Overheard on CNN.com: Should you hold your child back?
November 19th, 2012
04:00 AM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Should you hold your child back?

by John Martin, CNN

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community. Some comments have been edited for space or clarity.

(CNN) – Donna McClintock, the chief operating officer of Children’s Choice Learning Centers, Inc. wrote last week's op-ed on redshirting kindergartners. You may have heard the term applied to college football players, but this isn't a sports story. Academic redshirting means holding a child back from school until he or she is ready. In the U.S., most kindergartners are five-year olds, so a redshirted kindergartner is usually six. McClintock says that when asking whether to redshirt a young child, "parents and educators must determine what that answer is by considering his individual needs and development and not by blindly following a trend."

Some readers questioned whether any child should ever be redshirted:

Rob Breisch: I can honestly say by my own example that it's far better not to redshirt your children – you are causing a life of issues from being not good enough for anyone's standards,and your children will face ridicule all their lives about it. So do them and yourself a favor – advance them and if required spend more time helping them learn.You can destroy a child by just setting them back like it's no big deal. Your child is not a toy nor a rat – so treat them with more respect and dignity and reach out and help them along – but don't make them repeat any grade!

Scott B: I know holding my kid back would be a very last resort. Regardless of what the article says, I went to school and remember how some of those held back kids were treated. About the only time it was a good thing was when they had a car before most of the class. Also, unless the kid simply can't cut it, I'd rather they be in a learning environment that challenges them more than I would want them to get better grades.

Amy: Everyone says "each child is different," and that's certainly true to some extent; however, there is a tendency for some parents to think that their child is particularly unique, different, special, etc. and must be treated differently (i.e. holding him/her back) because of that dazzling uniqueness.... With respect, I think some parents (especially moms) need to stop obsessing about this. Kids are more capable than many parents give them credit for.

Jeanne: What really annoys me is the parents who hold their kids back, so their kids are more than a year older than my kid, and then they claim that the curriculum isn't challenging enough. That is because your 7 1/2-year-old is supposed to be doing second grade work, not first grade.... So then the kid needs differentiated instruction, special trips to the library, and reading enrichment. Meanwhile my age appropriate 5-year-old summer birthday learns at the pace of the curriculum, because that is the age it is designed for. No, she's not special or advanced like your kid, but hey, she's a year and a half younger, and would have gone nuts being stuck in preschool another year. I still think my kid is getting the better end of the deal.

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My View: Kindergarten redshirting different for each child
November 12th, 2012
03:51 AM ET

My View: Kindergarten redshirting different for each child

Courtesy Barbara McClintockBy Donna McClintock, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Donna McClintock is the chief operating officer of Children’s Choice Learning Centers, Inc. She has served in a leadership role in early childhood education for more than 29 years and has been in a senior executive leadership role for more than a decade. She has authored several books on the topic of early childhood education, including “The Heart Connector Series.”

I often read materials that approach a subject as if there were only one solution. Such is the case of “redshirting” children for kindergarten, which is the practice of holding a child back from school until he turns six. There is certainly a best answer for each child, and parents and educators must determine what that answer is by considering his individual needs and development and not by blindly following a trend.

No matter WHAT you decide to do, we know for sure that parents must understand that a child’s brain cannot be redshirted or held back. The child’s experiences during the fifth and sixth year of life are extremely important because the brain continues to develop and form synapses, and learning is at an all-time high.

It is the responsibility of parents and educators to challenge, nurture, inspire and ignite in our children a love of learning and exploration during this critical time. How do you do this when formal education in a school system begins as an individual choice for each child? There are several key factors to consider, but the child’s individual needs are the trump card in this decision.

Most research clearly shows that any gaps in levels of success between younger and older children are usually bridged by the third grade. This leaves parents to wonder if there is an advantage to holding their child back. I offer the position that the type of program your child is in during the first year of formal school is really the key to success.

Each child deserves a developmentally appropriate setting that understands how children 5 to 6 years of age learn, whether that is a formalized kindergarten program, the home environment provided by parents, or another alternative.
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My view: The joys and challenges of raising a gifted child
Chandra Moseley and her daughter, Nya
August 23rd, 2012
02:07 AM ET

My view: The joys and challenges of raising a gifted child

By Chandra Moseley, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Chandra Moseley is a working, single mom. A resident of a Colorado city, she makes sure to expose her daughter to small-town living through weekly trips to the Rocky Mountains.

(CNN) – My daughter, who is 5, was identified last year as "gifted.” Well, I honestly had never properly understood what being "gifted" meant. I naively thought, "Oh, my baby is so advanced, she is just so smart!”

