By Betsy Kester, Curriculum Coordinator at Redeemer School
It’s that time of year – no, not Christmas – time to think about Kindergarten. “Is my child ready?” He’ll be five just before August. She seems to do well in her preschool class. We have a saying in my family: “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” Am I ready to put him in the way of the demands of current mainstream Kindergarten with limited time for play, a significant amount of pencil and paper work, a quantity of homework, and the expectation to read at a certain level regardless of his natural development? (Typical children learn to read somewhere between the ages of five and seven.) Should I consider a private, developmentally appropriate kindergarten? Or should I even be open to another option: Transitional Kindergarten (TK)?
TK is an extra year for younger five-year-olds (five by December 31) that allows them to progress appropriately along the developmental continuum. Learning and play are inseparable for young children and the purposeful selection of activities in TK develops the pre-academic and social skills necessary to ready the students for Kindergarten.
Consider some typical characteristics of children and where your child may fall:
- Vision in the far field – not able to copy from board
- “Reads” the environment (McDonalds, Teddy Grahams, etc.)
- Hand/fingers extension of arm (fine motor skills not dominant)
- Fisted grasp
- Enjoys running, jumping, and climbing – needs to MOVE
- Sits still for brief periods, shifts from one activity to another
- Loves read-alouds
- Learns best through play and exploration – “hand-to-head”
- Learns through large muscles rather than paper-pencil tasks
- Counts, sorts, graphs
- Vision focused upon objects at hand
- Likes to copy
- Beginning to read familiar books
- Gross motor improving
- Fine motor improving
- 3-fingered pincer grasp
- Active but can control behavior
- Enjoys structured games
- Thinks out loud, but can sit and work quietly for 15-20 minutes
- Enjoys longer books
- Relies on sights and senses, play, and own action
- Labels pictures, spells phonemically
- Begins to write numbers
- Adds and subtracts with counters
– From Yardsticks: Children in the Classroom Ages 4-14 by Chip Wood
What would be some benefits of this extra year or “gift of time?” Your child would be in a gently-paced but academic environment where they would be introduced to concepts in a way that is developmentally appropriate for them. For instance, in Kindergarten they may copy letter shapes from the board. In a TK class they would use wooden pieces to “make” the letters and feel the shapes. In Kindergarten students may work independently for 15-20 minutes at a time reading books at their level, listen to a read aloud chapter book, “write” a story, and use pennies to “buy” items at the store. In a TK class students may listen to two or three different short read alouds in a day, paint a picture, build a train station, “read” and “write” an important word with the teacher, act out a story in felt people, play outside and count items from nature. Both classes are building concepts of reading, writing, and math but in ways that are developmentally appropriate for the children. The younger students are not leaving exhausted and mentally drained from trying to attend and “hang on” through a day that they are just not ready for. Also they have the time to develop confidence in their decision-making skills and academic habits that prepare them well for Kindergarten.
When making this very important decision for your child, also consider ten years down the road. Will my daughter still be fifteen when most of her peers have been sixteen for up to a year or more? Will my son be able to be a leader if he’s always the youngest in his class by six months or more? Both of my sons are some of the oldest in their classes – one by birth date and one by “the gift of time.” It has been very beneficial to them in terms of academics and maturity when they were little and now when they are in high school. There’s no need to rush them “out the door.” Let’s give them the gift of an unhurried childhood while we can!
*Sponsored by Redeemer School