I Didn’t go to Kindergarten

I know I promised to stop my incessant hand-wringing and navel gazing about the fact that Hannah’s starting kindergarten in September. Apparently, I lied. My apologies. Hopefully, this is the last post, but I’m not making any guarantees. I don’t want to become, “The mom who cried no more kindergarten talk.” For now, enjoy more hand-wringing and navel gazing about my first child’s foray into public education.

I didn’t go to kindergarten.

OK, that’s not entirely true. I attended a Waldorf preschool and kindergarten. However, as far as the local public school district was concerned, it was the same thing as not attending kindergarten. And as far as I can say, looking back, they weren’t wrong. I didn’t do the same things in the same setting as my peers who attended public school. While you could argue that the things I did were wonderful and maybe even more valuable, there were no worksheets or performance evaluations or any of the traditional trappings of school.

Missing kindergarten has not negatively impacted my life in any way. I am here to tell you that while there are no doubt many great things about kindergarten, it is not a prerequisite to future success. Which is good to know, because it takes the pressure off. It means that my daughter, who is about to begin attending kindergarten, will not be forever defined by what happens at school. Or doesn’t happen at school. Hooray for having perspective!

Unfortunately, my perspective is not the perspective my own 5-year-old Hannah is looking for. She wants answers, and I don’t have them. She wants to know what she will do all day in kindergarten. She wants to know what, exactly, she will learn. She wants to know how she will learn it. She wants to know what kindergarten looks like, and I can’t blame her.

I didn’t go to kindergarten. I don’t have the answers. And really, even if I had attended kindergarten, it would have been almost 30 years ago. Kindergarten has very likely changed a fair bit in that time. Either way, I am no help here.

But there is one thing I do know about public schools, and about kids. Public schools have playgrounds. Kids like playgrounds. And maybe, if Hannah had a whole new playground to look forward to it would stop the steady stream of questions. Can you say field trip inspiration?

Hannah on the playground

Headed down the slide

Monkey kid

Jacob considers his next move

Look at that!

My boy

I am happy to say that my plan worked. Hannah loved the playground. It gave her something concrete to look forward to, and it gave me at least one solid answer. When she goes to kindergarten, she will get to play on that playground. Score one for the no-kindergarten mom!

Did you go to kindergarten? Do you actually remember anything about it? Share your memories, and if you have school-aged kids, let me know how kindergarten has changed in the past few decades.

PS – As you may know, I have started including a link-up with my monthly reviews. The reviews are an informal listing of a few things I learned in the past month. My August review will go live at 6am Pacific on Wednesday, September 1. If you want to play along, write a post on or before September 1, come here, and link up!

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  1. Love those photos. Your post reminded me of Robert Munsch’s book “We Share Everything.” It’s about kindergarten…and it’s funny.

  2. Ooh, that was a great idea! My daughter starts kindergarten this year, too, and although we haven’t visited the actual playground, she comments on it every day when we drive by and can’t wait to test it out!

    I remember quite a bit about kindergarten (only in the Maritimes we called it ‘Grade Primary’). I remember what my class looked like, I remember sticking a piece of white crayon up my nose and telling the other kids not to tell the teacher when it got stuck (I got it out on my own, luckily). I remember my teacher and many of the other kids’ names (I only knew them for 1.5 years because we moved in Grade 1), I remember helping some of them with reading, and mostly I remember music class. I can still sing most of the songs that we learned. I loved school back then. High school was a different story.
    ShannonL’s last post … Shopping- Peeing and Ice CreamMy Profile

  3. This is my son’s first week of kindergarten and every day I ask what his favorite part of the day was and every time he’s said recess. So, good call on the playground. It’ll be what they most remember, anyway.
    C @ Kid Things’s last post … What About the PencilsMy Profile

  4. I went to Kindergarten. What I remember are faint memories. Memories about the other kids. The projects we did, as we completed them, a piece of our puzzle would be completed, and you were ‘graded’ based on how complete your puzzle was. The puzzle was just something we were able to color.

