Searching for answers: Half-day or full-day kindergarten?
by Yvonne Klemets Wright
There are nearly 11 months in front of me before I have to send my baby on a bus I am fretting. The big question: Full-day or half-day kindergarten? It’s a topic of much discussion and one that I cannot come to rest with. I have been researching answers—from searching online reviews, student ratios and professional advice, to discussing with parents and educators alike. So, what’s best?
Quality over quantity
It depends on what is happening the other part of the time. A lot of factors are involved: The abilities and needs of the child, resources and abilities of the parents, what else is available in the community and most important, the quality of the kindergarten itself.
What I have found is that the argument for a full-day kindergarten program should not be based on making kids smarter but should be based on having time for hands-on discovery, experimenting and time for deeper, richer, more developmentally appropriate learning. Why would we compress kindergarten into half a day and then have many of the children bused home to watch television?
One size does not fit all
Some educators argue that the majority of 5-year-olds in the United States today already are more accustomed to being away from home much of the day, more aware of the world around them, and more likely to spend a large part of the day with peers than were children of previous generations. They believe full-day programs provide a relaxed, unhurried school day with more time for a variety of experiences, greater opportunity for screening and assessment to detect and deal with potential learning problems, and more occasions for good quality interaction between adults and students.
Others educators prefer half-day, every day kindergarten. They argue that a half-day program can provide high quality educational and social experience for young children while orienting them adequately to school. Specifically, half-day programs are viewed as providing continuity and systematic experience with less probability of stress than full-day programs. Proponents of the half-day approach believe that, given the child’s attention span, level of interest, and home ties, a half-day 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.
Curriculum is the only thing that matters
While both full-day and half-day programs have advantages and disadvantages, it is worth noting that length of the school day is only one dimension of the kindergarten experience. In general, research suggests that, as long as the curriculum is developmentally appropriate and intellectually stimulating, either type of scheduling can provide an adequate introduction to school.
Sound off! What are your thoughts and experiences with full-day vs half-day kindergarten?
Information in this article was adapted in part from http://dpi.wi.gov