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The Case Against Full Day Kindergarten: Part 1

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.

Hip Homeschool Moms

 

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:

  1. Be the primary influence in our children’s lives
  2. Create individualized education for our children guided by their own interests
  3. 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! 

About the author

Amy

Amy is a kindergarten teacher, M.Ed., turned stay at home mom to her boy and girl. She loves to watch her children learn through play during their preschool years, and is particularly interested in Classical & Montessori styled education. Amy blogs about homeschooling, natural living, honesty, and Jesus, among other passions. She enjoys cooking, gardening, photography, and serving as a Sergeant First Class in the Army Reserve. She hopes she can be a resource and encouragement to other moms.

30 Comments

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  • You bring up some great points, however, I believe the format of full-day kindergarden could change. I do believe that it is useful for more than just a matter of learning. I remember my days in full-day kindergarden. I went to a Catholic school in the city. It was a place of refuge for my young mind – away from all the things I experienced in my then challenging home environment. Public school and the format thereof is more than just about education these days. It’s about also having a place for kids who’s parents are working, unable to find childcare sporatically and such. But the truth is, looking at my 4 kids and myself, the self discpline I learned, the sounds of letters and reading I learned, the friends I gained while in Kindergarden wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for it being available. And as far public school – if it wasn’t offered at my local public school – my kids were in a private school full day care/kindergarden program because as a working parent (as was many of the moms in the city where I live in) breaking up our day to drop kids off here and there wasn’t feasible. The kindergarden program my kids attended at a private school had instruction in the morning and playtime in the afternoon – the best of both worlds and feasible for most families who do not have a mom/dad at home.

    • Hi, Nita, thanks for commenting! For children whose parents work or whose parents are not involved in their lives (or negatively affect their lives, for that matter), school is a safe haven. However, full day kindergarten is mandated by most school districts now, leaving no choice for parents who want a half day option. Also, full day kindergarten is not school in the morning, play in the afternoon any more. Rigorous academic work is expected all day (as I will lay out in Part 2), and is too much for young children to handle.

  • I agree of this post. I am against of full day kindergarten, this 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 instead of spending a full day sitting in a classroom. Definitely true.

      • Definitely True. A half-day programs is great for kindergarten not a full day. Some people feel that children of Kindergarten age are not yet ready for such a long day or that they will be focusing too heavily on academic work before they are ready.

  • I agree with some of what you’ve shared. I am very grateful that I was able to make the choice to stay at home with my own three children when they were that age. That said many children and parents don’t have that option not to mention that some children’s only refuge from emotional, physical, and psychological stress is at school regardless of the format. I now teach in a full-day kindergarten class and I am proud to say, that at least in our school board, great things are happening. We are very play-based and model our kindergarten classrooms after Reggio Emilia programs. They are wonderfully inviting programs that put the focus back on play where it belongs as developmentally appropriate practice.

    • I agree, some children are better off in a school environment, away from an unstable home. And many families have to put their children in day care, but Kindergarten classrooms today are not play based, as most day cares tend to be. The academics are too rigorous and stressful, full of testing and computer assessments.

  • If structured as above in a private setting it may be a win for all, a lot of Moms do work and need all day care. I was shocked 5 years ago when I was told my sons public school kinder would be all day. They had a class with two teachers and 36 kids! It was an insane amount of energy in one room and with two teachers hard to focus on direction. I volunteered for the first few months a few times a week. reading in the mornings, tying shoes running copies cutting, hugs and encouragement when needed planning carnival games and decorating for the dance. Even buying things like crayons (having a table of 5 share one red crayon was crazy!) bringing in fish, a venus flytrap and my husband came in fixing shelves and carts. It was a great experience and I am grateful for those days. I quickly realized how much I did want to be a part on my sons education,..and why public school was not a fit for him. It was a hard break up but one that came with many blessings from the teacher, she admitted the system is strangling teachers and students to explore and learn. They are there to teach for tests. As a teacher with many decades under her belt she was saddened by what the public system had become. I know not all Moms have the choice to homeschool but I would encourage them to seek out the early year environment carefully. If you must public school please get involved. They need all the help they can get. I look fwd to days when my kiddies are a bit older and we can go back to the classes together and help out. Regardless of where or how you school, these children are connected by community and that is something we can all come together on.

  • P.S. No one is “sitting” around in our classrooms. They are active, vibrant, and engaging. Truthfully I’ve never seen a kindergarten classroom where the students sit and do rigorous academic learning every day all day. I am in Ontario.

