07 pm #

    Are today’s children so much more incompetent than we were in the 80′s, when our parents pulled up to the door and we walked in by ourselves?

    Hell, I grew up in the 60s and my parents didn’t even stop! We learned how to “tuck and roll.”

    (Sorry. Couldn’t resist.) ;-D

  87. Warren August 3, 2013 at 9:55 pm #

    Well then it is time you all leave the US for good, and live somewhere that does not allow for the absolute trampling of your rights. Or your CPS has to be torn down to it’s foundations and rebuilt properly.

    Or you can continue to do what you are doing, and that is living in fear.

    Personally I would rather my kids know I was arrested for standing up for them and me, than live quietly at home like a cowardly sheep.

  88. Coccinelle August 3, 2013 at 9:59 pm #


    I believe you! it’s just that before I read your comment, I was sure that people talking about fingerprints were joking. I don’t have any question, I’m just flabbergasted.

  89. Warren August 3, 2013 at 9:59 pm #

    Think about it. Unless parents start fighting back, our grandkids, and great grandkids are going to be the ones that suffer. They won’t be allowed to do jack.

    Everytime you give in because it is easier, you are selling out future generations.

  90. SKL August 3, 2013 at 10:41 pm #

    “what they did when we were kids” – well where I grew up, there was no such thing as pre-K. We didn’t prep for KG, we showed up and expected Mrs. Claus (yes, that was my KG teacher’s name, rhymes with house) to teach us how to read. And magic amaze-o, she did.

  91. SKL August 3, 2013 at 10:46 pm #

    Yes, Warren, I know we are all cowardly sheep. Although when it came to swim lessons, I seem to recall you getting quite irritated at the thought that parents might have an opinion on how things should be done when it comes to our kids.

    You talk big, but I’m not stupid. Nobody would intentionally risk going to jail over a difference in how kiddy logistics should be handled. Especially those of us who are single parents. Like someone above pointed out, that’s the best way to lose all control over our kids.

  92. hineata August 4, 2013 at 6:10 am #

    @SKL – the fingerprint thing is rather fascinating. Is it widespread?

    Reading the comment, I couldn’t help thinking about retinal scanning, and that bit in ‘Angels and Demons’ (Dan Brown) where the guy gets his eyeball removed so the crooks can get by the retinal scanner. I wonder if all those pedos we know are waiting to kidnap our kids from crèches are going to catch on to the fingerprint thing and start chopping off the hands of arriving parents. I’m surprised the security people haven’t thought of this obvious problem …… 🙂

    Seriously, though, am sorry you have to go through that kind of nonsense.

    @Warren – picking on sheep again. Shameful. All I can say is “Baa. Baa. Baaaaahhhhh”. And suggest you watch Black Sheep. Remember, those sheep have your number, and are no doubt watching your house already. No wonder you’re always in such a hurry to go to jail for ridiculous causes – you know you’d be safer in there.


  93. Papilio August 4, 2013 at 9:40 am #

    @SKL: hey wait a minute – I thought KG was for 5yos (turning 6 during the year)? Are they really supposed to learn to read at 5, not just recognizing all/most letters of the alphabet?

  94. Uly August 4, 2013 at 9:54 am #

    Yes, Papillo. Here in NYC the cutoff is “any child who will be 5 before January 1st”, so many of those kids are only four when they start, as well. They are expected to be on a “D” level by the end of the year, and books at that level include “Feast for 10”, “Good Night, Gorilla”, and other simple predictable texts.

    Some examples of texts on that level can be found at the bottom of this page:


  95. Uly August 4, 2013 at 9:58 am #

    Ugh, or not, it turns out to be member only. Try this instead:


  96. Emily August 4, 2013 at 10:12 am #

    @Papillo–I was reading simple books before I was five, but I initiated that–I actually asked my mom to teach me how to read, because I saw her and my dad reading all the time (books, newspapers, magazines, you name it), and I wanted in on the action. I don’t think we were required to learn to read in kindergarten (1989-1990), but I do remember our teacher teaching the class how to write our names (although I’d learned that before kindergarten too), our phone numbers, and we had library time just like all the other grades, so that we could practice our reading skills on our own. I just did more actual reading than the other kids. Grade one included more actual reading instruction. I don’t know exactly which way is best to teach reading, and I’m not entirely sure that the system that was in place during my childhood was the best, because I knew a girl who apparently STILL couldn’t read in grade SIX, but shoving reading down a developmentally-unready four-year-old’s throat just doesn’t seem right.

  97. Natalie August 4, 2013 at 10:50 am #

    It’s amazing the difference between a child that wants to sit down and read and one that has trouble sitting still. My daughter is reading two grade levels ahead (yes, bragging, can’t help it) but she’ll sit down with me and snuggle while she reads to me or I read to her. It’s something we both enjoy and look forward to. Free-range or not, I’d like to do this every so often when she’s in high school too if she’d let me. Our soon to be three year old is the same.

    She’s got a friend that can’t sit still for 5 minutes. Completely normal in KG. I don’t know how you’d teach a kid that has trouble sitting still for more than 5 minutes. Torture for the kid, torture for the teacher. Naturally, she’s behind her classmates. But that doesn’t mean she can’t catch up, does it? (I don’t know a thing about education, so I’m really asking)

  98. Natalie August 4, 2013 at 10:55 am #

    Ironically, I think the fingerprint thing was adopted for convenience. Instead of taking out your smartchip key card to unlock the door, or punching the keypad with the number combo, or ringing the bell and waiting for someone to buzz you in, (i’ve experienced all three) and then going in and physically signing in, they’ve combined it to a fingerprint scan.
    So no, in this day and age, retina scans don’t seem so over the top, do they?

    Anyone see Demolition Man?

  99. Donna August 4, 2013 at 11:07 am #

    For the record, the children in the 3 cases were all injured during the brief (less than 10 minutes) they were left alone in the vehicle in freakish ways (one got out of his carseat and hung himself in the automatic window of the vehicle causing serious brain damage) which is what bumped the cases up to felonies and prison sentences instead of misdemeanors and parenting classes. But the conduct of the person charged was merely leaving a child in a car during a brief errand; they contributed in no other way to the injuries. The mothers were also poor and young (and black but that was less of a factor). DAs, the press, society and juries are more willing give middle class people the benefit of the doubt that a miscalculation was made and more likely to believe the poor to be criminally negligent.

    I don’t expect that you would really go to prison for years for simply leaving your kids in the car. I do think you could be charged/CPS involved and would find a jury and the public less than sympathetic if you were. I certainly don’t rule my life out of the fear. I’ve left my kid in the car alone when I’ve gone in places, just not when we are places where I suspect it will cause problems. I leave her home alone, but am very careful about who I tell. I let her wander places but not

  100. SKL August 4, 2013 at 11:23 am #

    Papilio, the way they do KG and reading varies somewhat by state, and has been changing over time. Until very recently in my state (like last year?), KG was open to all kids who turned 5 by September 30, and there was some flexibility for advanced kids with fall birthdays. My youngest’s birthday is in January, so I had to work a little harder to get her into KG at age 4. If my kids’ birthdays were later, they would have turned 6 in KG instead of 1st. Currently I believe kids are supposed to be 5 by August 1 in order to enter KG (but I think they still allow advanced kids with fall birthdays to start).

    As for reading, currently there is more of a push to get kids reading younger. The actual ability to learn this varies greatly by individual child. Thankfully neither of mine has had any trouble meeting grade-level expectations for reading, so far. My eldest needed vision therapy to make this possible, though. My youngest was one of those natural readers – picked up reading without any formal instruction long before she entered KG. It would have been painful indeed if she had to wait until nearly age 6 to enter KG. Currently at age 6.5 she is reading the Harry Potter books, among many others. I stopped having her read to me nearly a year ago, as it didn’t seem helpful. The elder still reads to me every day.

  101. Donna August 4, 2013 at 11:26 am #

    … places where I suspect an issue might arise. (Not sure what happened).

    As for reading, there is no difference between kids taught to read at 4 or 5 or 6 so I am not sure what the push is in the US. Early reading has proven to have no longterm scholastic benefit. It was perfectly evident in my daughter’s 1st grade class. In her school in A. Samoa, kids were not pushed to read in K. Some kids learned to read by the end of the year and some didn’t and nobody cared one way or another. M, who started K in the states, already knew how to read when she got there and was 10 or so levels ahead of the next best reader in K. By the end of 1st, several kids had caught up. My daughter didn’t decline any – she still reads at about a grade and a half ahead just like she did when she got there in K; the other kids simply improved that much. Same teacher and classroom for both K and 1st so it wasn’t a teacher issue.

