K is for Kindergarten

When my wife and I went to kindergarten in the 1950s (me) and 1960s (her), it was designed to acclimate us to going to school, learning how to be away from home, and an attempt to teach rudimentary things such as learning songs and telling time.

I still remember the Roman-numeraled clocks in my classroom, and the yellow rug that I, and a year later, my sister Leslie used to take our naps. In fact, I specifically remember once waking up at 11:45 a.m. and realizing that no one was there. I actually fell asleep at naptime, and Miss Cady let me sleep, knowing I would just get up and go home afterward. (If a teacher did that now, he or she almost certainly would be fired.)

The book pictured in this post above was/is actually a gift to my wife Carol from her family just before she actually went to kindergarten. The lead character in the book is coincidentally also named Carol.

But now my daughter is now in kindergarten, and it is far from the “children’s garden” its name suggests. In the United States, it has evolved from that “transition from home to the commencement of more formal schooling” to the “first year of compulsory education.” Where once kindergarten was where kids learned skills through creative play and social interaction,” in half-day increments, it is now often the full-day entry level to the standard curriculum.

I mean, my daughter has HOMEWORK! Not just learn the numbers and letters, but adding numbers and combining letters to make words. It’s far more rigorous than her mother and I experienced in the day.

There is this 87-page PDF from early in this century called Original Purpose and Development of Kindergarten in California, which addresses these issues

…kindergarten, inspired by precursor early childhood education concepts, included children from ages six and seven to as young as two and three. It sought to lead children gently “over the threshold of learning by the seductive charm of music, flowers, games, pictures, and curious objects.” Later, kindergarten was integrated into the first to 12th grade system, gradually and subtly changing its focus to emphasize emergent literacy and early academic skills. An apparent consequence was that the minimum entry age was raised several times to its current level. This philosophical divergence is still not fully resolved.

The daughter got a note home from school at the end of the semester, noting that she missed nine days from school, mostly for illness. We were informed that she won’t pass into 1st grade if she misses more than 28 days for the year. Could she “fail” kindergarten? She IS graded on concepts such as “identifies sight words in text”, “interprets data from graphs”, and “communicates ideas, feelings and elements of design,” and is doing well.

This is NOT her parents’ kindergarten.

I’d write more, but I have to go help her with her homework now.

ABC Wednesday

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

30 thoughts on “K is for Kindergarten”

  1. I loved that book!!! What a memory jog! Since I have a Sept. birthday I started Kindergarten at (gasp!) four yrs old. Unheard of today I think. I was always very happy at nap time. What a wonderful idea "to lead children gently over the threshold of learning"…

  2. yes, kindergarten has changed a lot even in the last 20 years when mine were younger. Nowadays they want them to already know letters and numbers! I thought that's what they were suppose to teach them in their first year of school!

  3. That is shocking to learn your teacher just left yoou there to sleep.
    School is definitely different from when I was in kindergarten in the 40's. Sometimes I think kids nowadays don't know how to play or just pretend. To me thats a fundamental part of maturing.

  4. Great post and did stir up memories of when I taught kindergarten in the late 60s!! Was very different even then from today! Hope you have a great week!


  5. As I see it kids are pressured too early to learn. They should spend more time just being kids.
    Another great, informative post.

  6. Yes the 50s were definitely a more relaxed time and a great time to be a kid, I may be biased.
    The letter for absence reminds me of my friend who was sent a letter on red paper castigating her for her son's absence, (he had been very ill). I don't think they will be doing that again after she visited them.

  7. Brings back memories of 'Janet & John' and 'Peter & Jane' books from my childhood.

  8. Roger, I totally remember that book! I always thought the illustrator created the best faces.

    My two daughters are grown and I was always proud to say they received their education in a public school. I stayed involved, but I don't remember helping them that much with their homework. I agree with Sue (Photowannabe) that children today need more time to just "be" – pretend play is very educational.

    Good luck on the homework!

