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December 02, 2009


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Before you go slamming the school and your daughter's teacher, Seton requires a grade, even in kindergarten. How do I know this, my kids attend the same school, small world, huh? I agree with the handwriting, my son kinda "!freaks out!" now. We used to have a wonderful art teacher, volunteer, she moved. You want your daughter to have creativity, I would like my kids to have the same, maybe we could come up with something. By the way my youngest is in class with Quinlan, Evan thinks she's great! Please keep in mind that you chose a young school that doesn't have everything yet, this is only our third year. Give us a chance to learn and grow!

Aarghh!!! My son has been in a Waldorf school since Kindergarten (2 years). He is now in 5th grade. We've had our share of concerns (no school is perfect). We've been thinking about going a different route with DD, but seeing this worksheet and the teacher comments strikes fear in my heart. It's one of the reasons why we went with Waldorf in the first place.

I think it's really about finding the best environment for your child. If your gut is telling you it isn't right, you need to pull her ASAP. You won't regret it.

Good luck....

My kindergartener colours like yours: everything is a rainbow, or at least a rainbow of colours.

I'd be pretty ticked if her work came home with comments like that (and circles on exaggerated T's??? wow).

I'm grateful we have a wonderful school, but I am starting to understand why some other people consider home-schooling in some cases.

This is a tough one for me as a mother. {Note, I am veering from this specific worksheet to education in general} I had a lot of trouble with this when my son first started Kinder.

I have had to remember, like a few commenters have said... there are times for creativity and times for following specific directions. There are times we have a "voice" and times we need to listen.

As an HR person, I am starting to see a LOT of young people entering the workforce who have had their environments tailored for them TOO MUCH, had their creativity allowed in ALL situations, witnessed rules being bent, authority being questioned, and they have great difficulty with imposed structure. They say things like, "I just don't work best that way... that's not my style... what does it matter HOW I did it at long as it got done?" and it makes them difficult to teach, hard to manage, and sometimes a liability to the company.

We do not want robots by any means. The challenge as parents is to teach our children when to obey/listen/follow so that they earn respect and credibility enough to be allowed to let their creativity and gifts shine.

Their creativity, talent, and innovation will DEFINITELY go to waste if they can't learn the skills to function within the confines and structure imposed upon them at school and at work. We see dozens and dozens of resumes of young kids who have jumped from job to job to job trying to find a boss who will "let me be me and not stifle my creativity and doesn't have stupid rules for no reason..."

It's been my biggest challenge yet - both as a recruiter, and as a parent.

Just adding to the conversation...

You know, I agree with Abby about Q's teacher not being out to get her. She's not. That's not the problem. The problem is that public school is intended to create a certain type of person. Mainly a person who follows all rules regardless of how ridiculous the rule is.

I'm a teacher and I'm horrified by the one-size-fits-all method of teaching. My 5 yo with Autism, your "normal" 6 yo, her hyperactive (which, BTW, find me a little boy that isn't hyperactive) 7 yo are all supposed to be taught the same things, pretty much the same way.

Good luck.

"But I'm realizing that just because she enjoys it, doesn't necessarily mean it's the right place for her."

Yes! I'm struggling with this right now about whether to put my just-turned-four-year-old in the older or younger class. I won't bore with details but that is a tough decision to make when your child is happy where she is.

Good luck!

This blog entry makes me feel stabby. About her school, not about you or her.

I can relate. My son, like Beth's, hated to colour. So when the math worksheets came out in Kindergarden and he was instructed to circle the correct picture (ie pictures of apples, and you were to select the one with 4 applles) AND colour it. Sometimes he scribbled halfheartedly on the picture, but usually just did not bother. He got the right answer which was the point of the exercise,he reasoned.

Parent teacher interview time comes along, and this was the 'concern' that the teacher focussed on. She was WORRIED. Oy.

Next year's teacher said 'draw a coloured line through it and I will know you understood the instructions. He happily complied.

Sometimes, people obsess over dumb things.