    Teaching kids who want to read young to read is one thing. Pushing kids is meaningless.

  102. SKL August 4, 2013 at 11:33 am #

    I’m not sure how widespread the fingerprint thing is now, or whether it’s a growing trend. I didn’t find it convenient at all. For example, when I went to get one kid for a doctor appointment, it would insist that I was taking both kids out, and the computer had to be overridden a lot. Could have been the learning curve, I don’t know. Having anyone other than me drop off / pick up the kids would have been another hassle.

    I’m just glad my kids are past that stage. Now in 2nd grade, they still need to be signed out of “aftercare,” but that’s pretty much it during the school year.

    I think they do this to make the parents feel more secure. And maybe for some parents, that’s what they want. I am too busy to spend time contacting all the daycare parents and polling them about sign-in / sign-out procedures. That’s why I used daycare in the first place – I have other things to do.

  103. SKL August 4, 2013 at 11:43 am #

    And Papilio, to more directly answer your question, yes, they now expect kids to read at 5 unless they have problems. Most kids can, if given the right opportunities. I do think it’s good to provide those opportunities for kids who are ready for them, but I agree that it’s futile to try to force it on kids whose brains aren’t ready.

    I also think they should incorporate vision development activities into pre-K and KG curricula, as that is frequently the thing that is missing in kids who have trouble with reading.

  104. Jen G. August 4, 2013 at 12:33 pm #

    The only reason I don’t leave my son in the car, even for 5 mins, is b/c it gets so hot here in AZ, especially in the summer. It takes only 5 mins for the inside of a car here to heat to 104 degrees or higher, depending on the temps for the day. That, as I see it, is the only reason not to leave a child in a car for a few minutes.

  105. Papilio August 4, 2013 at 12:41 pm #

    It sounds very… pushy and unhealthy to me, to force 4yos to learn how to read (and indeed: sit still to do so!). From what I understood from research, you shouldn’t teach kids to read before they know the difference between left and right, and thus stop mirroring letters.
    Even if that’s not true, I just don’t see the point in shoving it into children that young…!
    (Of course it’s different when they actually want to learn it – there’s nothing wrong with that.)

    What I’m used to: reading and writing (and math) starts in 1st grade, when kids are 6 (most turn 7 in that year). The two years before that are also part of primary school, where kids start at their 4th birthday. In this ~2-year KG they get to move around a LOT, they play a LOT, they draw and tinker?/potter? with paper and cardboard etc (but if wanted also with wood, hammer and nails!) practising their motor skills, and they sit in a big circle to tell about their weekend or talk about whatever the next theme is (‘autumn’) or learn the next three letters of the month.
    No idea whether that counts as “vision development activities”. I do know they learn how to read just fine…

  106. pentamom August 4, 2013 at 12:46 pm #

    “I’m not sure how widespread the fingerprint thing is now, or whether it’s a growing trend. I didn’t find it convenient at all.”

    This isn’t daycare/preschool, but here the Y uses it to ID members. (I think the Y daycare might work the same way on a separate system but I am not certain.) I actually find it convenient. And they don’t “take” your fingerprints in ink, they just scan them into the machine and then use the same machine to ID them later. I suppose that *could* be used to centralize your fingerprints somehow, but at present, it doesn’t appear to work that way.

    “As for reading, there is no difference between kids taught to read at 4 or 5 or 6 so I am not sure what the push is in the US. ”

    My guess is that it is more convenient for the schools to do it that way — if they can get 80% or so of the kids done with learning to read by a certain grade, and shuffle the rest off to separate remedial reading classes, then the teachers of the older grades don’t have to spend any time dealing with teaching reading.

    Mind you, I don’t think that’s a good reason, because it probably makes the kids who are “pushed” ahead of their natural schedule more likely to find reading a chore that they will avoid whenever it is not absolutely required. But it’s a theory, anyway.

  107. lollipoplover August 4, 2013 at 12:47 pm #

    My older two walked to their preschool (and I pushed baby in the stroller) and we didn’t have to deal with this nonsense. They had a newsletter warning parents about leaving kids in cars for any amount of time- because they could choke when left unattended, I think was their reasoning.

    We were visiting an Amish farm this week (not far from where we live) and the family who owned the farm had 6 children. The older ones (5, 8, 9) were cutting tobacco deep in the fields with their father. Mom was working the farm stand and helping customers. The 3 year- old twins were picking tomatoes and bringing them to mom in the stand in little wagons. The baby stood nearby (he was @1) and pulled a big watermelon in a pushcart while two nanny dogs ran around him. I’d argue this 1 year-old was better behaved than most of the 5 year-olds I know.

    I often wonder how our modern technology is ruining our future generations. Why can’t a Preschool student walk in the front door alone?

  108. pentamom August 4, 2013 at 12:48 pm #

    BTW, I understand how IDing myself by finger scan to get into the Y could be convenient when a system like that for picking up a child from daycare/school would not be convenient or sensible for other reasons.

  109. SKL August 4, 2013 at 5:00 pm #

    One of the reasons the fingerprint thing was inconvenient is that it couldn’t always read the fingerprint. To make it work, the finger had to be warm and have oil on it. I was advised to wipe it on my forehead so it would be oily enough. The thought of every parent in the daycare smearing their sweat on the fingerprint reader was kind of . . . I dunno.

    On reading – I would just say that my youngest – the one who is reading Harry Potter – still writes the letter “z” backwards. And I, at age 46, still have to use a trick to tell my right from my left. If kids were not exposed to reading until they mastered a specific list of “reading readiness” skills, that would be a disservice to some kids. There’s no single path to reading.

    I tend to be an advocate of early reading (that is, a five-year-old should be trying to put letters together into words at least). If it isn’t clicking despite plenty of gentle exposure, then the child should be evaluated for problems earlier rather than later. Therapy can make a bigger impact at an earlier age. That said, I am aware that some kids just click a little later than others.

  110. Natalie August 4, 2013 at 5:12 pm #

    That’s so funny. My daughter does the same thing with her “z.” When I pointed it out her, she was adamant that I was wrong.

  111. SKL August 4, 2013 at 5:21 pm #

    When I was a KG kid, my mom bought me an old copy of “Little House in the Big Woods.” I loved reading that book so much, I wrote my name & address in the front. The fives were backwards. 🙂

  112. anonymous this time August 4, 2013 at 7:09 pm #

    Donna said, “I can identify 3 people from my town who are in a state prison as we speak for doing exactly that (or a very close approximation)w and 0 people who have been charged and acquitted. In an ultraliberal, inner city, not particularly tough-on-crime area. And when those stories were in the paper, there wasn’t a single commenter that said this was wrong. In fact, most thought the women (they are all women) should be hung from the nearest tree.”

    And thanks for clarifying that these were cases where significant harm to the child actually occurred, since I cannot for the life of me imagine state prison time for what we’re talking about here.

    I’d love to hear about the other two cases, beyond the “hanging” that occurred. It’s certainly beyond the bounds of anything I’ve ever heard of in my experience, children dying inside of cars due to simply being left inside without hyper or hypothermia being part of the equation.

    Anyway, I love the fact that there are clear charts of stats that show how kids REALLY die when it comes to cars… so much more likely they’ll be run over by one, or injured while the car is in motion, than simply waiting for a few minutes unaccompanied. I’m actually floored that we have laws forbidding leaving children alone in cars, instead of laws forbidding transporting children in cars. Which is more deadly, I ask? Right. So how about no such laws at all? What possible good do they achieve? Kids will have freak accidents regardless of laws, parents will tragically forget kids in cars regardless of laws, people will tragically back over their kids with their cars regardless of the laws.

    I just don’t get it. It’s as though legislation is being enacted as some kind of voodoo charm to prevent harm to children that is, sadly, inevitable.

