In my second school, Bios, we had a new student enter our school her first year as a ninth grade student. Her academic skills were minimal. Her behavior was disrespectful and negative towards school. Math, reading, and writing skills were all below a public school first grade student. By the time she graduated in four years she was reading at close to an eighth grade vocabulary and was able to go to a community college without any special labels or assistance.
I do not write this to you to brag about my instructional methods, her grandparents support or the amazing teachers I had to support her in her accomplishments. I tell you this to begin my conversation with you on why kindergarten is not necessary as well as the fallacy we need twelve years after kindergarten to complete our children's education.
First, students at the typical age of kindergarten should be playing at this age, preferably at home, but not spending time learning the alphabet or counting to one hundred. What a waste of time! Students can quickly learn those skills at the age of seven without slowing down their long term educational progress. Finland begins their basic education at the age of seven. Their education is rated first by the UN Education Index.
The early start date for school hurts those students who are still very active physically. I have watched throughout my forty years in education, kindergarten students labeled something because the student has trouble sitting in a chair or has not learned how to be appropriate around other students. It use to be mostly boys who began their first years in school being labeled a behavior problem or something worse like being held back a year, but more and more girls are being treated the same way.
Play provides an amazing learning time for children to express themselves, to learn through experimentation during play, learn new vocabulary as they work their imagination and it allows children spontaneity as they move to something else that interests them on their own initiative.
Second, all the reading skills taught in kindergarten (and first grade) can be taught much quicker in second grade with quicker progress. Of course that is true with all students as they age.
When I first have students arrive in my special education class for the first time, all have a view that they are poor at school and will always be behind the other students in their academic skills. What usually happens is that once I am able to show them they can learn, then it is just a matter of time to not only catch the student up to the state's expectations but to work towards surpassing those expectations. For most students, their lack of progress in school was because of poor teachers, poor parents, or a poor system of instruction or some combination of the three.
The older the student's age is, the quicker the student moves through the lower grades expectations. Basic phonics skills are learned at a faster pace by the older students than younger students even with the same prior skills.
My third point is that from my experience with my two K-12 private schools, students should have completed their general studies by the time they are finished with the tenth grade.
Students should have the option to choose a vocational track or an academic track. Our students who chose a vocational track their last year were ready to move into training or good paying jobs when they graduated.
It does not take thirteen years to provide our students the necessary skills to write independently, to master skills through geometry and algebra, and to read well enough to progress through the rest of their lives. That it does is not the fault of the students. Our archaic instructional methods and school structures need to change.
I am Tim Ihms, the founder, head master, instructor, book keeper, and part time custodian at New Park Street Christian Academy. The blogs on this page are written for the parents of New Park Street students and for those who may be interested in sending their child to the school some day.