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Let's talk kindergarten expectations

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
Can we talk about kindergarten? It's been a month since DD1 started kindy at our local public school, and I'm feeling a little negative about the whole thing. DD likes it, but she's also super social and I think enjoys just generally going to school and being a big kid. She loves music and computer class and the scientist station in her classroom. She does tell me that the one thing she doesn't like is how "we always have to do what she [teacher] tells us to do. We can never do what we want to do."

Mostly, I'm concerned about the stuff that gets sent home. Lots of worksheets along the lines of "Bear begins with b. Blue begins with b. Color in the bear blue." Handwriting practice, which is fine, I guess. Things like sheets of letters or writing her name. She was doing this type of thing two years ago in preschool. It seems kind of mind-numbing to me. I wouldn't mind if she was doing more authentic academics and being challenged (she's an emergent reader), or I wouldn't mind if it was more play-based. But worksheets? Really?

I know it's only the first month. But she's in full day kindy, plus after care. The kindy is full-day academic (I was hoping for afternoon play, but it seems to be academic all day), and then they do academics like sight words and more worksheets in the after-care while the older kids are doing their homework.

Is this typical? I guess I was hoping for something different, but I'm not sure what. I'd love to be homeschooling, but I work outside the home full time, and that's not going to change any time soon. (That's coupled with the fact that I think DD and I would be a very incompatible HSing team...)

Any thoughts? What's kindy like in your neck of the woods?
post #2 of 14
Well, dd1 has been doing a combination of things. To this point, for some of it, it's been a group of kinder students; other stuff in a multi-age group K-3. Letter formation for handwriting; learning basic phonics (I think) as they go over the letters; starting to form/recognize words. Math stuff is pattern recognition, simple addition, measuring, estimating, doing stuff with pattern blocks and triangles, etc. At the beginning of the day they calculate the number of days in school so far then make up math problems to get that number (the older kids are obviously better at this). From the science end, her class has spent a lot of time observing insects. They also have PE several times a week, computers and music once a week. They do an independent project each week--very parent-driven at this point (friend of mine said it sounded like science fair every single week). For that, we choose something dd's interested in exploring, explore it, and then write it up in some way. We've done projects centered on light aircraft (her uncle's a pilot), brachiosaurus, making a doll quilt, and pumpkins. I make sure she writes something; ideally, she is the one driving the format and I'm just the scribe/facilitator.

So some worksheets, some play, some independent work. She's been in 6 weeks. Small school.

Oh and she gets out at 1:30, which is fine by me. I don't think she needs a full day of academics and have mixed feelings about her afterschool care, which has hour long classes after an initial mellowing out period and an hour for snack/playground time.

Mostly I just pick her up early enough that she doesn't have to deal with it.
post #3 of 14
Looooonnggg vent, sorry.

I came here tonight to sort through posts looking for advice because I'm feeling pretty negative about our K experience so far, as well.

In our school district K homework is optional. DD loves to do homework, so I modify it to a more appropriate level. For example, instead of me reading a book to her, I have her read a book to me.

Last year DD went to 1/2 day Pre-K. We chose the school closest to our home even though it ranked pretty low academically, because I really just wanted her to have the social experience. The principal, Pre-K teacher & aide were all fantastic & it ended up being a great academic experience for DD.

We are now 4 weeks into all day K at one of the top ranked academic school in our district. So far it has been the exact opposite experience & I'm just trying to get a little perspective on what normal is. My biggest issues:

No communication specific to DD
- Other parents have told me they've received phone calls but that was because of their DC's behavior issues. Am I expected to wait until Parent/Teacher conferences to get feedback? Last year the principal chatted me up on what was going on in the school every time she saw me & the teacher gave me constant feedback (it could have been daily if I wanted). The only thing I've heard are fund raising requests & how overwhelming DD's class is.

I'm sure every K is overwhelming, but I just spent the afternoon with 10 of those very sweet & quiet girls behaving impeccably at a birthday party. If the girls from DD's Pre-K class were in that same room it would have been a zoo & I never heard anyone sigh about how difficult they were.