    I remember the playground. I remember a girl breaking her arm on the playground, she fell on rocks. (We live in the granite state)

    I remember getting into trouble… because of a boy… he’d make me and my friend talk alot. We were only telling him to leave us alone, to shut up. But we were the ones caught talking. So me and this friend had to sit on the rug, with our knees bent up and our foreheads to the knees. It was awkward and we did it quite frequently. I don’t remember it being called a “time out” though. And that boy? He never got caught. The teacher never believed us when we tried to explain he was instigating us. He really was! I’m still bothered by it I guess. Very unfair he never got caught. I never did like that boy. He also wrote very very faint with his pencil. I’m not sure why that memory sticks out too.

    I also remember learning letters. I specifically remember learning the letter M. I’m not sure why. There would be silly songs and phrases made to go with each letter. Maybe that’s what made me remember the letter M.

    I remember the kids from Kindergarten. Primarily because my town was very small, we all went through 1-12 grades together too.

    Even before Kindergarten, I remember Nursery school. I remember the day I met my first friend there. Her name was Sarah, and our Moms introduced us just because we had the same name. I’m still friends with her today… and now our two boys play together.

    Hannah will have so many memories… it sounds like the questions are just proof she is excited about it.
    Sara’s last post … Washing HandsMy Profile

  5. I did not go to Kindergarten either. I grew up in a different country and went through a whole different school system and actually know painfully little about the canadian school system my sons are going to go through. It scares me a little. We too did the playground field trip before my eldest first day of school. It was a splendid idea since we met other kids there with the same mission and, though they didn’t end up in the same class, gave them yet one more thing that would not be unknown. Also I shamelessly interviewed the mothers to extract as much inside information as possible. I still do at every opportunity. It is amazing what a little motivation can do with a shy introvert like myself…

    In Sweden, where I grew up, school starts years later than here. Before school I was in full day daycare, but actual school with workbooks and reading and writing and formal schooling, does not begin until seven years of age. I was (am) not completely comfortable sending a 4-year-old to the school bench. It seems they still have so much playing and socializing and gross motor skills to master. That said my son was totally school ready and thrived in JK. He loved filling out work sheets with endless rows of letters and numbers. He loved his teacher and his new friends and snack time and even lining up. He can’t wait to go back to school.

  6. I actually went to three kindergartens in different countries: New Zealand, Canada, and Saudi Arabia. (We moved a lot that year.) But I remember each of them quite well, and each was an enormously positive environment – even with such different cultures and expectations.
    Kids are such marvelously adaptable little creatures, open to social shaping and new experiences and learning. I have every confidence that Hannah will begin to blossom in a whole new way that you never could have predicted.
    Looking forward to updates!

  7. I vaguely remember kindergarten. I remember the coat cubbies, the painting station, the mini house and various items for it. I remember story time. We all sat on the carpet and the teacher read us a story. I remember singing the ABC’s. I remember the achievement chart: when you tied your shoes by yourself, wrote your name, etc you got a sticker on the chart…

    I’m surprised I remember so much!

    While V is not going to kindergarten yet I AM looking forward to preschool starting up again. That kid needs some structure to her days!!
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  8. I remember singing the ABC song. I remember circle time or something like that. I remember my mother stepping on my fingers as she talked to my teachers. I remember not being upset about her stepping on them. I remember making fake stained glass. I remember green eggs and ham. I remember making macaroni letters. I remember making candles. I remember naptime alot. I remember my friend telling me that I use to steal m&ms from the reward bucket during naptime. I remember learnign to tie shoes using an old wooden shoe. I remember tracing my body and hanging it on the wall. It is amazing all I remember! But I don’t remember the playground in kindergarden. It was only a 1/2 day so i am not sure we ever went. I remember liking my teachers and weird paint (tempera).

