Why I Found Half-Day Kindergarten Was Better Than Full-Day

A mom explains why, when her twins weren’t chosen for full-day kindergarten, she found half-day sessions were better.

In my children’s school, I had an option to pay for full-day kindergarten whereas half-day was free. My twins were not selected in the lottery to get into full-day, but I discovered it was for the best, because I enjoyed having a few extra hours with them. In fact, I chose half-day kindergarten for my younger daughter as well.

Here are some reasons why I preferred the half-day sessions.

Educational benefit

I wanted to enroll my twins in full-day kindergarten because I thought they would receive more education, which would in turn help them excel academically the following year. Both of them have done well in school academically despite the fewer hours in kindergarten.

Researcher Philip DeCicca at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, had findings similar to my experience. He tested children at the end of first grade and found there was little difference in reading and math test scores of children who attended full-day versus half-day kindergarten. At first there were some gains, but they were short-lived.

More time to play

With half-day kindergarten, my 
kids had time for unstructured play, alone or with friends. The benefits of unstructured play include a stronger bond to family members, better peer relationships, improved problem solving and healthy development. We also attended library story time, which had structured mixed with unstructured time to allow the children to socialize.

They developed friendships during this time that they have maintained over the past six years and I met and socialized with their friends’ parents.

More time with family

Research from the University of Illinois found that when families regularly spent time together — in this case they studied going on nature hikes — they functioned better as a family. The study suggests the time together enables families to better read social cues, which leads to feeling less irritable and more in control.

I look back fondly on those extra hours I had with all three of my kids. Besides library story time, we went to playgrounds, playgroups and other activities.

They will be in school for six hours a day for the next 12 years, so I’m grateful for the additional time I had with them.

Short attention spans

Most kindergarten-aged children have a short attention span. According to Day2DayParenting.com, the average 5- to 6-year-old child can attend to something of interest for 10 to 15 minutes, which decreases to 5 to 10 minutes for topics not of interest to them. A school day is six hours long, which may make it difficult for some children this age to stay focused on tasks.

Costs less money

In my kids’ school, full-day kindergarten cost $3,000 per child, so 
for my twins it would have been $6,000. Instead of spending the money on school, I was able to save some of it. I used the remainder to pay for activities, such as a gymnastics or dance classes.

What is best for your child

You know your child better than anyone. If you feel he would benefit from full-day, he might. I thought my children would benefit from the longer school days, but when we ended up not making the lottery, we made the best of the situation and, in the end, it worked out for us.

Cheryl Maguire is a freelance writer.

Categories: Early Education, Education & Child Care, Education Features