    Just yesterday, a 9.5 year old girl from the States resisted my idea to leave her and my 9-year-old at the park where a neighbourhood market was taking place while the two moms went on a brief (20 min) errand. “But someone might steal me!” she wailed, without a trace of sarcasm. I boggled to hear this from a child. “Who will help me if someone tries to take me?” she asked, clearly terrified. “Well,” I said, “how about you just kick and scream and bite and thrash and be such a pain in the ass that no one would want to take you? So that everyone around here would notice, and help you? There are tons of people here.” She seemed satisfied with that plan, but I heard later that she cried and obsessed the entire time we were away.


    So. Very. Tragic.

  113. Nic August 4, 2013 at 7:25 pm #

    “Your car in the lot is surrounded by other parents pulling into and backing out of spaces as they make their own drop offs and scurry off to work. Into this scenario of confusion…”
    You’ve just answered your own argument. Rushing parents, confusion, busy carpark…
    You leave a sleeping toddler in a car, they could become upset or wanting to find you, they are able to let themselves out of the carseat and exit the car into what you have described. How many of those rushing parents are going to be paying any attention to your child?
    Just how old do you think a child is before they can rationalise that they are ok, should stay there, and that mummy will be back soon. If you think it’s under school age, then by all means take the risk.

  114. SKL August 4, 2013 at 7:27 pm #

    anon, I agree with your word “tragic.” My friends say that to my kids all the time. “Don’t do x, someone might steal you.” I want to kick them (figuratively, of course).

    This is another aspect of parents not being trusted to prioritize their kids’ well-being.

    I have a daughter who has some listening problems, and after much research and thinking, I decided to try giving her a little coffee in the mornings before school. To make it fun, I told the girls we’d go shopping for a couple of little car mugs for them to sip on the way to school. They excitedly told my friend, who responded (for all to hear), “oh no, that’s very bad, very bad, how can you even think such a thing?” Gee, thanks for telling my kids that (a) I’m an idiot, and (b) I don’t care as much about them as you do. For putting me in a position of having to reassure my kids that I wouldn’t do something to hurt them. Bah.

  115. SKL August 4, 2013 at 7:33 pm #

    Nic, I am capable of deciding whether my kids are safer in the car or not. I know that even when they were 4.5 and I had to replace their first car seats, they were nowhere near strong enough to unfasten the harness. And after that, when they were in boosters they could open, I could make a judgment based on whether or not I trusted them to stay in their seats with their belts fastened, or not. (I could and did.)

    There are some kids who are not safe in their parents’ cars because they can and will get out of their seats and do things they shouldn’t. (This can also happen while speeding down the freeway, so a parent who has such a kid needs to find a solution quickly.) The parents of those kids would be the best people to judge these risks. It is wrong to make one rule for all parents when there is no evidence that the majority of kids aren’t safe sitting in their car seat.

    I didn’t leave my kids alone when they were toddlers because they would get scared. I had enough sense to know that and act accordingly. I trust other parents if they say their kids would not get scared etc.

  116. Papilio August 4, 2013 at 8:43 pm #

    “I tend to be an advocate of early reading (that is, a five-year-old should be trying to put letters together into words at least). If it isn’t clicking despite plenty of gentle exposure, then the child should be evaluated for problems earlier rather than later. Therapy can make a bigger impact at an earlier age. That said, I am aware that some kids just click a little later than others.”

    But if it doesn’t matter if a kid learns to read at 4, 5, 6 or maybe even 7 (Finland!) because they’ll be at the same level at 8 anyway (assuming normal intelligence), then why spend all that time on gentle exposure at 5? At the cost of what – playing?
    And why would you start at that age when you already know many kids won’t be ready yet? You say it’s better to start therapy early – okay, that’s often true. But if all the kid needs is: more time, you’re only creating problems that aren’t actually there. And then therapy is just a waste of money *and* time.
    I am all for reading to your child because he/she will benefit from that (grammar, vocabulary, knowledge of the world in the broadest sense, and of course quality time with you), and if the kid is curious for the letters and/or learns how to read just by reading along while you read out loud, that’s fine. But I get the feeling that was not what you meant by gentle exposure.

  117. Natalie August 4, 2013 at 9:08 pm #

    I refuse to give my girls coffee…
    Only cappuccino. 😉

  118. SKL August 4, 2013 at 9:26 pm #

    Papilio, even my kid with learning problems only spent maybe 20 minutes per day learning to read at age 5. She had plenty of time left for playing.

    I have been studying reading and teaching kids to read for about 30 years, so it’s hard to put all my knowledge and experience into a couple sentences, especially since all kids are different. Obviously there is a lot more behind the words.

    You can say it doesn’t matter when a child learns to read, but it does matter if she’s attending a school where everyone else can read. The USA has not in memorable history accepted that kids should not be at least trying to read by age 6, and nowadays the trend is to facilitate their starting at 5 (and most kids rise to the occasion). Reading at 5 was standard in various school systems in the past, also. (That was the case with my grandmother, my mom, and me for example.) In many countries it’s normal to start at age 4, by the way, so it’s not just an American oddity.

    Further, while it may not matter if all neurotypical kids are introduced to reading skills at 4, 5, 6, or 7, it does matter if a child has a learning problem that is not addressed at an early age. Early intervention is much more effective than waiting. Besides, it gives us the opportunity to minimize the amount of frustration and embarrassment the child will feel once all the other kids learn to read.

    Of course I was not suggesting that everyone get therapy whether they need it or not. I was suggesting they be evaluated for problems if things are not clicking. The tests are very precise and won’t result in kids without vision problems (for example) being subjected to vision therapy. I had my kid’s vision evaluated at age 3.5, long before she would have started being taught to read. (She already wore glasses, but the glasses didn’t resolve all of her problems.)

  119. SKL August 4, 2013 at 9:34 pm #

    I don’t feel that it’s right to keep a whole generation of kids away from the pastime of reading just because a minority of those kids aren’t ready. My daughters both enjoyed reading hundreds of books in this past school year, which they began at age 5. Even my slower reader enjoys ordering off her own menu in a restaurant, writing a note to a loved one, and other practical everyday activities that require reading.

    As long as the schools are smart about how they work with kids who aren’t ready for reading, no harm is done. From my observations, kids who don’t yet read in KG are not pressured at all. In 1st grade they receive extra help if they have not yet caught on.

  120. pentamom August 4, 2013 at 9:40 pm #

    “I tend to be an advocate of early reading (that is, a five-year-old should be trying to put letters together into words at least). If it isn’t clicking despite plenty of gentle exposure, then the child should be evaluated for problems earlier rather than later. ”

    I mostly agree with this. I think that promoting and giving the opportunity to learn to read earlier is great. And discovering real problems early on is certainly desirable. But within those parameters, I’m just leery of a system that gives no flexibility for the fact that some kids, perfectly normally with no treatable “problems,” just don’t click until they’re almost 6. If they’re coming up on the 6th birthday and there’s been no progress at all, sure, look into it. But a cookie-cutter push-push-push everybody-literate by 5 years 3 months approach has its drawbacks as well.

  121. Natalie August 4, 2013 at 9:40 pm #

    There has been talk about national standards vs. state standards, and how some states have lowered their standards to be in accordance with the no child left behind act. Educators can’t work miracles in a year just because congress tells them to.

    And besides the whole state vs federal standard, there is The US’s international standing, which isn’t that great.

    I wonder if the push to read early in schools partly stems from this.

  122. SKL August 4, 2013 at 9:46 pm #

    Of course I’m always leery of letting the government dictate individual matters. But much non-government research, as well as personal experience, has shown that it isn’t ridiculous to be teaching reading basics to a five-year-old. Maria Montessori believed that kids were ready to read at age 4.5; and many certainly are.

  123. SKL August 4, 2013 at 9:48 pm #

    Of course some people are afraid their kids are not ready for the rigors of modern KG and decide to redshirt them. But that is not really a new trend. People were doing it even when reading instruction was delayed until mid-1st grade. I’ve never quite understood what’s up with that.

  124. Warren August 4, 2013 at 10:08 pm #

    Well SKL, that is the difference between you and me. While you are willing to let others dictate to you how you will raise your kids, because you are too afraid to make a stand, while I figure my kids, and eventually their rights as parents are worth fighting for.

    Sweetie, I have, and will stand toe to toe with any authority to protect my rights, and the rights of my family.

