Friday, November 30, 2007

Does this make me a bad mom? The oddities of schooling in Jordan...

So, I can't decide if my reluctance to get worked up over homework in KG2 makes me a bad mom. Now, let's take a little stroll down memory lane, shall we? When I was a kid, we spent first grade learning our letters, second grade learning to write, and third grade adding in cursive. Kindergarten was not only elective, but fairly unusual. Mostly only kids like me (with a single parent who worked) went to daycare at a place with a KG. In the US, from what I gather, the kids Butterbean's age (KG2 or just plain Kindergarten in the US) are being evaluated on whether they know their letters. That's all. They're not supposed to be able to write them, just know them. So, I find it hard to get worked up over the fact that Butterbean isn't racing ahead at this. Writing English letters is hard. And, honestly, a big part of me wonders if writing is like potty training. You can spend one week when they're ready (say at age 3) or 1 year when they're not (say at age 2). Somehow I sense this may be like that. Butterbean doesn't have super-developed muscles. But, from my perspective, she's doing just fine.

The second beef I have is that they use the British system. Now, not to seem insular, but... c'mon. It starts with the paper they are using. Now, when I was a kid, we learned to write on paper that looked like this:

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Fairly simple, right? The capital letters go from the top line to the bottom line. The small letters either start or "bump" at the small line. Letters like p and g (that go below the line) go below the line. Nothing complicated here to me. So, imagine my confusion when I got a note from Butterbean's teacher saying to write "between the lines". We did. Okay, they were different lines, but that's not my fault, right? Let me demonstrate for you. Her paper looks like this:

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Allow me to say, hunh? So, reading the cryptic note and being confused, I asked the teacher about it. I said, well, we did write between the lines (meaning the heavy lines). Apparently they need a CHART to explain exactly how you are supposed to write the letters. Perhaps this system is just a bit too complex, you think? So, I asked why and the answer I got was, we use the Nelson system. Ahhh. And? So what? Sorry to be skeptical, but, I don't get it. So, I thought and thought, and thought. Finally I got it. They want you to use the second dotted line as if it were the solid bottom line in my example. Goofy, but okay. So, here's my real issue with this. When they start writing on big people paper, there are only 2 solid lines. And the ps and gs will go below that line. So, this system seems to be more confusing than helpful. But, that's just me. I'm also bucking the system by having her write words with American spelling (so take that!) since we tend to use fewer letters (as in my example aeroplane vs airplane).

So, all that said, if they have to use this goofy system, wouldn't it be better to have the paper designed as such:

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

So that both lines that will eventually go away are hashed rather than solid? Seems to me that would make more logical sense. You could make the top line of a set heavier to denote a new set...

Okay, so enough about handwriting. I started this post because I spent a whole weekend day without doing even a shred of homework. We played, we did an art project (creating paper Christmas trees with Lil Kinz one of which is now hanging proudly in the kids' room), watched videos and such. Somehow doing homework just didn't jump into my mind. So, does that make me a bad Mom (all of the homework is handwriting by the way, she knows all of her letters and numbers in English and Arabic, she can read simple words in both languages, it's just the handwriting thing)? I'm just wondering what you guys think?

Happy lackadaisical parenting!


At 12:57 PM , Blogger Sam said...

O mb u know how i feel on this subject! you should see grade is unbeleivable what the expectations of kids is! last year ziad did kg2 in sk and they just started learning their bilal is in PG and he already learning to write...and they expect them to write so are not expected to write neatly and stay on the line 100% untill grade 3 or so...
we used to sit and do homework and study for 2hrs and i was not enough..6yo are not supposed to sit and study for longer than 30min..and they were doing spelling tests with words like white, and elephant...while in canada they are doing spelling test with words like cat, dog, is , it..

and with writting it depends on teh kid...bilal learned to write at 2.5yo..while i was teaching ziad his letters, and from the leapster games he picked up on writting and one day i found a b c and other letters written on the wall..poor ziad got in trouble but it ended u being bilal who did his letters are clearer than ziad's...ziad is just not into writting and reading..

and i still can not figure out the english letter line is confusing...

i can go on..poor ziad is not too crazy about school anymore..although now that he is in KG2 it is alot better..and more tolerable...he does not have to spent hours studying every freakin day!

At 6:34 PM , Blogger Ahmad Hamdan said...

Hi... I read ur blog almost every day, or lets say at every new entry. I like it so much. I found it while I was looking for sites talking about foreign ladies living in Jordan, and how they feel, as I am Jordanian and I will get married to a French lady who will come with me to Jordan once I finish my PhD in France. My life is not the subject here, I know :), but any help on this is more than welcomed. Anyway, a comment on your topic for today, maybe u r right regarding high expectations from 6 yo children, but the system in itself doesnt have to be like that in the States, Canada, or else where. Any system has its advantages and drawbacks, but it is a system that works. I am 29, when i was in KG, we had to learn letters and numbers in Arabic, English and French (private schools), and how to write them, and we did well. I agree with u sam that a kid cant write neatly until grade 3 or so, but if u dont teach him/her that from the begining, he/she will never learn (this problem exists in France, as they try to make it easier for kids in the early years of school. The result is french adolescents and young adults who cant write neatly, nor correctly). I am not trying to defend the system here, but it cant be the same system as those else where in the world, because every country has his policy (whether we agree with it or not) and every system has its expectations for the end result.
Have a nice day...

At 11:40 PM , Blogger MommaBean said...

Sam, I know you've been going through this too. I'm thrilled to hear that Ziad is enjoying KG2 more... I think the pressure they put on kids here is insane :).

Ahmad, welcome and mabruk! If you read my blog frequently, you know that I truly love Jordan and think it is an awesome place to live. But, it does have drawbacks and its entire educational system is one of them :). It's funny, talked to El 3atal about when he was a kid, he recalls writing at the same ages, so I do think that in most schools they're pushing this back. Maybe my next post will be about why I think that's so particularly ridiculous :). I do think that decent penmanship is a good idea, I just think this is perhaps the wrong way to go about it ;). But, when I see your handwriting, I'll know how effective it was in your case, hunh (teehee)?

At 12:27 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're a good mom! :)

At 4:03 AM , Blogger UmmFarouq said...

I say, Jordanian Ministry of Education, step back and look at what we are doing to the kids from early on: failing to encourage a love of learning, critical thinking, and squelching much creativity. I see it time and time again in kids here, including mine, and I'm quite tired of it.

Let them watch a video; homework can wait.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home