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Kindergarten Is for the Kids

April 13, 2002

Peggy Constantine's comments in "Jumping the Gun on Kindergarten" are true, in my experience (Voices, April 6). In 1966, when I was a 5-year-old in Chicago, my mother sent me to the Head Start program of Davis Elementary School. I thrived in that atmosphere. In fact, I had so much fun and learned so much in the following four years that my mother unwisely agreed with Davis Elementary's decision to have me skip the fourth grade.

My verbal skills were ready for the challenge, but my math skills were not. Missing basic lessons in multiplication and long division forced me to "catch up"--all the way through high school, where I only got as far as intermediate algebra. Consequently, I couldn't do the math for calculus when I first entered a university. This had a significant impact on my later academic and career decisions.

Parents and school administrators should pay attention to Constantine's argument for allowing kids to develop before shoving them into learning environments they are unprepared for.

David Schwankle



I thoroughly enjoyed Constantine's piece on the perils of kindergarten today. I started my 5-year-old (with a September birthday) in kindergarten last year because I felt I had to.

Kindergarten was a horrid experience for her. She was not ready for many of the activities, but this did not stop the teacher from judging her based on these activities. He even wanted her referred to special education; I asked him to give her time. This year, she is in a charter school, which is wonderful, and her teacher says she is right where she should be. While I am grateful that she is now in an environment with a teacher who understands developmental readiness, her self-esteem was seriously injured last year. Why does kindergarten have to be first grade? Whom does it serve?

Marilee Mouser



As a father of a young son enrolling in kindergarten this year, Constantine's piece on today's higher standards for kindergarteners left me saddened but not surprised, as it highlighted another classic example of public education's misplaced priorities. Constantine informs us that "if your child is not ready to write sentences and begin reading, give that child a year to develop" before entering him in kindergarten. Huh?

What happened to letting kindergarten be a pressureless platform for 4- and 5-year-old kids to make the adjustment to the more serious learning environment found in the first grade? It really makes no difference to me whether my son is 5 or 6 years old when he finally learns to count to 100 and read a simple book.

The education process is a marathon. Why is it being run as a sprint? If there is any place where standards need to be raised, it is at the other end of the educational spectrum. How about tougher standards and increased homework for our middle and high school students? I've seen the amount of homework given to today's kindergarteners and I wonder if we are inadvertently conditioning them to dread school. Kindergarten should be a chance for the schools to get our kids interested in the learning process.

Leonard Penzo

Chino Hills

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