    And one of the ways I deal with any authority is refuse to deal with fronline flunkies that do not have the power to make any decision. I have no problem with stepping on anyone’s forehead untill I reach the top of ladder. And then it works well to remind them who they actually work for. If this approach does not work for you, then you are not doing it right.

  125. Natalie August 5, 2013 at 6:18 am #

    When was the switch made? When people started teaching reading in KG from mid-first grade? I don’t remember what it was like when I was a kid. Do you know the reason why they started teaching younger?
    At my daughter’s open house the teacher showed us a sentence they happened to have on the black board from the day’s lesson, and they proudly stated that every child could read that sentence.
    They also use a computer program called Lexia, so it really is something they push at the KG level.

  126. Natalie August 5, 2013 at 6:19 am #

    How old is your eldest? Do you remember when things switched?

  127. QuicoT August 5, 2013 at 7:11 am #

    cathy wrote on August 2nd, 2013 at 11:53 am Said:
    i was just reading the gesell institute’s classic series on child development, (published in 1979) and in the ‘your six year old’ book, while discussing signs of readiness for first grade, they ask: ‘can he travel alone in the neighborhood (four to eight blocks) to store, school, playground, or to a friend’s home?’
    oh, how far we’ve regressed!!
    – See more at: https://www.freerangekids.com/why-are-we-making-pre-k-drop-off-so-hard/#comments

    That’s shocking.

  128. Uly August 5, 2013 at 8:24 am #

    Anybody ever notice how those most opposed to ever changing their ways to fit into society are also those most determined to force the rest of us to change our ways? Nobody can dictate to Warren how to raise his kids, but he has no qualms whatsoever about trying to do that to everybody else!

  129. SKL August 5, 2013 at 8:28 am #

    Uly, I’m trying to restrain myself but very tempted to apply Warren’s unpleasantly-worded suggestions to how his swim students’ parents should have spoken to him when he was (he says) banning them from being present lest they try to influence how their kids’ swim lesson was handled. Or do parents’ rights only go one way?

    But I know I should not engage. It never helps.

  130. SKL August 5, 2013 at 8:55 am #


    It really always varied by school district. In the early 1980s, my kid sister and step-niece were both in public KG. Step-niece was being taught to read in KG. Sister didn’t begin reading lessons until 1st, and then they didn’t differentiate (i.e., they didn’t break the class in to ability groups), so they didn’t read an actual story until around Christmas time. I remember this really irking me since my sister read her first book two years earlier at age 4.5.

    In the past, KG was not required, and many kids did not attend. This is a likely reason why they designed 1st grade curriculum for kids who needed to begin reading instruction then. Nowadays KG attendance is practically universal, and with Head Start programs, even disadvantaged kids enter KG with some clue about letters and books. So this might be one reason why they switched.

    Another factor could be the changing emphasis on phonics vs. sight words. Historically schools taught phonics first, and phonics is pretty straightforward for most kids. At some point, many/most schools switched from phonics instruction to sight words. The sight word method requires that all reading materials have a controlled (stilted, artificially-limited) vocabulary that made reading less than pleasurable. (There’s only so much “see, see, see, look and see” you can read before you want to puke on it.) This was done in the 1940s in my parents’ school district; I know this because my mom thinks this is why my dad could not learn to read. Anyhoo, there must have been a bunch of kids who didn’t pick up the sight word method, so some brilliant person decided that everyone should wait until 1st grade to start formal reading instruction. When I was in school, the public schools didn’t teach reading in KG, but my parochial school did.

    In college, my initial major was education. This was in the early 1980s. I was taught that kids weren’t ready to read until they would, for example, draw a picture with everything lined up on a baseline, which they said happens when kids are around age 7. I knew this to be BS since everyone in my family (except for my dyslexic dad) was reading by age 5, and I remembered that my whole KG class had learned to read by 5/6. I am not sure how the “experts” managed to convince people, but it’s just part of the “dumbing down” we’ve seen in schools. Maybe the teachers’ unions pushed it because it was easier for them. Maybe the public wasn’t paying attention.

    Eventually public school educators figured out that phonics needed to be given more importance again, and perhaps with this change, they noticed that a lot of kids were able to read in KG. Or maybe it was the standards push. I really don’t know. But I’m glad they are giving kids more building blocks in KG so they can broaden their horizons.

  131. Natalie August 5, 2013 at 9:14 am #

    I started with sight words with my daughter. She liked being able to pick out words that repeated themselves. She knew more or less what sound letters made. We tried those Bob books to teach her phonics, but she hated them so I dropped it. She seemed to get the hang of it eventually, just from the two of reading together, taking turns, etc.
    At her school, they’ve divided words into groups: those you sound out phonetically (and those are divided into word groups) and sight words. I’ve found that it was good for filling in some gaps that she had. And she started spelling a lot better.

    Also, I agree. Don’t engage. Not worth your time. He’s the one that needs it, not you.

  132. Natalie August 5, 2013 at 9:26 am #

    And… We all get it, even if he doesn’t.

  133. Warren August 5, 2013 at 10:03 am #

    I do not dictate anything. I am not forcing anyone to do anything. Stating my displeasure with someone, is not dictating anything. Being disappointed that people who claim to want their kids to have the same rights and freedoms as we had as kids, but yet cower at the thought of actually doing anything about it, is not dictating anything.

    Not even close on the swimming lessons. Had you actually read or comprehended what was written, you would know that I stated anyone wanting a more the type of lesson you wanted they could pay for private lessons. The thing about you and the lessons, is that you think you know better, and you don’t. Teaching methods are not infringements on parental rights. If you think they are, you are far more dense than I ever thought.

    I am not dictating to anyone that they have to fight, take a stand, or anything. But I do take a stand, and will point out you cowards. When you kid, or grandkid is arrested, or their child is taken away for something completely insane…….look in the mirror. Your inaction is to blame.

  134. CR Moewes August 5, 2013 at 10:51 am #

    I’m surprised there aren’t more comments like @Emily made. Why do we have to escort the school aged kid in? Why can’t they get out of the car and walk them self in? Couldn’t we change the rules and have that be the norm?

  135. Natalie August 5, 2013 at 11:05 am #

    How often does that happen though? The post was about daycares (which may or may not include KG).
    My KG daughter can walk right in to her school, as can the rest of the grade school kids. I don’t need to be with her.
    I may be mistaken, but I think that most school age kids do walk in on their own. Even if they’re shuttled to the front door.
    Unless I missed something, this post is about daycares.

  136. SKL August 5, 2013 at 11:15 am #

    Yes, I would not consider pre-K to be school-aged.

    My kids *could* have walked themselves in at age 3 (since they knew how to work the keypad). But they preferred for me to go in with them, so I accommodated them. At age 4, I’m sure there are many kids who still feel better having their parent go in with them. No harm in it, generally.

  137. SKL August 5, 2013 at 11:23 am #

    Natalie, my eldest (the one with vision problems) learned sight words faster than phonics. She did learn her letters and sounds, but she would have taken a lot longer to actually read a story had she only known phonics. Some people insist that sight words are the devil and will cause problems down the line, and maybe that’s true for some kids, but it wasn’t true for mine.

    I’m not really sure how my youngest learned. I used to informally point out letters (phonics) and words, and eventually she put it all together. When she started reading I was surprised at how many words she seemed to know *somehow.* Now I just feel really lucky that she never had to be *taught* in the usual sense of the word.

    Generally the best approach for a school classroom is to combine both phonics and sight words. For an individual child, it’s best to try both and then go with what works.

  138. Natalie August 5, 2013 at 11:58 am #

    Sight words worked pretty well first time around. We’ll see if the same methods work with my 3 yr old when we get there.

  139. Donna August 5, 2013 at 1:41 pm #

    “From my observations, kids who don’t yet read in KG are not pressured at all. In 1st grade they receive extra help if they have not yet caught on.”

    That hasn’t been my experience at all. In fact, my friend’s child was told by mid-KG that he could not move onto 1st grade unless he was reading, which necessitated months of tutoring after school several days a week so that he could keep up with their standard that you MUST read in KG.

    “with Head Start programs, even disadvantaged kids enter KG with some clue about letters and books.”

    Some disadvantaged kids do and some do not. Even in my state with an extensive lottery-funded pre-k program at both public and private schools, a handful of my daughter’s classmates started KG not being able to identify a single letter or recognize their own names. And that was just counting the English speakers.