    When does Hannah’s school start? School here started around August 9th. When does her school get out??

  9. Ontario had junior and senior kindergarten when I was Hannah’s age. My mom didn’t bother with JK and I just went to SK when I was five. I walked around telling everyone I had “skipped” JK!
    From my SK days, I just remember lots of cutting and pasting and free play and circle time. It seems like many schools are now doing full-day kindergarten – will Hannah be in all day or just half-days?
    Amanda’s last post … Three Years LaterMy Profile

  10. My older son will be in grade one and my younger one will be in kindergarten within a week. I love our school’s kindergarten program. It is such a happy introduction to the school system. It is a morning program and they mostly do crafts, worksheets, circle time and a lot of playing at centres. It gets them used to the big school and I think it’s wonderful

    One of the things that is recommended is that you take your child to the school playground prior to school starting so they associate school with fun – sounds like you did that already, so good job!

    I did go to kindergarten but I don’t remember it.
    Nicole’s last post … What are they going to arrest me for- being awesomeMy Profile

  11. I did go to kindergarten. I remember only a little. I switched schools during the year. At that time it was a huge deal to me and scary. I went from a school that started reading in grade 1 to a school that had already started reading in kindergarten so that put me behind. I survived, and maybe even learned to work hard so I could catch up with my classmates who had already been reading for 6 months. It is amazing how quickly kids adapt!
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  12. I remember finger painting, a water table, a big play kitchen, a gentle voice reading stories while sitting crosslegged in a circle, wooden puzzles and blocks, the rice table, making prints with potatoes, rubbings with leaves, playing in the playground and walking home telling my mom all about it everyday!

    As a mom to Kindergarteners I remember different things. ACCESS TO THE SCHOOL LIBRARY!!! Endless art projects coming home, parent teas and concerts, tempura paint on clothing, gravel in pockets, being asked to participate in endless fieldtrip supervisions, fundraisers and reading groups. Notices about flus, headlice and bear sightings to sign & return, and LOADS of new friends and playdates (for me and my sons).
    *pol’s last post … A fun day with GrannyMy Profile

    • Oh yes! This is my memory of infants back in England thirty six years ago. It was fabulous and no worksheets. While I have seen worksheets in K when I was teaching, not very many. Most of us didn’t use worksheets at all.

  13. The playground is a great pace to start! That’s how I’m getting Cedric excited about preschool! If you think your handwringing, you should see me! I’ve got one kid about to start preschool, the other entering french immersion kindergarten, and I’m planning & packing for a three week vacation with three kids that leaves in 4 weeks! My head may explode!

  14. Okay, I LOVE Jacob’s hat in those pictures!! That’s an aside, let me address the real question.

    Yes, I did indeed go to Kindergarten, in the States though. I don’t know how different it is in Canada. But I have very few memories of it. I remember napping on big blue cots. I remember A large thing that had pockets that you could place words into that created a sentence.

    What I can tell you is from my experience substitute teaching in Kindergarten over the past two years. Basically, it is all about alternating un-structured “free-play” or “choice time” (where the kids get to choose an activity like drawing, blocks, water table, play dough etc.) with more structured activities such as story time and a guided supervised activity.

    I don’t know how much it will differ in Canada from the States.

    Also there is a lot of outside playground time, which you clearly gave Hannah a preview of! Nice work!
    Old School/New School Mom’s last post … With This Ring I Thee WedMy Profile

