To my kid’s new first grade teacher:
I am sending my child to the first day of first grade having done no work over the summer. None. Sure, I looked at the packet that was sent home with reading and math work. I showed it to my child. Neither one of us were enthusiastic to do it, so we put it off for other things, like swimming, biking, birthday parties, vacation, and yes, watching movies and TV.
When the summer was coming to a close and we hadn’t done a single assignment, I berated myself for procrastinating, called myself a “bad mother,” and was certain that I was somehow doing my child a disservice. This sort of tactic, on my part, usually works well enough for me to pull a “Hail Mary” and do whatever I’ve been putting off. But, not this time. This time, I realized I’d been putting the work off for a really good reason. You see, my son hates learning.
He’s only in the first grade, and he hates learning.
Despite this, all last year, I sat at the table working on all things Kindergarten with him. We worked on reading and writing, numbers and mathematical concepts, social studies, the life cycle of all sorts of creatures and more. He hated every minute of it, but I did it anyway, because it was what I thought I should do.
What I found most interesting is that as the year went on and I ramped up the amount of work (and intensity because his first report card was “just OK”) his grades stayed the same or went down. He worked harder and his grades went down. Don’t you see? The harder we push this child to learn, the less he actually enjoys learning, the less he actually learns.
THIS is why I procrastinated the summer away. I could not spend one more moment contributing to the stripping away of my own child’s joy of learning. Some may say that I should be pushing him, even if he hates it. But to what end? To the point where he ends up getting terrific grades to impress me or his father? Or to avoid being bullied or made fun of for being behind the other kids? This pushing may work in the short run, but after he graduates and there is no one there to push him, what then? How will he know who he is, what he likes, what he’s good at?
I want my child to evolve into a human being that loves to explore, is creative, curious, and compassionate to others and to himself. None of this comes from the constant beating down of his spirit, in order to satisfy some test score.
So, when he shows up to school tomorrow and can’t sound out words that start with “h” or subtract 12-7, you can thank me. And, when he shows up with a big fat smile on his face and seems like a happy kid who is eager to learn again, you can also thank me.