I can't believe she gets %s in kindergarten! Seems ridiculous to me. I don't like the way her teacher "corrected" her coloring, but my GUESS (as an elementary teacher) is that they're doing fractions and using one color would be a more visually accurate representation of the fraction. That information would have been appropriate to share with the rude comment on a kindergartener's paper! Sounds like this might be the straw... My oldest didn't have a good K teacher/experience but he doesn't know it. I've hand-picked his next 5 teachers and I made sure that my other two didn't get the bad K teacher. I hope this experience doesn't ruin Q's school outlook!

They have % grades in your Kindergarten? That just seems crazy to me. We have a 4 point system and a very detailed list of skills/benchmarks.

Oh the comments I get on my daughter's kindergarten papers! As if she can read them (and like I'm going over every mistake with her later-ha!)Thirty lower case letter b's turned into sixes after just a few. Whatever.I just want to say quit messing up my kids awesome work/art with your remarks. I can't imagine how the teacher has the time to critique every paper every day. At least our system uses smiley faces instead of percentages. My girl also colors everything on the sheet and has lately decided she likes "rainbow coloring". I agree! Her teacher is actually a nice lady though.

Lisa G.

P.S. Erin, my heart is hurting so much for your daughter being punished at recess everyday. That teacher is just being mean.

Also, there ARE purple frogs.


"color one half of each pie" is logically equivalent to "do not color one half of each pie" (on one reading of the instruction), because all that is needed in order to see that one half of the pie is colored is to see that one half of the pie ISN'T colored. That's logically sufficient.

Quinlan just demonstrated not only an understanding of fractions, but also a lesson you'd learn in week #1 of an Introduction to Logic class at Stanford.

Go Quinlan.

Waldorf Schools all the way! That's where I'm going to send the Bambino when he's old enough.

Maybe Quinlan's just way ahead of the game, and knows (better than her teacher, obviously) that despite how many colors she's used, each of those fractions reduce down to 1/2 in their simplest terms. Sheesh.


Didn't mean to upset the vent. I understand now that it was necessary and wasn't aware of the entire back story. There's no such thing as "wrong colors" when coloring or doing anything artistic. I honestly wasn't trying to be defensive just trying to shine light for the other side. It was just surprising that it upset you so much knowing your past education experience.

Again, there was definitely a better way to teach fraction concepts to 5 year olds than with worksheets and it was obvious from Q's work that she has an understanding.

Meant no offense just conversing,
(Actually a long time reader...)

Oh K, my sympathy!!!! I have a creative K student, too and I also am so sad about it all. I'm VERY interested in your views as a former teacher.

This may be naive, but why are people such big proponents of public school? I just feel like the teachers are so bogged down in test scores and how is one person supposed to really control, let alone REALLY teach 18+ 5 yr olds? It just seems like a broken system to me and I'm in one of the best school districts in the country.

I have great schools that are close but $25K or more. I don't know what to do either. Let me know if you figure it out!

And here we have the reason why B is being homeschooled. I want him to have the ability to ask questions, to do things his way, and learn at his pace. He's only 4; we're working on a kindergarten in two years plan. Slow pace, learn as he's interested, and so forth. We're doing a mis-mash of Waldorf/Montessori/unschooling as it appeals to him.

He would never survive in Q's school because he wouldn't have colored at all. He thinks it's a pointless activity and won't do it. Give him scissors, paper, and so forth and he'll make you a wonderful collage, but color? He'd rather die.

I can completely relate! I have a daughter in 1st grade who is having a difficult time with her teacher. Her teacher has a problem with the way she forms the letter “a”. Apparently, the way my daughter forms it (she makes the circle first, then the stick on the side-the way she was taught in kindergarten) is completely wrong. According to her teacher she should be starting the circle on the top-right hand side and then making the line down. The end result looks the same- you have to look with a magnifying glass to see that she did it the “wrong” way, but she gets all her papers marked wrong. She also has to sit out at recess almost every day because of the way she forms her “a”, so she can write a whole paper of A’s. She got a 62% on a test- she spelled all the words right, she just did the “a” wrong. The kid has better handwriting than I do! … She colored a pretty fall themed picture in class (everything in the lines perfectly) but she colored the stem of the pumpkin blue. The teacher circled the stem and wrote in big letters “brown!”…. I’ve tried speaking with the teacher- it didn’t go well.... It's too bad I can't afford a private school.