  15. I actually remember a lot about kindergarden. My teacher’s name was Miss Sandland and she had a birth mark on her face. I remember making a green clay dinosaur that is still around my mom’s place somewhere and I remember that all I wanted to do was paint. I never played house or dress up (which is interesting because this is just what my daughter did and didn’t do last year too). I remember dancing to Raffi, acting out 6 Little Ducks and listening to Abbey-yo-yo. I remember being read the story of the 3 Billy Goat’s Gruff and being scared of the troll. I remember my friend Cindy and I always wanting to be the teacher’s helpers and putting our names in the slots when we weren’t supposed to. I remember getting in trouble for something and having to sit out of the group once. And after that I don’t think I ever got in trouble in school again as I was a total Miss Goodie Two Shoes. I remember where my classroom was in the school, (I even found it when I took my husband to see it 8 years ago when we did a “were Mel grew up tour of Vancouver Island”), who I played with at recess…I remember hanging upside down on monkey bars and suddenly feeling scared that I was showing my panties. All sorts of things. It was the first year of my life I have a ton of memories from. I could go on and on, but I will save you the other boring details.

  16. Ooh good call with the playground. We play at our elementary school playground a lot in the summer because it’s shady and only 2 blocks away.

    Kindergarten was a pivotal year for me – halfway through the year the teacher thought I was bored so they put me in grade one in the mornings, kindergarten in the afternoons. At the end of the year I went on to grade 2 instead of grade 1. My school social life was kind of bizarre because of that. I was a year younger than everyone in my class until..well, university. I still had kind-of friends in the grade below me. I don’t really know why or what indicated that I should be moved up..I do know that I could read and I would get frustrated with the other kids not being able to read. Maybe all-day kindergarten would have been a fit for me, 30 years ago. Like Hannah, I wonder what they’ll do all day too.

  17. Here in Ontario I went to JK for half a day and in SK I went for a full day. I do have some memories of it but most are fuzzy. I remember a girl named Angie who always opened her mouth to show us her chewed up banana. I remember having king/queen for the day. My most favourite memory is when the teacher read a story to the class about a child being in the hospital because I was having my tonsils out the next day.

    My daughter LOVED kindergarten. My son not so much. I am sure Hannah will have a great time.

  18. I loved, loved, loved kindergarten… but that’s just because the teacher was awesomeness and there were all of 5 people in my class. So, traditional? Nah. I knew how to read beforehand and the teacher just went with that… Not sure that a public school setting with lots of kids would have been a fit.

    Your girlie will do wonderfully! (She is adorable, by the way)
    Monsterchew’s last post … Im Alive IM ALIVE!My Profile

  19. I did go to kindergarden & so did my daughter – but I’m not sure I can tell you anything to give Hannah any concrete ideas. While a lot has probably changed in the curriculum, my memories of kindergarden look a lot like what I saw her do (this is probably influenced by the fat that it was actually exactly the same classrooms and hallways in the same school with even some of the same teachers! They play, they learn how to do things independently for themselves, learn the ways of the herd :). beyond that my primary memory is my mother’s HORROR that our teacher had hairy armpits – in fact, that and getting iodine on my first not mommy-kissed cut were the big traumas of that period ;).

  20. Oh the playground! The playground is one of the most essential social places of kindergarten. So much can happen on the playground…

    I went to kindergarten and have few memories, except for the ones when my teacher was mean. I have now sent one child to kindergarten and even though I thought it was important, it will not be what makes him who he is. It is far more likely that he will also have very few memories of this time.

    I am sure Hannah will have a great year and come home and tell you all about it every day. 😉

  21. I think I have a problem both with my short term and long term memory, as I don’t remember much about kindergarten, except that it didn’t have a playground. And they still don’t.
    Francesca’s last post … African Flowers for winterMy Profile

  22. it was called primary school and was full day from almost the start and was many years ago and in scotland …… so i haven’t a clue about the canadian elementary or otherwise school system, though it seems essentially play-based until they need to pay off student loans in their thirties.
    so far only the socialisation angle and the ‘free’ childcare has impressed me
    pomomama’s last post … friday forte- halfway thruMy Profile

  23. I went to a Waldorf style preschool, public school k-3rd grade and homeschooled the rest of the time so I think I have a pretty well rounded educational background haha. I LOVED preschool and I don’t remember kindergarten as well. I remember coloring and doing little projects. I had a great teacher and I think I liked it lol.
    Lisa @Retro Housewife Goes Green’s last post … Organic Food- Is It Worth ItMy Profile

