Kindergarten – To Go or Not To Go?

Apparently I blinked. And suddenly, my sixth child will be starting Junior Kindergarten in September.

Six kids in elementary school. There was a time I never thought I’d see the day, and now I feel like I don’t want to see the day.

My other five children attended kindergarten for half days every day. It suited us perfectly. We established a nice daily routine. On the days I worked, Nanny Hazel was there for them, so I never had daycare issues or logistics to juggle.

Next year, our school is providing full day kindergarten – every single day. I’m just not sure how I feel about this.

My teacher friends assure me that it’s play-based and kid-directed. Children move at individual levels and are free to let their own interests guide their learning.

But then I’m left wondering:

–          If I don’t have to send my kid, should he go? He’ll be in the “system” for a heck of a long time. Do I need my four-year old to be gone all day, every day?

–          If I don’t send him, is he going to somehow fall behind or not be as stimulated as the other children?

Look at how things are done in Finland. Finnish kids start school at 7-years old, get 75 minutes of recess a day and don’t have exams or homework until they are teens. Yet Finland’s schools get top ranking for international education systems.

Then sometimes I think that I’m just in denial that my baby is growing up. When you’ve had babies at home as long as I have, it feels just plain weird to think about an empty house with no more daytime play dates, walks, or Mommy and Me gymnastics.

So, what do you think? Full-day kindergarten – yes or no?

Julie Cole

Author: Julie Cole

Julie Cole is the co-founding vice-president of award-winning children’s label manufacturer Mabel’s Labels. She has helped her company bring their product to a worldwide market, gain media recognition and win countless entrepreneur awards. Cole is a regular television contributor, an influential and syndicated blogger and a mother of six. Follow her on twitter @juliecole and Instagram @cole.julie

34 thoughts

  1. I’m not that interested in it for my daughter who starts next fall (1 more year). She does really well with 3 days of preschool but I love our two weekdays together. Why rush that? I’ve been researching home schooling as well, as this seems to be becoming more and more mainstream these days. Perhaps that will be a possibility for us as well.

  2. I believe it depends on your child. Some are rearing to go and can’t get enough like my daughter who is now eight. We were the last year of part time kindergarten. For half the year it was two hours a day and the second half three hours a day. My daughter didn’t want to leave, she stayed behind and played until the next class came in. It helped that her teacher was extraordinary and loved her imagination and the class was full of wonderful dress ups. So yes, I wished it were full days but I may have really missed her at the same time if she had been gone all day. I am a rare stay at home full time Mom that can’t wait to pick her up each day and hear what has happened that day.

  3. Not a fan of full day kindergarten. Glorified daycare as far as I’m concerned. We have students in Grade 12 now being told they no longer have the luxury of a Victory Lap and I believe that full day kindergarten is the reason. We have 17 year olds going off to university! Seriously! Many are just not ready for this independence (especially boys! I’m the mom of three boys). McGuinty made a big mistake here, and as a teacher, we are all paying for it (students, teachers and special education— there is NO money left after this debacle!) I’m losing EA support of deserving children because of the lack of funding due to this initiative! Hot spot for me! 🙁

    1. Not every boy isn’t ready…quite the generalization. My son loves school and can’t wait for his school to switch next year to every day. Depends on the child.

  4. I agree with Melanie. As a retired teacher of K, JK, Grade 1, I recognize that our kids now are further ahead in some ways, but full time JK is brutal. I believe it is a way to get kids into school so parents can work,… more work,… more taxes and I don’t think the Gov’t cares a hoot about the well-being of the children. Of course they cope. They cope with a lot of things. It’s not what we want for them.
    I wouldn’t have given up my time teaching small children for anything. They are precious to us all, and need to be valued.

  5. Not in favour at all. I’m lucky I’m a stay at home mom, but I’ve always had the attitude that they are kids and need to play. I think half a day is enough. I’ve volunteered in my 4 1/2 year old’s JK class this past year and they are all exhausted (including the SKs) after the morning. So, my plan is to see how every day goes next year (ours is switching to full-day next year as well), but if he’s tired, I’ll keep him home. I do not believe our kids are going to miss a lot by not sending them every day full day.

