Thursday, January 24, 2008

Long Day's Journey for the Tyke

Last night I went to a presentation by our local school district about full-day kindergarten. I found out that the district has already decided to move in this direction, so it wasn't so much a matter of deciding whether parents want this, as it was a matter of selling us on the plan.

I must admit, although I have had my doubts about full-day kindergarten, I was pretty much sold.

Here are the points they made that apply to all schools, everywhere:

There is obviously need out there for all-day kindergartens, since most families have both parents working outside the home. One teacher described the confusing, patchwork day that results when kindergarteners are bussed from daycare to 1/2-day-K and back again. Even though that wouldn't be the case for my kid, I definitely agree that it's better for the kids to spend all or most of their day in one place. Also, it's much easier on parents, i.e., working mothers.

Certainly -- at least I'd hope -- kids are better off spending the day in a public school than finishing off the day in low-quality childcare, which is all many families can afford.

Here are the things that I liked about how our district promises to roll it out:

1) Parents have the option of maintaining a half-day schedule. Actually, they said Illinois law requires giving us this option. I don't think I would do it, but apparently some parents pick up their kids at lunchtime and don't bring them back for the afternoon. (However, the presenters said, usually by the end of the school year, and after a few years of offering full-day-K, there are almost no remaining families exercising this right. The kids, they said, usually ask their parents to leave them there all day so they don't miss the fun.)

2) They claim that they will be teaching the SAME CURRICULUM, just at a more relaxed pace. This was the dealmaker for me, so they better follow through on this promise. The school district reps and teachers said the curriculum they're teaching now is designed for full-day-K, and that they have to cram things in with the current half day. With a full day, they promise that kids will be less hurried and stressed, have more time for play and socializing.

Well, we'll see. Of course I don't want my kids to be hurried and stressed through kindergarten. The question is whether teachers and the schools will yield to the temptation to slowly fill the extra time up with more material, until the kids are just as hurried and stressed for six hours as they once were for 2 and a half hours.

Anyway, I'm glad it looks like Nutmeg will get to go to kindergarten all day. Mainly for the selfish reason that I want more free time to work.


Sara said...

I totally agree that attending school for a full day is way better than attending half-day, for a couple of reasons.

1. I can't imagine cramming a whole day's worth of curriculum into a couple of hours, especially with a bunch of five-year-olds. At that age, I think the social aspect of school is just as important as the academic aspect, so play and social time are so important.

2. I can attest to the fact that kids HATE being picked up at lunchtime, especially when they are having fun at school. I made the mistake of picking Grace up before lunch one day, and she was so unhappy that she had to leave in the middle of art time that she threw a grand maul tantrum. I won't make that mistake again.

3. I don't think it's selfish that you want more free time to work. You gotta have time to do the stuff that is important to you, too.

Does your local district offer K4? If so, are you going to enroll her in the fall?

Marketing Mommy said...

I hope full day K is extended to all OP schools soon. My daughter would be bored to tears going from an all-day Montessori program to a 2 1/2 hour kindergarten.

Carrie said...

Sara -- unfortunately, we don't have the K4 option.