Full Day Kindergarten & Preschool? I Don’t Think So

“Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not YET sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favour; a long habit of not thinking a thing WRONG, gives it a superficial appearance of being RIGHT, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom.” – Thomas Paine, Common Sense (italics mine)

A month ago an article appeared in the Provo Daily Herald entitled, “Alpine district fights to save extended day kindergarten.” (http://bit.ly/hveGpk) In this article, ASD argues for continued funding for all-day kindergarten citing what an amazing job it’s doing to help prepare students for 1st grade. Really? Any stats on that? How about the emotional toll on 5 year olds separated from their parents all day? Can we get any stats on the long term effects of that?

Among the credits ASD has amassed are:
1) creation of the state charter school board for refusing to approve charter schools within the district
2) providing the impetus for the legislature to raise the state math standards due to use of Investigations math (for which they still haven’t found a study to support it)
3) contributing to UVU’s 70% math remediation rate
4) getting the Utah state superintendent to ban Investigations and Connected math (then ASD told teachers it’s still OK to use them)
5) and now they are proponents of perhaps the most damaging program yet: all-day kindergarten and preschool where children as young as 3 years old are taken away from the nurturing care of parents in the name of “giving them a head start.”

In one longitudinal study comparing full-day and half-day kindergarteners, the study concluded that where disadvantaged children made gains over their half-day economically advantaged counterparts, by the start of 1st grade these gains were lost, thus proving that length of time in kindergarten isn’t as big a factor as what happens in the home. http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~content=a917515793&db=all

Senator Howard Stephenson mentioned a couple of books to me a few months ago which I’ve been reading. The books are “School Can Wait” and “Better Late Than Early” by Raymond and Dorothy Moore. Raymond has been a classroom teacher, a school district superintendent, worked at a university, as well as a federal level policy maker. His experiences led him and his wife into researching the literature to find out what they could about when children are truly ready for structured school. The introductory paragraph of their book “School Can Wait” reads:

“We are losing ground academically and behaviorally in the education of our children. The expenditure of ever larger sums for our schools appears to provide little or no relief. The more time and money we spend, the greater the problem grows. It is possible we do not fully understand the developmental needs of our children and that we place our personal freedoms ahead of theirs. We are captivated or persuaded or pressured by conventional wisdom and practice in a system that places vested interests ahead of helpless youngsters. It is conceivable that we are paying our money for state “services” that endanger our children, then paying it again for state attempts at their remedy-remedy of the very problems that they, with our cooperation, have created.” (emphasis mine)

The education system is broken. Educrats have to come up with new twists and ideas on how to fix the problems we face and they never step back to consider if they may have created the problems in the first place. It’s unfathomable to them that they are the source of the very problems we see in our schools because that would contradict their own belief system. It’s beyond reason to them that they have been duped by prominent national educators who have an Agenda to dumb down our children and make them functional illiterates.

I recently attended a lecture where the idea of “cognitive dissonance” (CD) was raised. This term defines a situation where a person holds two conflicting ideas in their head and believes both of them. A person is able to reduce the dissonance through justification, rationalization, blame, denial, etc… For example:

A person lives in Utah and is a member of the predominant religion. Over and over we hear from General Authorities of the LDS church the role of parents as the primary nurturers and educators of our children. Yet educators declare that experts trained in pedagogy should teach our children at young ages to ensure they get a proper start. We believe both statements (CD) and then rationalize that as a parent we do what we can but there are just some things we can’t teach our children so we need the state schools to do it for us…so we let them.

Now lets say you’re an LDS Educrat (an Educrat might be defined as one who blindly follows the prevailing prophets of mankind’s educational philosophies). You’ve heard the teachings of your church leaders that parents are the primary nurturers and educators of their children and believe them, but you’ve been trained by “Experts” who tell you that children must be taught earlier and earlier by trained professionals. So you fight for more money for early education because you have rationalized that LDS leaders aren’t specifically speaking to you about your type of educational areas. They must only be telling parents that they should teach their children church teachings so let’s remove the children from their emotionally nurturing support structure and force them into schools younger and longer because no child can be left behind.

