Sunday, September 1, 2013

Back to school in the middle of the summer

It’s the middle of August, and the kids are back in school.

The middle of August used to be summer in Ohio. Now, it’s the start of fall. Remember when the kids went back to school after Labor Day?

Those were the good old days. But times change. Always have. Always will.

Our seasons are delineated by events and cultural earmarks, not necessarily the positions of the sun. Here’s how the seasons previously lined up in Ohio:

Summer – All of June, July and August and up to a week in September, ending on Labor Day. All schoolchildren returned to classes on Tuesday after Labor Day. In northeastern Ohio attention would turn to complaining about the Browns rather than the Indians.

Autumn – It started the Tuesday after Labor Day and ended on Thanksgiving. In addition to football, the “leaf rule” – no penalty stroke on golf balls obviously lost under fallen leaves – was put into effect.

Winter – This season always started the day after Thanksgiving with the early and fun period marked by the Christmas countdown in the paper. People shopped for gifts from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Christmas music would end promptly at midnight Dec. 25, replaced by Top 100 oldies countdowns, which would end promptly at midnight Jan. 1, replaced by at least two and a half months of freezing rain, snow, ice, clouds and general dreariness.

Spring – Ah, the season of rebirth would begin sometime in March when we would get a teaser day or two of temperatures in the 60s or 70s. Winter would return briefly during April and May, finally exiting Ohio on Memorial Day.

Here’s how the seasons stack up today:

Summer – With climate change, I think we can compress this season into one day: Fourth of July.

Post-summer – This is a new season marked by back-to-school sales. It runs until mid-August when school begins.

Autumn – Mid-August to Sept. 30.

Winter – Once again, climate change rears its ugly head. Oct. 1 starts the new winter, which lasts now until May 1.

Spring – The month of May.

Seriously, you old folks out there who think that schools ought to “go back to the basics” and the “good old days” don’t have a clue what’s asked of today’s students. They are tested and re-tested on material that includes developments that weren’t around when their parents and grandparents went to school.

And that’s one reason they have a longer school year. So be it.

Remember when you took naps in kindergarten? Well, many of today’s kindergartners attended some sort of pre-school and many already are proficient at navigating technology. Hand a typical 5-year-old an iPad, and he’ll ask what apps are on it.

And if you need an explanation of the last sentence, you might need some remedial instruction before being qualified to be the 5-year-old’s classmate.

According to, here’s a portion of the skill set successful kindergartners will acquire:

–Recognize and write all of the letters of the alphabet in upper- and lowercase forms.

–Write his first and last name.

–Learn sounds corresponding to vowels and consonants.

–Use initial consonant sounds and sound patterns to read words.

–Identify several sight words, including names of colors.

–Recognize and use rhyming words.

–Retell a story including details.

–Put events of a story in order.

–Write simple sentences using sight words and phonics skills.

–Act on instruction and repeat spoken directions.

–Engage in question-and-answer dialogue with classmates and teachers.

–Work as a team on projects or problem-solving.

–Sort and classify objects using one or more attributes.

–Recognize and write numbers to 30.

–Count orally by ones, fives and 10s.

–Name ordinal numbers first through 10th.

–Add and subtract using manipulatives (Cheerios, candy, etc.).

–Understand spatial relationships (top/bottom, near/far, ahead/behind).

–Compare quantities by estimating, weighing and measuring.

–Use graphs to gather information.

–Recognize patterns and shapes.

–Tell time to the nearest hour.

–Count coins.

–Recite the days of the week and months of the year.

And you wonder why now we have full-day kindergarten?

This isn’t your father’s world. Nor his kindergarten.

As we start this school year, I offer a toast of good luck to all of our educators, who seem to be perpetually undervalued for what they do, and for their students, who are learning in a changing and difficult world.


Dick Farrell writes this column weekly for the Bargain Hunter.

No comments: