Home > School and Learning > By Grade > Kindergarten > Kindergarten Controversy

Kindergarten Controversy

It used to be so simple: five-year-olds went to kindergarten and six-year-olds went to first grade. But what was once a natural course of events has recently become a difficult decision for many parents. Why? Because kindergarten ain't what it used to be.

In the Beginning...
Kindergarten was originally conceived in the 1800s by German philosopher and school teacher Friedrich Froebel. He thought of it literally as a "child's garden" -- a place to fill with plants and flowers and nurture children's curiosity. It was not meant to be a functional classroom.

Vivian Paley, author and award-winning early childhood educator, believes that the goal of this first school year is to develop the social and imaginative strengths of children, and to build confidence. She has this message for kindergarten teachers, "Know your subject: Play."

Straying from its Roots
Froebel would be shocked by the latest trend in kindergarten education -- a trend that's turning kindergartens away from their roots and into "mini" or "trickle-down" first grades. In these classrooms, five-year-olds are writing sentences, identifying phonetic sounds, making books, and learning the state capitals.

David Ruenzel, the author of a Teacher Magazine article on the subject, suggests this reason for the trend: "Parents whose children have long been in day care and preschool often perceive a half-day centered around play as a step backward. They want beginning reading and writing -- not more play." Other experts think that schools are stressing academics in kindergarten in response to a public demand for higher standardized test scores.

The Fallout
Paley notes that with this push for early academics, we are beginning to hear about kindergartners who are "deficient" in various abilities or "slow learners," when, in fact, they may be well within their appropriate developmental stage.

Parents who do not want to see their children unfairly labeled may now be waiting until their kids are six to enroll them in kindergarten. Lorrie Shepard, Professor of Education at the University of Colorado, believes these parents are acting in the best interest of their children. But, she says, this practice is changing the balance in many kindergarten programs, and actually perpetuating the trend toward academics.

In regard to the "trickle-down first grade" trend, the National Association for the Education of Young Children holds this commonsense position: The pressure should not be on the child to meet a school's expectations. Kindergarten and first-grade programs should be ready to meet the developmentally diverse needs and abilities of all children. If this is not the case in your school, bring up the issue at the next local parents' group or PTA meeting.

More on: Kindergarten



Vote Now for the Children's & Teen Choice Book Awards
Voting is open now through May 3 for the Children's and Teen Choice Book Awards — the only national book awards program where the winning author, illustrator, and books of the year are selected by young readers. Encourage your child to vote for his favorites today!

Find Today's Newest & Best Children's Books!
Looking for newly released books for your child? Try our new Book Finder tool to search for new books by age, type, and theme, and create reading lists for kids!

Top 10 Math & Science Apps for Your Whiz Kid
Looking for the best math and science apps for kids? Check out these cool apps for all ages, which will grow your child's love of the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and math).

Registered for Kindergarten — Now What?
Wondering what to do now that you've signed your child up for kindergarten? Try our award-winning Kindergarten Readiness app! This easy-to-use checklist comes with games and activities to help your child build essential skills for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Facebook icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks