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Does our traditional school system make or break out children?

Ava is 5 and in Grade R. It’s a big leap from Grade 00 to Grade R and I’m often left wondering what the impact is on her mental well being of all this additional pressure. In Grade R at her school, she is learning basic mathematics, reading and writing. And while there is no home work this grade, there is weekly Show & Tell which she is required to participate in. After Show & Tell as a reward, they get to participate in tuck shop. But no Show & Tell means no tuck. The school believes that making them participate from such a young age is important for confidence and public speaking later on. At age 5, this would have BROKEN me and I wonder about the shy and timid kids in her class and how they cope with this weekly pressure!

I just want to say again… she’s 5!

This means that Show & Tell is homework, mostly for us parents. Between the ages of 5 & 6, the kids in her class are not able to prepare for Show & Tell on their own. It requires that we do some preparation with her each week. It’s not like play school Show & Tell where they take a toy and talk about it. Each Show & Tell is like a mini project. It requires, at the very least,  printing of pictures and creating of something that relates to each weeks theme. In the past, we have made volcanoes, we have made under sea creatures out of recycling, we have created family trees.

Practicing her speech for Show & Tell about being adopted!

A photo posted by Sharon (@blessedbarrenness) on


So last week, with Monday being a public holiday and me in Durban for a very long day on Thursday, our routine was a bit messed up and I completely forgot about Show & Tell. I remembered just as I was waking up at 5am on Friday morning. I panicked a bit and then thought I’d have to wake Ava up so that we could prepare something for her to talk about transportation. As I got out of bed, the power went off! And I knew there was no way, in the pitch dark, we were going to be able to prepare for Show & Tell.

I messaged her teacher explaining that we had no electricity and that I’d been in Durban the previous day and hadn’t gotten home till after 9pm and long after Ava had gone to bed and that we hadn’t prepared anything for Show & Tell. I asked her to please excuse Ava from Show & Tell that week and to not punish her by not allowing her to participate in tuck. It was, after all, my fault that she was unprepared, not hers. She’s 5! It’s not as if she could have prepared by herself, logged onto our computer and printed some pictures, she can barely read, never mind operate a computer!

The response I got ….. astounded/infuriated me. Basically sorry, not sorry, rules are rules, no Show & Tell, no tuck.

I get that there are rules. And I understand the purpose of the rules, but there is a time and a place for bending them and making allowances too.

So my child is going to be punished for something I did because she’s 5 and can’t do it on her own????

What message does that send her? Does that form of punishment build her up or does it break her down?

Seriously! She’s 5!

I was totally ok with them punishing her by not allowing her to participate in tuck, after the stealing incident, but this? No, this for me is not ok! And it’s not like we just didn’t bother and just sent her empty handed. There were legitimate reasons behind why it wasn’t done. (Turns out her amazing Dad had remembered the night before and done it with her, I just couldn’t see it in the frikkin dark, so a catastrophe that would have broken her heart was averted) But that’s not the point, the point is she’s FIVE!

Not 10! Not 11! Not able to help herself on her own without parental assistance and yet she was going to be punished because I had failed!

It’s really got me thinking a lot about our modern education system and whether we’re building kids up or breaking them down? And how much pressure they’re under.

At age 5, Ava can do basic maths, basic reading, basic writing. She is also learning Afrikaans and Zulu. Not to mention the extra mural activities. It just seems like an awful lot of pressure for a 5 year old!

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15 Comments

  • Reply Nisey

    I agree that its too much pressure for them. They have a lifetime to do these things and its my opinion that they are being taught from this young age that they are not enough. I get that the real world is out there and at some point they will have to suck it up and get on with it but forcing a FIVE year old to do show and tell every week or be punished is too much. In my opinion 😉

    Another thing I have a problem with is… don’t reward kids with food, they’re not dogs! Tuck shop should not be a reward for work done! Just saying…

    August 17, 2015 at 9:33 am
    • Reply Sharon

      I agree with you on both counts!

      August 17, 2015 at 9:40 am
  • Reply paddatjiesema

    I’m really torn about this. I’m one of this people that would choose death before making a speech, and can remember at school that I would have sleepless nights days before making a speech. But then I think, maybe if I was forced to do that every week before primary school level I would’ve overcome my fear of it. I don’t know what the answer is though.

    When my daughter was in Gr R they did get homework every day. But it was minimal. Looking for pictures in magazines mostly, cutting them out and pasting them. They only had two prepared speeches the entire year, and we had about a month to prepare for them.

    Now in Gr 1 she gets reading and maths homework every day. I’m only involved in checking that it’s correct, no work from my side. I know they do speeches at school, but I don’t need to send or prepare anything. Apparently once in Gr 4 I’m going to have to build things and do lots of work every day.

    Both the creche and the school don’t give food as a reward, and I also don’t do that at home. I’m sure that promotes emotional eating. It just doesn’t feel right.

    August 17, 2015 at 9:52 am
  • Reply Charlotte aka The Stiletto Mum

    Sharon I would have lost my shit! Really the child is in Grade R – yes they can argue but you knew in advance and so on but really now if she was the only child in the class that did not do a show and tell she would be cast aside?! smoke coming out of ears currently. there should be some middle ground I mean really at the age of 5 that is too much. I’m not against the weekly show and tell I think it is great to prepare them but no rewarding with food.

    August 17, 2015 at 10:08 am
  • Reply esterb22

    My daughter was born in March and Ava in December, and they are in the same grade. A year makes a big difference at that age. I just think they are already under way too much pressure to all be the same despite the age range in a class. By same I mean act, think and behave the same. There is hardly a mom I have spoken to that has not been told her child does not cut correctly, or hold her pencil properly or speak perfectly, etc. and may need occupational or speech therapy. There seems to be no room for error, even at this age. I was under the maybe naive impression that grade R was a school readiness year, and the teachers would prepare them to start Grade 1 next year. Yet the feeling I get is that they are ‘ not good enough’ for this grade, never mind the next. I shudder to think what happens next.

