Board of Education · Family · Just my Thoughts

Kindergarten Conundrum

As usual, I was surfing the web and reading some of the major newspapers of the country.  I like knowing what is going on in the New York Times and The Washington Post as well as several others that are in the Midwest and the West.  Sometimes I miss something but, in that case, a friend generally points it out to me before the end of the day.

As I was perusing the education blog on The Washington Post, I came across a piece on full versus half day kindergarten.  I had to stop and read.  I truly did not think that half day kindergarten existed in the United States any longer.  I was sadly wrong.

My mind, upon reading the guest piece, is that the full vs. half day debate has certainly changed since I started fighting and debating it about 24 years ago.

Back when #1 was looking at kindergarten – I should probably say his father and I were looking at kindergarten, the majority of our public school districts in upstate New York offered a half day program.  This was fine but #1 had turned five in November so we had not sent him to kindergarten that year, even though he had turned five before the December 1 deadline.  He was in a preschool program that was full day and educational so he stayed there.

The next year rolled around and I found myself suddenly shopping for a full day kindergarten.  Full days away from home were what #1 was use to.  The preschool offered a full day kindergarten program but it was an open classroom.  I felt #1 needed more structure.  I found a Catholic school that had a program perfect for #1.  It was on the other side of the city but that was okay with me.

The twins had a January birthday.  There would be no extra year in preschool for them, even with #2’s speech issues.  The public school district we lived within the borders of still only had a half day kindergarten program.  I was still a firm believer in full day.  Since #1 had not left the Catholic school, #2 and #3 followed.  This nicest part was the community of the school – a faith-filled group of parents and teachers.  The other nice part was I didn’t have to fight with administrators about keeping the twins, at least for now, in the same class.

When the twins went to the Catholic school for kindergarten, #4 followed for preschool.  The cost of full day preschool/day care was becoming prohibitive and I had become a stay at home mom so it was not a necessity any longer.

Then, came the debate, during that year #4 was in preschool at the Catholic school.  The public school district was thinking about beginning a full day kindergarten.  The public was outraged.  What was the point?  Why was it necessary?

I went to Board of Education meetings.  I diligently typed out my comments.  While I do not dislike speaking in public, I like to leave those making the decision a written copy and I hate forgetting pieces.  I went into why it was time, in 1991-92, to change.

Our school system was set up when the US was an agrarian society.  School days were when they were so that children could get up in the morning and milk the cows before going to school.  Some still do.  The end of school day, with the exception of winter, left time for chores also.  Having time off during the summer gave the farmer his family to help with harvesting.  This is not the world we had in 1992 or in 2010.

The Board of Education decided to start full day kindergarten with the school year 1992-93 and it was, and still is, successful.

Unfortunately, in 1994, we moved out of the city and into a smaller school district, a school district that did not have full day kindergarten.  I went through the entire process again.  I attended Board of Education meetings when the topic came up.  I presented experiences and statistics and history.  Again, the Board went with a full day kindergarten.

So, to see that the full day versus half day debate is still ongoing drives me crazy.  To see that, at least in the case of Fairfax County, there are both full day and half day options and that the full day goes to those who are starting at a disadvantage floors me.

Did you attend a full day or a half day kindergarten program?  What about your children?  What do you think is better?

14 thoughts on “Kindergarten Conundrum

  1. Great question. I am from the other side: I attended half-day kindergarten and loved it!

    I can, of course, see your point. If kids are used to a full-day program, half day would be difficult.

    Where I live, half-day is the majority. So, my perspective is slightly skewed. I think that it helps the kids make the adjustment from 2-3 days of week of preschool.

    I guess the other side of the question is, how do you feel about full-day preschools? I think that the kind of preschool your child attends will determine how well they fare in either full- or half-day kindergartens.

    1. Well, five of my six attended both a full day preschool and a half day preschool (#1, #2, #3 full day the entire preschool experience, #4 both a full day and a half day preschool – 1 year of each with the full day first, #5 half day preschool, #6 no preschool). I have to say that what is expected, at least in NYS, of kindergarten, I cannot imagine a half day.

  2. When I went to 1/2 day Kindergarten, we learned how to play, line up, get along with others, colors, shapes etc. all things which can be done in a 1/2 day.

    Today, children are expected to be reading by the end of Kindergarten. For the current Kindergarten curriculum, it has to be a full day; there is not enough time in a 1/2 day to prepare them for 1st grade.