    • Sadly Mary Jacobs, that is the way it it is most class rooms in the U.S. They are doing rigorous work. There is no more “center” time every day. There is testing every week for 5 yr olds. Some do ok with it while others just give up. I have volunteered in all 3 of my children’s classroom the past 5 yrs. it has changed dramatically since my oldest first started. They are now learning what 1st graders used to learn, they keep pushing more & more down to better prepare for testing in the upper grades. most of the time they work through recess to make sure they are through the work. It’s sad, teachers are sad but feel they are jobs are on the line. For this reason, I decided to homeschool my 4th child in kindergarten. Teachers say they cannot do some of the fun creative crafts they used to do because they have to get through so much curriculum. So, Mary Jacobs be thankful you have never seen this in Ontario, this is reality here in the U.S. Pray for our children.

      • Well said Allison. There were NO centers for the kids in the K rooms. They were to sit in a seat all day. If they finished early they could draw on the back of paper or put heads down on the desk. Recess was once a week and if it was not raining or too hot….or too cold. Art or craft once a week, music once a month. These are all in my opinion daily needs. Water breaks were allowed 2 times a day and they each got a 5 count at the fountain. (I even witness children punished and made to go with out for not keeping quiet in a line) I saw many things that horrified me and when brought to the attention of the principle who was not too concerned and that if it was not affecting my child I should mind my own, even school board merely took a report. I sent my child with a water bottle which he kept at his desk as he was actually suffering dehydration after a week. It sadden me to pull my son as I felt many children had no voice no choice and I wish I could help them all,….I almost felt selfish for pulling my son. His needs and what we are learning now is sensory issues possible Asperger’s had to come first.

    • In Part 2, I will explain my experience. I was not permitted, by the principal or administration, to have more than one recess or to have “play” time. Heather, yes, “drinking fountain” time was a huge dilemma, from a teaching perspective. So many routines that five year olds aren’t ready to adapt to! Individual water bottles weren’t permitted in my school — which is insane, right?!

  • My now 1st grader did full day kindy last year and she certainly did NOT sit at her table all day doing work. They had centers, specials, volunteers reading/doing activities and ‘brain breaks’ after each academic activity where they would dance it out. She learned so much and thrived.

  • I remember going to full day kindergarten. My teacher was miss Faulkner, she hadn’t quite finished with whatever degree she was working on because she went to school too. I liked a boy named Mathew and chased him all over the playground. When we played house everyone wanted to be the dog. We earned little stickers when we could recite our home phone number address birthday etc. But miss Faulkner forgot or didn’t know she was supposed to teach us to read. So the whole class was threatened with being held back unless our parents got us reading over summer break. Full day was great for me socially but clearly we weren’t really focused on learning so much as play.
    How would half day be better for the students who were homeless or had uninvolved and probably working parents? You make a great argument for changing the format. It probably needs to be changed in all grades.

  • My opinion has been all day kindergarten is not for my child. I didn’t start homeschooling until my daughter left 2nd grade. I always said if they had all day pre-school or kindergarten I would not have signed up my daughter for school. I felt she didn’t need all day. i also was watching some children while my daughter was in kindergarten. I saw some of the other children needed naps in the afternoon. My daughter didn’t but the others slept a lot after school. I feel each child is different, but all day kindergarten is way too long for children so young. I researched teaching children and learned that children will learn at their pace no matter what and when you teach them. Our state doesn’t require education until 7 years old. They could lose kids from entering school until 1st or 2nd grade.

  • My son’s school is one of the last in our state to go to full day kindergarten, but is planning on going to full day. I sent my son this year to the public school because it was half day. I did not want full day since I stay at home and it is not necessary for our family. Luckily, it was only half day. My son did not like school. Friends and family would ask him if he liked kindergarten and he would say, “not really.” They were shocked. The children’s only play time was when they first got to school and was about 10-15 minutes. The rest of the time they worked on developmentally inappropriate things like writing sentences with capital letters, spaces, and punctuation in October and pre-algebra. My friends son, who didn’t know his letters going into kindergarten, which used to be ok, was put in the full day program for extra help. He came home telling his mom how stupid he is. He is five. What are we doing to our children? I don’t have as much of an issue with full day versus half day as I do with what the children are being expected to do. Little ones can’t sit for that long and learn things they are not ready for. Little brains will not magically change all of a sudden into being able to grasp concepts they are not developmentally able to grasp! Those children that are advanced shouldn’t have to sit all day either. All kindergarteners need to play, explore, and be creative! My 6 year old is going to be attending a private school this year where they are more developmentally appropriate. I know private school or homeschool is not a choice for everyone, so I hope schools change soon!