Quotes abound on this and other sites that express how John Goodlad and other prominent educators have a goal of separating children from parents as early as possible to prevent them from acquiring too much of their parent’s moral structure. Some education “experts” are even suggesting stepping into the homes after birth to begin the process of “expertly” raising that child. Excuse me? At what point do we wake up and say, “succeed or fail, that child belongs to a family who has been given the responsibility to raise that child without the intervention of do-good educrats and bureaucrats.”

The following letter is from an educator in Orem which explains what is really happening in these early education programs.

I am aware of the current push for all-day pre-school and kindergarten. (Deseret News 10/6/10, “Lawmakers Consider All-Day Kindergarten”) I have been a teacher at the Utah School for the Deaf/Orem and have watched the effects of all-day kindergarten and extended-day preschool. I did considerable research on this topic last year as the Utah School for the Deaf had extended its preschool to 1:00 p.m.  and proposed going  to all day for the 2010-2011 school year.  They also announced they would continue the all-day Kindergarten which has been in place for a number of years.  All this over the protests of teachers, parents, and specialists.

As a parent of 9 children (7 with special needs), a neurodevelopmental specialist, and a certified teacher I personally I fought with them over it, petitioned administration, and presented my data and arguments.  It all, ironically speaking, fell on deaf ears.  So, just as the other teachers and I warned, now little barely-3-year-olds are being bundled up on cold, early  mornings at 7:30 a.m. (earlier in some cases) put on vans for their hour long journey (for some of them) to their schools. Including the return ride. That’s 2 hours a day or more riding strapped in a car seat, in mid-winter, leaving home in the dark and returning home at nearly dusk and all in the name of early intervention!

I observed one little boy in a class younger than mine last year.  I did not know his age but since he was a husky, rather tall little fellow, I assumed he was 4-4 1/2.  He cried nearly every morning and frequently through the extended-day preschool day from the beginning of the year throughout the entire year. At the end of the year I was saddened when I became aware that he had just barely turned 3 when the school year began. I wonder if he still cries this year now that he sees his home even less and at only 4 years old?

If the early morning scene with the littlest children at school is the same as I observed last year, after awakening some of the children in their vans and getting them to stop crying whenever possible, the teachers do what they can intensively for a couple of hours then it’s lunch time and the children, developmentally speaking, are certainly ready to go home who were never ready to be there in the first place!  But, no, now we must keep them at school until 3:30 for reasons that do not make sense developmentally, emotionally, or academically as considerable research verifies. Just plain common sense and mothers’ hearts should tell us this!  In actuality, the children eat lunch and then need naps. It is developmentally appropriate and healthy for 3- 5 year olds to nap an hour or longer in the afternoon.  I observed how difficult it was for some of the little Kindergarteners last year to begin a nap but have to be awakened after a short time because certainly teacher time could not be justified watching napping children!  I can only imagine how tough it must be for the 3 year olds now! I would hold a little 5 year old in my arms as he napped, on occasion, because his awakening at school was often frightening to him. It was difficult to motivate the children to accomplish anything in the afternoons when often they awoke too early from naps calling for their mothers and slightly disoriented or were over-stimulated, unable to nap and “hyper”, running on adrenalin but really needing to be home cuddling with their moms, reading a book or napping in their own beds.  “But, children are resilient”, it is often said. “They adapt.”  And they do.  They suppress their natural, healthy emotional and physical needs. They suffer long-lasting adverse effects to the deep bonds with their parents as they are forced to be with “Not My Mom”, however compassionate and professional she may be, at very early ages and for most of their day-time hours and for all of childhood.  It results in what psychologists call “the de-personalization of children”.  Why do we have sick teenagers and angry, alienated youth?  Another discussion for another day.

