Monday, October 28, 2013

The Story Rope

My daughter is hard at work. Reading, analyzing, diagramming her story. She is trying hard to gather her materials, to be precise, to be accurate. She is working all weekend on this project. It is not homework, just what was her "take home" lesson from school. Monday morning, she cannot wait to show her teacher what she has done. She is proud of her work. She should be. She did a good job. She read the book. She made a story rope with her custom illustrated version of the story, in detail right down to the colors she used. She identified the title and author, the setting, the characters, the problem and the solution. And I hate it. Because she is six, and the story is "The Three Little Kittens." She should be working on reading, and decoding her words. She should be absorbing the language, appreciating the verse and cadence of the words. Letting the phrases roll off her tongue in a melodious way, savoring the rhymes. Looking at the pictures, seeing how the illustrations support the words. But no, instead, she is breaking the story into little tiny bits, analyzing the setting (a house), the characters (the three little kittens), the problem (they lost their mittens) and the solution (they found them). She has had a wonderful time breaking apart her story into little tiny bits and drawing her pictures. She cut each one out and mounted it on tape so that it hangs like a mobile or wind chime. Ironically, she cannot read the story by herself, because it is too hard. She relies on the pictures to help her. It is not necessarily developmentally inappropriate (children become fluent readers between the ages of 7 and 9, regardless of what the curriculum says). She should be working on the basic skills, like vowel sounds and letter combinations (digraphs? dipthongs? when two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking?). She should be building her tolerance for the written word. She should be listening to stories, letting the language flow around her and nourish her brain. But no, she is asking me how to spell the word "solution." But when she is doing her math homework and has a word problem (insert "WTF?" right here, because she is six, can barely read and has math word problems), she will tell me that she doesn't want to read because it is math and she shouldn't have to. She never wants to sit down and read. She gives a half-ass effort when she does have to read, on her scheduled 20 nights per month. She tells me that reading is boring and she hates it. This slices through my heart. I cannot remember a time when I didn't read. I was that child, reading in Kindergarten. I was abnormal. I always have a book with me. I like to read so much that I started writing my own books. And now my daughter does not like to read. Do we even wonder why? These Common Core Standards, so developmentally inappropriate and so poorly implemented by New York State, have sucked all of the fun out of learning. My daughter is a typically developing child. She can handle the rigor of the work that New York feels she should be doing, but she does not want to be doing it. Because she wants to be a child. She is six. Her brain is not yet fully developed. She is still a sensory motor learner. And we know this because she is telling us. Instead of sitting down with a book, she is drawing and cutting and taping. She is standing while she does this, and she is up and down, moving all about while she works on her project. She is talking, narrating what she does. She is mimicking her teacher, teaching us as she has been taught. The two-dimensional aspect of reading is not appealing to her. She has to make it tactile and the project itself has the movement which her body so needs. She does not have ADHD. She is simply six, and she is a motor leaner. Like all five and six year-olds should be. My daughter has a wonderful teacher, and is in a wonderfully supportive public school. But her skills are already splintering. She can dissect a story, but cannot read it. She writes stories, but cannot properly form her letters. She has a robust vocabulary, but cannot sound out the words to attempt to spell them. Without a solid foundation, her skills will remain splintered and I fear she will struggle for the rest of her life to build a house on sand rather than on a firm foundation. This is as a direct result of the Common Core Standards. She is six. It really should be as simple as, "Three little kittens have lost their mittens."

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