Well, K, you know how I feel with this one. But I'd agree with the commenter who mentioned Montessoris if you feel like your school is really stifling. We've thought about it for Laurel (she and Q sounds like peas in a pod), although I'm a firm proponent of the public schools and luckily we're at a place where we love Laurel's teacher. I think it's good to follow Q's lead too... if she's happy and enjoying things, that's pretty excellent.

I"m almost sure there is a purple frog somewhere in the rain forest.

Going through school choice myself right now. 45 minutes one way makes for a long day for a first grader. Especially if you're dragging the other two with you.

Argh. School. We just moved Michael from one preschool to another b/c he was in trouble EVERYDAY. And 3 days at the new school, and nothing.

What is it with these places and the ridiculous expectations on children?

I hate to sound all cultish-- but are the Montessoris in your area a lot more expensive or inaccessible than where she's at now?

I am a former public school teacher, current English/ Writing Education aca, who despite a fierce professional life advocating better public schools... sends her kid of Montessori for the alternative to the cookie cutter model of most early and elementary childhood education. And I love almost everything about it.

With all due respect Abby, if I'm overreacting (which, welcome to my blog, a place where I enjoy venting and overreacting), then I'd say you're being overly defensive.

For the record, I was a teacher - both private and public, elementary through high school. I know rubrics and grading. And I know teachers are overworked and underpaid.

And I also know that if it's a math worksheet, then maybe there shouldn't be coloring on it at all, especially for a teacher who continually reminds me about how there are "correct" colors for "correct" things.

Let's just say it's not a first time "offense." My daughter happens to color "correctly" most of the time. I feel bad for the kid who keeps getting docked points for insisting on making his frog purple.

Honestly, this teacher MUST have decided to pay $40,000/year for a degree that would net her $25,000/year in order to one day teach your daughter and CRUSH her creativity. Seriously?!?

Teachers are not out to get children. She was teaching fractions and using more than one color does not illustrate the concept of one-half. With basic math concepts, there really is no room for creativity. 2+2=4 not a creative answer like dog.

As far as not specifically saying to use only one color? How often do your directions include every possible tangent a child could veer off on? Directions on sheets for early readers have to be simple as they are written for the kids not parents.

This teacher did not decrease Quinlan's grade for the use of color, she simply stated that she needed to have used one color. She said it in a very simple way instead of rattling on with a paragraph explaining her love for Q's creativity etc. I would guess that the comment was written while grading a stack of papers, making dinner, and chatting with her own children about their day.

I mean, really. Think outside of the box. The teacher did not intend for that comment to at all stifle Q's artistic sensibilities.

And as far as your issues with a percentage grading system? I have been railroaded by parents for the exact opposite. They didn't understand a simpler scale and wanted only percentages, so either way the teacher/school will get crap for the grading style.

I understand that you love your daughter's creativity. I understand that you want her personality to shine through. (I'd be willing to bet her teacher does too.) However, on this one I think you're overreacting. It's a math practice sheet for goodness sakes, not a personality destroyer.

(And this from the world's biggest worksheet hater... There are better ways to have teach but standardized tests mean some worksheet experience must be had.)

You should try fast track kids up in Apharetta, I taught at the one in Dunwoody for a year (ok, I was a teaching assistant at that point) and it was fantastic. They have an excellent curriculum, go on lots of fun field trips and have lots of visitors (they had firefighters come and show them a firetruck, the kids loved it). They would never complain about the colors thing, and the kids were miles ahead(my threes class each wrote the firefighters a very legible thank you note)
The worksheet is beautiful btw

I totally get the whole fractions, thing. If you use more than one color, it looks like the shape is broken into more pieces, potentially confusing the fraction issue. Ok. What I don't understand is the exclamation point at the end of the sencence, "Use one color please!" Maybe I'm nit-picking (but let's be honest, so is the teacher) but that stupid little exclamation point irks me. In kindergarden, "Nice work!" should be followed by an exlamation point. "Use one color please," should be followed by a period. Period.