I was the unofficial neurodevelopmental specialist for the Utah School for the Deaf/Orem. My work took me deep into neuroscience and research on global neurodevelopmental readiness for academic learning.  What is being done at the School for the Deaf (and any other school advocating this type of separation of tiny children from their parents) is so wrong and counter to everything natural, nurturing, and neurologically integrating— everything we learned during neuroscience’s 2000-2010 “decade of the brain.” It is outrageous to me. Time with parents is, according to data from many sources, the most critical factor for healthy cognitive and academic functioning and later adult life success  (New York Longitudinal Study; Carla Hannaford, Smart Moves: Learning is Not All in Your Head). Raymond Moore concludes in his book, Better Late Than Early, after a review of 8,000 studies on global neurodevelopmental readiness for learning and later academic achievement,  “Twenty minutes with mother=3 hours in a classroom.”

I wrote a draft proposal while at the School for the Deaf last year for a home-supported preschool program. Early intervention for deaf children from birth on is creating a miracle! Implanted with cochlear implants very early, deaf children are becoming typical speakers and excellent listeners by age 4!  Deafness need be no more in our day for most children!  So, I would never argue against early intervention for any child with special needs. There are just better ways than removing them from the richest language learning environment there is, the home. Among the data I gathered for the proposal were figures on costs of supported-home preschools versus public school preschools.  Two similar, high quality programs with comparable results created by the University of Wisconsin gave figures of $325 per child per year in the supported-home preschool program and up to $5,000 per year for the public school building venue “for Milwaukee’s deprived children” (I assume the same population we’d call high-risk as referred to in the Deseret News article).  These figures adjusted for inflation would still show great savings in dollars alone thru a supported-home preschool delivery model.  Isn’t now the time?

As I re-read the Deseret News article, “Lawmakers Consider All-Day Kindergarten”, I just shake my head and mourn at not only the foolishness of it but the downright damaging potential it has for Utah’s children—all of them, both typical kids and those with special needs. We have so enshrined public school education in Utah that people can’t see beyond it or any way to re-invent the old forms.  But these economic times will require something different.  So, if enabling mothers to spend more time with their young children is healthier, more educationally sound, and less costly, why are we not considering it?  The immediate response, of course, would be, “Most mothers of young children work outside the home, statistically speaking.  Supported-home preschools and kindergartens are not possible in this day and age.  Most parents need school for day-care, anyway.”  That is cynical to me. I personally know a growing number of courageous young mothers who understand the critical nature of quantity time with mom for all children up to at least age 8.  They and their husbands and extended families sacrifice much to allow the mother to stay in the home with her little ones gathered around her as long as possible.  It has, however, stopped being a value to many young families or something to strive for.  Some of them can’t even conceptualize it. They erroneously believe they are inadequate to be skilled early childhood teachers and nurturers of their children—that the professionals will do it better. Not now that we have the “decade of the brain” research and “theory of mind” data!  It just simply isn’t true and never was.

The information that Assistant Superintendent Brenda Hales presented, mentioned in the Deseret News article, needs to be seen over the long view.  Data I read tells me that whatever initial advantages may have been gained by children in all-day pre-school programs are gone by the end of 1st grade. (U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, January, 2010) The cost and negative impact on family life and future educational progress of the child is definitely not worth it.  Let’s explore children staying home with their parents longer and give them some professional support.  At very least let’s keep the current half-day Kindergarten arrangement! As the founders of our country intended, those who cannot possibly provide this early educational support for their children and who are the “poorest of the poor” should have the help of their countrymen with public school programs.  But, compulsory, universal all-day preschool through high school for America’s children was something they would have entirely opposed!

