Dog Days of Summer

I work in tech, not high tech, just tech. A small software company to be exact. The smallness of the company allows me to do an amazing thing: I have every Friday off this summer so I can hang out with my kids.

It could have been great.

Instead, I decided to chart a new course in my life. One that requires studying for a test in July and taking a course over at the community college. One that requires finger prints and applications to multiple agencies. A process that won’t come to a close until May 2010 – when they announce the cohorts for that year.

Last night Peter told me that no matter what I cannot quit. He said it’s the same thing he tells the kids when they’re hiking: the most important thing is to keep on going. I’ll keep on keeping on. But good grief – my lazy summer has suddenly become very busy.


Elliot missed the cut-off for Kindergarten by one week in our school district. Our neighboring district he would make the cut-off. In the end, it’s better that he didn’t go to Kindergarten this year. One, I would have cried a big wide river every day. And two, he’ll do better down the road having the benefit of being a little more mature. If he had gone to Kindergarten this year I would have sent my seventeen-year old baby to college. No. It’s just not happening.

But that extra year? Gave me more time to kvetch. And kvetch I did. And read. And memorized. I knew all the due dates for all the applications for all the schools in my district. I knew which schools required an IQ test (with a real-life psychologist), which schools had full day Kindergarten, which schools charged for their Kindergarten. Rinse, repeat.

In December I submitted an application to a school whose focus is math and geography. Great for us, Elliot loves those subjects. The school tested well. Turnover is low. Great school on paper. And then I went to a parent’s information night. The principal stressed their rigor. And how rigorous the school is. And the rigorous homework. They cannot have morning recess for the Kindergartners because 15 minutes per day over the school year that adds up to 40 hours – and they cannot give up the week of academics.


No recess for little kids because you need that 15 minutes? Maybe you think that energy would be run out in PE but you’d be wrong. PE is only once every 3 school days. Oh, and Kindergarten homework is 20 minutes per night. Nightly. In the upper grades the equation is grade-level times 10 plus 20 … so 4th grade is an hour per night. Nightly.

Again, what?

We pulled Elliot out of the assessment for that school.

Our neighborhood school has full day Kindergarten, it’s not offered at every school. My neighbor told me she was at the school last year at 5:30am to sign up for the program (first come first served). I got there at 5:30am this year and was number 15 in line. FIFTEEN. Guy #1 got there at 3:30am. I got Elliot a seat in the full-day Kindergarten program. Phew.

How did we get here?

I was in line at 5:30am because the full-day Kindergarten program was important to me. Elliot’s been going to daycare most of his young life. He wouldn’t get the rhythm of a half-day program (which around here is only 2.5 hours). Full-day Kindergarten is not the default. In fact, it’s a tuition based program. I talked to some of the other parents while waiting in line. We all agreed it was ridiculous. But what were our options? Show up at a reasonable time and risk not getting a seat?

Why do we accept that children are better served by an extra 15 minutes of instruction instead of 15 minutes of recess? No wonder children can’t focus, they aren’t getting enough physical stimulation. When I’m lacking focus I can go take a walk. Kids? Well, apparently they can sit there longer and suffer through the instruction. And when they don’t do well on the standardized tests? Add more instruction. That’ll solve it.

Are our children scoring better on standardized tests than we did? I recall the annual Iowa tests. I wonder – are our kids actually smarter than we were at their age? More worldly, yes. But smarter? I’m not convinced.

Are you?