Is All Day Kindergarten Biologically Correct?

Amidst my cute and fun posts on kid's bedrooms and accessories, I've had a dark cloud hanging over me for the past week or two. My 6 year old's behavior has become unacceptable at school. Naturally, my immediate thoughts rush to: What did we do wrong in raising him?  Were we too lenient? Too harsh? I am also questioning a few socially-accepted parenting and educating ideas that we imposed on him.

"Tarzan" is very smart so his academics are fine, but his personality has always been a bit fiery. He loves soft comforting hugs, but also needs the tickling and wrestling with daddy. He is emotional, not sensitive, just emotional. When he's upset, he'll cry, when he's mad, he's MAD. At school, it's more about seeking attention: talking out, laughing too loud, impulsive, not keeping hands to himself. Sounds like a serious behavior issue, doesn't it? He's six.

As a former school counselor myself, I'm caught between two parallels:

the mom who wants to protect her child and the counselor who doesn't see the obvious because she's too close. I've been talking to him a lot about his behavior just as I did counseling 16 year olds. His teacher has put him on a behavior contract, just like I did with high school students. He can verbalize many things as well as a sixteen year old. He's six.

I question the behavior of other boys in his kindergarten class and their behavior seems to be no different than Tarzan's. I've also talked on mom forums and my son's behavior is no different than other kids, even better. I'm not making excuses and I certainly want my kids to be well behaved as any parent.

The teacher is concerned that he won't be ready for first grade because they do more academic work and have stricter behavior guidelines. Huh? I know adults that can't keep their attention on task, don't listen carefully and certainly can't sit for 6 hours.

While I'm impressed with the academics my little one is exhibiting, I am now questioning the all day kindergarten program. The standardized testing for 3rd and 4th grade has indeed trickled down to kindergarten. Get them ready for the tests in 2nd grade by beefing up the 1st grade curriculum. Prepare them for first grade by beefing up the kindergarten academics.

I firmly believe young kids can absorb mountains of academics, but are 5 and 6 year olds ready for the structured social arena of all-day school? I question this. I think most girls are but probably not most boys. Research has shown several gender differences through out the schooling years. Boys tend to lag in the early grades with maturity. Girls hit math and science plateaus around middle school years. The all-day kindergarten is relatively new and still not in every state.

I question my parenting. Did I yell too much - yes, I yelled when Tarzan was two, I yell now that he's six and I'll probably still yell next year - hopefully not as much. I never yelled before kids. Quiet, patient me never yelled before getting frustrated that my 2 year old wasn't picking up his toys. Society said toddlers should start picking up toys at 2 y.o. or even before. I now question this. All the parenting experts said we needed to start earlier teaching kids to help mommy by picking up toys. I became frustrated and felt like a bad parent because my toddler couldn't clean up when I told him to. This expectation was too high and I regret it.

Anyone hear of a pre-school that requires toddlers to be fully potty trained by three or even two? Ridiculous! Luckily, we didn't push at all with our guys. And training was a breeze at 3 1/2 - 4 years old. We rejected the societal push to have our kids trained "on time." I wish I had followed this philosophy with cleaning up toys, it would have saved mountains of frustration!

And now I question the all day kindergarten. Society has placed high expectations on six year olds. Think about that. High expectations on a SIX year old. How do six year old boys really behave? They are highly energetic,  crazy with their imaginations, expect constant attention, wild in their game playing and certainly change their tasks numerous times within 5 minutes!

As a society we can try new ideas and even impose high expectations, but we cannot change biology. We often hear the ideal "let kids be kids" or agree that as teens they are growing up too fast. Am I the only one that sees a parallel here? We push our kids to grow up earlier and stop acting like children when they are six and then complain in ten years when they ARE acting grown up!

Please, let's swing the pendulum back to the other side. Or at least center it.

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Mommy 2.0 said...

I could not agree with you more! I truly fear the future when it comes to our kids as teenagers for the very reason you expressed. Society cannot have it both ways. We cannot have high academic expectations of our kindergartners and force their cerebral maturity and then expect that they will turn back into little kids when they are tweens.

I was very disappointed when it was determined that my daughter was not "ready" for kindergarten and she had to "repeat" Pre-K. By "not ready", they meant she could not identify the sounds of the letters of the alphabet. Huh? I thought that is what you learned in Kindergarten (and even first grade). I was disappointed because socially and emotionally, she was ready for a new school experience, and I am still disappointed because I can see that she is bored and not challenged in her Pre-K. I am wishing I fought harder to get her started, but I let myself be talked in to the theory that being older in Kindergarten can only help the kids. I guess when they want them to be reading before 1st grade, I guess that is the case.

Emily said...

A lot of the parents in my area are having their little boys start school at the age of 6 instead of 5. I have my little guy, who is now 4, in a great preschool which he absolutely LOVES. I am hoping that his preschool experience helps him with the whole kindergarten experinece. I am so dreading the change to kindergarten!!!

Nan said...

Forgot to mention that a friend kept her boys doing kindergarten for only a half day. We are now considering this, along with holding both boys at their same grade for next year. Problem is I know they'd be bored as well as have lots of confusion. I'm hoping maybe this is a hiccup and things will be fine next year.

Trisha said...

I have girls,but I think your right about boys getting the hang of things later. I worked as an aid for a preschool & that seemed to be the case. It all evens out eventully. And by next year he could be ahead ! You just never know.