  140. Donna August 5, 2013 at 1:47 pm #


    Even back in my days of kindergarten, it varied. I went to KG in Maine where they did not teach you to read until 1st grade. When I moved to NJ in 1st grade, I had to be put in remedial class for reading once they discovered that I couldn’t since they all learned in KG.

    That said, it was totally not a big deal at all and I was back with my class full time well before the end of the year, had exceeded my entire class by 2nd grade and had completely finished the elementary school reading program by 4th grade, leaving my teacher scavenging for things for me to do during reading time.

    Way too much emphasis is put on learning to read young in the US.

  141. Donna August 5, 2013 at 1:48 pm #

    And that would have been in the mid-70s.

  142. Donna August 5, 2013 at 1:52 pm #

    Uly and SKL – Haven’t you learned by now that there is only one way to do every single thing in the world – Warren’s way. And if you don’t do things Warren’s way, you are weak cowards. Duh.

  143. SKL August 5, 2013 at 1:57 pm #

    With people like Warren, I make like a willow tree (online). My motto is “lose first.” I have no time for that. If I am taking time for that kind of nonsense, I must be looking for an excuse to do anything other than the work I’m supposed to be doing. 😉

  144. SKL August 5, 2013 at 2:00 pm #

    Donna, unless your friend’s kid was in a private school, I don’t think they had a right to prevent him from entering first grade at the same age as everyone else.

  145. SKL August 5, 2013 at 2:02 pm #

    I just don’t think 5/6 is “young” for learning to read. True, some neurotypical kids aren’t ready until they are 7, but that’s not a reason to make everyone else wait.

  146. Librarymomma August 5, 2013 at 2:05 pm #

    Interesting conversation. I’m so glad I homeschool my son, who is an only child and is almost 10 years old, so I don’t have to worry about him or a younger sibling falling asleep in the car at an inconvenient time.
    This conversation reminded me that when I was 17 and a senior in high school, I would drive my younger sister to her preschool program and drop her off (they even let me sign her in). This was way back in the 1980s.
    Nowadays, from what I understand of my state’s drivers license laws, no one under the age of 18 can drive in a car with another person under the age of 18, so I couldn’t do this today. Nor do I think the preschool would allow this, but that would depend on the school, probably.

  147. Donna August 5, 2013 at 2:10 pm #

    SKL – This was a private school, however, public schools are allowed to fail you if you don’t meet the standards to pass onto the next grade. I’ve known quite a few who were held back during elementary school, usually because of reading issues.

  148. Puzzled August 5, 2013 at 2:14 pm #

    On how to fight, I have one further thought. It seems to me that part of child-rearing is sacrificing what you want for the good of the child. I want to fight, all the time, and every time, against what is wrong. Maybe one of the things that we need to sacrifice is our deeply-held beliefs. (Isn’t this what the story of the binding of Isaac is supposed to teach?)

    On the age at which to learn to read – this whole problem is a failing of the existence of schools. In a better world, kids would learn to read when they are ready, with no “hurry up, the class is waiting” nonsense.

  149. Donna August 5, 2013 at 2:18 pm #

    SKL –

    I don’t have a problem with introducing the concepts of reading in KG. I have a problem with teaching kids to read being the primary focus of KG, which it is in most schools I’ve been in. My daughter’s KG teacher in the states guaranteed us at the beginning of school that all kids in her class would read by the end of school. Not sure if it happened or not since we left, but that seems to be a pretty bold promise to make about 20 5 year olds that you’ve only known for a week or two.

    And it seems like child’s reading level is a badge of good parenting these days. If your child can read at 2, you are a GREAT parent. If your child reads at 6, well you kinda suck.

  150. Donna August 5, 2013 at 2:29 pm #

    anon –

    The hanging boy didn’t die. He suffered brain damage but was alive as of his mother going to prison.

    I worked in one town and lived in another so these are cases that I recall from the local paper and not in depth knowledge of handling them. I remember the hanging case because it was so extremely bizarre. I believe that one of the other cases also involved a child who got caught in the window and suffered some serious injury as a result. I can’t recall when happened in the 3rd case as it was awhile ago but it was not a run-of-the mill leaving a kid in the car scenario; something happened after the mother left the child in the car.

  151. SKL August 5, 2013 at 2:39 pm #

    Anything can seem like a badge of good or bad parenting. That’s ignorance and we don’t have to participate in it.

    I agree that the teacher was quite bold to make that declaration, unless she gave all the kids a test before she said it.

    I think parents in general should spend a little more time learning what their rights are if their kids go to public school. Things aren’t like they used to be. Parents can choose to put their foot down and say “no” to retention, demand testing, and a few other things. Of course many parents are fine with the school’s recommendation to retain for whatever reason, but if you feel it’s wrong, you can and should fight it.

    I would think it’s more likely that the parent you mentioned just didn’t want her child to be so far behind the others in his class. I could understand that. I hope that she found a program that would address his specific learning needs as he worked to catch up.

    Now if the boy is one of the younger ones, it could be a case of discrimination in an effort to pressure parents to hold chronologically younger children (especially boys) back. I have faced this despite the fact that my [slower] kid reads just fine. I asked that they test her and she proved to be above average on almost every measure. They still kept complaining about everything she didn’t do right, but at least I was confident she’d be promoted (she’s in a private school). Though, as you can imagine, I’m not looking forward to starting the whole cycle again in two weeks. :/

  152. SKL August 5, 2013 at 2:55 pm #

    Just posted a question on a super-secret facebook group where I believe people will be pretty honest about when their kids learned to read. (I asked both age and grade.) This group has a fair number of kids with special needs, so if anything, it will be skewed toward older. I’ll report back once I get some data.

  153. Natalie August 5, 2013 at 3:08 pm #

    Super secret? I want in.

    But seriously, I think you’re all raising some good points here.

    if the majority of the KG class is at a certain reading level, and a few aren’t, even though they don’t have dislexia or some other learning disability, it seems that these few aren’t seen as normal. Even though there’s nothing wrong with kids not learning at that age.

    1) All else being typical, if reading is the sole reason for being held back, why can’t they just get that extra help instead? Is holding a kid back just easier? (It seems like it’s not easier to me)

    2) if the rest of the class is reading at a certain level, I see no reason to hold them back either.

    3) why is “early” reading now the new norm to begin with? And if it is, why are some schools so behind?

  154. Natalie August 5, 2013 at 3:11 pm #

    It’s not just these days. My mom STILL brags about when my sisters and I learned to read.

  155. Natalie August 5, 2013 at 3:16 pm #

    How do teenagers go anywhere if they can’t drive each other around? So they each drive their own car? No Chinese fire drills? No mooning the random passer-by?
    (Not that I ever did any of those things 😉

  156. Natalie August 5, 2013 at 3:21 pm #

    It’s a great sentiment, but public schools have large teacher to student ratios. I think there would need to be a change in teaching style, and more staff, to accommodate individuals in such a different ways. I think I see now why it’s just easier to hold a kid back. Not saying it’s right if everything is on level except reading, but I see why it would be easier for a school system to do so.

  157. SKL August 5, 2013 at 3:22 pm #

    So far the reading data indicates that most kids had no problem learning to read and even read well in KG; ages 5/6. This includes both half-day and full-day KG students. Out of about 10 responses so far, only one could not read at the end of KG, and she was NOT held back. Her parents had her tutored in the summer, though.

    The facebook group is for families with kids adopted from my kids’ homeland. So many of these kids started their lives speaking a different language, and/or have educational challenges due to neglect/trauma. Still, KG reading doesn’t seem unreasohnable.

  158. SKL August 5, 2013 at 3:29 pm #

    And now a former KG teacher who has three kids (who all read before KG) has chimed in. She says retention is usually a bad idea and if anyone tries to pressure you into that, ask what they’ve done to provide extra help once a problem was detected, and how would they do things different the second time around. She also feels the expectation is reasonable that most kids (but not all) will read in KG.

  159. Jennifer August 5, 2013 at 3:34 pm #

    I have been screaming this from the mountain tops for awhile now. So thankful to see i’m not the only crazy one who thinks we have become a wild society driven by our fears to the detriment of our children.