For those of you who are truly unaware of what being gifted means, let me help you understand.

Gifted students are defined by the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) as those who demonstrate outstanding levels of aptitude or competence in one or more domains.

The part of the definition that’s missing - and what I so desperately needed to understand - is the social and behavioral issues that may come with giftedness.

For one thing, my daughter, Nya, is a perfectionist. She gets frustrated even if she only slightly draws outside of the lines. She also gets unnerved by certain loud noises (buzzing or toilets flushing) and even the seams on her socks.  I’ve had to turn her socks inside out because the seam on her toes irritated her so much. I thought she was just being fussy.   FULL POST

The last Weekly Reader?
Weekly Reader, now owned by Scholastic, will cease independent publication this school year.
July 25th, 2012
06:15 AM ET

The last Weekly Reader?

by Donna Krache, CNN

(CNN) The Weekly Reader title may hold fond memories for you, but it won’t be around the way you remember it for your kids.

The magazine that brought us all kinds of kid-appropriate stories, from presidential elections to fuzzy animals, is ceasing independent publication after more than a century in classrooms.

Scholastic, which started as a classroom magazine in 1920, purchased Weekly Reader this past February from Readers Digest Association, Inc.  In recent months, Scholastic says that its editors, along with those from Weekly Reader, met with teachers to determine which features of each publication would serve their audiences in different grades and subject areas.

Beginning this school year, Scholastic Classroom Magazines will offer what the company hopes is the best of both worlds in print and digital formats.  The magazines will be co-branded with titles such as Junior Scholastic/Current Events and Scholastic News/Weekly Reader.

Representatives from Scholastic would not comment on reported layoffs at Weekly Reader, saying only that some Weekly Reader staff are working for Scholastic, while others are “in consideration for jobs” or not interested in commuting to the Scholastic offices in New York City.

In an email statement to CNN, Cathy Lasiewicz, Senior Director at Scholastic Corporate Communications, said “We are confident that the combined Scholastic News/Weekly Reader team will now offer an even better news and information experience in print and digital formats for teachers and students.” 

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Filed under: Early childhood • Elementary school • Practice • Publications
Does obesity affect school performance?
June 14th, 2012
12:28 PM ET

Does obesity affect school performance?

By Amanda Gardner, Health

(Health.com) – Obese children and teenagers face a slew of potential health problems as they get older, including an increased risk of diabetes, heart attacks, and certain cancers. As if that weren't enough, obesity may harm young people's long-term college and career prospects, too.

In recent years, an uneven yet growing body of research has suggested that obesity is associated with poorer academic performance beginning as early as kindergarten. Studies have variously found that obese students - and especially girls - tend to have lower test scores than their slimmer peers, are more likely to be held back a grade, and are less likely to go on to college.

The latest such study, published this week in the journal Child Development, followed 6,250 children from kindergarten through fifth grade and found that those who were obese throughout that period scored lower on math tests than non-obese children.

What's more, this pattern held even after the researchers took into account extenuating factors that can influence both body size and test scores, such as family income, race, the mother's education level and job status, and both parents' expectations for the child's performance in school.

Copyright Health Magazine 2011

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Filed under: Early childhood • Kids' health • Policy • Practice • Testing
My View: Let preschoolers, kindergartners play to learn
June 14th, 2012
06:34 AM ET

My View: Let preschoolers, kindergartners play to learn

Courtesy Kathleen Landwerhle/Champlain CollegeBy Laurel Bongiorno, Special to CNN.

Editor’s note: Professor Laurel Bongiorno is director of the master’s degree program in early childhood education at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont. She is working on a book on the value of play in early childhood development.

(CNN) - Young children, ages 3 to 5, learn through play at home. It’s easy to observe.

But then preschool and kindergarten arrive all of a sudden, and children in today’s school environment are often subjected to scripted lessons and direct instruction.

Whether it’s classic theorists such as Jean Piaget or contemporary researchers such as David Elkind, there is general agreement that children learn through hands-on experience, through their play.

So why the disconnect? Why the pressure on teachers to “teach to the (standardized) test”? And why the misconception that testing addresses accountability? Studies show children are at their best during play, so shouldn’t we observe and assess them during play?

My research shows that Mom and Dad help their child develop vocabulary and letter recognition through songs, games and books filled with fun stories. They clearly understand the connection between play and learning.

Not only do they see the benefit of language and literacy play, but they also describe how their children develop physically through running, jumping and climbing, and how they advance small motor skills by stacking blocks, drawing with markers and squeezing glue bottles. In these areas, play is what matters, too.
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Filed under: Early childhood • Preschool • Voices