Being up to my eyeballs in selecting a school right now, it sounds like Quinlan would thrive in a montessori style setting maybe? It purports really enabling the independent learner. Hopefully there is at least a better option than some crazy-percentage system in Kindergarten!!!! I totally think you should talk to the teacher though, just to find out whats going on from her perspective. Good luck!

Maybe the teacher is hung up with her expected, desired results.

The part that most concerns me is teaching the kids to tattle on each other by placing them in a position of authority (Bathroom Monitors?). It sounds a little too Judenrat to me. (And before anyone freaks out, I'm Jewish, okay?)


If you have the energy, home school her through K. Then send her to 1st grade at the great school starting next year - maybe they can give you a sibling discount and Drew can attend K there as well (does that work out, age wise?)

Ack, YES. This is what happened to my son, who was possibly quite a lot more sensitive than Quinlan. I have never, ever heard of a Kindergartner hating school but he did. Hated it, thought he "couldn't do it" and was "always wrong." Every year of school afterward has been hell. Grades mean nothing to him anymore. His plan was to ride it out at 16 and quit. I'm a goddamned teacher, this attitude made no sense to me.

Without an unlimited supply of funding, and nothing left to lose, I pulled him out of 8th grade this last April, and started homeschooling him. I never thought I'd be a homeschooling mom, but desperation will take you a lot of unexpected places. It was the best thing I've ever done. It's not perfect, I'm figuring this thing out as I go, but it's thousands of times better and for the first time since Kindergarten, he's happy. We're all happier.

You're doing good by not letting you see that One Color bullshit. Don't let this teacher take her spirit and drive to learn. It doesn't automatically come back and every year it just compounds.

That's horrible. Can you write a note to the teacher, or request a conference? Perhaps she can explain her reasoning.

I'm going to defend Catholic schools here, because many here seem to be blaming it on that: this is the particular SCHOOL and possibly even this particular TEACHER. I went to several different Catholic schools, and they were nothing like this.

I'm the mom of a very creative Kindergarten student at a private Catholic school as well. (A Blue Ribbon school, no less) I am surprised at the grading. I've never heard of Kindergarten getting percentage grades.

Incidentally, my daughter's teacher is very careful with the kids who are creative and she is very specific with instructions. Her approach with my daughter is explaining that some of their work is about following instructions precisely and some of their work is expanding their imaginations. I've found that a great help when trying to get her to write her 3s facing the right way.

Here in BC (Canada), they don't grade our kids with percentages until middle school (grade 6). Up until then they get G's for good, S for satisfactory or I for incomplete. It sounds really strict to me to be grading 5 year-olds!

I agree with the handwriting grades...my son's handwriting is fine (he's 7) but the more he has to "practice" it the worse it gets. How many times does he need to write the letter "g" (which he's been able to do for 3 years now!)? His handwriting grade is low...and, in my opinion, for no other reason than he has to "practice" too much. He just doesn't care anymore by the time he gets to the end of the sheet.

And yes, it's a Catholic school.

We're in a difficult situation - location wise and financially. Do I pay $10K for a fantastic school that's a good 45 minutes away? Do I home school her?

It's tough.

Run, Kristen. Run with the speed of a baby cheetah at supper time. She may like it now, but the second she starts stressing over the proper formation of her f's it's all downhill. She's five for crying out loud.

I was raised Catholic. And I can't even stand to bring my children anywhere near a catholic school. And that was confirmed the minute my priest told me what a disservice I was doing by allowing my child to attend a Montessori school. Hah. I mean, why would I want a creative, free-thinking child? That might result in anarchy, or her deciding that her picture would be made more beautiful by a rainbow. Gasp.

Merry, I totally see where you're coming from. That was a great point of view. Perhaps if the teacher had explained to Q why the fractions should be all one color, instead of just a note at the top of the page.