  160. Papilio August 5, 2013 at 5:13 pm #

    And still…
    Is it really worse to allow them to PLAY one more year of their lives and learning all kinds of other things by doing just that, before sitting still and focusing on academic learning (entering the Harvard-race…), than to hasten the children who aren’t ready yet and filling their afternoons/summers with extra classes? I’m sure it doesn’t matter for the majority of children (certainly if starting younger only takes more time to end up with the same result), and again, I’m certainly not against teaching children to read earlier, on the condition that they want to learn it themselves.

    What are the international data on this? SKL, you say there are more countries starting at 5 (4, too?)? Are there benefits in the long run – argh, what’s the name of that international comparison of 15yos again? Is there a correlation?

  161. Donna August 5, 2013 at 5:42 pm #

    SKL – There was no problem identified in my friend’s kid. He is a perfectly normal, outgoing, active 5 year old boy who hates to sit down and read when there are other more fun things to do like play with the kid next to him. He learned just fine with a tutor by himself. And, no, he doesn’t ADHD. He is just a 5 year old boy.

  162. Donna August 5, 2013 at 6:02 pm #

    I have to go with Papilio on this one. Just because we can, why do we have to? Many studies have shown that there is absolutely no difference whatsoever in academic outcomes for kids who read at 4-7. Let them play. And why spend 9 months teaching kids something that they learn much quicker the next year with absolutely no negative impact on their ultimate scholastic achievement?

    As someone who learned to read in 1st instead of KG – for no reason other than I was taught then since I have no doubt that I could have learned earlier – I can’t think of a single thing about my life that is lacking. I am not sitting around fretting over that year that I didn’t get to read “See Spot Run.” In fact, I’ve never read “See Spot Run.” I skipped over most of the beginner stuff.

    It is the same reason that I chose not to push to have my child moved up a grade when we got to Samoa. I thought about. I easily could have and she could have handled the work. I just see no point in pushing kids out of childhood and into adulthood quicker than they need to be. Childhood is fleeting and adulthood is many years. There is nothing to be gained by getting there a year faster, nor do I see it as something that should be done just because you can. Life isn’t a race.

  163. SKL August 5, 2013 at 6:34 pm #

    Of course life isn’t a race. However, studies have shown that the more you challenge kids while they are young, they more they will accomplish overall. No, I do not have the citations.

    I could understand the push-back if the majority of kids had to go through mass drudgery to learn to read at 5/6, but that isn’t so. Most kids can learn at that age via gentle methods interspersed with play.

    As for play, who says it has to be large-muscle? There are plenty of kids who have no trouble sitting still. There are plenty of kids who find books to be favorite companions. Even as a crawling baby, my youngest would prefer to sit quietly with a pile of books over any physical thing. I have to push her, often against her will, to engage in physical activity. In fact, it’s easier to get my athletic, vision-compromised kid to sit and read/write than it is to get my bookish kid to pretend she doesn’t hate her gym classes.

    Defining what a child’s fun ought to look like is just as bad whether you insist it should be reading or insist it should be running around.

    In my kids’ KG class, they didn’t spend much time on reading. They spent much more time on playing than on all academics combined. And yet all the kids learned at least some reading. (And the majority of these kids were young for grade.)

    For every kid who finds reading difficult in KG, there is another child (or several kids) who are rolling their eyes and sighing at how basic and unintellectual the lessons are. The latter group don’t learn how to learn because they don’t know what challenge feels like (unless someone outside the classroom addresses this). Many such people (and I was one of them) develop the habit of daydreaming, etc. instead of listening and being on task; and later in life, this comes back to bite them. Besides, why should they even be in the classroom if they aren’t going to learn anything? (I *hated* school, can you tell?) Not everyone gets something out of what passes for socialization in Kindergarten. And I don’t think it’s fair to only consider the feelings / needs of those who are in the pre-reading readiness stage.

    I don’t think all kids *need* to study reading in KG, but I also don’t think it hurts them to do so. It can certainly be part of a balanced curriculum.

  164. SKL August 5, 2013 at 6:38 pm #

    There is always the option of waiting a year to start your kid if you really think he can’t handle school yet, and if you really believe it doesn’t matter when they start and when they finish.

  165. pentamom August 5, 2013 at 6:41 pm #

    “Is it really worse to allow them to PLAY one more year of their lives and learning all kinds of other things by doing just that, before sitting still and focusing on academic learning (entering the Harvard-race…), ”

    Well, my take on it is not that we want to get them in the rat race sooner, it’s that we want to open up the amazingly, wonderfully, beautifully enjoyable and FUN world of reading to them as soon as reasonably possible. My response to your question would be, why hold them BACK from that if they’re ready? But as I said, I’m not in favor of hard pushing for those who are not ready yet, either.

    ” I am not sitting around fretting over that year that I didn’t get to read “See Spot Run.”

    Well, no, but I’m such a reading fanatic that I *would* mourn over a year lost of reading down the line. No matter how old you are, you only read basic-level reading like that for a very short time, and then in fairly short order the whole word of reading is opened up to you once you become proficient. I just can’t see it as unimportant that a child (who is actually ready) is denied that extra year of enjoying reading as part of his life. Not critical, not life-ending, but certainly not meaningless, either.

  166. pentamom August 5, 2013 at 6:54 pm #

    How old is your eldest? Do you remember when things switched? ”

    My eldest is 22 so I think she would have been subject to the trying to get kids to read earlier phase, but I really don’t know — all my kids but #2 were homeschooled 100% from K-8. The exception was #2, who REALLY needed socialization. He did K, two years of 1st (ironically because of delayed reading!) and 2nd in a very small, Montessori-ish Christian school (homeschooled after that.) He definitely experienced the “push to read” thing.

    So anyway, I think the switch probably happened sometime before he started school in the late 90’s, but I wasn’t really aware of what was going on in schools apart from his experience.

    BTW, the reason it was 2 years of 1st instead of 2 years of K was due to kind of a mix up in communication (they’d never made it clear to us at the end of K that they didn’t think he was ready for 1st) and the Montessori-ish environment lent itself to just letting him do most stuff with the 1st graders anyway (it was one classroom pre-K to 1st) so he just went ahead on to 1st, and then when he hadn’t made enough progress for 2nd, he repeated 1st.

  167. Donna August 5, 2013 at 7:50 pm #

    “However, studies have shown that the more you challenge kids while they are young, they more they will accomplish overall”

    Even with no education whatsoever, kids learn to read much more quickly and readily at 6 than at 5. I guess I don’t really define a challenge as something that becomes easier based on nothing other than the maturation of the brain.

    “I could understand the push-back if the majority of kids had to go through mass drudgery to learn to read at 5/6, but that isn’t so. ”

    Seemed like a lot of drudgery to me. Maybe if most schools actually PRACTICED gentle coaxing to read, it would be more agreeable to me. What I saw in both kindergartens my child attended, many thousands of miles away from each other in different hemispheres was that 90% of the day was spent on some sort of reading skill – phonics, site words, reading by themselves, reading to other people, playing with letters. Free play – play in which THEY make up the games for their own fun – was about 30 minutes. While I am sure some of those activities were fun, it was all about learning to read, even in the school that didn’t push reading by the end of 1st grade.

    “There is always the option of waiting a year to start your kid if you really think he can’t handle school yet, and if you really believe it doesn’t matter when they start and when they finish. ”

    Really, SKL, because I’ve seen many extremely negative comments by you about people who choose to do this.

    I’m not saying that kids shouldn’t be taught the building blocks of reading and that kids who are ready and eager to move forward be allowed to move forward. It, however, seems like the end-all-be-all of KG these days and that makes me sad.

  168. Donna August 5, 2013 at 8:02 pm #

    “My response to your question would be, why hold them BACK from that if they’re ready? ”

    Where did I say that we should hold anyone back? I just think reading is way too emphasized as a skill needed by the end of KG. I don’t think they should stop teaching the beginning of reading in KG; just that it shouldn’t be so damned important in KG.

    “Well, no, but I’m such a reading fanatic that I *would* mourn over a year lost of reading down the line.”

    Huh? I’m not even sure what this means. In my experience kids who learn in KG and kids who learn in 1st grade are reading pretty equal, when adjusted for intellect, by the end of 1st grade. You generally learn how to read quicker if you wait longer to learn and spend little, if any, time on “See Spot Run.”

