To the editor:
If you are like me, you are probably wondering whether full-day kindergarten is the right move for kids. When I volunteered to sit on the All-Day Kindergarten subcommittee, this was my question too. As a school psychologist, mother of two, and consumer of educational research, I wondered whether full-day or half-day was a better model for kids. After careful deliberation, I am in support of All-Day Kindergarten in Barrington because it aims to restore the balance between academic instruction and social/emotional development.
For me, the fight for full-day isn’t a ploy to cram more into my little girl’s smart, sweet, and curious brain…it’s an attempt to salvage her kindergarten experience. Years from now, as she walks across the stage to receive her high school diploma, I want her to love learning. For the next 13 years, I want her to wake each morning excited to go to school, just like she does in preschool. I want her to ask questions of the world and have time to seek the answers. I worry that the hectic, hurried pace of a 3-hour part-day program will not start her off on the right foot. I worry that she will pick up on the anxiety to do more in less time. I worry that she will always feel (or worse, be) behind. Ultimately, I worry that she won’t enjoy school.
Many adults recall kindergarten as a relaxing, welcoming first learning environment. Listening to the current half-day program described, I realized that kindergarten in Barrington has morphed into a model adults would not recognize and certainly would not condone. In less than 3 hours, half-day kindergartener teachers must teach children to read and write and perform basic math (review the new standards: http://www.corestandards.org). Adding time for transitions, using the restroom, having snack, recess, and attending specials, there is much to learn and not enough time to do so. With the pressure to teach children all they need to learn for first grade in the allotted time, there is little time for dramatic and free play and instruction in other subjects, such as science and social studies. Although equally important for a five-year old, social and emotional development has taken a back seat in the kindergarten curriculum. Kindergarten is no longer the bridge year between play-based preschool and the formal, structured instruction of first grade. It’s a crash course.
Yes, in a longer day there will be time for one more hour of instruction related to the Common Core, but also two more hours to develop socially and emotionally. There will be more time to explore, acquire depth, form relationships with teachers and peers, acquire problem solving skills in social situations, learn how to be a good friend, and acquire school behaviors that support learning. In my mind, the push for full-day is a push for the entire kindergarten experience- one that addresses the needs of the whole child- not just the academic child.
This is the reason why I will be voting in support of All-Day Kindergarten at the Financial Town Meeting.
Ivy Rollins Milliken, Ph.D.