We're all day Kindergarten here & I questioned that too. When my oldest started I knew she was ready. But my 5 year old that started this year(youngest in her class) is totally diffent then her sis. It has worked out great but I was very worried.

Kathy said...

I'm so sorry you have to go through this, it can really turn you gray!! There can be so much that effects a kid and schools really tend to have a one size fits all policy. You know your child the best. I will say though that sometimes problems do pop up and at 6 it is really hard to tell what is just normal 6 behavior and what is a warning sign. Do you trust your peditrcian, could they give you some feedback or advice. Do you know of a counsler, someone you trust, that could give you honest feedback. I have been down this road and sometimes it really does pay to have an outsider, that you respect and trust give you their input, then you could make a decsion about what to do for next year. Just my two cents! Hang in there, I speak from experince, you will get through this! Take care!

Heather said...

I 100 percent agree with you! While I am pushing my two year old a little with reading, just because he is amazing with it. We went to his 2 year appointment last friday and the doctor was so impressed that he could identify letters and numbers just turning two, I in no way push him to try to do more than he's ready for or more than his little brain can handle. He is soo excited about books, and yes he does help clean up toys, but after a few minutes of helping, he is off in another direction with another thought in his head and it is completely normal. I agree we are pushing so much for them to be older, then when they start doing adult things in their teens, we are scolding them for trying to be too old. It has to be confusing in many waks for a child. "Why can't I be me", of course teaching responsibility is necessary, but I think making responsibility fun is key. So I question the structuring of schools. Seriously I think kindergarteners should have "silly hour" or dancing hour...maybe not one hour, probably more like ten to 15 minutes, but in that period of time they have the ability to get their energy out instead of being forced to sit in a chair all day long. I can't sit that long, don't know how I did it in elementary school. I need to move, and a six year old definitely needs to move.

Anyway, 'm following you from the Tuesday Blog Trail and I'd love for you to follow back when you get the chance.

Heather From and Mommy Only Has Two Hands!

eGarrison said...

So true! I am a Reading Specialist in Southern California and I work with a lot of kindergarteners toward the end of the year. Most of them are boys, and most of them are not ready to be reading (though CA standards say they must by the end of the year). My response to parents and teachers is that they are "just not ready to read," and their response is usually "but they must be reading by now!" It seems like public schools (at least here in CA) have such high expectations for kids that they don't always consider whether or not they are developmentally ready.

Heather said...

I stumbled your post!! :)

Margot Finke said...

Nan, I agree with the advice you have already received. Some kids, especially boys are not ready for heavy duty structure as early as six. Each child reacts differently when thrown into the kindergarten pool, and expected to "swim."

I think having your boy evaluated by a qualified professional would allay your fears - and his. Have your pediatrician recommend someone and see what they have to say about your son's behavior. He may just have a strong personality that needs to get a grasp of the limits he can push.

Teachers, friends and you can only guess about if or what his problem is. Getting sound professional advice + an evaluation to back it up, will give you to tools you need to face teachers, and deal with your son's problem - if he has one.

Good luck, mate. Let us know what transpires.

Margot's Magic Carpet - all my books on one page. WIN a copy - Read a sample page.

Angela said...

I can't agree more. By the time my 2 year old is in school our province will have all day kindergarten in all the schools. I'm already nervous for her and she's only going to be 3 next month. I don't know that she'll be able to handle being in school all day long.

Thanks for following Mommy Time Out

La Donna said...

I have a two great books to recommend to you. Dare to Discipline and Bringing Up Boys by Dr.James Dobson I used to be a first grade teacher before staying at home and after reading his book I understood why my 1st grade boys acted the way they did. It was very insightful and I wish I would've read it b/f I started teaching. I would've been a lot more understanding with thier behavior. He also touches a lot on the whole age appropriate schooling issue. Hope this helps some.

Valerie said...

Nan, AMEN! Kids (most especially boys) are expected to SIT and listen which is contrary to their active, curious, exploring minds. It's also my opinion that forcing a child to be sedentary 6+ hours of the day is a bad idea and sets the stage for sedentary behavior for the rest of their lives. Physical activity is vital. :)

Eight years and counting said...

Dear Nan,
I have two boys, 8 and 5. My 5 year old is in full day Kindergarten and he is the youngest in his class. We opted not to hold him back because he was our second and felt that in so many other areas he was ready for a new school experience.
I also work with children with special needs, and I've learned that while many boys may have a slow start in some areas, they often make a speedy recovery. That was the case with our first son. He had great difficulty learning to read in K, but got extra help in first grade and now in 2nd he is an accelerated reader.
Our 5 year old seems to be reading with ease. On the other hand, he demonstrates more areas of frustration in the classroom. It is important in a full day Kindergarten program that children have ample time throughout the day to relax and let go. Each classroom should have academic activities along with "choice time," recess, lunch, music, art, gym, stories etc. Kids at this age need time to stretch and move throughout the day- this helps them when it is time to sit still and focus on learning.
They should also vary learning in small groups, large groups and one on one.
I would speak to your son's teacher and suggest that perhaps he needs a second snack during the day, inquire if he is eating well at lunch, and make sure he is getting enough rest at night. Suggest that when his attention wanders that he should jump up and down a few times to try to regain his focus. Also try getting more protein into his diet to sustain him throughout the day, and cut out sugary breakfasts and glutans.
Hope that helps.
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Rustic and White said...

I am in the education field, in another country and would absolutley love for that pendulum to swing and then STAY in the middle!!! Thanks for voicing your thoughts!!

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