What is Kindergarten in USA?
The term “Kindergarten” is borrowed directly from the German but given an American meaning. Kindergarten in USA is the first time that children go to school. While many children may have attended a preschool, even an academic preschool, Kindergarten is considered the beginning of formal education. The government funds kindergarten, half day or full day programs. Attendance is not compulsory. However, every five-year-old attends. To be eligible, usually a student must be five years old by September 1. Sometimes the cut-off date is December 31.
Best Kindergarten schools in USA are usually part of larger, well-respected elementary school. This may be a private or public school. In either case, Kindergarten in USA will tend to have two purposes: preparing children for the classroom experience and getting them ready academically to manage the grade one curriculum. Emphasis is on “readiness”. This means the “prerequisites” that children must come to school knowing so that they are prepared for success in formal school. These prerequisites include basic number sense, counting to 10, knowing colors, identifying geometric shapes, knowing some letter sounds, identifying letters and even understanding that reading is from left to right. There is some feeling that Kindergarten has become too academic. Should children be reading by age five? As scholastic requirements in high school have become more demanding, Kindergarten must necessarily become a more serious enterprise if a student is to have sufficient time to prepare for academic success, 12 years later.
Kindergarten in USA tends to be teacher-lead and developmentally appropriate. For example, while the activities and lessons planned for the day will be designed to complement what we know about five-year-old learners, children will be expected to do everything at the same time. So there will be song time, and story time and calendar time, counting time and snack time. Classrooms tend to be quite colorful and hanging full of student artwork, illustrations, numbers and words of interest. Ample time is spent on socialization: sharing, taking turns, resolving conflict and resecting other’s possessions. While there are best Kindergartens in the USA to be found among Montessori, Waldorf, Reggio Emilia and Forest programs, traditional Kindergarten in USA delivers an academic curriculum in a pleasant environment.
What to look for among the best kindergarten schools in USA
- Ideal student to teacher ratio of 18:1 – teacher assistants can help to achieve this ratio
- Parents are treated as full participants in their child’s education and are encouraged to be involved.
- The principal can articulate her vision for the school. (You agree with the vision).
- High quality teaching is paramount. Teachers should have early-childhood credentials. Observe them in action. Does the teacher’s style provide an optimal learning environment for your child?
- There is a thoughtful curriculum. At some forward-thinking schools, five-year-old are keeping journals and using picture graphs to record data.
- There is a plan in place when a student does not master the material.
- The students demonstrate their joy in learning. The students look happy, are smiling and at ease.