  9. I hope she at least has recess twice a day! I think we all need recess twice a day where run out onto the play yard and play as hard as we can for that 10 or 15 minutes then come back in and go to work. I think we'd be a much more productive society

  10. The circle goes round and round. In 1906 my mother started school at the age of four!

  11. I don't remember going to a kindergarten then , straight into the grade 1 ( Primary 1 here). Nowadays kids as young as 2-3 are already in pre-school and have to learn a lot of things!

  12. Klever and kind post! I'm having a though time finding a 'k' word photo – maybe kind? Hmmm.
    Isn't amazing about homework in Kindergarten! I'm just sorry that I'm still battling about homework in 9th grade with my son.

  13. Kendrick is in Junior Kinder and will be in Senior this fall. I'm excited for him.
    I never attend Kinder,I went straight to first grade, during those times, in my home country, only those who can "afford" can go to kinder,at least that's what i think but my mom told me I don't have to go to kinder bec I'm already smart *wink*

  14. How cute…kindergarten! I actually taught kindergarten many years ago. Once I moved into the upper grades and then middle school, I never looked back. I do have such fond memories of my teaching days and my own children while in kindergarten…great post for "K."

  15. We have the same tendency over here, though they don't get graded or none fails due to sickness (or for other reasons) – but that is perhaps only a matter of time?

  16. Wow .. homework from kindergarten?? That seems wrong. If we feel children could benefit from earlier introduction to academic subjects, surely it would be better to just move everything forward a year and still allow for the transition stage?

    And what about the children who develop more slowly, and just aren't ready?

  17. That's funny that the German word Kindergarten is used in English !
    Gattina from the ABC team

  18. Homework at kindergarten? I had been a teacher at kindergarten, before I got my teacher's degree for the elementaryschool, and our school was like yours: nice, friendly with singing, story telling and playing. The first groups at the elementary school are also nice with all kind of plays. A child learns reading and writing much better if it's done in a playful way. Later when I taught English, I invented all kind of games to enlarge one's vocabulary.

  19. Many changes in education. It's hard to believe a kindergartener would have homework. Great post –

  20. Kindergarten today sounds much more like the actual first grade. I guess five is now the new six. 🙂

  21. A very interesting post. Education in the UK is going in a very similar direction. Every so often there are great debates about whether we push the youngest children too soon. There is even some evidence that they ultimately learn better if formal schooling is started later but that hasn't been followed up in the schools.

  22. In my day, Kindy was optional, when my friends who went to Kindy, and I didn't, started primary 1, they knew their ABCs, and I didn't.

  23. Oh.. How hard it was to Lucas to get used to kindergarten, he wanted to stay at home! Here in Brazil it's usually in the afternoons, from 1pm to 5, 5:30pm. I agree with you about how it changed along the years – I do remember when I went, on the 70's, it was still more like what it was on your time!

    Now my little wich is already on the 2nd elementary year, with all ersponsibilities involved, poor boy! :o)

    Loved reading about this part of your childhood, I could almost see you sleeping on the yellow rug!

    Kisses from Nydia.

  24. Great post! This is something that I wrestle with in education – the way both the US and Canada have turned to standardized testing and curriculum loaded with expectations. Where is the joy of learning, spur of the moment adventures?
    In Kindergarten they are only 4 and 5 for goodness sake!
    Retirement from teaching can't come too soon!

  25. I remember sleeping at my kindergarten…nice to bring back ol'memories..:)

  26. What a thought-provoking post! Yes, I went to kindergarten too. And now I have a child in "pre-school" and other in second grade, but where we are, I don't think it is possible to "fail" pre-school! The pressure does not start until first grade. So I think it depends where you live.
    We live in a middle-sized city in Sweden (less that a million in population).
    Very nice post.
    Best wishes,

  27. Could a child ever really live down the stigma of flunking kindergarten? What a terrible introduction to formal education.

    I know I had a hard time with kindergarten because I started reading at 3 years old, and I had a teacher who wanted me to digress and read stuff so far below my academic level that I was easily bored and chose to find other outlets for my energy. Imagine, me, sweet innocent me, a five year old terror!

    Great K work, it brought back memories.

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