Thursday, March 02, 2006


An op-ed about all-day kindergarten, LB 228 and the Lincoln Public Schools, responding to


My husband and I find ourselves in the ridiculous position of being 50 years old with a kindergartner still at home. Our older daughters are 22, 21 and 18 . . . and then comes “Whoopsie Daisy Williams.” We’ve heard the jokes: buying school supplies with our AARP discount card . . . pushing our walkers to PTA meetings . . . turning up our hearing aids at parent-teacher conferences. . . .

But actually, Maddy is the freckle-faced light of our lives. We have crayon drawings of penguins and dinosaurs on our fridge, new knock-knock jokes, and toys left out on the driveway to run over once again. We thought starting over would be terrible. But it’s great.

Also surprising is how much our views have changed about education. We used to be all for big bucks being spent on schools . . . the more time in the classroom, the better . . . the more computers, the better . . . year-round school? Smart idea, if it’ll make our children “the best.”

Our oldest daughter went to half-day kindergarten in the Omaha Public Schools. The next two attended full-day programs in District 66, after we moved there, largely for the schools.

But ah! Hindsight’s 20/20 . . . even if we do wear bifocals now.

It was our first daughter – the one who “only” got half-day kindergarten – who graduated second in her high-school class as a National Merit Finalist, was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of a respected eastern university, and is going on to law school.

The two who got full-day kindergarten, while still brainiacs who are equally wonderful in every other way, have not attained that high level of academic success.

And I’m convinced it’s because I pushed them out of the nest too soon, and overdelegated to the educators. The things that happened in the OTHER half-day of our oldest daughter’s kindergarten year gave her the decided advantage.

From vocabulary and time management, to concentration and self-control, the home is a better learning environment than school. I’m sure I read more to her and interacted more with her one-on-one. She got far more exposure to text and challenging conversation than kids who spent all day in a large group of their age peers.

Plus, she was exposed to the wider world beyond the classroom walls, by simply living life and going places with me, the mother who loved her and was devoted to rearing her . . . which would seem to be the whole idea of having kids in the first place.

So last fall, we gladly passed up the “free” all-day kindergarten in our local grade school, and enrolled our little Maddy in a private school with a half-day program.

And guess what? She’s reading on the second-grade level. She sings, she jokes, she’s an expert on “octopuses” . . . and recently, I was stretched out on the couch being the “patient” when “Dr. Maddy” asked me how to spell “stethoscope.”

Hallelujah! She’s going to be a doctor!?! Now she really CAN take care of us in our old age!

But personal experience isn’t the only reason I think our Legislature should reject LB 228, the all-day kindergarten bill. There’s ample evidence that half-day K is best. Look under “Public Policy Briefs” on my website, www.GoBigEd.com, including this knock-out punch:

A large federally-funded study
has found that students who attended full-day kindergarten
actually scored slightly worse
than their peers in half-day programs.
www.goldwaterinstitute.org/article.php/905.html and http://nces.ed.gov/ecls)

We need to make half-day kindergarten the best it can be, cut overall school spending so we can lower taxes so more mothers can afford to stay home at least part-time with their kids, and encourage more quality day-care for those who need it, with generous subsidies for those who can’t afford it.

Kindergarten is “a garden of children.” We gardeners know that cultivation is everything, and timing, and patience. With longer lifespans, today’s kids are going to be “in bloom” for a long, long time. So what’s the rush?

Let’s keep parents in charge of those precious years before first grade . . . so our little seedlings can grow roots that are deep and wide. And then, when the time is right, they can reach for the sky.

Even when the parents are twice as old as the teacher and wear support hose driving carpool, we know what the goal is: doing what’s best for children.

Comments: Post a Comment