Reduced to completely eliminated recess and play time every day - This has been the result of a couple of the boys' behavior issues. Even more concerning is that I've been told this is a standard punishment for severe things right down to petty (IMO) things. For example, Johnny didn't bring a warm enough jacket, nobody in Johnny's class is going to recess.

I'm a SAHM & was really upset about DD going to all day K, so it was hard for me to get my finger on all the feelings I had when we chose this school. Pre-K wasn't hard for me, but I told myself that was because it was only 2.5 hours & this is all day. But the teacher & the school just seem off to me. This teacher & school are supposed to be really good, my daughter really does love school & her new friends, even though she doesn't like dealing with "the punishment because of the naughty boys".

There have been some nasty exchanges on the school's Facebook page between parents & in general I just don't get a welcome feeling there, even though I've met some really great parents in my daughter's class.

I specifically inquired about recess & play time before choosing this school & I now feel like I was lied to. I feel terrible for the kids that really need that physical outlet & think it's just as absurd for the rest of the kids.

Sentenced to daily torment - There are boys that are hitting & throwing things at the other kids on a daily basis, yet , 4 weeks in & they still sit at the group tables with the other kids. It is assigned seating that changes every 3 months. I have no idea why they can't sit at their own table until they can sit with the group. If my daughter is sat next to these boys, I will take her out of school. No one is sent to the principal, they just sit in the hall, or another classroom, or the time-out chair.

I've been told my expectations are too high. Are most schools this rigid?
post #4 of 14
It sounds like my DS1 experience last year in Kindergarten. I don't think he learned a single academic thing last year. He had 2 years of pre-school and was reading when he started K so yeah, when he brought home "Bear begins with B", I had to make sure I was not facing him so he wouldn't see the look on my face.

He did enjoy school, liked meeting new friends and being a big kid, music class, having lunch at school, catching the bus. And he did "learn" other things...having more responsibility, functioning in a bigger/more crowded environment, playground politics, things like that. We did alot of stuff on our own time (he only went half-day, full-day isn't an option here) so his brain wouldn't turn to mush.

So now we're a month in to 1st grade...He LOVES school! Things were pretty easy so far, but it's picking up. Spelling starts next week. The reading program is broken up by levels so he's being challenged more than last year. More science and math. I think part of it has to do with the fact that he's there all day so they get to do more stuff than last year. Also, he's got a great teacher that he really likes.

I just tried to focus on the things he did learn last year...he's a pretty shy kid and coming from his pre-school which had a 1:4 teacher to student ratio to Kindergarten which had 1 teacher to 18 students, he had to learn to speak up if he need something. He had to stand up for himself, make decisions for himself, just more independent I guess. I think it was a bit of a culture shock for him. And that maybe another reason why he's enjoying this year more, he knows what to expect from Elementary school and what's expected of him, he just feels more comfortable there. I'm much happier this year...so far.
post #5 of 14
My son has been in K now for about a month. Personally, I see the main purpose of K to be socialization, and learning how to interact w/ groups & get along with diverse peers. My son's classroom has kids from all over the world, and several ESL students. He would never get this same kind of interaction in a private school or via homeschooling, at least in my area. Learning conflict resolution w/ different or difficult people (ie. the kids exhibiting behavioral problems) provides life-long benefit. The academic part falls into place naturally & will be emphasized in later grades. K is more a transitional year into the whole school experience.

For those kids who read & don't need practice w/ letters, assignments reinforce a sense of competency and teach the kids how to focus on something (their "work") for a period of time. The kids won't be harmed by finding some of the work easy. For those kids who don't read or know letters, it's obvious real learning. Hopefully by first grade all the kids start out in more or less the same place, or those who are truly advanced can start participating in more advanced curriculum.
post #6 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by ZTMOM View Post
Looooonnggg vent, sorry.

I came here tonight to sort through posts looking for advice because I'm feeling pretty negative about our K experience so far, as well.

In our school district K homework is optional. DD loves to do homework, so I modify it to a more appropriate level. For example, instead of me reading a book to her, I have her read a book to me.

