Dust off those cobwebs and think back to your kindergarten days. Are your memories as warm and fuzzy as mine? Overseen by a sweet, grandmotherly teacher, my days were spent learning to write my name, tie my shoes and recite the alphabet. I sang nursery rhymes, played dress-up, and made lifelong friends while climbing a genuine treehouse (not a plastic playscape). In the approximately 30 years that have passed since those lovely days, the Brontosaurus is no longer a dinosaur, Pluto is no longer a planet, and kindergarteners no longer take naps in the middle of the school day. Today’s kindergarteners are busy learning to read, writing paragraphs, doing homework and solving algebra problems (such as find-the-missing-number). And with the new Common Core standards in place, teachers have even more to teach than before.
According to an article in the Orange County Register, “Kindergarten has evolved from a largely social, developmental environment to an academic one governed by state curriculum standards, educators say.” Add to this state budget cuts, and teachers are literally expected to do more with less time and help. At my son Adrian’s public school in southern Los Angeles County, the kindergarten teachers have only four hours of instruction time, no aides, and nearly 30 children per class. So what does this mean? Students are expected to know more before setting foot in the kindergarten classroom, such as:
- Listening and following directions
- Reciting the alphabet and recognizing individual letters
- Counting and recognizing numbers up to 10
- Writing his/her own name
- Using scissors and glue
- Recognizing patterns, basic shapes and colors
That is a tall order for 5-year-olds! But it absolutely can be done, with some preparation. At age 2, Adrian and I attended an inexpensive preschool readiness class through L.A. Parks & Rec. This was a great opportunity for Adrian to interact with his peers, learn to listen to other adults and practice sitting still. The real work began when he entered preschool at age 3. Because we were on a tight budget, Adrian only attended six to nine hours of class a week for the next two years. But it was enough! I was completely amazed when he wrote his name for the first time at the end of his first year of preschool. A few months later, he began sounding out words during our daily reading time. He was definitely ready for kindergarten by the end of his second year of preschool.
Adrian is about to begin his fourth week of kindergarten and has been doing really well thus far. Yes, I am a little sad that he does not have much time for in-class block building and artistic masterpieces made entirely of pasta. But the truth is, I want my kid prepared for this high-tech, information laden world. One day, Adrian may be applying for jobs that don’t currently exist. His teacher is doing her best, but there is only so much she can do in four hours. My husband and I have to be her partners in education. Not only do we have to help Adrian with his homework and read to him every day, we have to provide the opportunities that he’s missing at school. He still needs time to run, jump, ride his scooter, manipulate Play-Doh, color, cut, paint, play dress-up and build Legos (his favorite!). And that is a tall order for parents! But it absolutely can be done … with a little preparation.