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First Grade, Kindergarten, Pre-K, Preschool ...

My daughter started preschool a year ago; now she's in Pre-K. She goes two days a week and really enjoys her class activities. But I'm wondering about the trend of getting kids started earlier and earlier. When kindergarten came about, it was to prepare kids for the first grade. It was a half day a week, just sort of easing the kids into school and teaching them how to be students--share, cooperate, follow directions, the basics. Kindergarten isn't even mandatory in all states, but now there are year-long waiting lists to get kids into full-day kindergarten classes. And we have Pre-K programs at our preschools. And preschool is promoted to get kids ready for Pre-K, which will prepare them for kindergarten, which was meant to prepare them for first grade. The insinuation is that if your child doesn't have Pre-K, she'll not be on track for kindergarten, and if she doesn't do preschool, she won't measure up well in Pre-K. So when and why did everything get so competetive? When and why did we stop letting our kids be kids till they started school? What are we pushing them toward, and is it good for them in the long run?


Asked by Ballad at 4:24 PM on Aug. 16, 2012 in School-Age Kids (5-8)

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Answers (9)
  • I do think kids should be kids and I find some standards to be very child unfriendly. Which is why I stick with a school that recognizes my son may be behind in some areas, average in others, and ahead in some. It doesn't matter. It only matters he loves the process of learning and understands each of his lessons as they unfold. That he knows the why behind things. Competing against other students isn't for me. My friends brag about their children's ranking on standardized tests. I don't care about it. Nice for them, and sure they have good smart kids. But I do not stress the competition of learning or being the best. Only to love the pursuit of that knowledge. His kindergarten class found an earthworm today and began a lesson on that. That is being a kid and learning. That is all that matters.

    Answer by frogdawg at 7:06 PM on Aug. 16, 2012

  • I think the end result we all want is college educated adult offspring with their own car and apartment, not sleeping on OUR couches til 3pm and asking us for gas and beer money

    I think at some point a PANIC was created and a mad rush to get kids on a fast track to a successful adulthood was born.

    Also, kids aren't allowed to be kids anymore. Nothing is like it used to be. Riding your bike with your friends til the sun goes down is too dangerous so they stay inside playing xbox and eating processed food. Snap bracelets and jelly shoes are now highlights on a 7 yr old and shorts so obscenely short that boys assume our daughters are trash and knock them up at 16.

    A loooooooooot has changed in the last 15-20 years. Pre K is the least of the worries.

    Personally for MY family I like a part time preschool at ages 3 and 4. Full time kindergarten at 5/6 and real school after that. But ever child/family has diff. needs.

    Answer by hibbingmom at 4:40 PM on Aug. 16, 2012

  • I've thought the same thing for the last couple of years. In some areas parents stress over applications for preschool and prek admissions, and will pay big bucks for the privilege of their kids being accepted.  I think its crazy.


    Answer by meooma at 4:34 PM on Aug. 16, 2012

  • Here (not sure if all of CO or just in my area) we have full day Kindergarten that is pretty much mandatory (age5) and free (public school district). Then we have Head Start that is either 1/2 day or full day, usually depending on age (3yo goes 1/2 day and 4yo goes full day). We also have several private preschools or 'daycare' programs that are more school-like because Head Start is income based and some might not qualify. Kindergarten has honestly gotten MUCH more like 1st grade, when we went for my dd's Kindergarten transition meeting (because she's in Speech therapy) the teacher and principal basically said the state standards are getting so tough that any child NOT coming in kindergarten already knowing ALL their letters and some words just fall way behind and bring the whole class down :-/

    Answer by DreainCO at 4:38 PM on Aug. 16, 2012

  • I have had the same sorts of thoughts. I did put my oldest (now age 8) in preschool at a private preschool (the early childhood center connected with the college where my husband works) starting at age 2 1/2 and I have not enrolled my younger twin sons (who recently turned 4) in any preschool programs. Our preschool experience was very good. I specifically valued the fact that it was play-based and the approach (emergent curriculum) was very important to me. What & how they learned emerged from the children's interests & experiences, and there was not a focus on "academic learning."
    These things still are important to me, but I am not looking to a (pre)school to provide them, and my younger two are having a rich experience at home. I think they'd love preschool, but I don't consider it a requirement or necessity.
    I did not push stuff like letter/number recognition with my girl (at all!) & she "screened" favorably at the public

    Answer by girlwithC at 12:19 AM on Aug. 17, 2012

  • school's kindergarten screening, even so. (It seemed pretty comprehensive and holistic, in terms of what they explored about the kids' abilities & understanding.) We decided to send her to a progressive private school with an emergent curriculum & constructivist approach rooted in Dewey's educational philosophy.
    "School readiness" in terms of knowing certain abstract information (this is an "A," this is a "6") isn't an issue at this school. The focus is on developing their full capacities & potential (not solely on intellectual or academic development.) Safety (in which to take risks, to speculate) & respect of individual process are key. There is not the pressure that you mentioned nor is there any comparison of kids, or evaluation of each child against an external standard. Students are observed & tracked closely in order to identify the meaning & growth in what they do.This comes to us in full narrative reports, not grades.

    Answer by girlwithC at 1:43 AM on Aug. 17, 2012

  • But I think the juggernaut you describe is real & prevalent. It probably reflects a pervasive perception of scarcity--that we're all competing for limited resources. Also, it may reflect a tendency not to fully recognize children as separate "others" but instead, to make them our projects, finding personal meaning & self-worth in "doing a great job" with them, which generates all this focus on their "development" & urgency toward making sure to give them "an edge." This may not serve their mental health & actual well-being, not to mention ours! Being driven, equating "worth" with specific kinds of success, focusing on Doing (how & what) over Being (who), don't really add up to self worth, satisfaction or intrinsic motivation.

    You might like this article. There's a relevant quote from a pediatrician (Dr. Gohill) on pg. 2

    Answer by girlwithC at 2:19 AM on Aug. 17, 2012

  • My child attends a great private school with an excellent preschool. Most parents select the school out of necessity. Day care or a school? So they chose to attend this school. It isn't rushed and based on the needs of each child. I will say if my son attended kindergarten at a public school he would have been ahead for a short time. Until others caught up and then who knows. But all of that academic instruction/learning I do credit his teachers with. We had very little pressure at home and focused just on good times as a family. Certainly if a parent works with their child they can have similar advantages going into kindergarten. I do know children with SAHM's who unfortunaty did not come in prepared. It was not because of poor parenting. Mainly because what is expected has changed. The parents simply didn't know and were shocked.

    Answer by frogdawg at 6:58 PM on Aug. 16, 2012

  • As I said, my daughter is in preschool two mornings a week. She looks forward to going and enjoys the time she has with her peers. I'm not overly worried that she's just beginning to recognize her letters and numbers now. She has a vivid imagination, lots of curiosity, and a vocabulary that surprises me every day. I can't send her out to ride her bike with her friends till the sun goes down because it really is too dangerous, but I want her to have a childhood. She'll go to kindergarten for a half a day, five days a week, and that will just have to be enough. I can't stand it when parents make kids into their projects and compare who got a tooth first, who walked the youngest, who weighed more at birth--it's ridiculous.

    Comment by Ballad (original poster) at 4:45 PM on Aug. 17, 2012