When I went to a parochial school kindergarten in the early 1950’s, the only prerequisite was age. Kindergarten was a half-day session filled with coloring, singing, snacking, napping, making stuff out of clay, finger plays, and lots of playtime in general. In the 50’s, kindergarten’s emphasis was socialization and following directions, not academics.
In the years that I taught preschool, which was before there was Sesame Street, our mornings were spent in play. We told parents that “play” was their child’s “work” and through play they would learn shapes, colors, large and fine motor skills. Ha! That is what babies are doing now in their cribs.
Let’s jump ahead to the new millennium… As kindergarten becomes more and more academic, children are required to do more and know more. In addition, many kindergartens are moving from a half-day to a full-day schedule. The requirements and expectations for kindergarteners go far past the month they turn 5. They are expected to enter kindergarten knowing the basics and be relatively adjusted to a classroom situation.
I’ve been on numerous websites finding lists of what incoming kindergarten students should be able to do in the 2000’s. Here are some examples. (OK, I’m in trouble. My husband says that there are several of these that I still can’t do. Please don’t tell Mrs. Hannon!)
• Listen to stories without interrupting
• Recognize rhyming sounds
• Pay attention for short periods of time to adult-directed tasks
• Understand actions have both causes and effects
• Show understanding of general times of day
• Cut with scissors
• Trace basic shapes
• Begin to share with others
• Start to follow rules
• Be able to recognize authority
• Manage bathroom needs
• Button shirts, pants, coats, and zip up zippers
• Begin to control oneself
• Separate from parents without being upset
• Speak understandably
• Talk in complete sentences of five to six words
• Look at pictures and then tell stories
• Identify rhyming words
• Identify the beginning sound of some words
• Identify some alphabet letters
• Recognize some common sight words like "stop"
• Sort similar objects by color, size, and shape
• Recognize groups of one, two, three, four, and five objects
• Count to ten
• Bounce a ball
Source: Family Education
The bottom line here, as I see it, is that early childhood education will make a huge difference in a child’s success in school. And while some parents feel they can prepare their children for kindergarten at home, what they can’t provide is the classroom experience. Don’t get me wrong, I think that the parents’ role in preparing their children for school is vital. I created Nonna and Me products to help them do just that. But we can’t underplay the importance of a formal preschool setting. I believe that a child will benefit greatly from a combination of both. I’ve seen that combination do wonders for my own grandchildren.
That being said, I think it’s important to also address homeschooling. I applaud those parents who are educating their children at home. It takes a dedicated, structured person to take on this responsibility. I do believe that if a parent is diligent, knowledgeable, and focused on what a preschool child needs to accomplish academically, and can combine this with regular social activities such as play groups and activities at church or in the community, it can produce the same results.
Like many of us Baby Boomers who thought retirement was on the horizon - only to realize our ship was sinking and we wouldn’t make it to the horizon - I am still teaching and grateful to be doing so. That puts me in a position to observe on a daily basis what the expectations are for this next generation (yet to be named). Nonna is spot-on when she says that what happens in kindergarten doesn’t stay in kindergarten and never started there in the first place. If a child is not in pre-school (or being taught effectively at home) by age 3, that child will be far behind his peers in the learning process, which is now curriculum based rather than socialization oriented.
This is definitely not your grandmother’s (or mother's) kindergarten!
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