Kindergarten until 4 pm – right for my child or not?

A mother asks about how to make the decision about keeping her child in full-day kindergarten:

>>I have four boys. While I’m a homeschooler at heart, I learned that it wasn’t for me. My oldest was home until he was five, my next, until four, and my three year old just started this year. I’m at home with the baby.

My current concern is for the middle two. The six year old is in kindergarten and there is a new law that kindergarten children must stay until four. I bent over backwards to get an authorization to get him early. So I pull him out at 1:30, and he is the _only one_ leaving early. The only one.  I mean, it just felt strange, and he was having fun, and I felt bad.

My three year old is in the preschool directly next door, and I get him at 2, so we wait at the park until that time. And I found out that he is also the only one leaving early!!

…I was really looking forward to spending the rest of the day with them – I really don’t think that a five year old doesn’t have to be gone from 8 – 4. It’s just too much …

So my options are – keep going the way it is, pulling him out early, hoping it gets less awkward along the way.

– keep them both in gan til four. (!) this is expensive and we can’t really afford it, even if I wanted to.

– stop fighting with the municipality and keep the older one there until four, and schlep back and forth with the baby thee times, in the heat and in the winter. 

For (a number of ) reasons, I feel like I have just been fighting an uphill battle for so long. I wish I could change my brain and “be like everyone else!”  My husband and I were talking about keeping them both out until four. I said, if I do that, I’ll just send out the baby and get a job. Which seems crazy to me but if I’m going to do it, I may as well really do it, no?<<

I’ll sum up one aspect of this question: how do you make a decision when your values and the logistics in your life are competing?  No one can answer this but you.  But when I’m faced with situation like this (and believe me, I have been), I go back to the beginning.  That means I ask myself, what are my beliefs?  Then I ask myself, what are my goals?

This is of course a really personal process and there’s no right answer for everyone.  The right answer for you is the one that resonates with your beliefs and goals.  Take some time to think about what you want your family to look like, what kind of mother you want to be, how you can be that kind of parent, and begin to develop your long term and short term vision for your family.

Over Sukkos when I sat around the table with my husband and all of our children, I reflected that all those years when I thought I was putting so much into my kids, I had no idea that the dividends would make my efforts look miniscule.  Now I have the gift of hindsight and can unhesitatingly say:  whether you work or stay at home, homeschool or send your kids out to school, spending time with your children is a great investment!

What to do when you know what you want but you’re tired of fighting to get it?  When your vision is slipping away and you tell yourself it wasn’t that important because the effort involved in pushing against societal pressure is wearing you down?  When it seems easier to let go of what you want rather than to reclaim your vision and stay true to it?

I can’t tell you whether leaving your kids in playgroup/kindergarten for a longer day is the right thing for you or not.  But I can say that if you don’t live in accordance with your conscience, it’s very painful in the long run.  This question is about living in alignment with what you care about, and this is why getting clear on what is really most important to you is critical.

It hasn’t always been smooth or easy doing something different than most people around me.  And it hasn’t always been easy for my kids. There’s always a price you pay, whether you live according to your values or not.  The discomfort of feeling different is often part of the price for your vision.

A guest once asked me, “How did you have the courage to go against the stream?”  She understood the societal pressure we faced in the Orthodox Jewish world as homeschoolers.  For me, the hardest part was making the decision in the beginning.  Once I did, staying connected to my vision (and as time went on, seeing the benefits to our family) is what gave me the strength to continue.

Once you get past the initial difficulty of committing yourself to a given course of action, it gets easier.  But you have to know what you believe, know what you want and trust in yourself.  It’s easy to get discouraged when you feel like what you’re doing isn’t really making a difference; in the close up view, it’s really hard to see what difference it makes if you take one path or another.  Clarifying your vision is like having a telescopic lens.

Here are some things to think about:

– What is your paradigm of parenting and why?

– What are the benefits and cost of having your children gone longer? At the top of a piece of paper, on one side write ‘pros’ and on the other side write ‘cons’. Seeing it in black and white can be really helpful.

When it comes to longer school days for children, keep in mind that the longer kids are away, the more restless they are when they get home.  There’s generally a lot of stress for a young child in being in the preschool environment.  This will directly affect the day to day demands of you as a parent.  It’s easy to get caught up in managing behaviors instead of proactively connecting.

As additional food for thought, I’m including a short clip with Dr. Gordon Neufeld, in which he answers the question regarding what age should a child ideally start school.


5 thoughts on “Kindergarten until 4 pm – right for my child or not?

  1. Thank you so much for this.
    I work full time, and I can’t change that right now.
    Every year I have had different arrangements for my kids, some worked out better than others.
    This year my husband is home with the kids from 1 and I see a tremendous difference in their behaviour. Makes me wish I can work things out to be home more!

    1. Kaila, I’m glad this was helpful. Working is a necessity for most mothers; we all do the best we can within the framework we have to work within and I’m so glad to hear that your current arrangements are working so well for you. I hope that you can eventually be home more, too!

  2. This was such hashgachah pratis and very validating- it’s preschool enrollment season in my neighborhood and I was just this morning wondering if there was something wrong with me, being as I wasn’t happy with the 8-4 schedule at all the gans and everybody else seems totally fine with it…

    1. I’m so happy you said this, Shuli, since I got this question in Sept. Even though I wrote most of the response a month ago, felt it wasn’t very timely for most readers and wasn’t going to post for that reason. So thank you! I’m really glad to know it was helpful timing for you!

  3. I don’t know of any law that requires a child to attend gan until 16:00. Gan opens (in most places) at 7:30, but children may be dropped off up until 8:00. In places where the Ofek Chadash program is in place gan ends at 14:00. In municipalities and regional councils that are considered “development areas” (read: poorer, de facto or historically; usually in the lowest 3 economic brackets) full day gan – “yom limudim aroch” is provided as a service until 15:30 or 16:00. It is true that if you live in such an area this is not seen as optional (BTDT, it’s a pain to get out of but it IS possible to get out of it). Certainly, it is cheaper than tzaharon (if you need tzaharon). But I know of absolutely no situation in which it is mandatory for a child to attend gan until 16:00.

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