I admire former BYU education professor, Dr. C.R. Harms’ suggestion in his letter to the editor, Deseret News 2-21-10, “Start School at Age 9”.   He said in part, “A four-year elementary school starting at age 9 followed by a four-year secondary school, as done in days past, would solve many educational and financial problems,”  Outlandish? No, out-of the-box and entirely appropriate–if we care to listen to the neuroscientists and our hearts.

Kathleen Sorensen, M.Ed.
Orem, Utah

What a concept. Shaving 4.5 grades out of our system would save probably a billion dollars a year in Utah but that won’t stop the educators from vetoing it since some of them would lose their jobs (and for progressives who would lose their influence over young children). Some children may legitimately need early interventions, but as Kathleen points out, that could be done at home, even if in-home help was needed, for a lot cheaper than what we’re paying now.

Moving interventions into the home and supporting parents means children keep the nurturing influence of parents who have the God-given right to be the nurturers. If class size is so important to educators, how about a class size of 1? Lets support parents in their true role instead of assuming the state and the so-called “experts” can step in and do a better job.

Part of the service we should provide parents is the DVD “Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story.” This is a phenomenal true story about a failing young man who through the efforts of his uneducated mother, became an incredible brain surgeon who performed miraculous surgeries. I strongly encourage you to watch this inspirational movie. Here’s a link to a trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j5qyOUKnlxA

In the meantime, I think leaving children at home for another year or two to mature and be more ready for school sounds intriguing. Maybe it’s an idea whose time has come.

I close by repeating part of Thomas Paine’s opening line from his famous “Common Sense,” the pamphlet that won the Revolutionary War.

“…a long habit of not thinking a thing WRONG, gives it a superficial appearance of being RIGHT, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom.”

13 Responses to “Full Day Kindergarten & Preschool? I Don’t Think So”

  • Dougc:

    I have spoken to many people who support all-day Kindergarten. When I have time to discuss it with them, very rarely do I hear any sound argument for it other than, “I can work more hours”, or “it will be nice to have my kindergartener gone all day”. In other words — people want tax-payer assisted babysitting for their 5-year-olds.

    Yes, sometimes I hear parents say, “All-day Kindergarten will help my child be ready for 1st grade,” but when we’re being honest with ourselves, this is not usually what parents are worried about, in my experience. I admit, I hang out with a lot of families who home school their children, or who home school for at least the first few years.

    It is a farce to believe that any institution can do a better job teaching a child than the child’s mother. Some mothers struggle with it, and some do not. Some have made themselves busy with activities outside the home and some have not. Some are forced to work outside of the home and some are not. But, financially disadvantaged or not, educated or not, working or not, I will bet money that 99% of the mothers who truly care about their own children will be a better teacher for that child during their early years (0-7 years old, and longer) than any institution, any school, any educator.

    The Thomas Paine quote at the beginning of this article is SPOT ON. Just because we have had Kindergarten all these years does not make it right. I am a firm believer that school should not be compulsory, especially for children under 8 years old. To ask me whether I think we should have all day Kindergarten? Certainly not!

    There are already myriads of private institutions and preschools available for parents who believe their child needs extra help before 1st grade. If so, those parents should pay for it.

    Dougc

  • Larrysjensen:

    “Full day kindergarten” or “full day preschool” is daycare.

    The practice amounts to the warehousing of children and it is detrimental to the health of the fundamental institution of society, the family.

    We are in the business of providing part-day (three hour) academic preschool to 3-5 year olds. We are in our 27th year doing so. During eight of those years we supplemented our school with several full day classes to accommodate families with two working parents. We had three classes of 12 children who were there from 7:00 AM to 6:00 PM, 5 days per week. Being educators, not daycare providers, we structured the day for the children in a way to provide state-of-the-art academics combined with an environment and activities that we would want our own children to have, if we were in that situation. We provided the best environment imaginable for children for 11 hours a day. We were with those children for more waking hours than their parents, some of them for a span of three years.

