I realize this is going to be a very touchy subject, and I am going to try very hard to put this as respectfully as possible. However, I'm giving you a fair warning. I'm about to dive into something that I am VERY passionate about.
For the 2013-2014 school year, our local school district is following the trend of turning the Pre-K program to all day (9am-2pm) 5 days a week. For working parents I assume this is a dream. Their child, who is used to spending a full day outside of their own home and in the care of other adults, will have more learning opportunities. I also assume this is the major push for turning the Pre-K program to all day. Getting kids out of daycare and into public schooling. For children who are in full time day care, this is probably a good fit.
With that said, I'm going to start in on my opinion. All day Pre-K is WRONG. Essentially, you are asking parents to put children in the mix with other children who have all kinds of backgrounds for an entire day. This leaves you, as the parent, at a loss. A loss of influence. Children need their parents to teach them right from wrong.
We have been very fortunate in this area. When Little Man began the half day Pre-K program last year, we had concerns about what he would be exposed to and if he was mature enough to choose the right kind of friends. Thankfully, he had an amazing year. He did come across a few things that needed explaining and direction, but nothing serious and we had time to do damage control. His exposure was limited being that he was at school for only 2 1/2 hours. He was there to learn the structure of a school day, how to behave, academics, and peer relationships. Then he returned home. He ate lunch with his family, napped, and played with his family and friends. It was a perfect fit for our family and for him. Sure it was inconvenient to drive (literally) across town to drop him off and turn right back around and get him, but it was worth it.
Now that he is in Kindergarten all day there have been some adjustments. He goes to bed an hour earlier. With his schedule now, we have a total of 5 hours with him at home as opposed to the 7 hours he is at school (Let this be known that I am not a fan of all day Kindergarten either). As a parent, it is hard to know that he spends more time during the week with kids that are foreign to us, than his own family. It is also disturbing to know that behaviors or events that occur in the morning are unbeknownst to us until the late evening when he discusses it. Even with the two phenomenal teachers he has had these past two years, there were/are still events that occurred and the teachers were not aware of, nor should they have been (they can't be there for every conversation or every act) that were disturbing to us as parents. Going back over those events with Little Man took time. Lots of time. Now that he is in school all day, damage control time is limited.
Outside of my personal life and children, I have seen the negative effects of all day Kindergarten that brings up even more concerns for all day Pre-K. We have close friends whose child attended the half day Pre-K program. He did very well. Excelled. Now that he is in Kindergarten, he has struggled. Tears in class. Tears at home. Anxiety to the point of sickness.
Another case in point. I teach a gymnastics class of 5/6 year olds. Two of my precious kiddos have difficulties separating from their parents since they began Kindergarten. Previously, they were running in with smiles and excitement. Their parents have expressed concern about their child's recent inability to separate from them.
The first week of Little Man's school, he was a rockstar. He had no tears. However, I watched parents peel their children from them and guide the child, bawling, into an unknown classroom. This didn't just happen on the first day. It happened the first two weeks of school. It happened in every class.
Now that we are a full month into school, Little Man has began to express his desire to stay home more. He has had a few tears over missing his family. He has asked to pull out of nightly activities that used to excite him, so he can remain with his siblings (mainly Chubby Cheekers). I have to wake him every morning for school. He will lay in bed for quite some time asking for a little longer to rest. This is something totally new for him. Previously, he would bound out of bed without a wake up call.
I tell you all this to ask, Is this really what we want for our kids?
I realize if you are a full time working parent, this is something your child has had to get used to and they have adjusted well. Children are resilient, but should we keep throwing ALL children into these schedules and situations for the sake of education? Should I look at my soon to be four year old and say, "Your time is done at home, honey. Time for work."?
This all day Pre-K stuff is not for us. We will not be participating. Little Miss will be in a Pre-K program next year, but it won't be through our public school. She will go from a time frame of 9-2, like our public school system, but it sure as heck won't be for 5 days/week. Not even three, and yes, we will pay for it. Remember, I'm not a homeschoolin' mama.
Unfortunately, there is another population. It is the population that has me even more fired up. It is the population of families who struggle to have one parent stay at home. This population also disagrees with the all day Pre-K program. This population doesn't have the means to pay for another alternative. This population has no experience in educating their own child, but will be forced to try their best. And then they are thrown into Kindergarten. This is the population that has been forgotten about.
Seriously, are our school leaders really looking out for these young children's best interest or for the interest of teacher convienence, test scores, and day care children? Because every conversation I have with someone who supports all day Pre-K, it boils down to those 3 elements. If that's the case, then open a few select full day programs to accommodate families who find all day a good fit, but as for the rest of us, don't expect us to trust the school system with children who have only been on this Earth for four short years. For Heaven's sake, these kids don't even know how to wipe their own booties!
And I'm done...