Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Was ist Kindergarten?
So, to help clarify false impressions perhaps it is necessary to answer the question "What is Kindergarten?"
Kindergarten (literally translated from German as "children's garden" which I like because it conjures the image of lovingly cultivating growth in children) is the first time many children are exposed to formal schooling.
Across America kindergarten programs vary in structure and philosophy. In some states kindergarten is mandatory while in others it is not. In some classrooms children are taught to read while in others they are taught readiness skills. However, in all kindergarten classrooms children are learning to interact with others in a social environment without the presence of a parent. It is a time of burgeoning independence and surmountable challenges.
Kindergarten today is a far cry from the one we remember from our collective childhoods. Gone are the cozy blankets at nap-time, the four-hour days, the endless play. These are replaced by rigorous curricula in reading, writing, word study, science, mathematics and social studies as well as classes in art, music, physical education and in our school American Sign Language.
Student progress is documented to show growth in all areas through anecdotal records, observations, formal assessments and portfolio collections. Conferences are held with each child, in each academic domain at least once a week.
Of course, there is time for exploration, imagination, enjoyment and that ever important element: play. There is an expression we have adopted at our school based on the Reggio Emilia approach to learning. It is "nothing without joy".
Kindergarten may be more challenging for the "kinder" than I remember as a child but this quote keeps things in perspective and in balance. If a child wakes up looking forward to school each day, I have done something right.