  24. Jerseygirl says:

    I love those pictures! Your kids are so cute. My oldest is starting K this year and she got to do a school visit last spring – she spent an hour in the classroom and got assigned “a buddy”. She went from dreading leaving preschool to dying for Kindergarten to start. Good call on the playground visit. I went to K, but I remember first grade much, much better.
    Jerseygirl’s last post … Why Blogging Is ImportantMy Profile

  25. Hooray for perspective! It’s not a post-doctorate program people. Now everyone relax.

    That said, Hannah sounds so keen and organized which I think is insanely cute 😉

  26. I know things are a little different with our school and pre-school system here in Australia but don’t they do any kind of orientation visits???

    My girls started school (we call the first year ‘prep’) this year (we start in Feb) and at the end of last year they visited school on several occasions. A couple of times the principle read them stories in the library, then later they visited the current prep kids in their class and at the end they met the teacher they would have and spent an afternoon with him/her and their grade 6 ‘buddies’. Just these couple of visits not only helped my girls feel more confident about school but it also helped me.. a lot!

    But playing in the play ground is a great idea. Do you know any other kids who will also be starting? Invite them to a picnic at the school play ground and then have a walk around the buildings together…

    And you are so right… I keep telling everyone, I don’t care if my girls don’t learn anything at school (though of course they have learnt heaps!) as long as they are happy…. and they are happy… deliriously, ‘HAVE to go to school’ happy! I hope you guys find your happy too!

    • There has been some prep. There was an orientation evening in the spring which was an hour long and included stories, crafts, etc. However, we didn’t actually visit the kindergarten classroom, and we didn’t meet Hannah’s teacher. She has seen the inside of the school now, which is good, but I still can’t answer her more pressing questions.

      There will be a semi-gradual introduction. The first day is just a registration confirmation that lasts 30 minutes. The next week is a series of one-on-one meetings with the student, parents and teacher. We have ours early on. Then there is one gradual entry day, and then kindergarten finally gets underway in the middle of September. By the time that Hannah’s attending on a regular schedule she’ll know more. For now, though, much of it remains a mystery to both of us.

  27. We also made a trip to the kindergarten playground the week before school started! It helped Q-ster a lot to be a tiny bit familiar with things. I hope Hannah enjoys her first days there. 🙂
    Lady M’s last post … Observations of the Useless KindMy Profile

  28. You know, I actually only attended a couple of months of kindergarten, due to a move part-way through the year and my mom not enrolling me in the new town. I remember going on the bus and I remember nap-time on the gym floor. That’s it!

    Two of my kiddos have now finished kindergarten though, so I know a little bit. They don’t nap anymore, for one thing. Playgrounds are a big draw for sure – great idea going to the school for a field trip! My boys both loved kindergarten, they learned a lot about numbers, letters and other very simple concepts. They learned about working in groups and following school rules. Enough, but not too overwhelming. This year my oldest goes to grade 3 and my middle is in grade 1 – can’t wait!!
    Laurie’s last post … A Different Kind of Mommy WarMy Profile

  29. I don’t remember going to kindergarten, but take this with a grain of salt because I went to more than 2 dozen schools in my youth and I have completely lost track of when I went where. I *might* have gone, but honestly have no recollection of it and couldn’t tell you where for a million dollars.

    I DO know that I went to a few months of preschool when some doctor told my guardians that I had to learn how to socialize with other kids cause I was weird and stuff. Not much as changed there! 🙂 I’m pretty sure the fact that I was ripped in and out of schools and homes is what made me weird, and I don’t remember 3 months of preschool fixing any of that. Don’t know what to tell Hannah. If my kid asks me why he has to go, I’ll say, “Cause mommy needs you to be gone for part of the day before I sell everything I own and move to Mexico without you!”

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