Last year DD went to 1/2 day Pre-K. We chose the school closest to our home even though it ranked pretty low academically, because I really just wanted her to have the social experience. The principal, Pre-K teacher & aide were all fantastic & it ended up being a great academic experience for DD.

We are now 4 weeks into all day K at one of the top ranked academic school in our district. So far it has been the exact opposite experience & I'm just trying to get a little perspective on what normal is. My biggest issues:

No communication specific to DD
- Other parents have told me they've received phone calls but that was because of their DC's behavior issues. Am I expected to wait until Parent/Teacher conferences to get feedback? Last year the principal chatted me up on what was going on in the school every time she saw me & the teacher gave me constant feedback (it could have been daily if I wanted). The only thing I've heard are fund raising requests & how overwhelming DD's class is.

I'm sure every K is overwhelming, but I just spent the afternoon with 10 of those very sweet & quiet girls behaving impeccably at a birthday party. If the girls from DD's Pre-K class were in that same room it would have been a zoo & I never heard anyone sigh about how difficult they were.

Reduced to completely eliminated recess and play time every day - This has been the result of a couple of the boys' behavior issues. Even more concerning is that I've been told this is a standard punishment for severe things right down to petty (IMO) things. For example, Johnny didn't bring a warm enough jacket, nobody in Johnny's class is going to recess.

I'm a SAHM & was really upset about DD going to all day K, so it was hard for me to get my finger on all the feelings I had when we chose this school. Pre-K wasn't hard for me, but I told myself that was because it was only 2.5 hours & this is all day. But the teacher & the school just seem off to me. This teacher & school are supposed to be really good, my daughter really does love school & her new friends, even though she doesn't like dealing with "the punishment because of the naughty boys".

There have been some nasty exchanges on the school's Facebook page between parents & in general I just don't get a welcome feeling there, even though I've met some really great parents in my daughter's class.

I specifically inquired about recess & play time before choosing this school & I now feel like I was lied to. I feel terrible for the kids that really need that physical outlet & think it's just as absurd for the rest of the kids.

Sentenced to daily torment - There are boys that are hitting & throwing things at the other kids on a daily basis, yet , 4 weeks in & they still sit at the group tables with the other kids. It is assigned seating that changes every 3 months. I have no idea why they can't sit at their own table until they can sit with the group. If my daughter is sat next to these boys, I will take her out of school. No one is sent to the principal, they just sit in the hall, or another classroom, or the time-out chair.

I've been told my expectations are too high. Are most schools this rigid?
About feedback -- by volunteering in my child's classroom, I've realized just how difficult being a K teacher can be. It can be an overwhelming job. These people work harder than most of us, including into the night planning lessons. My bet is that they simply do not have time to give feedback, but will make time for it at parent-teacher conferences. If you want to really know how your child is doing, why don't you volunteer in the classroom? It will provide amazing insight.

The recess punishment -- this is unacceptable to me. Kids need recess, even (and maybe especially) the poorly behaving ones. Kids need a place where they can run and release energy. I would demand this from the teacher & principal.

The daily torment comment -- you need to volunteer in the classroom to really see what is going on. K's can be restless and misbehave, and in at least my son's classroom, it's usually the boys. I doubt the teacher wants these kids to be all at the same table. They need good role-modelling, and thus exposure to other kids. As long as your child is safe in the classroom (and you need to see for yourself by volunteering, or taking a day off for observation), you could give the teacher time to establish her authority & the rules in the classroom. In K, it's my understanding that this can take a few months.
post #7 of 14
Stacey, you will not be shocked to hear that we're having pretty much the same experience here.

It's not exactly like Pre-K, but very similar. I'm not crazy about DD's teacher, who seems kind of flaky, but DD loves her and loves school so...that's good. DD did fun Spanish in pre-k, and now at school they have an actual Spanish teacher and I can see her learning more of that. She could write her name and the alphabet before kindy, but now they're working on handwriting (her handwriting can be pretty bad!) and sight words. I'm not worried about her learning, but I still have concerns....