    It is like teaching my child to ride a bike. I tried before she was ready and it was several days of struggling. If I had pushed it, I probably could have made her learn within a reasonable amount of time. But I realized that this was all more about me than her so I put her training wheels back on. When she asked for them to come off, she taught herself to ride in about 5 minutes.

  169. Donna August 5, 2013 at 8:12 pm #

    Due to her birthday, my daughter is one of the oldest in her class. She was almost 6 when she started KG. She was reading before her birthday in October. She was that close to doing it on her own.

    I could have taken this exact same child and put her in KG a year sooner so that she was almost 5. She would have still learned to read by the end of KG, but it would have been much closer to the end of KG. The process would have been longer and more arduous. Not sure what the advantage of this is. She is today exactly where she would have been reading-wise either way. I guess I just don’t understand the benefit in teaching kids over many months at 5 what they learn in a couple months at 6.

    Again, I am not saying to hold back kids that are eager to learn to read, but those kids generally fly off on their own and learn anyway without much teaching by anyone.

  170. Natalie August 5, 2013 at 9:59 pm #

    It all sounds very similar to potty training.

  171. SKL August 5, 2013 at 11:54 pm #

    I’m not a fan of putting a bunch of little kids in a box / room for 180 days a year in the first place, but if we’re going to do that, they ought to at least have something interesting to do there. Boredom is painful, and wasting thousands of hours of a child’s time should be a crime. If KG is too young for efficient learning, then let’s do away with KG except for kids with special needs.

  172. SKL August 5, 2013 at 11:54 pm #

    Donna, I seem to remember you mentioning that you’d wished your daughter could have been accelerated.

  173. VJacob August 6, 2013 at 1:00 am #

    SKL, is the super secret fb group an offshoot of FRUA? I really miss the old FRUA chat. I think that was where I first heard of free range kids.

  174. Puzzled August 6, 2013 at 1:22 am #

    Natalie – certainly it would take large-scale changes but, in my opinion, more staff/faculty is not needed. Ideally, what I really want is an end to schooling itself. Even short of that, though, there are ways to do what I’m saying without more teachers. Most importantly, we need to drop a few assumptions and let kids spend more time on their own, doing what comes naturally at their age – we need to not think that students need to interact with a teacher all the time.

    Simple example – Billy learns by reading, Bobby by doing. We can stick them both in a classroom and do half and half. We can stick them in separate classrooms, and let each learn their own way – except that Bobby’s classroom won’t really work, because not everyone who learns by doing can learn in the same ways, and Billy’s is inefficient, since now we have a teacher watching them read. Or we can take Billy to the library, and Bobby to the lake. Then we can give them time to discuss what they’ve learned. Bobby can talk about what he saw at the lake, and Billy can get excited when he notices that he read about that in Michael Pollan’s latest book, and can tell Bobby what he read. Notice who is not needed or wanted here, except to point out cool things to Bobby and to suggest books to Billy.

    The same things can apply earlier. We don’t need each student sitting with a teacher, nor do we need to assign teachers to development-ranked small groups. We need to set up an environment where kids can explore by themselves, and receive occasional input. The main role of teachers is to inspire, to make things difficult from time to time, and to discuss – not to teach.

    SKL – I’m confused by your description of KG – in particular students bored by lessons, daydreaming, etc. You don’t mean to say that there are KG teachers who are lecturing while students sit in their seats, do you?

  175. Kay August 6, 2013 at 3:10 am #

    I did leave my infant in his car seat in the parking lot when I walked my preschooler in. I saw other parents carrying their infant carriers in with all kinds of weather and thought it was nonsense.

  176. SKL August 6, 2013 at 9:00 am #

    VJacob, I don’t know what FRUA is. I don’t know how this facebook group got started or how long it’s existed. Years, for sure. I used to go to an adoption forum that went from being very active to very quiet, because everyone had migrated to the facebook group. This is the reason I finally started using facebook. 🙂

  177. Andy August 6, 2013 at 9:08 am #

    The argument I heard against teaching kids reading soon is that 6 years old learns reading much easier then 5 years old. The smaller the child, the more time and effort of teacher must be spend in order to teach him to read. So, it is more time effective to wait until they are 6 and most of them can learn it without spending whole day with letters only.

    You can challenge kids even if you are not teaching them reading soon. There are also other important skills that can be learned and challenges to overcome.

    You can create day program that challenges logical reasoning, spatial imagination, problem solving, memory, navigation, understanding of basic physics (how the world works), manually building stuff and so on. I kept the list “academically important stuff” only, but you could add also creativity and physical education into it.

    Kids at that age are interested in all of that, would learn and would be challenged. Spending most of that time on reading only instead, when they could learn that reading a year later much faster seems like inefficient time use to me.

  178. SKL August 6, 2013 at 9:13 am #

    Puzzled, even when I was in KG 42 years ago, I perfected the hidden eyeroll, used while waiting for the teacher to explain something *again* to those in the class who didn’t get it the first time, or the second time . . . . We didn’t sit in our seats all the time, but the non-sitting activities were boring too. Wooden puzzles? Ugh. Gimme a break. And I was the youngest in the class. I can’t imagine having to be the oldest.

    Nowadays some schools seem to try for more differentiation so that everyone doesn’t have to be on the same page. (Though they didn’t do that in my kids’ parochial school despite a very broad range of abilities in 1st grade.) Also, they now have helpers to work with the more challenged kids during the school day. But of course if you take away academics, you take away that little bit of relief from the kids who are ready and eager for more.

    I don’t love the concept of school, though I get it for the most part. The fact is that most of us need it at some level. Either we need to work during the day, or we aren’t up to the job of teaching certain subjects, or our kids do better receiving instruction from others than from us, or some combination. I used to be very idealistic about school reform when I was young, but the fact is that most kids aren’t any more damaged by school than they would be by whatever we’d replace it with.

  179. SKL August 6, 2013 at 9:19 am #

    I keep saying that the KGs I’ve seen do not spend a lot of time on reading. Maybe there are some that do, but I have not seen this in US public schools (or even the private ones I’ve experienced). I think that if you tried to make all four-year-olds read (as some countries do), you would be spending a lot more time on it. But most kids at 5/6 either learn readily or have already figured it out. I agree that the ones who aren’t there yet should not be pressured or retained, but that is not what I see happening in US public schools. Where I do see it is in some homes, because some parents do think it is a race. That is going to happen regardless of what kids do in KG.

  180. Natalie August 6, 2013 at 9:42 am #

    In my daughter’s KG, they did stress reading, but it wasn’t the majority of the day, not even a large portion. They had a bunch of subjects in 30-40 minute intervals, including free play, throughout the day, maybe longer, I don’t remember.
    These subjects were very hands on, and very compatible with a KG age group IMO. It’s not sitting and hearing a lecture. I thought it appropriate in easing them into first grade. My daughter was having fun, she liked the activities they did. She wasn’t bored. She came home with art projects galore.
    Now begs the question, why is it necessary to “get them ready” for the sitting and writing in workbooks in first grade, if it can be delayed? If it isn’t necessary for a good education?
    I’m not sure how the first grade at our school is set up. We havent had an orientation yet. But I can remember the boredom for me starting around first grade.

  181. SKL August 6, 2013 at 9:56 am #

    I can’t tell you much about first grade, because I don’t think my girls’ experience was typical. They are in a Lutheran school. First grade pretty much sucked for both of my kids, other than the social aspect. I will say that they were more traditional than I expected in some good ways – like, they had recess morning and afternoon etc. However, my active kid was often denied recess (and even lunch at least once) because she wasn’t finishing her written work fast enough. :/

    If things aren’t much better in 2nd grade, I’ll probably switch to public for 3rd. Our district is supposedly “excellent,” and I assume my kids would be eligible for bus service and differentiated help. Trying to remember why I thought Lutheran school was a good idea . . . .

  182. Natalie August 6, 2013 at 11:10 am #

    We actually had something like that in my elementary school when I was a kid. But it wasn’t for everyone, just the kids that scored above a certain standard on some test. It was a half day every week, and it was by far the highlight of school back then.

    We built structures out of weird objects to see which group could make the structure that carried the most weight, we invented monsters, we had a model UN meeting where each kid had to pick and represent a country, we had a hero day, where we dressed up as and made an oral presentation of a hero of our choice, we did this activity called create a character where we invented a character in detail, drawing, describing attributes, emotions, events in the character’s life, we built rafts out of milk cartons and raced them in the jr high pool. We played “below the root” (anybody remember that?) for the problem solving, and programmed computers. Teacher involvement was minimal, just some guidance here and there.

