Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Kindergarten Journey

Tonight I am presenting a workshop for the parents of children at my school called The Kindergarten Journey.

I was asked to talk about Kindergarten readiness and how to decide if your child is "ready" for Kindergarten. Philosophically, I have trouble with those terms, as I feel strongly that Kindergarten needs to be "ready" for the child.

I taught Kindergarten for many years, and in any given year I would have such a range of children; those who didn't know the difference between a number and a letter all the way to those who could read at a second grade level and above.  It was my job as a Kindergarten teacher to differentiate the curriculum to meet the needs of these students.  This is the most difficult part of teaching, but it was doable, especially in a setting where play was still valued and so much of the learning was done in exploring learning centers.

Kindergarten has become a very different place today.  In my workshop I show the parents a blank report card from our local school when my daughter went to kindergarten and then 5 years later when my son went.  The differences in the expectations are staggering and that was 5 years ago now.  The demands have continued to increase every year.  Friends of mine, still teaching Kindergarten, have been told they cannot buy materials for the dramatic play centers and sensory tables and block areas are becoming a thing of the past in Kindergarten classrooms.  The children are expected to do much more seat work. It is now expected that the children can do some reading by the end of Kindergarten.

This pressure is causing so much anxiety for preschool parents.  Should they send their age eligible children to Kindergarten or give them what is now deemed as "the gift of time" in so much literature, and hold them back a year.

Five years ago, I was adamant in my belief that parents should send their child when the age cut off deems him ready.  It is the Kindergarten teacher's job to provide the proper education and meet him at his level.

Today, I am truly perplexed.  I feel that if the trend of holding children back continues and most children are older when they go,  the people administering programs will be more apt to continue this pushing down of the curriculum.  This really puts the children who cannot afford another year in preschool in a bind-they have to go to Kindergarten as soon as they are age eligible.

However, hearing the frustration of current Kindergarten teachers and knowing the statistics of the children held back in Kindergarten due to lack of performance on these rigorous academic standards, makes me pause.  I especially worry about the energetic boys that are being labeled with disorders, as they are simply not ready for such extended seat work.

I could go on and on concerning this issue, but I would  love to hear your thoughts.
I have such angst over this topic.

In an ideal world all of my students would continue in a Kindergarten setting much like our Little Red School House; days filled with opportunities to explore, discover, wonder and learn through their play.

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