    As for the show and tell thing, I feel that having to get involved at this age already as a parent does not bode well for the future. I really see no benefit to this whole concept of parents having to do their kids’ homework, how does it help them? At our school show and tell it is not meant to be prepared, but off the cuff. If they forget, there is no punishment, and they actually seem to enjoy doing it. As for rewarding and punishing them with food, really? So many better ways of doing that. Also I don’t agree with public punishment. It should be done in private. There is no need to humiliate children of this age in front of their friends, I don’t think they can yet cope with that emotionally, especially as in this case when it would not even have been Ava’s fault. Kids this age have no tact, they think nothing of teasing their friends.

    So yes, I agree it is way too much pressure. Some kids will thrive, some may be broken down. For, me in the ideal school, they would rather cater for both kids that thrive on pressure and those that need a more nurturing environment. But I fear that does not happen. Sad really.

    August 17, 2015 at 11:02 am
    • Reply Michelle Rumney

      I completely agree with this post. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

      August 17, 2015 at 3:08 pm
  • Reply laurakim

    I am so hesitant to even comment on this. I have such major issues with our schools – mainly for me it is the public schools.
    I don’t get how something like show and tell is tied to something like tuck? At Jacks school it is tied to behaviour, this for me makes much more sense.
    When kids get punished for stuff WE forget to do or just can’t I actually want to burn tires and smash windows (It has happened at Cameron’s school).
    The thing that makes this SO hard – you as the parent have two choices now – let it go (which is almost impossible) or fight it, fighting it will problem not get you a victory unless other parents stand behind you and you will forever wear the label of trouble maker parent (which trust me you don’t really want because it will then make it a VERY long 13 year school stint for you and your child) – so you have to pick your battles carefully.

    August 17, 2015 at 12:20 pm
  • Reply wannabepoet

    My little girl is also 5 (6 in October) and is currently in Grade R in KZN. I must admit that she’s had no homework at all this year (they did say that there wouldn’t be) and as a parent, I honestly haven’t had to do much. I’ve just had to keep an eye out for notices in her book or on the D6 Communicator about civvies days, or stripey sock days, slipper days etc. Or if they’re learning a new letter, they can dress to that letter; like she was asked to wear one of her dad’s ties to school when they were learning the letter t. But all of the notices clearly state that if the child cannot/will not participate, that it’s ok. The only thing her grade are very strict on is Baker Baker, which I understand.

    But I wholeheartedly agree with you and your frustrations; I think Ava’s school is expecting far too much from her age group, she is only 5 for goodness sake! I don’t know what I’d do if that was expected of Morgan-Lee this year; with the twins only just on 6 months old now, I’d probably have lost my shit with the school a while back.

    August 17, 2015 at 1:13 pm
  • Reply wannabepoet

    And another thing; is the tuck sponsored by the school, or by you, her parents? If it’s sponsored by the school, ok fine, but if it’s by you… I’m sorry, but no one dictates to me what and when my child eats. I wholeheartedly agree with Nisey; children aren’t dogs, so why are they being rewarded with tuck?! Absolute rubbish.

    August 17, 2015 at 1:14 pm
  • Reply ChevsLife

    Oh no! This is just too harsh for words! Like you say, she is only 5! Darn it I dont agree with tuck as a reward for show & tell. Do you know what it is that the teacher measures when the kids do their weekly show & tell?

    Gosh, my son probably did 4 show & tell’s in Gr.R, 2 in Gr.1 and as far as I know only a recent “talent show” in class for Gr.2?

    August 17, 2015 at 2:21 pm
  • Reply Nikki

    Whew – you are a dream mom. As a therapist I always ask that parent just go over what they have done over the weekend or an event so that the child is able to recall this information. Most children really can’t do this without assistance. I usually ask parents just to jot down a few things, just so that I have an idea, but what you do goes above and beyond. My other rule, is that if homework (practice) can’t be done for any reason at all (including ‘we didn’t have time), then let me know – no problem. Perhaps it comes from being a mom and having been there and done that. Sometimes I didn’t have time is a real excuse nowadays.
    There is a great link on this post about “what a 4 year old should know.” http://talkingtalk.co.za/school-readiness-mean/

    August 17, 2015 at 6:48 pm
    • Reply Sharon

      Thanks Nikki! I’ll check out the link. I just feel there is SO much pressure on our kids from such a young age these days and I really do worry about the effects it will have on them.
      And yes, I agree, sometimes a “I really didn’t have time” is valid these days.

      August 17, 2015 at 7:39 pm
  • Reply melanieblignaut

    That does seem overly harsh, particularly since she wasn’t even at fault.

    August 18, 2015 at 11:33 am
  • Reply wobbly02

    I so feel your pain! There is just so much pressure on the kids these days (both sports wise and academically) my daughter now in gr3 would complain every friday about tummy cramps/headaches or just not feeling well when she was in grade 1-Every Friday at the school was test day for the weeks spelling they had learnt. Anyway I eventually found out the reason for this “Friday illness” was because if the kids got any spelling words wrong they were made to stand up in the class and told “maybe next week youll be sitting like the girls that made no mistakes” so my daughter would stress out just in case she was in the group of kids that stood up. The manner in wich the teacher approaches the kids is also a MAJOR factor in their lives. Thankfully we have equipped my daughter with methods now and she has learnt its OK to make mistakes sometimes cos thats how you learn. She is also at a different school where the teachers are absolutely passionate about teaching

    August 21, 2015 at 12:49 pm
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