which has a checklist for testing if your child is ready for first grade.
1. Will your child be six years, six months or older when he begins first grade and starts receiving reading instruction?
2. Does your child have two to five permanent or second teeth?
3. Can you child tell, in such a way that his speech is understood by a school crossing guard or policeman, where he lives?
4. Can he draw and color and stay within the lines of the design being colored?
5. Can he stand on one foot with eyes closed for five to ten seconds?
6. Can he ride a small two-wheeled bicycle without helper wheels?
7. Can he tell left hand from right?
8. Can he travel alone in the neighborhood (four to eight blocks) to store, school, playground, or to a friend's home?
9. Can he be away from you all day without being upset?
10. Can he repeat an eight- to ten-word sentence, if you say it once, as "The boy ran all the way home from the store"?
11. Can he count eight to ten pennies correctly?
12. Does your child try to write or copy letters or numbers?
What jumped out at me from it was the insanity in both directions: 1) academic skills that now indicate readiness for preschool, or at latest, kindergarten, were 30 years ago indications of being ready for first grade, and 2) life skills that now indicate readiness for middle school were indications 30 years ago that a child was ready for first grade.
We're pretty conscious that we've pushed the academics far far earlier on our kids, because by and large, we now value academics as the only path to successful adulthood (whether true or not, who is going to take the risk it's true and not prepare their children accordingly?), but by denying them independence, we're creating perpetual adolescents in the process who won't be successful at adulthood.
What child today would be expected to handle walking or biking 4-8 blocks at the age of 6 or 7? What parent would allow their child to do so? What would happen to that parent? How would a parent even begin to teach their child that autonomy these days?
The list makes clear the prior division of labor: the home was where socialization and citizenship was taught, and school was where the 3 Rs were taught. The expectation was that the family did their job, and the school would do theirs.
It may be causal that the schools now fail because the family failed. It may be a feedback system where the family fails because the schools fail. But we should ask ourselves if we really think the State can succeed where the family has failed, and if so, what it will do to what few functioning families remain. Because the State has no interest in your child having enough autonomy to ride his bike a mile from home at the age of 7--in fact, the State's interests are counter to that proposition.