    We were still a very deficient substitute for the time they should have been in the care of their parents. Over time we watched the disintegration of families. While we couldn’t track it statistically, there was a dramatic and disproportionate rate of disfunction among the families of our full-day students versus the families of our part day students. The anecdotal evidence was overwhelming. It alarmed us to the extent that we gradually phased out the full day program, despite it being the growth segment of our industry.

    If we give an administrator of the state charge of the children of the mother’s of America during the years when they need mothers most we will trigger the death of the family and the death of America.

  • Jennifer:

    This reminds me of the children of the French elite leading up to the revolution, who were shipped to the country to be raised because their parents didn’t want the bother, and the result was unfeeling adults who could commit the atrocities of that revolution. Of course, all-day preschool and kinder is not as extreme, but on the same road.
    How many studies do we need to confirm our “mother’s hearts”? A baby’s head in the crook of a parent’s elbow is the right distance for the baby’s sight to look into the parent’s face; looking into a babies eyes helps the brain develop; “Baby Einstien” and such videos retard a child’s verbal development; and on and on. God sends babies to mothers and fathers, and we must rely on our hearts and our wise parents and friends, not on “experts.”
    I agree that children should wait at least until 8 years of age to go to school. Being with the mother is the richest environment available, and the natural one. The stories of little children forced into preschool break my heart.

  • Buffy Snell:

    Cognitive Dissonance. I’ve never heard of that before, but I’m glad to know there is a name for it. I am continually surprised by people’s ability to believe conflicting things. As a society, we’ve surely come to cherish our own deceptions.

    I’ve always been so annoyed that kindergarten is only half-day, but you’ve actually changed my mind about that. Thank you for the clarity.

  • Jon:

    I am constantly amazed by LDS mothers who make the decision to put their 5-year-old children (and younger) in any form of “schooling” or play group simply because they want more personal time. My wife and I have worked hard so that she can be at home. The decisions we have made to put our children into preschool and/or playgroup have been made solely on the basis of the individual child: Are they wanting the social interaction? Are they fully enjoying the time? Is the time spent away from home meeting their needs? Our 3 1/2 year-old daughter loves going to preschool. She loves being with her little friends. But, it is only three days a week. Each session is 1/2 day and it is not compulsory. She only goes when she wants to go.

  • Rick:

    If they really want to give kids an early start, they should do 2 minutes of kindergarten each day–at home. We taught our first 4 kids to read fairly well by around age 4 in literally 2 minutes or less per day. The kids hardly even noticed we were teaching them. Obviously, all day kindergarten is nothing more than a scheme to take kids and money away from families. Governor Herbert is supporting it.

  • Jo:

    Cognitive dissonance? I always have called it hypocrisy.
    I am alarmed at the number of parents I talk to who have no sense of their responsibility for the education, manners or morals of their own children, and I might add often express that they do not even like being around them very much. I have never understood the sentiment of those who could hardly wait for school to begin so they could be rid of their children. Many have also told me that they know ‘education’ their children are receiving is substandard, including the social atmosphere, but they intend to do nothing about it. We are and will have a terrible judgment both in the lives of the children and in the future of the nation.

  • Rland23:

    I know the best place for our chlldren is in the home. Taking them out of the home at an early age will cause more problems than it will solve. Teachers do not love our children the way we love our children. If we want to keep our freedoms we need to sacrifice for our children and spend time with them. Goverment wants more control of our families and this is one way they can get to our children without our influence if they are away at school. Lets keep our children at home as long as we can.

  • Grammy:

    In Ohio, they have all day Kindergarten. When my granddaughter went to public school she was in Kindergarten all day. It was horrific!! From 3 until 5, she was a bear. I could not put her down for a nap because it was too late in the day and she would not be sleepy at 8:00. Five year olds do not comprehend anything after 1:00. To me it is wasted time. Parents should have a choice of half day when my children were young. They went in the morning, some parents chose the afternoon. That was much better.