  6. For women who have bills to pay, full day programs are not a choice. Its a necessity for my children to be in a full day program while I am working. For those woman who do not need to be employed, that’s great, you have a choice. But for women who work, these programs are just another fact of life.

      1. I agree! It is a fact of life for both you and your child when both parents (given they are both active participators) are working full time. The funding should have most definitely gone into FDK, without a doubt! As a full time working Mom, with layoffs in the workforce and other such struggles, it was difficult to keep up with the cost of daycare. FDK does not cost anything! Not to mention that my child (being 4yrs old and in FDK for 3 months now) has learned FAR MORE at FDK than in any daycare program. But to address the elephant in the room, Full day – every day – Kindergarten is a lot! And I know come mid week my daughter is exhausted. Sometimes passing out on the floor or the couch at 5pm (Sometimes you leave the room for 2 minutes and come back to find them half propped up against a wall in mid-play) and sleeping right through until late morning if allowed. I make a point to take advantage of the weekdays I might have off and keep her home with me. I do believe that merely having the option is key, whether your a stay at home parent who can keep them home whenever they need it or a full time working parent that needs the support and values a sound place for your child that guarantees play and educational stimulation. This is a much better option than daycare in my opinion!

  7. I think the more important topic of discussion here is HOW CUTE IS THAT BABY?? I want to rub that little fuzzy head.

  8. My son is in full day JK and it’s too much. We’re lucky that I’m at home so if he’s tired or has had enough he can stay home with me.

    i think as a society we push schooling very heavily, but that forcing kids into full time school at ages 3-4 is too much. If the govt wanted to help working parents they should have put the money into a daycare strategy instead.

  9. We had a pretty perfect set up. Our school was every other day when The Boy went to JK, and this year he was every day SK. He was ready, though. I think he could have handled full days, every day. Like others have said, depends on the child. Sending a child for only half days, or every other day, in a class that’s actually full day, every day would be very hard, though. Seems to me as if it’s all or nothing. And I lean toward the “all”. Full day,every day kindergarten has been great for my son. (Even last year on the days he didn’t go, he wanted to. Hard watching the older sibling go off to school when he wasn’t joining in.)

    And as far as “homework”, I’m not a pusher of that at all. I figure my kids have been in school all day, they don’t need to do stuff at home, unless they want to. I encourage, but don’t force school work at home.

  10. My oldest was 3 years and 10 months when he started kindergarten (he’s a December baby) and I couldn’t imagine him going all day every day. And even though my second son was one of the kids who would have thrived in an all day environment, I was glad he was only full days every second day. There’s so much more to life than academics. They’re going to be in the school system for such a long time, why are we rushing it and making it even longer. I would love to adapt the Finland system here.

  11. I’m spending $800+ a month to have my son in private montessouri half days just to keep him out of full day kindergarten

  12. My daughter is just finishing full-day JK, every other day. There are pros and cons. I think the biggest factor is what is best for the child. My daughter is very social, does not experience separation anxiety and enjoys learning, so she has adored school. For myself, I did not like the inconsistent schedule of every other day and also felt a full day at times really tired her out. I would have preferred the half-day/every day option for us, but that’s just us. Next year is full-day, every day for her also, so we will see how that works out! Best of luck with your decision… : )

  13. Hi Julie
    I’ve taught both full-day alternate-day kindergarten and half-day kindergarten, and teach at a school that was in the first round of the full-time kindergarten program. My kids (now 12 and 15) both attended half-day programs. The biggest ‘best-fit’ factor really does lie with the individual child, and as a parent, you know your child best. Here are a few things to take into consideration:
    1) Your child’s temperament, age, health and level of independence. If you have a high-energy child who hasn’t seen an afternoon nap since before his second birthday, has an immune system of steel and needs constant entertainment, your answer is easy. It’s also easy if you have a napper, is a ‘young’ four (not necessarily a December baby, but ‘young’ in terms of emotional attachment or self-help skills etc.) that helps with the decision too.
    2) What is your heart telling you? They’re only little once.
    3) Finances. That’s the reality of our times. Can you afford not to?
    4) The benefit of routine. This is why our kids went to a school out of area (by one street) to half day kindergarten. Having taught both programs, I saw the benefit of going to school each day, versus the long day two or three times a week, then not going to school for four days in a row on some weeks.
    5) The length of the day. Even if your child is registered in full day kindergarten, there is no law saying he has to attend for the entire day. It may make the most sense for a young child entering Junior Kindergarten to start the year attending half days and build up to full days as the year progresses. This has been a very comfortable way for many children to ease into full-time schooling. Baby steps.

