Earlier this week a parent contacted me with the following question-
“Why do we (academically speaking) expect so much more from our children than what was expected of us 30 years ago? Kindergarten when I was a child was a half day of finger paints, singing ABCs and macaroni necklaces. My child at the age of 5 learned to read, add, subtract and more! Why can’t kids be kids?”
This is quite the loaded question and perspectives on this vary widely. I can only answer based on my knowledge and viewpoint. Research (Bassok, Latham & Rorem, 2016) does show that indeed much more time is being spent in Kindergarten classrooms on learning the academic objectives historically taught in a later grade. This is due, in part, to Federal legislation such as No Child Left Behind and the implementation of the Common Core Standards. Since the implementation of NCLB, more than 3 hours of a Kindergarten student’s day is typically spent in teacher-led large group activities. Further, in less than ½ of Kindergarten classrooms provide the opportunity of child-directed activities for more than an hour a day.
That said- Kindergarten is still Kindergarten. Teachers might now be following a new set of standards outlining what their students should be taught however, teachers are (hopefully) applying developmentally appropriate teaching practices to help their students learn this information. A teacher who is knowledgeable in childhood development will create ways for his or her students to learn via exploration, song, art, play, and physical activity. It is in this way that kids can still be kids.
Bassok, D., Latham, S. & Rorem, A. (2016). Is Kindergarten the New First Grade. AERA Open, 1(4), 1-31, DOI: 10.1177/2332858415616358. http://curry.virginia.edu/uploads/resourceLibrary/20_Bassok_Is_Kindergarten_The_New_First_Grade.pdf