    • Oh Brielle, that breaks my heart to hear about your friend’s son!! No precious little five year old should think that about themselves! Yes, you make an excellent point — the curriculum is much too rigorous!! Glad you’ve found what is best for your family!!

  • It IS A COMPLETE AND ABSOLUTE NI G H T M A R E !!!!! I HATE IT, MY child can’t stand it, she’s learning LESS now than she was at DAYCARE, ITS HORRENDOUS, AND IM JUST SOO HEARTBROKEN I am not in any (financial or otherwise) position to CHANGE My daughters schooling at this time:: so, I teach her after school whatever I can whenever I can … It’s tear jerkingly horrible for all…pits just not right for any child period. ….

  • Please help!! My town is considering moving to full day and I want to stop it! Do you have any research that supports half day? I am writing a letter to the board and I need some supportive documentation because there are so many studies in support of full day;(

  • Hi,
    My husband and I are debating whether or not to send our daughter to a full-day Montessori Kindergarten program or a half day public school Kindergarten. I’m torn because I would love to have her home more but wondering if she’ll really thrive at the Montessori school. Full day Montessori is from 8:30-3:00pm and half day public is from 8:30-11:30am. She’s turning 5 in June so she’s on the younger side. I would love to hear your thoughts and advice! We’d be so grateful. Many thanks!

    • Melissa, I have heard some great things about Montessori programs, but I still firmly believe that the best place for a child is in her own home with her parents and siblings. There is no other place where she’ll be loved and accepted and allowed to develop at her own pace. Also, some parents love the idea of giving their children a good start with a preschool or kindergarten program, but it is often very difficult to then transition them to a homeschool program. From a very early age, they learn to look to their peers for information, ideas, and advice, and it can be hard for those children to then be taken home and look to their parents for the information, ideas, and advice they need after that. I just have a very hard time believing that children as young as 5 are mature enough to be away from home and to learn to deal with social dynamics and all of the other things that go on at a school or daycare. If you choose to send your child to public kindergarten or a Montessori program, you may be sacrificing the best chance for your child to enjoy homeschooling and to look to you and her dad as the authorities in her life. I realize this may sound harsh, but it’s not meant to be. It’s simply an honest answer.

  • I am 34, and I remember kindergarten pretty well. The good and the bad. One of the major bad things was my hang ups about learning to read started in kindergarten. We had a few really advanced kids in our class that were already reading well, and for some reason they singled me and a few others out to torment about our lack of reading skills. In my family, we are just slow to learn to read, but once we get it…we’ve got it and excel at it. These little girls in kindergarten gave me a fear of reading in front of others because I thought I would be laughed at and made fun of, and it made me very self-conscious. I carried that fear with me throughout school, even after I was very good at reading. I strongly believe that kindergarten can positively or negatively impact your academic success, and your self-confidence.

  • I agree with you, i think full day kindergarden is a bad idea well in my case, my daughter just started two days ago and i see that is not affecting her in a positive way instead she comes out dreading school to be over because it is too long for me to be with out me her mother and to add shes already getting bullied. I asked if icannot put her in half day and they told me that they dont have that anymore. So what im i to do??? I want to homeschool her but my husband doesnt support me. I am desperate for help.

  • Hey:)
    I was hoping you could help me. I thought maybe you might know the loop holes in the system. We live in Las Vegas and my older kids attend a charter school. Full day kinder became mandatory for public schools this year here in Vegas. I thought I was in the clear because we weren’t in a public school. I just got word that our charter school is now full day kinder only:( I think it’s great if you work full time ect. But for me, I hate it. I am planning on going in and talking to the Principle to see if there is a way I could pull my child out at lunch time. Do you have any advice? I know the law is written very weird here in NV, that kinder isn’t even mandatory.

    • Michelle, the best thing to do is probably to check with HSLDA (The Home School Legal Defense Association). They are an organization for homeschoolers, but they may be able to help you with your question too. And if they can’t answer your question, I think they will probably know who can. You can find them at http://www.hslda.org/. I’m glad you’re willing to go to the trouble to find out how you can do what’s best for your child! Blessings to you!

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