    Well Julie, thanks for the writing prompt. I think I’ll copy this and use it as a post. Best wishes with your decision! I’m sure whatever you decide, it will work out just fine! As long as everyone is working for your son’s best interest, you can’t go wrong!

  14. Ours has not been a good experience. Even now, in June (10 months in) my DD4 is complaining about school, how she hates school, can she please stay home, the day is too long….the list is endless. She is on the young side, a September baby. She also takes the big school bus -which she also hates (and makes me tear up, every morning). The day is too long. There apparently is no time in their curriculum for naps according to the teachers (she still naps almost 2 hours every Sat & Sun) There is almost 30 kids in her class, she says it’s too noisy and often has a head ache. I can’t imagine how much attention she can get even with teacher and TA, it’s still 15 kids per adult. She has homework!!
    I was a stay at home mom for the first 4 years. If I could afford to stay home longer, I would have and skipped the whole JK thing- or sent her for a half a day. I don’t think we’re doing our kids any favours by sending them to school so early. It’s been an emotional roller coaster of a school year for all of us.

    1. Thanks, I appreciated this comment. Sounds exactly like my situation. My son is 4, first born in the family, born in August, and he doesn’t want to go to full day, everyday JK at all. It is causing me so much stress and not helping my relationship with my son… I think I need to allow myself to say… “hey my kid is 4 and isn’t ready for this…” So thanks your comment really helped me.

  15. I agree with Ida-Mae, my daughter is a January baby and is soooo ready for FDK but her school is one of the last to adopt it so it won’t start until she’s in SK. Her younger brother though, is a December baby and will be soooo young for FDK. It is definitely a decision that needs to be made based on the child. I didn’t realize they don’t have to go so I may consider easing my little guy into it when the time comes. Thanks for the idea!!

  16. With my first child, I’d never have even considered full-day kindergarten. My second child, however? I know he’d do okay. He’s almost finished his first year of half days only junior kindergarten, and he’s 5 years old, because he’s a January baby. I know next year he’d benefit MORE if his senior kindergarten class was full-day. Sadly, his school is not getting full-days until the year he starts grade one, and the thought of putting in the school next door (the school that currently DOES offer full-day kindergarten) is not a viable option, mostly because we A. love the school they go to so much, and B. my boys both won’t even DISCUSS this! They love going to the same school. (Yeah… I listen to my kids… ;))
    So… I guess… it depends on the child. It would be so helpful for me to not have to worry about who will be him up at noon, because three trips to the school is hard to plan when both parents work outside the home!

  17. My son is just finishing J/K. He goes full days every other day. On his off days I sent him to an alternate school. Thankfully his school switches to full day every day in September. I couldn’t be happier. Yes it’s sad that my oldest will be off to school everyday but he needs to be in school learning, not at home or running errands with me. Kids need structure and a routine and not going to the same school everyday can throw them off. Everyday my son would ask which school he was going to that day.
    I’m a big supporter of all day kindergarten.

  18. To me, the difficult piece of the situation isn’t if they are ready today, but how will they be at 12-14. Will they be too young from a maturity standpoint when compared with their classmates? I come from an area that errors on holding kids back and think that is usually best in the long run.

  19. My son is a late dec. baby and we skipped Jk, I’m still on the fence for sk. He is terrified to go, he loves to play but is a very gentle boy and is often afraid of the pushier kids. I am lucky enough to be able to stay at home and am really torn as to what to do. So much pressure from social convention makes me feel I have to put him in sk.

  20. Does anyone know of any parents who are sending their JK/SK children every other day? I believe my daughter is ready for kindergarten. She doesn’t nap any more, knows her letters and sounds, etc., but I still feel there are valuable experiences to be had at home.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *