Recently, as part of their language arts curriculum, my 11-year-old twin daughters were asked to write formal letters to people of their choosing, regarding any subject they wished. This was—much to my relief—entirely an in-class assignment. The letter was to be written in English (although it is a French Immersion class), typed into and printed off the school's computers. My daughters talked a little about their topics—one chose all-day kindergarten, the other chose report cards—but I hadn't actually seen the letters until they brought them home, graded, and in need of my signature.
Below is the letter written by my daughter E on the topic of all day-kindergarten, which she seems to assume is or will become mandatory in Ontario. Since my children are well beyond kindergarten age, the issue of all-day kindergarten is not one to which I've given a lot of thought. In general, though, it is an initiative that I favour, as part of a range of services supportive of parents with children, akin to programs in place in countries like Finland whose social programs and education systems are well worth emulating.
My daughter’s letter
So my daughter's letter, ostensibly to our provincial Member of Parliament, surprised me. She is quite adamantly opposed to the idea of all-day kindergarten for reasons she explains in the letter. It is interesting and eyeopening to me that a child—my child—would feel this way about a program most adults I know support. Of course, her letter has not convinced me that all-day kindergarten is a bad thing (although I think it may not be right for all kids). But it has convinced me that too often kids' views are neither solicited nor taken into consideration when policy decisions that directly affect them are made.
Here's the letter E wrote:
Dear Member of Parliament:
I recently heard that kindergartners are now going to school all day. I personally do not agree with this. First of all, kids are only young, they need to have time to play their own games. This will build their imagination, which will help them do better in school. I also believe that if children go all day they will not have a positive attitude towards school. They will get tired and stop wanting to go to school all day.
Another problem with kindergartners going to school all day is that I don't really see how it will help them. A lot of the smartest mathematicians, scientists and so on, didn't even go to kindergarten. They were still very smart people.
When you're in kindergarten, all you really do is fun activities. But eventually (if you're going all day) you would run out of fun activities to do. What would you do all day? The kids would get restless, so I suppose you might decide to start math or something like that, but that is another thing I disagree with. I did a bit of adding and subtracting when I was in kindergarten but not much. With kids going all day, I have the feeling they might be doing a lot more of that kind of work. I do not think it is good to rush into things like that, it will just confuse them.
Thank you for taking your time to read this letter. I hope you consider what I am saying.
An alternative to full time kindergarten