Her class is big--24 kids! Last year, there were 3 kindy's but this year they had to cut a teacher due to the budget cuts.

Lots of dittos, as you mentioned. She comes home with dittos from the day and then there are homework dittos.

Dumb PTA stuff. Parents who would use budget money to bring a magician into school than to replace old rugs or buy new books for the library. PTA seems to be a bag of mixed nuts.

Oh, and the library...I am still a newbie and need to learn a lot more--but where the heck are my highest in the nation property taxes going that the library has no budget, is completely volunteer run and stacked? All of the books there are via donation. I'm volunteering there once a week and just trying to learn more. Then I figure I have five years, maybe I can make some changes.
post #8 of 14
Kindergartens do tend to start slow and purposely. They are building confidence and so start with material that most kids already know. This also gives the kids who haven't had the exposure a chance to pick it up. In our area, by February, the benchmark is that they are writing 3 or 4 related sentances phonetically and reading 3 to 4 word sentances (small high frequancy words.) That means things do pick-up quickly in the reading and writing. They had maybe 1 language art worksheet a day on rhyming and such but most was draw a picture and write sentances in their journals. They did a lot of reading/comprehension activities. The teacher would read stories, they'd discuss, act it out, ect. They had math workbooks with adding and subtracting, skip counting, ect. The homework wasn't seat work. They would do things like "count all the windows in the house" or "help make dinner."

I'd give kindie a little more time. A month is still in the realm of "easy on purpose." I would put a stop to the after-care worksheets though. That's totally unacceptable. They need to find something else for the kindies to do during homework time if they aren't being assigned anything.
post #9 of 14
i admit K is the HARDEST class to teach. i know other teachers who purposely choose other grades and NOT K. too many different abilities that the teacher has to work with.

staceychev - about hw - yup thats normal policy here in our school district. lots of homework in fact. math, english and then decodable books issues.

the full day academics - yup typical at our school district too.

ZTMOM - about "No communication specific to DD" that applies only to ps. never in K. no kid i know gets any letter from any teacher in any K to my knowledge of where i am. parents dont even expect it. if you would like to find out make an appt with the teacher and she would happily fill you in. in a way the teacher not sending anything home is a good thing. because you know your child is doing well.

Reduced or no recess EVERYDAY - nah that's not typical at all. in fact that shows the teachers INability to handle the kids. they have used it once in a while at school for major issues but rarely. however if you are a child not turning in your hw you do it at recess.

Sentenced to daily torment - what our school did was sit one tormenting child with a good child. for two reasons. the tormenting child is being helped by the good child. he is learning how to behave AND she is learning how to help him behave. that is how my dd and a tormenter became best friends. now if all the tormentors were put in one table each would feed off each other and craziness would abound.

i volunteered regularly in dd's school. dd never complained about tormentors. however i watched them and discovered these are kids who are still adjusting to sitting down in school. in fact i was expecting my child to be one of them... but she did it another way. because we spent the morning playing before she went to school she didnt need to move around so much.

in fact it was how the teacher handled these tormenting kids that made me fall in love with her. she was just so awesome and caring and understanding. her uniting her class - the effects that had on the whole class still brings tears to my eyes. you should have seen how they took care of each other. if one of misbehaving the other kids would 'help' that child out. no one felt anyone else was bullying when actually by the definition of the word the child was a 'bully' - not a mean or intentional one but his actions were bullyish. it was sooo funny to watch the kids roll their eyes at each other and how much they knew their classmates. at the end of the day if there was a jacket or lunch box left behind they knew whose it was and half the class would be chasing the child to give it to them. if at the back of the line someone said stop throwing paper, the children in front without even looking would say oh there goes charlie again. he's throwing paper. the teacher rarely did the keep them back after recess but if they were horrendous she did. the next time those kids misbehaved the other kids would correct them and help stop them so they wouldnt miss recess.
post #10 of 14
ZTMOM I second the idea of volunteering; it's a requirement in dd's school, and while it takes a bit of planning for dh and I, we've both been happy we can take the time to do it (both WOH). I've also found that an email with specific questions works well. You could always ask for prompts--getting a kid this age to talk about the day can be hard, but if you can ask about something you know they've done....

