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Ask Judy: Opting out of kindergarten

Tuesday, 26 February 2013 10:13

Dear Judy,

I am very concerned about the the direction that kindergarten is going. When will people realize these are babies, who deserve to play and learn at their own pace, mostly out and about in the world? Five year olds should not be taught material that's intended for 6-year-old brains, developmentally. Five year olds should not be asked to sit doing worksheets for hours a day, but that's what most teachers are doing now. Must I send my child to kindergarten? I would prefer to keep her away from all formal schooling until she is 6 or 7 (like the kids in Finland) but I am afraid I would be breaking the law.
Kg concerned

Dear Kg concerned,

The last time I explored this with DOE staffers, I was assured that the object of the law was not to "go after" the parents who do not send their child to kindergarten. Their concern is for the kids who were not let into crowded schools because kindergarten was not required. You may keep her out of kindergarten but you must enroll her for 1st grade (unless you decide to homeschool -- more on how to do that below.)

I do agree that in many kindergartens, instruction is very academic – with mastery of the Common Core standards overtaking creative play and physical activity. But many schools do continue to incorporate learning within developmentally appropriate activities – emphasis on activities. As you tour the schools,  look to see whether kindergartens still have blocks and dress up corners; ask how much "choice time" five year olds get, and whether there is active recess.

I can recommend some kindergartens that use this approach and urge you to explore them as a possibility for your child. This is just a sampling and a place to start. These are unzoned schools: some only admit children from within their district and most select by lottery. Check out the Central Park East I and II, River East, Ella Baker, Teachers College Community School, Castle Bridge, Earth School, Neighborhood School, East Village Community School. Admittedly, Manhattan has the lion's share, but in Brooklyn, the Brooklyn New School is a terrific example of progressive education. In the Bronx, there is PS 51 Bronx New School and PS 344 AmPark. In Queens, several districts have welcoming early childhood centers. Take the time to visit the ones nearest to you to evaluate the programs to see if they answer your concerns.

As you look, consider that most of her peers will be in school next year. You'll have to keep her actively engaged until her friends meet on the playground at 3 pm. That sounds like home-schooling to me so if you are still not convinced to send her to kindergarten I urge you to register with the DOE to establish homeschooling right away. Here's who to contact:

William Harrington, Director
333 Seventh Avenue, 7th Floor
New York, NY 10001

Gail Baskerville, Administrative Assistant
333 Seventh Avenue, 7th Floor
New York, NY 10001

If you decide that home schooling is not for you, there's will still be time beyond the March 1 application deadline to register at your zoned school, or to join a waitlist at the unzoned schools. One more option: there are a few progressive charter schools in the city that you may want to explore. The deadline to apply to all charter schools is April 1.

Good luck, whatever you decide.


Last modified on Tuesday, 26 February 2013 15:22

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