Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Why full-day kindergarten was better than half-day for my kids

Back-to-school is in 3 weeks and something is going to be different for many kindergartners in the Lane County School District: Full-day kindergarten. This will not be new. Used to be that many elementary schools, as well as many K-8 grade schools, had full day kindergarten in the past. For a while there, however, they switched to half-day kindergarten. I figured this was done for financial reasons. I get it that schools have to do what they have to do to keep their doors open and continue to pay teachers. (Sadly, many schools in this area have been forced to close and many teachers have lost their jobs.) I totally get that switching to half-day kindergarten was just one way for schools to cut costs. I am all for keeping schools in a good financial situation. In the past, I’ve donated to fundraisers and financially supported my kids’ school in whatever way possible. But given that each of my children have experienced full-day kindergarten as well as half-day kindergarten, I gotta say that given a choice between the two, I support full-day kindergarten.

These are just some of the things I learned from my son’s experience of going to half-day kindergarten compared to what my daughter got out of full-day kindergarten:

Full-day kindergarten prepares students for normal school hours.

Both of my kids attended preschool and sometimes they were not there for a full-day. I tried to have them attend full-day whenever possible because they LOVED their preschool and I felt it was a great way for them to prepare for being at school, albeit “Big Kid School,” for a longer period of time. This, however, didn’t happen and, wow, did my daughter have a time adjusting to being away from home for so long. She was used to it by the time she got to first grade, however. With my son, he was only at Big Kid School for a few hours – a BIG change from his preschool hours! Then after he went to school fulltime in the first grade, it was hard for him to adjust to being at school for so long. He just was not used to it, even though he was going to the same school he attended in kindergarten.

I understand that not all parents can afford to put their kids into preschool. I can’t judge how first going half-day then full-day in between grades would affect young children. That’s something for another parent to share about, I suppose.

Half-day kindergarten seemed like a waste of time.

As I went back and forth dropping my son off for school then driving to pick him up again, there were MANY times when I’d arrive at his school or his bus stop asking myself, Wasn’t I just here? Seriously, it seemed like only a few hours ago he was off to school. I seriously began to doubt if he was gaining much out of that very brief time he was there. Exactly how much teaching can you squeeze into that short amount of time? His teacher often sent home “supplemental schoolwork” for him to do at home and this further made me wonder if that stuff could’ve been worked on at school IF he was there long enough for it. With my daughter, she often came home from school with so many stories of ALL the things they did in her school day and things that happened at the school. It just seemed like my son barely even had any kind of kindergarten education when he attended for half-day.

The half-day schedules were CHAOS compared to full-day schedules.

Many schools have “no school” days. When my son was attending half-day kindergarten, however, the “no school” days became a game of cat and mouse. My son attended P.M. kindergarten and when it came to a “no school” days or half days, it was not easy figuring out who REALLY did not have school. On some days, the A.M. kinders had school but not the P.M. kinders – or vice versa. I always had to figure out myself if my son had to be at school on a certain day or no. Plus, they often changed release times for special days. Then if that wasn’t enough, it messed around with his bus schedule. I found that out the hard way when a bus driver on a different route had to let me know my son was on his bus. So what bus he got off on those special hours was always a mystery to figure out. With my daughter, however, on full-day kindergarten, “no school” meant no school.

Lunch was an issue.

The brutal truth about children: They get hungry. A LOT. And when a child is in school for even a few hours, he/she is gonna start asking for a snack every now and then. Being hungry at school was not an issue for my daughter because she was there for a full-day and got to eat lunch in the cafeteria and they also had snacks. But with my son, they didn’t serve lunch at first. I would, of course, feed my son breakfast before driving him to the bus stop, but eventually he started coming home and complaining about not being able to eat anything at school. Not even a snack. I took this up with the school and soon they started giving the P.M. kinders a brown bag lunch. The children were not able to eat in the cafeteria like the other kids, unfortunately, and, because they got a brown bag lunch, their choice of food was limited to a sandwich, fruit or veggie, milk and a cheese stick. This was not much of an improvement for my son because the only sandwich he would eat at that time was a peanut butter sandwich, and because a child in his classroom (where they were eating their food) had a peanut allergy, that kind of sandwich was forbidden. I really tried to get Jesse to eat the meat sandwich the school gave to him but he WOULD NOT touch it. (Even today, he doesn’t eat a meat sandwich!) I had to resort to sending along snacks, like crackers, for him to eat during their lunch time. When he went to first grade, however, the variety of foods available at the cafeteria took care of his lunch time problem.

Full-day kindergarten was SO much better than half-day because I had more time.

Now I have a personal reason why I like full-day kindergarten better than half-day: I got so much more done while my child was at school longer. I was able to work on my books longer, write more articles, read longer and run more errands – all because I had the time. I was able to get SO MUCH done in that uninterrupted time and it made for a better afternoon for myself and my child because, after a productive day, I could spend more time with her and give her more of my attention. I worked from home when both of my kids were in kindergarten so I did the bulk of my work while my daughter was at school. With my son, I did spend time with him for a while after he came home, but then I was back at the desk working on finishing up that last article I had to turn in to meet my deadline.

Going to kindergarten for half-day was not a complete disaster for my son, however. He still got to experience being in an elementary school setting. He still went on the annual field trips and got to attend the annual events. He still got to experience riding the bus to and from school. And he still got used to what kind of behavior was expected of him with his classmates and his teacher. I just really think full-day kindergarten would have been better for him because he would have been at school the same time that everybody else is at school and he would have been able to do more things. Learn more things.

Full-day kindergarten seems to have more benefit to children, in my opinion. I just really think it’s best for a child to attend kindergarten during the same hours their first grade and fifth grade classmates attend, because it will cause less confusion. I also feel they will be able to do more “kindergarten” stuff. I am glad students will be attending kindergarten fulltime this school year and I hope it will help ease their transition to regular first grade schedules when that time comes.

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