Anybody paying attention to school reform knows that kindergarten today is nothing like it used to be. Kindergarten schedules used to be dominated by play, but there’s not much time — if any — for that any more in many programs.  Play has been replaced with reading, writing and arithmetic — and a slew of tests on reading, writing and arithmetic. There is so much pressure on teachers to get kids in kindergarten — who can be 4, 5 or 6 — academically oriented that some teachers have stopped offering a snack because there just isn’t any time. Recess? That’s gone in some places too.

Play, you may be surprised to learn, is actually the way young kids learn best. According to this report titled “Crisis in the Kindergarten” by the non-profit Alliance for Childhood:

Long-term research casts doubt on the assumption that starting earlier on the teaching of phonics and other discrete skills leads to better results. For example, most of the play-based kindergartens in Germany were changed into centers for cognitive achievement during a wave of educational “reform” in the 1970s. But research comparing 50 play-based classes with 50 early-learning centers found that by age ten the children who had played excelled over the others in a host of ways. They were more advanced in reading and mathematics and they were better adjusted socially and emotionally in school. They excelled in creativity and intelligence, oral expression, and “industry.”  As a result of this study German kindergartens returned to being play-based again.

To get an idea of what kindergarten kids are being asked to do, I looked at some of the schedules posted on school websites. Here are just a few which show how much time young kids are being asked to sit and do academic work. It should be noted that kindergarten teachers tell me that the official time schedules can be misleading because academics often runs into non-academic blocks, meaning that kids sometimes can’t go to recess or paint a picture because there is no time.

Take a look at these half-day and full-day kindergarten schedules, and, at the end, one schedule for preschedule. If you come across others in the same vein, send them in.

Here is one of three sample kindergarten schedules from the Pennsylvania Department of Education website. (Note the “uninterrupted 90-minute language arts block”):

This is from a school in the Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District in Texas:

 This is from the Austin Independent School District: 

 And here’s a sample full-day pre-K schedule from Austin:

Full Day Schedule (Sample)
Full-day prekindergarten classes are offered on all campuses having pre-K classes. Prekindergarten students attend class from 7:45 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. or 8:30 a.m. – 2:45 p.m. daily. A sample schedule follows:
7:45 – 8:05 Oral Language Development (Music, sharing time, calendar, social studies)
8:05 – 8:35 Language Arts (read aloud, shared reading, write aloud, and shared writing)
8:35 – 9:35 Center Time
9:35 – 10:00 Mathematics
10:00 – 10:20 Outside P.E. or Music Movement
10:20 – 10:40 Read Aloud
10:40 – 11:10 Lunch
11:10 – 12:10 Rest
12:10 – 1:10 Center Time
1:10 – 1:30 Science or Social Studies
1:30 – 1:50 Outside Play
1:50 – 2:00 Review Day
2:00 Dismissal