By Candy Tingstad, A.A. Early Childhood Education, B.A. Education, M.A. Human Development
All day Kindergarten for SOME children promotes growth and development, and is a boon to “working” parents. For others, it is not the best option. The rigors of today’s Kindergartens look more like 1st grades of the past. The trickle-down curriculum and heightened expectations for academic progress lead many children to feel defeated in school before they begin.
Some children find the stimulation of a large group overwhelming. They need a break after a busy half day kindergarten program. Some are developmentally not ready to read until they are 6 or even 7 and feel like failures when other children break the code sooner. Some are just antsy and need time to grow before settling into a full day of structured expectations. As a wise pediatrician said, “If you are going to spend 18 years of your life in school, why start out behind the 8-ball.”
For those children whose families do not read to their children, take them to zoos, museums, parks, and in other ways stimulate learning, full day Kindergarten is a benefit to learning. For parents who have the privilege of savoring the early years, a quality preschool program a few hours a week will be the perfect supplement to the learning that goes on in the family and community. Children learn best through play. The time to explore, ask questions, and even daydream are precious gifts to the young mind. Television, or videos, is not a productive alternative to parent or preschool stimulation. Children, in small preschool classes with quality teachers, learn what they need to be successful in school: to pay attention, understand numbers and letters and other key learning concepts, treat people with respect, and value their own learning. They need time for outside play, music, science, and creative play… without being measured by a test. Testing will come soon enough.
Quality preschool programs exist for 5 year olds not best served in a full day Kindergarten. Parents who ask themselves “What is best for my child, right now” will make good decisions. We spend too much time getting a preschool age child ready to be 6, and not enough time letting him or her be the best 5 year old possible.
Candy Tingstad is the board chair for Lakewood’s Little Church on the Prairie Preschool