Should my child go to a full-day kindergarten? I have a choice.

Yes!  Research shows that

  • Students in full-day programs learn more than in half- day kindergartens, particularly in reading and math. Most full-day programs are 4.5 to 6 hours daily, while most half-day classes are 2 to 3 hours daily (30 hours weekly v. 15 hours weekly).

    Reading time in full-day and half-day kindergarten.

    Making the Most of Kindergarten: Present Trends and Future Issues in the Provision of Full-day Programs by Debra J. Ackerman, W. Steven Barnett, and Kenneth B. Robin (March 2005)

  • Full-day programs allow the student to spend close to an hour on self-directed activities which are linked to long-term learning, compared to about a half hour for such activities in half-day programs.

However, most states do not require districts to offer full-day kindergartens.

  • Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, West Virginia and the District of Columbia require districts to offer full-day kindergartens.
  • Thirty-four other states require half-day kindergartens; however, many districts in those states offer full-day kindergarten.
  • Five states—Alaska, Idaho, Michigan, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania—do not require school districts to offer any kind of kindergarten, though most districts do.

The trend to attend kindergarten full-days is growing.  Only ten percent of kindergarteners attended full-days in the 1970’s, while more than half do now.

What is driving this trend?

  • Research showing academic gains by children in full-day programs is convincing legislators to budget more state money for full-day kindergartens.
  • The rigor of Common Core standards may be spurring longer kindergarten days.
  • The emphasis on early learning in general (prekindergarten through third grade) and the push to make all kids readers by third grade has educators looking for more time to teach children.

My older two children attended half-day kindergarten in Michigan—all that was offered in the school they attended.  But my youngest child attended full-days in Georgia.  He had not attended a pre-K program, so he found the long day in school tiring at first even though, after lunch, the lights went out and the blinds were drawn while the children lay on mats and were encouraged to nap.  Within a few weeks he had adjusted, paging through picture books while his friends napped.

Did I notice an academic advantage in my third child?  No.  Would I send all three to full-day kindergarten now if I had that opportunity?  Yes.  The growing research convinces me that full-day kindergarten gives children an advantage as they start first grade.  Other research shows that many students eventually lose that advantage as they move on to second and third grades.  However, that cannot be blamed on the kindergarten program.  –Mrs. K

I think the issue of full day kindergarten has changed from years ago.  The real question is, “What will my child be doing during the other half of the day if he is not in school?”  If a parent is lucky enough to be a full-time, stay-at-home parent, then maybe the child will be better off getting more TLC at home.   But if both parents are working, then those parents will probably want full day kindergarten .

One of my children had full-day kindergarten.  The other one had half-day kindergarten and half-day daycare.  My grandson is lucky enough to live in one of the three states that offer free preschool for four year olds.  He attends a half day program five days a week.  It seems to me that this year of preschool for four year olds is very much like what we used to call half-day kindergarten.  –Mrs. A

How about you?  Did you send your child to full-day kindergarten?  To half-day kindergarten?  Did it make a difference?

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