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It is my firm opinion that full day Kindergarten is not in the best interest of our young children. Children should be engaged in open-ended and engaging play time to develop their brains and prepare for lifelong learning rather than spending a full day sitting in a classroom.
This post is first in a two part series : The Case Against Full Day Kindergarten.
Part 1 discusses how Kindergarten has changed from a playful learning atmosphere into an assessment-driven environment and how this negatively affects children. Part 2 will explain how Kindergarten expectations and academics are too rigorous.
I taught full day Kindergarten
My Kindergarteners were a joy to me. I was a highly motivated young teacher with a Masters degree in Elementary Education. I thought I was equipped to teach the precious little minds that would come into my classroom. I was in for a rude awakening.
Knowing what I know now, I would have taught so differently. Life experiences change you. Becoming a mother and educating myself about the broad differences in various teaching styles and methods has changed my educational opinions. I am still learning. Currently, and hopefully long term, I am implementing Classical education, as well as the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood with my young children in our homeschool.
I don’t remember my own Kindergarten experience
My mom recently ran into my Kindergarten teacher. They took a picture together, and she sent it to my sisters and me. Seeing her did not jog any memory of my time in half-day Kindergarten. Not one. I have many memories of my childhood — including ones from before age 5 and many from first grade and up — but not even one from Kindergarten. So does that mean she was a horrible teacher? Certainly not. But it has got me thinking about my experience and my needs as a young child.
Was I too young to be away from my mom five days a week? Was the time so monotonous that I don’t have any memories of it?
I am writing to argue against full-day Kindergarten because I fear that our government will try to force full-day Kindergarten on us claiming that full-day preschool and Kindergarten programs are necessary and beneficial for all students. And nothing could be farther from the truth. Time with parents and siblings and the ability to play and learn naturally is what very young children need–not full days spent in a classroom.
Testing takes precedence over learning in today’s Kindergarten classrooms
Several life-long Kindergarten teachers are speaking out against the recent shift from learning and play time to testing and assessment in the Kindergarten classroom. One of them, a veteran teacher of 25 years, Ms. Susan Sluyter, wrote a public letter to explain to her district why she chose to resign her teaching position.
“I have watched as my job requirements swung away from a focus on the children, their individual learning styles, emotional needs, and their individual families, interests, and strengths to a focus on testing, assessing, and scoring young children, thereby ramping up the academic demands and pressures on them” (Washington Post).
The current approach to early childhood education (at least in many schools) does not include play time. Play time is often considered a waste of valuable testing or teaching time in today’s classrooms.
As a part of my Kindergarten teaching job, I formally evaluated each of my 24 children on reading, writing, mathematics, social studies, and science learning every quarter. To do this, I was away from my classroom spending assessment time, not teaching time, with each individual student for around 20 minutes each.
In addition, it was expected that teachers went to the computer lab at least three times a week for 45 minute sessions for literacy and mathematics assessments; again, not teaching time. I have to confess, I only brought my students in once a week. The time was dreadful. Some students spent the whole time trying to login with a username and password. Regretfully, this became a huge waste of time as I was unable to help each of them in a timely manner — all 24 of my sweet, curious, lively, bored, and energetic five- and six-year-olds.
Students’ needs are not met in full day classrooms
It was impossible for me to satisfactorily meet the needs of each individual child. This may have been partially because I had 24 students. Or because many of my students faced enormous challenges at home (for example, some were homeless, and further, some had parents whom I never met all year).
I was unable to cater to each individual child’s learning needs, interests, and innate curiosities. If a child is at home all day, or for half the day, learning and play can be focused on their own ideas and interests. Children are allowed to pause for free play or quiet time as needed. Recitation and memorization can be tailored to their rhythm of learning. It is difficult to properly assess each child’s learning pace in such a busy and full classroom environment.
Throughout the years, I am happy to say that a few of my students were pulled by their parents for the purposes of homeschooling. These parents recognized a need in their children and chose to invest in their children’s development.
Bring back half-day Kindergarten, or better yet, homeschool!
I know some families cannot homeschool. I also know that some families have no choice but to opt for full-day kindergarten programs. Each family must do what’s best for that family and those children, and I understand this. Some children can thrive in kindergarten and in public school. Many cannot. I am writing to argue against full-day Kindergarten because I fear that our government will try to force full-day Kindergarten on us claiming that full-day preschool and Kindergarten programs are necessary and beneficial for all students. And nothing could be farther from the truth. Time with parents and siblings and the ability to play and learn naturally is what very young children need–not full days spent in a classroom.
Oh childhood is meant to be enjoyed. Children are meant to play. And run. And explore. And adapt. And take risks. And create stories.
Not all parents can homeschool their children, and if you cannot homeschool, please advocate for your school district to bring back half-day Kindergarten! Parents should be encouraged to:
- Be the primary influence in our children’s lives
- Create individualized education for our children guided by their own interests
- Wait for their children’s developmental readiness to begin rigorous learning
Being away from our young five- and six-year-old children at such a young age prevents parents from guiding and spiritually raising our children. They will grow up all too soon. Let’s not take away their days. You, as the parent, have the choice.
What do you think? Did full-day Kindergarten influence your decision to homeschool? Do you feel that full-day or half-day kindergarten is best? We would love to hear your opinions!