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?