  • Celestealbright:

    In response to the part of the article where the parents protested the all-day kindergarten and then put their crying child on a bus: I don’t understand why the parents didn’t just keep their children at home or send them for a few hours and take them out.

    I mean, do we really HAVE to do what the district dictates? I will protest up and down and to the ends of the Earth against all-day Kindergarten (Pre-school is just a laugh!). BUT whatever their decisions are they do not have to dictate my decisions!

    In the end, my sole concern is for my child. I will not have someone else telling me that I have no choice on what to do for my child’s education. We do have a lot of choices in Utah but there are many more we could have.

    One piece of legislation is what would help solve our dilemmas with choices: Some call it Backpack Education, when the funding follows the child. If the funding follows the children, whatever our choices for educating them will be our own and not the district’s.

  • Dougc:

    Great comments everyone, I love it.

    Larrysjensen: Your comments about the health of the family were great. Thank you.

    Rick: I have had the same experience. Many times you can teach children a lot through their play, or just reading to them every day.

    Jon: I totally agree. Different needs for different children. Some may thrive and benefit with all-day kindergarten, most will not. It is good that parents like you understand that the needs of each individual child is more important than what the governor or board of education believes is best for our children. Public schools aim for the highest probabilities, not the individual child. It must be that way, and it is what it is.

    Celestealbright: It’s all about educating the parents. Most parents do not know they have certain choices. Any parent in Utah can choose to keep their children home for kindergarten, or first grade, or any grade. I applaud the laws we have in Utah that empower parents to be in charge of their child’s education. We just need to help the parents understand what the rules are and how to use them effectively. You are right, even if all-day kindergarten is made mandatory, you can still choose to keep your child home. If we could get the funding to follow the child, it would make perfect sense. The unions and people in power of our educational systems don’t want to do what makes sense for families and children, but what makes sense to keep themselves in power. I hope we see that law someday too.

  • lovingmomof3:

    Its amazing to me that anyone can judge anyone elses decision. I’m a stay at home mom, my kids went to 2 morning a week prek, then 3 morning, then all day kindergarten. I’m sad that my last one will start next year, but he longs for his siblings and is excited to go! i think it all depends on your kids and what you decide to do. I would never pass judgement on what is best for someone elses kid. Likewise I volunteer in their classes a couple times a week and don’t see any children having issues of not wanting to be there or falling asleep. I don’t think the picture is as bad as you’re all painting it to be. And if it is, rest well that you made the best decision for you and your family.

  • Dougc:

    lovingmomof3: I’m not sure who you are referring to when you talk about people judging others’ decisions. You may not have been referring to me.

    Just in case, I would like to be clear:

    – My opinion is that most children are better served having their mother (or father, or parents) be their full-time teacher until they are at least 8 years old. This opinion of mine comes from many sources and decades of study, complete with loads of anecdotal evidence. It is only my opinion, not a judgment of anyone who believes differently.

    – My statement here and in other posts above is that every child has different needs, and their parents are the best judge of what is best for that child. If a parent decides that all-day kindergarten is best for their child, then I do not judge them, nor stand in their way. That parent is probably right.

    – My opinion is that most parents who want schools to be changed to full-time kindergarten are doing so because they want a tax-paid babysitter for their children. This was obviously not the case with you, but you are an obvious exception. This opinion comes from observation, reading, and anecdotal evidence.

    – Fortunately for us all, in Utah we can choose whatever education we want for our children. If our neighborhood school has full-day kindergarten, we can choose to keep our kids home. If our neighborhood does not offer full-time kindergarten, we can pay a private school to provide it. All options are available now, I see no need to change anything.

    – I especially disagree with full-day kindergarten in public schools based on my comments above. Parents who want it can pay for it themselves, please do not tax everyone to meet the needs of a few. (that same comment can be used for public school in general. I’m willing to have *that* discussion too, but it’s a long one, and not exactly the same)

    If you disagree with any of the above, please reply and let me know, I would love to discuss it.