This drives me crazy too!
Recently saw this video on "How schools stifle creativity" http://www.cnn.com/2009/OPINION/11/03/robinson.schools.stifle.creativity/index.html

I found it inspiring, true, and alarming.

There is just something wrong with that. God forbid a kid should be creative.

Don't listen to me though. My girls go to the hippie school.

I think the entire educational experience in America is completely messed up. We're putting our kids in prisons, not schools. Frankly, I'm hoping I win the lottery so I can home school, or afford a Walden type school. Anything other than that will be selling my kid short. It's not a reflection on the teachers, mind you. Many teachers are trying their best to work with what they have. It's the system as a whole that is flawed.

I spoke with the teacher and apparently it was the fact that it was fractions - though she went on about how she's trying to get them to use correct colors for things (ugh).

My friend's daughter goes to a Catholic school and they are so strict, it's ridiculous. But, then again, my daughter went to a preschool that dictated everything, and I was told by everyone how great it was b/c the kids were "ready for (public) kindergarten" when they left.

God forbid anyone color with more than one crayon---anarchy! Hope you find the right place for her, or at least can tell the teacher why you think that is a ridiculous rule.

Is this a Catholic school?

I ask, because they are traditionally quite rigid, in most cases.

Girl Child goes to a Lutheran school. The local Catholic school was too rigid, and the local public school was total chaos. Not good for a kid with a hearing problem.

It sounds to me like Q would thrive and enjoy just about any environment if she is doing well with lots of structure like that. It's perfectly acceptable to dig around and find something else that wouldn't squish her inner flair.

Montessori, maybe?


I was also reminded of the "flowers are red and green." It does seem awfully picky to me, especially when she sounds like a definite teacher-pleaser.

That teacher has no business being around small children when she's clearly in need of medication for her obsessive-compulsive disorder.

I am with you!!! My kindergarten daughter painstakingly wrote a worksheet about a family holiday tradition as requested by her teacher. She can write in full sentences and it was beautifully worded and obviously heartfelt. Her teacher had the nerve to tell her maybe not to write so much next time...MIND YOU, none of the other children in her class can WRITE in full sentences at all. I was fuming that my daughter had put in so much work and effort only to be essentially be told she had done "too much." My girl is super creative like yours and thankfully the teacher hasn't tried to stifle that - but she did only score 4 out of 5 on something because one of the letters in her name fell below the line. Seriously. I understand the need for teaching proper form and preparing them for the future - but let's not extinguish any of their creative or academic light!!!!!

I identify with Quinlan. I remember being very concerned with doing well in school, and would DEFINITELY have done something like this. And though I understand where Merry is coming from with the fraction thing, the truth is, a child like that who is so in-tune with how well she does and what the teacher says does NOT CARE whether it was marked wrong or not. The reprimand was bad enough.

I feel for her. There are some things that should just be ignored. She knew what half of each shape is. Isn't that enough?

This reminds me of a Harry Chapin song about a child's creativity being squashed by a rules-bound teacher proclaiming "Flowers are red young man and green leaves are green. There's no need to see flowers any other way than they way they always have been seen." This school sounds way too regimented for the age level. Celebrate creativity and imagination!

If that was the case, Merry, which I can understand, I think that should have been in the instructions, and explained in such a way where it was obvious to my daughter that her creativity was appreciated, however, in this particular case, for these particular reasons, it needed to be one color.

Also - I agree with you about the handwriting and science grades. It is ridiculous to grade children this young with percentages. Good luck finding a better fit for your daughter. She is lucky to have a mother so in-tune to her academic needs.

Your daughter sounds like a true artistic spirit - exactly what we want children to be. We want them to keep this spirit, which is why is it is frustrating to feel as though someone is crushing it.

As a former 1st grade teacher, I can tell you exactly why the teacher is insisting on one color on this particular worksheet. The assignment involves fractions, which show equal parts of a whole. When using different colors on one part, it actually separates it into several parts, so it is technically inaccurate to use more than one color. At least the teacher didn't count them as incorrect, she just made a note so that your daughter would know for next time. To me, that was the teacher's way of not punishing her creative spirit. Just my two cents.

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