Monday, February 20, 2012

Chance Encounters and All-Day Kindergarten

Finally, the Ann Arbor schools have joined the other county school districts s in the rush to create all-day kindergarten--if the districts didn't make the switch, they would lose more state money. Of course, all-day kindergarten costs money too.

I don't like the state requiring schools to provide all-day kindergarten without providing more money for it, and I do worry about kindergartens being too academic, but the trend toward an academic kindergarten has been very evident for years. There was a big change in the tenor of my oldest son's kindergarten class and my youngest son's kindergarten class. (There are seven years between them.) My oldest son's kindergarten class was much more play-based. Sure, skills are important, but little kids acquire skills through playing.

But on the other hand--I am very happy that the schools are going to offer something that private schools have been offering for years. Half-day kindergarten was a pain in the neck. After years of full-day day care, it seemed like almost nothing, and I still had to pay for almost full-time day care. For many years, some other schools had used alternate-day kindergarten--but not Ann Arbor.

At the time that I was looking for a school for my oldest son, I was very attracted to a local, private, parochial school. There were two key attractions--the immersion language program (which was only a true immersion program beginning in first grade), and the full-day kindergarten. I was really struggling with the choice, and even though my husband had his heart set on public school, I was thinking. . . well perhaps for kindergarten. . . and then we could switch.

In a chance encounter one day, I ran into a colleague who had three older children. In the course of catching up, I described my dilemma, and Cheryl said, "Ruth, when you make your decision, you really have to look beyond kindergarten. Kindergarten is only eight months long!"

Cheryl was right. But for that chance encounter, I might not have realized how fleeting kindergarten is. At the time, it seemed like a huge step!

I know now that a lot of parents initially choose a private school for a full-day kindergarten option, and some of them never leave those private schools. But for that chance encounter, I might have had three kids go through private school, at least for their elementary years.

Therefore, I'm glad that in this area, at least, the public schools have leveled the playing field. I hope this will allow more families to start their kids' academic careers in public schools. And perhaps. . . one can hope. . . that full-day kindergarten will also allow more time to play, and do project-based learning, and still allow teachers to cover those academics.


  1. I agree it is about time for AAPS to have full day kindergarten. Now if we could just catch up with other states and change that silly cut off date from being 5 by December 1 to September 1! I realize the cut off is a state standard, not an Ann Arbor one. It just creates such a huge gap in ages in each grade - the girls with fall birthdays typically attend when they are 4, and the boys get held until they are 6.

  2. I'm the parent of three fall birthday kids (September, October, November--two boys and one girl) who all started in their "assigned" school year--and all have done/are doing fine. I hear what you are saying about changing the start date, and I can understand the point of matching the start date with the start of school. But then I wonder--wouldn't that simply mean that kids with summer birthdays would be kept back? In other words, isn't the effect the same no matter when the cutoff is set?

  3. Maybe - I think some parents may still hold their child if the cut off is moved, but I think the numbers would be fewer. The overwhelming reason I hear is that the child is "only 4" and "not ready" but I am sure there are some who do not want their child to be the youngest.

    There are definately more important matters to focus on!

  4. Full day kindergarten doesn't work for every family or every child. In my experience, it seems that parents who work full-time want the full day option, which I can understand. But as a SAHM, I want my children in half-day kindergarten, not in a full day program. They get the introduction to school and we still get to spend time together. It's a win/win for us. (For the record, we chose a private school option for half-day kindergarten and will go to public school after that.)