    The projects could be as simple or complex as we wanted them to be. there really werent any limits and it was really surprising what young kids could do when let loose with their imaginations. And there were a lot of other activities that I remember vividly. Regular School was a blur. I was sad when it ended in 6th grade. They had activities for the mathematically inclined, the arts inclined, the music inclined, etc.

    I wish more kids had the experience I did.

  183. SKL August 6, 2013 at 11:42 am #

    Natalie, that sounds like “Project Allegro” at my school, except that for us, it was a full-time summer thing at the county vocational school. They brought in cool speakers and teachers. I liked the electronics course and making my own cartoon. They also taught computer programming, which was a new thing in those days. Mostly the boys would make games that blew things up, LOL. I wanted to develop software to generate a face from a description of the different parts (criminal suspect face composite), but the teacher said it was impossible. LOL.

    I do think they have more opportunities out there for the general school population than they did when we were kids. Of course there is always room for improvement.

  184. Puzzled August 6, 2013 at 1:17 pm #

    SKL – don’t get the idea that I’m advocating replacing schooling with homeschooling. I have my own problems with homeschooling – if schools are bad, why turn the home into one? No, what I’m asking for is the elimination of the concept of ‘instruction’ wholesale. It’s not about asking teachers to instruct different kids in different ways, or wanting parents to do it instead. It’s about having, say, a large building full of stuff to play with and explore, on a campus teaming with wildlife, and ponds and lakes to fish in – and a few people around the kids can ask questions to. That’s an intermediate idea. My fully radical idea is a society that treasures and loves learning, in all places at all times.

    Natalie – that sounds like a good program. How sad that the school decided that opportunities to think in a real way – to not sit in a desk being force-fed facts – is only for those whose minds do ok in the school setting. They denied it to those who can least survive the school.

  185. SKL August 6, 2013 at 1:28 pm #

    Puzzled, those experiences you are talking about ought to be what happens in the toddler/preschool years, summers, weekdays, and schoolday afternoons. Problem is, we don’t let kids out unless they are in a closely supervised, structured activity. And such activities are always subject to lawsuits, need insurance, have to follow strict laws, etc. – all things that discourage truly “free” play.

    Can you imagine the reaction 100 or 200 years ago to the suggestion that we put our kids into a program to expose them to trees, ponds, and fields?

  186. Natalie August 6, 2013 at 1:40 pm #


    I don’t think it was that straightforward. I remember quite a few of those kids struggling academically later on, despite the talked about potential. There were also many standouts, including our class valedictorian, who weren’t in this program. I have no idea how they decided who went and who didn’t, I have no clue what that test/evaluation was as I don’t even remember taking it.

    But what I do know is that it was a lot of fun. We worked in groups and individually, projects could be one class period or spread over the entire year. There was such a variety of things we could do. I really do wish that it would be available to all.

  187. Natalie August 6, 2013 at 1:42 pm #

    What was impossible then, there’s an app for today.

  188. Papilio August 6, 2013 at 2:48 pm #

    SKL, it sounds like you were really bored in KG and I’m sorry to hear that, because I know it s*cks to be bored at school.
    I know I could’ve learned how to read at 4/5, but I didn’t ask, so I only learned it in 1st grade, then progressed twice as fast as my classmates and read a LOT for years in a row, until I had to read literature in 9th-12th grade and stopped almost completely. Believe me, I have been bored in school.
    But just because reading in KG could have been a good idea for me (and maybe 2 or 3 other kids), it doesn’t mean that all my classmates should’ve get that same treatment too. Some kids are indeed eager to learn to read and are perfectly ready for 1st grade stuff. However, I wouldn’t basically turn KG into 1st grade just for those early learners who’d otherwise be bored (a small minority, I believe) – I’d rather bring them to 1st grade. Perhaps even parttime.
    In short: yes, for the smart, bored kids it’s wonderful to learn to read at 5. But looking at the big picture, taking all the other kids into consideration as well, I think it’s fine to let them play at 5 and read at 6. In 1st grade.

  189. Puzzled August 6, 2013 at 3:19 pm #

    SKL – I disagree. I think they should be what takes up most of childhood. It’s not something for outside the classroom – what should change as kids get older is what you expect them to get from their interactions, not the nature of the interactions. Young kids might just play and swim. Older kids will play and swim – and teach younger kids to swim – and start noticing biological patterns and trends, which we can talk about once they’ve noticed it, etc. I don’t think we need any of this ‘instructional’ stuff – it’s jut a really poor way to fill a person with information, and a lousy way to show people how to learn. We always and everywhere must learn from the real world, not from lectures, textbooks – and certainly not from “real-world” exercises and examples designed around a certain formula – yuck.

  190. pentamom August 6, 2013 at 3:35 pm #

    All I’m saying is, that kids should have the opportunity to learn to read well by the end of kindergarten (if not before) if they seem to be ready. Don’t push the kids who aren’t ready,but provide the means to learn reading as early as the earlier kids are ready for it.

    I don’t buy the idea that the only gain from teaching reading younger is that kids get to spend an extra year marginally decoding basic reading exercises. That may be true in many cases, but I think of my own experience — I was a mostly self-taught reader by the time I started KG a few months before my 5th birthday (43 years ago.) There may be some kids who don’t come from the book-rich, reading-oriented home I grew up in, who might not be self-taught, but might be ready to spring right into “real” reading within a few months, with some instruction. I would hate for those kids to be denied the pleasure of reading for a year or more because someone has decided there “is no benefit” to reading earlier and therefore no school time is spent on it.

    IOW, if we’re talking about “pushing” kids who aren’t really ready, we agree. If we’re talking about whether it matters at all whether accelerated reading instruction is made available to kids in KG who are actually ready for it, I think we don’t really agree, because I think it does matter.

  191. SKL August 6, 2013 at 3:58 pm #

    But Papilio, who decided that beginning to read is 1st grade work? For just a short period in US history, some educators thought that. It wouldn’t be the first time kids were underestimated, would it?

  192. Papilio August 6, 2013 at 6:30 pm #

    @pentamom: Yeah – the difference is that I would like those kids to choose actively, instead of adults coming up with the idea. Like Andy more or less pointed out, there’s more in life when you’re 5.

    @SKL: I don’t know, probably the same people who invented “first grade” in the first place and felt academic learning should start at 6.
    It would also not be the first time kids were pushed. It is certainly not the only time kids get deprived of all kinds of activities regarding other aspects of development, just because reading seems so important to adults, nice and measurable as it is.
    And again, since the US is hardly the only country in the world where kids learn how to read, what is the rest of the world doing, with which results in the long run?

  193. SKL August 6, 2013 at 10:46 pm #

    Papilio, I fail to see how less than an hour a day of reading instruction can cause kids to “get deprived of all kinds of activities regarding other aspects of development.” What are they doing the other 23+ hours?

    I’ve personally taught several kids to read at or before age 5. They were hardly deprived of bla bla bla.

    Fact is, it isn’t that hard to teach a neurotypical kid to read at age 5/6. Have you ever actually tried it?

  194. Staceyjw August 7, 2013 at 3:42 am #

    What you are describing is “Unschooling” and there are actual “schools” that do exactly what you describe. It is also sometimes called Democratic school. Check out the Sudbury Valley school, it is the original that all the others are built on.
    We have a Sudbury school here too, and its exactly as you describe. Adults as facilitators, not teachers.
    The bad part is these tend to be private, and as such, the kids that could really use it do not get to go (with a few exceptions of scholarship kids) They draw from already privileged children that have parents that are invested in making their lives enriched, so it’s hard to tell if any success comes from the learning style, or from the privilege of the families.
    regardless, it does exist, and is not too hard to replicate if you wNt to have one in your area.

  195. Papilio August 7, 2013 at 10:41 am #

    @SKL: if this discussion is going to sound that aggressive, I won’t put more time and effort in it. I suggest we agree to disagree and just be glad that you live there and I live here.

  196. SKL August 7, 2013 at 11:20 am #

    Papilio, I can certainly agree to disagree. I wasn’t meaning to be aggressive, but I honestly think you are misled about how much time/effort it takes for a typical 5/6yo to learn to read.