This kindergartener sounds right on target

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  March 30, 2012 06:00 AM

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Dear Barbara,

My son is in half-day kindergarten and he seems to enjoy it. His teacher has told us that he’s extremely bright and knowledgeable but that it’s hard to get him to do activities that don’t interest him and he’s not working anywhere close to his academic potential. I saw this firsthand when I volunteered in the classroom. The kids rotate to different “centers” with a partner (e.g., computers, games, writing) and my son refused to do the writing activity even after I explained what was expected and pointed out that all the other kids were doing it. A lot of work that he brings home is sloppy (writing, coloring, cutting out shapes) and I know he can do better. He doesn’t have a hard time focusing or sitting still – he can spend hours playing with Legos and making up stories or doing crafts. Is this just a developmental stage he’ll grow out of or this something we should work on and, if so, how do we do it? I know this is just kindergarten but I want my son to participate and have good school habits. Thank you.

From: MV, Needham, MA

Dear MW,

What you're describing sounds to me like your son is right on target, developmentally, including not seeing the value or need to be doing the same thing as peers. I do not think you need to do anything other that support him, read to him daily at home (always!), and over the summer, dictate the random (short) grocery list to him (even though he uses inventive spelling), so he gets some practice holding a pencil.

Your letter is symbolic of what's happened to kindergarten in the past decade or so: so much more is expected of 5-year-olds, often inadvisedly. Keep in mind that It usually takes until third grade before kids even out academically.

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Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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