Kindergarten, full or half day, which one is better? By: Matthew Lamphere
Kindergarten is the stage in school after preschool and before first grade. The students age from five to six years old. Typically, kindergarten has been a half day program, meaning students only go for a fraction of the day. However, this is a trend that is starting to change. Many schools are starting to incorporate a full day kindergarten program, which would make the school day a full, normal day for the student.
Kindergarten used to be strictly taught inside of a school district. Now, kindergarten is being taught in a number of different places. School still hold kindergarten, but so do: “daycares, preschools, nursery schools, Head Start, and Montessori schools” (Brannon 57). This allows parents many options, would can be a good or bad thing. They can pick the best fitting option for them and their child, but at the same time can be overwhelmed and become stressed. What ever option they pick, they need to know that kindergarten is very important. It teaches many important things. Students “learn about their world, themselves, and others. It is where many children begin to form their impressions about themselves as learners, friends, and members of society” (Brannon 57). Kindergarten “is also where students formally begin to acquire the literacy skills they will use throughout their lifetime. Therefore, it is important that parents choose a kindergarten program they feel will be appropriate for their child” (Brannon 57). The option of either a full or half day program adds just another decision for the parents to make. What is important to know is that both types of programs have their pros and cons.
Switching to full day kindergarten has it’s benefits for both the student and the parents. The decision to send the child to a full day kindergarten is “influenced by the level of confidence parents felt in being able to teach their child” (Brannon 58). If a parent believes that they are unable to correctly help their child with his learning, they can choose full day kindergarten and get some of the load taken off. The child will be in the classroom all day allowing the student more opportunities for learning. Socializing is another benefit of full day kindergarten. The students are around their peers for the entire day, instead of just a couple hours, allowing them to interact for longer periods of time. Choosing full day kindergarten can also help the child transition their way into grade school. Half day kindergarten can be seen as preschool, but with more learning. The day is so short that the students are not really getting ready for the upcoming school year. When they start first grade they will be in school for an entire day. Full day kindergarten tries to bridge this gap. The students are in a classroom setting for an entire day, but are not being overloaded with learning. Part of the day is leisure time for the students. This presents the idea of a full day of school while allowing them to gradually get more information as they proceed on in school. Some parents also believe that their child’s self-esteem actually improves from going to all day kindergarten. One parent stated, “my second child is very proud to be a full-dayer. It’s like she is wearing a badge on her shirt that says she is no longer in preschool” (Brannon 59). Full day kindergarten makes kids think they are more mature because they are going to school longer. That last benefit for the parents is convenience. The parents no longer have to make daycare arrangements for after school because their kids just stay at school the entire day.
Schools can also see many benefits with implementing a full day kindergarten program. Schools can actually receive more funding if they switch to a full day system. “Some states provide more state aid for full day students” (Rothenberg 2). Unfortunately, the funding does not always cover the cost of the program itself. If states really want to encourage schools to do a full day program “funding formulas would have to change in order for these schools to benefit financially” (Rothenberg 2). Another reason full day programs are being put in place is to please the parents. Some parents would rather have a full day kindergarten for their convenience, so schools that offer them are making the parents happy. Some states are starting to “require school districts to offer full-day kindergarten” (Chen 1). Again, the states will need to change how they give aid to the schools in order to make it a requirement. Some states are already starting to offer special incentives for schools that have a full day program available.
In the past, a normal kindergarten class lasted about three hours. After this the student would go home for the rest of the day. A full day kindergarten program would have the students in a classroom for six hours. Three of those hours would be for learning and the other three would be free time for the students. Both situations would offer the same curriculum, but the full day would have the advantage of having the kids in a class longer. This would allow kids to interact longer with each and still be in a learning enviroment.
Full day kindergarten has some great advantages. Children in these programs learn more and have better test scores. Students “who attend full-day kindergarten learn more in reading and math over the kindergarten year than those in half-day kindergarten” (Chen 2). The kids also show better behaviors and social skills. They show “more independent learning, classroom involvement, productivity in work with peers and reflectiveness” (Chen 2). The kids are learning how to better handle themselves in a classroom setting and with others because they are spending more time being in that setting. Full day kindergarten also helps to close the achievement gap. What this means is kids that come from a less fortunate background succeed more on the level of their peers. In fact, “full-day kindergarten helps children from low income families perform better and saves the school district millions of dollars through significantly reduced grade retention in first, second and third grade” (Chen 2). The day is also more relaxed in a full day setting. This is because it is more of an “unhurried school day with more time for a variety of experiences, for screening and assessment opportunities, and for quality interaction between adults and students” (Rothenberg 3). The last advantage is that it helps the students prepare better for the first grade.
There are also disadvantages to having a full day kindergarten program. The cost of running a full day program are pretty high, it would take a lot of funding. This is because more teachers and helpers would be needed in order to keep the classrooms organized and controlled. The costs of the program may actually out-weigh the savings that the school would be receiving. Full day programs will also require more classroom spaces. This is especially true if enrollment rates increase. They would need more and more classes based on how many kids signed up for the program. The schools might start running out of room. Also, you do not want to throw too much information at a child that young. That will not retain the information like they need to in order to succeed in later grades. Lastly, the play part of the day might start feeling more like a day care. This is the basic concept of a day care and is something that should be avoided. The students should still be learning a little in the time period.
Half day programs obviously have their benefits, why else would they have lasted so long. First off, they give the kids a type of stability. The kids will know a routine that they will do everyday, their days will be planned out. This also puts less stress on the kids because they are being told what to do rather than trying to figure out on their own what to do during play time. Half day kindergarten also “offers ample time in school and allows more time for the young child to play and interact with adults and other children in less-structured home or child care settings” (Rothenberg 3). This basically means that the children are not going to be stuck in a classroom all day. And based on this amount of time, it meets the levels of the attention spans and interest levels.
Half day programs also have their disadvantages, otherwise why would we want to get away from them? The first disadvantage is the fact that it interrupts the child’s day. It disrupts “children midday to move them from one program to another and inconveniencing parents” (Rothenberg 4). The parents must then figure out a means of transportation for their child and then they will have to go pick their child up from a daycare rather than directly from the school. This costs parents more money. Half day programs also do not allow students the chance to go on field trips or participate in assemblies.
Full day kindergarten is definitely the way of the future, as long as states start properly funding the program. The benefits of a full day kindergarten do out-weigh those of a half-day. Some starts are already starting to make these programs mandatory for schools. And lastly, schools could eventually save money.
Kindergarten Full or Half day, which one is better By: Matthew Lamphere