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The Full-Day vs. Half-Day Kindergarten Dilemma

Most area schools offer half-day kindergarten as the norm. But is there a benefit for those who are given the exclusive option of a full-day class?

It’s official. I’m going to cry my eyes out on August 27.

My youngest child will be climbing the steep stairs to the big yellow bus and heading off to kindergarten.

For months, I was tormented by this decision. Should we send him now that he's five or would another year of preschool be better? Should we ask for full-day or half-day? Morning or afternoon? Decisions, decisions.

What are your thoughts about the benefits of full-day vs. half-day kindergarten classes? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Back in the day, a child turned five (or close enough to it) and off they went to school. No tests to take, no evaluations - five equaled kindergarten.

Now, parents often decide to hold their child back an extra year, sending them to school when they’re six, to assure they’re "ready for kindergarten."  It gives them one more year of preschool and assures they're ready socially and emotionally.

As I’ve mentioned before, there was about whether or not my son was ready this year.  Together, my husband and I decided he was.

But then the next question arose – half-day or full-day kindergarten? And that’s where things get interesting.

Our little guy has always had a certain level of sensory and focus issues, but nothing that was ever severe enough to be diagnosed as a serious problem. The doctor often noted that he was just a "sensitive" child.

Bright lights, strong winds, and loud noises were often the cause of his crying or jumping into my arms. But we were assured that it’s just part of his personality.

He’s grown out of many of his extreme responses, but still struggles at times – enough to make me wonder if we should have pursued an evaluation.

I was told by his preschool teacher that a full-day kindergarten program could help him acclimate enough to be fully prepared for first grade. Other teacher friends expressed concern, stating the full-day program was for the children who "really" needed the help or who had never been to preschool.

I guess my child falls into the gray area. He needs help, but does he "really" need help? Wouldn't a full-day program benefit all children?

Kindergarten is the gateway to a child’s educational career. But in this age of preschool, day care, private tutors, LeapPads and PBS, does a half-day kindergarten program provide enough challenge for a child who already knows his ABCs and 123s?

We’re going from a 5-hour-per-day pre-school program to a 3-hour-per-day kindergarten schedule. That's a lot less school for a kid who loves to learn.

Knowing my son, he’d do much better in a full-day program simply for the sake of his eagerness to explore new concepts and his social desire to be around his peers. It would also help him to learn basic school structure.

Believe me, I’m not complaining. I eagerly accept the fact that he has a half-day class.

I selfishly look forward to one more year of one-on-one lunch dates and mid-day jaunts to the park with my little pal. This will be the last year before he's forever bound to a full-time school schedule.

I just wonder if he’d benefit more, if he’d be more prepared for the next level, if he had the opportunity to hit kindergarten full force like other students his age have the opportunity to do.

Does it matter? Could it make a difference?

HC August 08, 2012 at 05:50 PM
Excellent points CM! And preschools vary greatly in terms of their teaching efforts. And every child varies in their skill set Kindergarten (some children can write their full names, neatly and others cannot). What if full day was the only option and your child needed the additional time & assistance to "catch up", placing them in a single class with children who are already beyond the level of needing the additional assistance could be disastrous for both sets of children. The proficient children would most likely get bored reviewing skills they have already mastered and those needing the time/assistance to master them may get frustrated or anxious that they aren't on the same skill level as others. Not to mention how trying to cater to both groups in one classroom setting would be very hard on the teacher for this grade level. I am glad that 1/2 day is the standard and full day is reserved to allow the others to catch up so in first grade everyone can advance together confidently. There is always the option of sending your child to a private full day kindergarten program and beginning their public schooling in 1st grade.
Melissa Moyer-Schneck August 08, 2012 at 06:39 PM
Both of our kids went to preschool, both were tested in the Pre K class and it was thought best that my son wait a year to begin Kindergarten, but at the same age my daughter was much more fluent in everything, so she began Kindergarten early. It honestly does depend on the child. Sure, I would have Loved if they were in full day Kindergarten, but I don't think my kids would have benefitted at all. I think it would have been too long a day for them, they probably would have done better in preschool and then skipping kindergarten and going directly to 1st. Every family is different, the best part is, we as parents pretty much know what is best for our kids.
Chris Miller August 08, 2012 at 09:06 PM
Melissa I would say that one of the big differences is that boys tend to be more active then girls. The boys wre usually out side doing something and, at great risk on this, the girls were playing either inside or quietly within a group outside. I would like to see kids of both sexes get outside on a dailey baisis
ITL August 09, 2012 at 01:15 PM
I am also from NY, and my daughter started K last August. She went for the pm class. well I could not be happier. By the end of the school year my 6 yr old was doing so much better with her reading. She did spectacular in school for a child who did attend pre school. The time frame is perfect, if she had to go for the entire day I would have waited. Take it from me NY2PA, you will see such a great change in your son, the things he learn, and how much he will grow in the next 10 months. Relax, I was in your shoes last year, today I am so proud of my girl, and I thank her K teacher for her dedication and compassion for teaching.
Notbornyesterday August 09, 2012 at 03:02 PM
In a perfect world where one parent can stay home with the kids, your suggestion would be a good one Chris. However, most parents work outside the home. Where would these young children be if they were not in school? I have a friend who is a kindergarten teacher and she has said that children are already coming to school less capable of sitting still and learning. At least if they are coming from pre-school to kindergarten, they should have some socialization skills down. As for the 1/2 day vs. full day, this is all about the money anyway. No school district will be willing right now to double their staff for kindergarten when the scores reflect that those children ARE prepared. My kids all had 1/2 day and had no problem with transitioning to first grade. Children that need help, get it with supplemental teachers that pull them out.

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