Saturday's soccer camp at Peckham Field proved the ideal opportunity for me to survey parents of current kindergarten students about the new program.
After a kind introduction by coach, Mark Salley, seven moms and dads were willing to go on the record and tell me their thoughts on full-day kindergarten.
The overall consensus was that the switch to the full-day schedule has been beneficial. Emily Walden, a Middlefield mother of four, said, "He gets to play, have learning time, lunch time, recess...With half-day kindergarten he couldn't do all that."
Ed Wright, a Durham dad of a Brewster kindergartner appreciates the convenience of the schedule. "I really like that it's the same time as my second grader's. They both go on the same bus and come back on the same bus."
The large amount of time available for both academics and play was a big plus for many of the parents who spoke with me. Cathy Thiel of Durham, mom of a Brewster kindergartner, has a son who went through the half-day program. About her kindergartner she said, "She has enough time to get through what she needs to get through. My son was rushed in half-day kindergarten."
Lisa Stopka, a Brewster mom and former owner of the Academy of Little Learners in Durham, said, "I think it's wonderful. I see learning improving...They get time to practice socialization skills through centers and recess time...It's a challenging program. They have to learn two sight words a week. That's a lot of work."
Brewster mom, Becky Finnerty, agrees with Stopka about the strong academics. "My daughter is learning so much. She knows more than my daughter did [at the same point in half-day kindergarten]...My son is in fourth grade. She'll take his chapter books, open them up, and search for sight words. It's fun to watch."
One common complaint last spring against full-day kindergarten was the belief that children this age could not handle a full-day schedule. Chris Meisenkothen of Durham was one of those concerned parents, and he remained undecided about the switch to the full-day program throughout the discussion. Two months in, he's a believer. "It worked out well. My son likes it a lot. We thought he would come home tired and crabby, but that hasn't been the case."
Meisenkothen was the only parent who shared that he had originally been ambivalent about the change, so I probed further asking if there were any disadvantages to the full day program. He responded, "I don't think so. He enjoys getting his lunch. He feels big...Morning K was just two and a half hours...it was not enough time."
Some children did arrive home tired, especially during the first few weeks. Brewster mom, Cathy Thiel, said, "She's tired..She's sensitive...Her brother can needle her, and she responds...I think they need full-day, but now that it's started, it's a long day."
Daniela Kowal, Durham mom of a Lyman student (and my friend who came up with the brilliant idea to ambush parents at the soccer camp), said about her son, "In the beginning he was tired. He was ready for kindergarten because of preschool, but when he got home he was tired. But that could have happened in first grade."
Ed Wright had a similar experience. "My son would fall asleep on the bus the first couple weeks, but now he loves it...He does more schoolwork and gets more play...They're not rushing the schoolwork."
Emily Walden's son, on the other hand, got on the bus and never looked back. "We thought he'd be a little more tired, but he's really not. He's really been able to adjust to it." She added, "My son has gotten more independent."
Many parents shared that their child's prized activity is lunchtime, with pizza being the preferred menu item. Other favorites were recess, quiet time, assemblies, and homework!
An unexpected benefit of the full-day program was mentioned by Durham dad, Ed Wright, who likes that his son will get to attend Brewster for a full three years instead of two and a half. "He only gets [Brewster] for a couple years...so now we will feel like more a part of the community."