Kindergarten Today

The Class of 2022, a project of the Star News of North Carolina, is following a dozen kindergartners from around the Cape Fear region through their high school graduations to see what it’s like to grow up during the early years of the 21st century. Here’s a description of what kindergarten is like for these students:

“People have this conception of kindergarten as everybody gets cookies and milk and takes a nap, and you’re just not going to see that anymore,” said Kathy Fox, associate professor in the Watson School of Education at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. “The focus on academics has been pushed downward.”

In her 22 years teaching preschool through second grade, Fox has watched unstructured playtime shrink, replaced by worksheets and nightly homework. Fox remembers the shift starting in the 1990s, when studies ranked students in the United States well below those in other developed nations like Japan in math and reading. There was a push to close that gap, Fox recalls, and one solution was to start emphasizing academic subjects at a younger age.

Walking into [a] classroom at Castle Hayne Elementary, parents will see fewer toys and more tables and chairs than they might expect, according to teacher Tina Weldon. Students have a 30-minute recess every day, and the rest of the time is scheduled for specific activities. The school day has stretched, from half a day to the full six and a half hours.

“It seems like kindergarten now is like what first or second grade was like when I was in school,” Weldon said.,

Read the story here.

10 thoughts on “Kindergarten Today

  1. From the end of the article:
    “Bending to school rules was a challenge for Jadeyn from the first day of school. She was excelling academically and reading well above grade level, but talked too much, kept hugging her classmates and wanted to focus on her own creative activities instead of homework.

    In January, Lynn Blair was called in for a parent-teacher conference, Blair worked with Jadeyn’s teacher on providing more structure at home and other strategies, and Jadeyn’s behavior has improved ever since.”

    What a tragedy! A love of life snuffed out by age 5. This article flies in the face of what people like Ken Robinson believe has to happen for children in the new century. I too will be interested to see what will happen to these kindergarteners…and how many of them actually finish school.


  2. PsychMom — agreed, that is really depressing. “More structure at home”! Now the poor kid never gets a break. Ugh. And isn’t it typical that the alleged “problem” has nothing to do with learning — the kid just wasn’t compliant enough.


  3. But that’s been a goal since schooling began…to get the masses in line, so that we would be good citizens, manageable citizens, who would be agreeable to assembly line work.

    It’s really like breaking horses. You need them to get them to do work for you.


  4. PsychMom says:

    It’s really like break­ing horses. You need them to get them to do work for you.

    I’ve spent most of my career at 6th/7th grade and I would say most of them were broken by the time they got to me. That child like wonder, crushed.

    Some learn to just do just what is necessary and not go beyond or question anything. Others who struggle see themselves as not very smart, and have already given up.
    In the right environment they could get it back, but that environment does not exist in most public schools.

    I would like to smack Lee Canter


  5. My son’s (now a 7th grader) kindergarten year was an unmitigated disaster, because it was the year we discovered dysgraphia and by the second week of school (when he barely knew how to write and it was a problem anyway), he was expected to read a book every night, then write a three-sentence journal entry and draw a picture about said book. For him, school became about tears early on, and the teacher was horrid to both him and to us as we tried to get help for him, saying his only problem was maturity (she declared that he had the maturity level of a three-year-old; not true).

    Fortunately, our school assignment changed and our daughter didn’t go to kindergarten at that school. That said, we still had problems. Jadeyn, a child cited in the Cape Fear study, sounds like my daughter, now a 5th-grader. I got a call on her first (!) full day of kindergarten about needing to work with her on “structure” and “staying on-task.” This is a child who has always stood back and observed a situation/group to get a “feel” for it before jumping in, and I sent a note with her that first day to inform her teacher of this. As it turned out, the teacher had not yet read it (which I understood; she couldn’t spend the first day reading parent notes, and I’m sure I’m not the only parent who wrote one).

    I told them then and tell them now that once my kids are done with their “have tos” (and homework’s a part of that, though I have no problem with stopping them if something’s too excessive), the rest of the time is for “want tos.”

    I feel as if I’m ranting, but putting this much stress on five-year-olds is damaging, in my opinion.


  6. You’re not ranting, Linnea, you’re just telling your story, which is a sad one. Keep advocating and watching out for your kids, they need you to do that for them.


  7. hi am a home school teacher of 2 girls and i’m a 11 year girl and i want to leave my girls home work but i do not known what can you help me please and thank you


  8. it’s me again and my name is fernanda natalie nava my e mail is fernynava_98@hotmail it’s me about the 2 girls


  9. When my mom saw that I got homework in Kindergarten, she stared at it with distaste for a few minutes, picked it up, and hurtled into the nearest trash can.

    I just wish she would do that now.


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