That's also something the teacher could do really easily in a group email, if she were willing. Just to send out a note saying, "hey, this week ask your child about what the fish did or what pattern s/he made with the pattern blocks."

But yeah, if you're not getting feedback, then it means things are going well.

The recess thing would definitely bug me, if it were applied even to kids who haven't lost the time for a reason (like goofing off in class and not finishing a task).
post #11 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by pregnant@40 View Post
For those kids who read & don't need practice w/ letters, assignments reinforce a sense of competency and teach the kids how to focus on something (their "work") for a period of time. The kids won't be harmed by finding some of the work easy. For those kids who don't read or know letters, it's obvious real learning.
See, I don't think this is enough for my DS in K. I'm pretty sure he will get some differentiated instruction, but he shouldn't spend a year reinforcing stuff he already knows. He just turned 5 and reads at a 2nd-3rd grade level, can write, do basic math, etc. Socially, he belongs in K, but academically he would do fine (and probably be in the top groups) in a 1st grade classroom. His teacher has assured me they will be getting him into a special group, etc. and so far he likes school, but I volunteer every week and while he's a pretty focused kid and can work diligently for a length of time, he's getting frustrated with the work and starting to act a little squirrely during activities he finds boring. We have our conferences this week and the pull-out group is supposed to start soon, so we'll see what happens. Just wanted to comment on the above quote b/c I don't think it's any more appropriate that my DS be expected to sit quietly and work on stuff that he could do a year ago than if I took a more typical K student and asked them to read a chapter book quietly for a length of time.

I do think my DS can be harmed by being bored in school and while so far, it hasn't been too bad, I'm pretty concerned and watching for signs of him acting out or not liking school. His standard answer to grandparents when they ask if he likes school and what he's learning is "I love school, but I haven't learned anything new yet"
post #12 of 14
Quote:
See, I don't think this is enough for my DS in K.
This is going to depend on the personality of the child. My eldest started kindie 2 to 5 grades advanced. She is a quick learner on top of being driven and unusually well organized. She was falling apart in kindergarten so they moved her to first grade after winter break and started a host of other accomodations. DS started only about 2 to 3 grades advanced. He was highly social, not particularly interested in academics at that age (4) and happy that the easier work allowed for more playtime. He had a great kindie year. Both kids actually test in the same percentile IQ wise but one wanted to work at that age and the other didn't. DS did eventually become quite studious and motivated (though still nothing like DD.) We didn't have any qualms about his kindie year being an enjoyable breeze.
post #13 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by whatsnextmom View Post
This is going to depend on the personality of the child. My eldest started kindie 2 to 5 grades advanced. She is a quick learner on top of being driven and unusually well organized. She was falling apart in kindergarten so they moved her to first grade after winter break and started a host of other accomodations. DS started only about 2 to 3 grades advanced. He was highly social, not particularly interested in academics at that age (4) and happy that the easier work allowed for more playtime. He had a great kindie year. Both kids actually test in the same percentile IQ wise but one wanted to work at that age and the other didn't. DS did eventually become quite studious and motivated (though still nothing like DD.) We didn't have any qualms about his kindie year being an enjoyable breeze.
Good point...I think my DS might be more like your DD, but not that advanced. He's the one complaining so far My DD is a few years ahead now (and GT, etc.), but was not academically advanced as a K student. Had she been, I think she would have been perfectly happy coasting along and having a more social year...that's just her personality. As for my DS, he loves to read and be challenged and just is generally more in to school/academics. I love the teacher and I'm confident it will work out fine...we're just still in those early months where they're trying to get kids used to school more than they are trying to meet each kid where they're at. That's coming and we're being patient for now
post #14 of 14
It might really help you to look at the curriculum standards for your district as well. Most of them have them by grade level. For example, some of the Kindergarten learning targets for our district for literacy include (I've given about 1/3 of them):
  • Distinguish letters from words; recognize upper and lower case.
  • Know that print is spoken words written down that have meaning when constructed as sentences.
  • Identify the parts of a book and the orientation of print.
  • Listen to one syllable words; identify beginning and ending sounds.
  • Identify all consonant and short vowel sounds.
  • Blend two to three phonemes into words, and segment single syllable words into sounds.
  • Given a spoken word, produce another word that rhymes with it.
  • Learn most one-to-one letter sound correspondences, and blend sounds to read one-syllable
  • decodable words.
  • Recognize an increasing bank of high frequency sight words.
  • Tell the sequence of events in a story.
  • Correctly answer simple questions about a text read aloud.
These are the targets that children are supposed to reach at the END of kindergarten, not the beginning. So, if your child can already read, yes, they're going to be doing things that feel pretty basic to you. Our K never gave worksheets, but many do. The push to get kids reading and ready for academic work is very real in most districts.

