Purpose of Preschool and Kindergarten

There was an article recently in the Joliet Herald News about offering all-day kindergarten to “at-risk” students.  The extra time would be to provide extra tutoring to prepare these kids for first grade.  This has sparked quite a conversation amongst my homeschooling group, as we all roll our eyes, shake our heads, and lament the state of institutional education.  We parents keep comparing our fun kindergarten memories of circle time, playtime, and craft projects with the horror stories we hear about daily kindergarten homework consisting of worksheet packets.  I’ve even heard of preschoolers being expected to make up “missed work”.

The idea now is that you must send your child to preschool to prepare them for kindergarten.  And if they “fail” at kindergarten then they’ll never do well in first grade.   And of course, if they do not do well in school they will never get into a good college (usually referring to an Ivy League one), and then they will be a big fat failure in life.  So basically, a child’s whole life depends on their capabilities at the age of 6.  No pressure.  This is why parents are choosing to hold their children back from kindergarten an extra year to give their kids “an edge” over the rest of the class.  (This practice of “redshirting” was started to make up for a developmental lag usually seen in boys, but now parents of girls are doing it, too.)

The purpose of kindergarten was never really about preparing kids academically for school.  This is why children who did not go to kindergarten did not have that held against them in first grade.  Kindergarten was invented to help with issues like separation anxiety from parents (hence why it was only half-day) and indoctrination into school processes (following group directions, asking permission to do anything, being still and quite).  The academic advantages stemmed from a child’s ability to conform to the system in combination with his/her individual developmental readiness.  Now kindergarten tends be the childhood equivalent of an SAT prep course, and preschool takes over the separation and indoctrination at an earlier age.

Now I personally have not seen any need to send my kids to preschool.  Even if we had not already decided to homeschool before older daughter was of age to attend, it never really crossed my thought processes.  I never went to preschool, and I always succeeded academically.  And whenever I’ve come across the scope and sequence for preschool, I usually find that my kids already know most of stuff on the syllabus.  Both of my girls have known all of their colors and shapes before age two.  Both have also known how to recognize most letters and numbers by age three, and have even started writing them.  So why would I send them off to “learn” stuff that they already know?  And why would I shell out the money for preschool when I can teach them that stuff at home for free?

I am sure that that all-day kindergarten program will help those students who would other wise have problems in first grade.  It’s just kind of disturbing that children are being marked as “at risk for failure” at age 5.  And I know that “not everyone is able to homeschool their child” (although I believe that many, many more could that choose not to do to misconceptions, lack of information, and unwillingness to make certain material and temporal sacrifices).  Some sort of public basic skills education is necessary for those children who are unable to be educated at home.  I just really wish that the schools were completely different, with more emphasis on the uniqueness of each child.

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One Comment on “Purpose of Preschool and Kindergarten”

  1. Laura Witten Says:

    Hmmm..are you tired of me commenting on all your blogs yet? 🙂 Just say so if you are.

    I agree with you in principle. But I’ve found out, when it comes to me being home all day with DS, attempting to keep a schedule and actually teach something, I lose my mind. I need time outside the home more than ever before. I need to feel like I’m contributing more to the businesses we run…because I get a paycheck. Now, I would love to not earn the paycheck and just help out in the business without that pressure, but its not an option. So he’s going to half-day preschool, instead of FT daycare – so I am getting better!

    If I was in a larger town, with a children’s science museum, decent library, ducks at the park, zoo, etc – I think i could handle taking him out and doing fun stuff and coming back to learn a bit. But here – no way. We have one decent park and its already getting boring. Anything else is an hour away. ah well, its a choice we made! On the upside, our puppies are becoming his best friends, and he’s even brave enough to help me brush the horse. He gets to pretend to fish in the pond close to the house and pick flowers any day he likes.

    Bottom line is: Children are always learning – its the disagreement on what and when that gets the adults in a tizzy. God bless the homeschoolers!

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