All-Day Kindergarten

Last One In School!  Finally!

My sister and her husband recently did a four-day weekend as primary caregivers to a friend's kindergartener and toddler.  Sister writes me an email on the Monday.  "What's the point of half-day kindergarten?  I just dropped him off and now I have to run out to get him again.  What can you get done in 2.5 hours?!"

I think she's the only caregiver in the history of caregiving to bemoan the half-day kindergarten.  Followed by the one lonely voice who asked aloud why preschool is only three days a week.  (That was me, back in the day.)

Parenting is hard.  I needed a break when the kids were little.  We all need a break.  When you're working half-time or full-time on top of parenting, you're half-dead or full-crazy.  You live for that two-point-five hours (less walking or driving time that you can call your own.  (You know, when you focus on yourself for a bit--while you walk the dog, get the groceries, start supper, do a load of wash, scrub a toilet and make cupcakes for someone's birthday party.)

And, if you are working full-time from the minute your EI runs out, you're counting on that two-point-five hours when you can call your income your own and not pay it to childcare. 

So I totally understand the point of view that half of BC's four and five year olds are already in childcare fulltime, therefore putting them in school only makes sense. 

I've heard this was coming and had mixed thoughts.  When our kids were preschoolers, we were able to swing our shifts so we didn't have to pay for daycare.  It was hard on our sleep and the marriage, but I always felt that if the kids were going to wind up in therapy some day, I wanted it to be my fault, not the babysitter's.  I'm self-centered that way.

So I read with interest The Province article on Wed April 28 "Get kids learning early, or pay later, say experts."  It basically says a bunch of experts studied 140,000 children over ten years and the 'vulnerable' children wound up more likely to enter the criminal justice system.  'Vulnerable' children are kids who come up short on a number of tests measuring physical, social, emotional and language skills.

Okay, what are we saying here?  Kids with problems need to be caught early.  Their problems need to be addressed so they have a better chance to overcome them.  The way to identify kids with problems and get them the help they need is to put them in school early--at four years old.

Wow.  Where's mom and dad in this? 

This is exactly where I was going yesterday with Jon Ferry's column.  He's busy saying that the school board is unloading "extra child-minding duties" onto parents.  The early-learning advocates are saying (I'm paraphrasing) "The vulnerable kids aren't getting enough help at home; we need to bring them into the schools to make it happen."

I understand there is a percentage of children for whom school is the only safe place.  Their home life might be one of neglect or violence or drug abuse.  Coming to school allows them to feel physically safe and maybe get their only meal of the day.  Studies that tell the government to put kids in school at four-years-old are pointing at those kids specifically. 

I'm down with that and I don't even mind paying extra taxes for it.  Seriously.  There's a quote about the measure of a society being how it treats its most vulnerable.  I'm too tired to look it up, but I agree with it.  At the same time, I'm the mom who wants to be the primary influence in her children's lives (just a little bit above Dad.  Don't tell him I said that.)

But where does this new model of education fit with parents like me?  Who don't feel stuck with their kids, they actually want to, you know, spend time with them?  We're supposed to put them on a bus at four-years-old anyway?

It's such a far cry from back in the day, when kids didn't go to school until they were six or seven and were allowed to just play.  However, society wasn't turning out the most enlightened generation at that point either. 

I agree that education is a good thing.  It's empowering.  It's something you always get to keep.  No one can ever take it from you.

But still...what do you think?  Is it all about a good start for the kids?  Or a way to offer daycare relief to parents who have to work?