Kindergarten spends a large amount of time teaching children the rules of school and to socializing them into school routines. If it helps, our dd went to a lovely Reggio Emilio inspired Kindergarten on the campus where I teach (her old daycare goes through K), and she still complained about not being able to do what she 'wanted' to do. What she was objecting to was structure and not being completely in charge of her time. She also complains about the same thing at home.



Quote:
Originally Posted by staceychev View Post
and then they do academics like sight words and more worksheets in the after-care while the older kids are doing their homework.
I'd focus my efforts on changing the after-care. There is no reason why the kindergarteners shouldn't be playing something quiet while the older kids do homework. My dd was in aftercare last year, and it was: snack, outside time, inside games. Nothing academic.


Quote:
Originally Posted by ZTMOM View Post
Last year DD went to 1/2 day Pre-K. We chose the school closest to our home even though it ranked pretty low academically, because I really just wanted her to have the social experience. The principal, Pre-K teacher & aide were all fantastic & it ended up being a great academic experience for DD.

We are now 4 weeks into all day K at one of the top ranked academic school in our district. So far it has been the exact opposite experience & I'm just trying to get a little perspective on what normal is.
Beware the rankings! They only tell part of the story -- our kids are at a lower ranked school and are thriving because of it not in spite of it. But that's a rant for another time...

Quote:
Originally Posted by ZTMOM View Post
No communication specific to DD - Am I expected to wait until Parent/Teacher conferences to get feedback?
Do you see the teacher informally? My kids' teachers are happy to chat for a couple of minutes if they've got the time, but if I want to know more, I send an e-mail or I schedule a meeting. They're happy to have those conversations, but often their schedule is such that they can't really stop and chat with every parent.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ZTMOM View Post
Reduced to completely eliminated recess and play time every day - This has been the result of a couple of the boys' behavior issues. Even more concerning is that I've been told this is a standard punishment for severe things right down to petty (IMO) things. For example, Johnny didn't bring a warm enough jacket, nobody in Johnny's class is going to recess.
No, not the norm, and I would definitely be talking to the teacher and principal about this. Not only is this not good discipline, taking away recess for children (especially children at this age who still need a lot of physical movement) will increase behavior problems and reduce their ability to learn. Physical exercise helps the brain learn.


Quote:
Originally Posted by ZTMOM View Post
There have been some nasty exchanges on the school's Facebook page between parents & in general I just don't get a welcome feeling there, even though I've met some really great parents in my daughter's class.
That's terrible! It can happen at any school, and if there's a clique of parents who are active, it can really bring down the whole experience for other parents.


Quote:
Originally Posted by ZTMOM View Post
Sentenced to daily torment - There are boys that are hitting & throwing things at the other kids on a daily basis, yet , 4 weeks in & they still sit at the group tables with the other kids.
Nope, wouldn't happen at our school. However, because of privacy, I wouldn't be able to find out what exactly they're doing to help those boys. But I can guarantee that the counselor, the principal and a few more people (aides) would be in there ASAP.

From what you've described the teacher/school doesn't seem to have a very effective behavior plan and isn't welcoming. I wouldn't be happy there either.
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