    In my opinion, if a parent prefers a 1/2 day, they need to have their child reading by day one of first grade or they will be behind the other children.

    Speaking from experience, that set back can set the tone for a long time. But that’s another post!

    1. I know what you mean, Anj!

      My school district runs what they call a primary sequence. If a child is not ready for kindergarten, there is an early kindergarten class. If a child is not ready for first grade, there is a transitional first class. These three – early kindergarten, kindergarten & transitional first – are the primary sequence and a child could be in the primary sequence for one, two or, theorectically, three years.

  3. I had half day and that was when I still liked school. I am a perpetual kindergartner 🙂
    Here is a fact for ya: New Hampshire, where we lived nearly forever, has NO kindergarten. NONE. Some districts offer it, but there is no bus, or parents have to pay for the bus or whatever (NH is a totally weird state). Naturally, 99.9 percent of kids go to private kindergarten though, and it costs them thousands of dollars a year to pay for it. Tis a conservative thing, the Sarah Palins of the world still want us to believe American kids milk cows then walk to a one room schoolhouse. Reality is that it is an investment that today’s little kids will get a good start and hopefully one day go to college not prison etc

    1. It is truly an investment in the future.

      And, while NYS has this universal pre-K program, it is with parent provided transportation and is a half day, I believe.

  4. I can remember attending a full day of kindergarten back in 1988. We had nap time after lunch. I’m sort of torn on the idea-I believe small children shouldn’t be forced to stay in school when they are not developmentally able to sit down and learn all day-which is what many of our school districts are trying to implement-at least in the Albany area where I’ve observed. Children have short attention spans, and unless the educators know how to space out learning time and fun time, then maybe I would be in agreement. I think it is better for students to integrate slowly, because going to school is very new to these little tykes. For example, when i was in kindergarten, we had a good two hours for nap time. I loved school then, and as I recall a full day never was “too much” for me, but for others it might be. Children need that refresher. Personally I think that, speaking developmentally, first graders are much more able to take on a full day than kindergartners.

    It’s very debatable, though! 🙂 When it comes down to it, every child is different-and maybe having a choice of 1/2 day and full day might be more helpful in transitioning to a higher grade.

  5. I’m OLD, so I attended half-day kindergarten. I loved coming home to eat lunch with Mama and play the entire afternoon.

    As a mother, I do not prefer half day kindergarten because I feel like I don’t get anything done before BAM! It’s time for pick-up.

    Our district offers half-day kindy 5 days a week or full day kindy 2 days a week. The full day always fills up first.

    I just realized that Miss M. misses the kindergarten cut-off for next year by FOUR days. GREAT.

    1. Well, TKW, I attended half day kindergarten too. No one thought of full day kindergarten then – in 1965. Oops!!! That is a secret out of the bag.

      The half day/full day in one district is interesting. I have never heard of that before this.

  6. I myself attended half-day kindergarten, but like anjanette said, all we did was color and sing songs. I was already reading, but that was not the norm. Most kids learned their letters in kindergarten and then how to read in first grade.

    The district where I taught in Arizona had full-day kindergarten in the “at-risk” schools but half-day at the other schools. (Phoenix is a weird city – rich and poor neighborhoods are right next to each other, not like Back East. My school was 85% free and reduced lunch, but a few miles away at the other end of the district, they lived in million dollar mansions. Go figure.) It was very academic: no nap time or extra recess, writing every day, reading groups, math centers… Mostly it helped kids catch up. This was 10 years ago.

    Now in Pennsylvania, it’s still district by district. Mine went full-day five years ago, and that first class of full-day kindergarten is now in fifth grade. I can see a difference. They have legible, neat handwriting. They LOVE to read, and almost always open a book – without prompting – when they finish their work early. They actually remember the math they learned in previous grades.

    And, most were reading by the end of kindergarten, but they weren’t pushed because I remember how surprised the teachers were. Now, the next year you better believe they were more intentional about it 😉 , and got the same results. As these kids moved up through the grades, we had primary teachers asking us for novels for because their books were too easy.

    But if they’re capable, what’s the harm? Their brains are little sponges!

  7. I have been teaching in a full day programs for the past 34 years and absolutely love it. Whether it is a 1/2 day or full day program, I think the key is to make learning as fun as possible. I have been blogging for about a month now about my experiences in the classroom. What fun to look back over the years.

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