Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Where did Phonics go?

I've been asking this in my real world life for some time, but I think it's time for a post about it. My daughter will be entering first grade this fall. During her year in Kindergarten last year, they began to start the kids along the path to reading (that's a rant for some other time). She is really into learning as much as she can. Math, reading, and writing are her favorites and she wants to practice as much as she can. What really threw me was, as we were working with her I would ask her to try to sound out words that she was having trouble with. She couldn't do it. After a bit of questioning I found out that what they have been teaching them were "sight" words. They teach the kids the words not by the sounds but by memorizing the letters. As far as she told me, the teacher spent little to no time on teaching the kids the sounds the letters/letter combos make.

Now, it has been many, many moons since I was in school. I have also sustained a fair amount of head injuries which has limited my memory to basically what happened a few seconds ago, but still, somewhere in the dark nether regions of my mind I do recall having to learn the sounds before the words. Maybe the school will work more on that this year, but I have my doubts. In this age of accelerated learning, I'm guessing she will be expected to be reading at a level that was considered a third grade level when I was young by the time she leaves first grade.

I suppose that this is a result of the deteriorating education system. With every politician making education an issue, the answer to falling test scores was not teaching better, but teaching more sooner. What really hurt was an entire generation that was taught that it didn't matter that they didn't get the right answer but that it did matter that they felt good about themselves.

So where did Phonics go? At what point did it become acceptable to ignore the basics? I want my child to learn to walk before she can run, but I'm afraid that if I teach her one thing at home and she hears something completely different at school, she will be confused, frustrated, and then the love of learning she has right now will fade away. That is the last thing I want.

So what's the answer? Do I let her continue to learn this touchy feely education at school? Unfortunately homeschooling and private school are not options right now. Do I try my best to supplement what she is learning and risk confusing her? I guess I should be proud of the fact that I am concerned with my child's education. Too many parents today take little to no interest in their kid's schooling. Every year I hear reports from schools where the students need the most help, parents do not show up for parent/teacher conferences.

We expect more and more of the students, give the teachers less and less authority in the classroom, and hold the parents less and less responsible. I'm shocked the entire system hasn't imploded yet.

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