Why is full day kindergarten still a mess?

Every morning my 4 year old lies on the floor, crying, and begs me not to send him to school.

He's a kid that went to daycare and camps and Sunday School. He is used to me leaving him in a group setting with an adult (sometimes an adult that is still a stranger) in charge. He has never cried or begged me not to go.

But then he started Junior Kindergarten.

This isn't my first rodeo. I have an older son who has gone through JK, so I went through the mental checklist that I am sure most parents go through:

  • Introduce him to the teacher ahead of time (check, because his teacher was his brother's kindergarten teacher and she is amazing)
  • Make sure he knows some kids at the school (check)
  • Organize a bus buddy that makes him feel safe (check, his brother and another girl on the street)
  • Talk about school: what to expect, how to behave, how to make friends (check, check)
  • Pray and hope it goes well (triple check)
Except for us it did not go well.
It went the exact opposite of well.
He has spent the past weeks crying daily and begging me not to send him back to "that place".


"Because there are too many kids and it's not fun."
"Because I never know where to go or where my class is."
"Because I can't find my friends on the playground."

Because his classroom is overwhelmingly full of kids.

As a former teacher and a parent I LOVE the idea of full day kindergarten. I think it gives our youngest the ability to learn and develop skills that will help them flourish as they grow. I also agree that our kids need to learn to fail, learn to adapt and learn to handle new situations, even at a young age.

What I don't agree with- and what I realize is causing my son and many others like him immense stress as he endeavours to acclimate to school- is extreme class size.

30- 35 kids in a kindergarten classroom is not just too much, it's practically unmanageable.

A happy first day of school picture (before we
went into the classroom)
We live in a suburban neighbourhood that was built for families. Too bad they didn't build enough schools or allocate enough space. Our kindergarten classrooms are bursting at the seams. Our phenomenal teachers are forced to control the crowd of chaos that ensues when an overstuffed classroom of 4 and 5 year olds is seen as the "norm".  The pen (which is what they call the kindergarten playground, sadly) is another place of chaotic crowd control.

It seems that schools didn't learn their lesson from the 2014-15 school year. It seems that capping class sizes still isn't a priority despite the fact that the over abundance of kids makes learning (and even playing, which is the basis of full day kindergarten, isn't it?) nearly impossible. It seems that doing what is best for our kids is not even a consideration.

Do our kids need to adapt to new situations? Sure! Do our kids need to learn to navigate stressful situations? Yes! Do our kids need to be overwhelmed to the point of tears on a daily basis and given less of an opportunity to learn to love school simply because it isn't a priority to make class sizes manageable and realistic? I don't think so.

How do you jam 30-35 four and five year olds into a classroom with one teacher and one ECE and expect them to learn anything? How do you cram that many kids in a room and expect them to feel anything other than stressed out and overwhelmed? Common sense says, you don't.

Our country is one of the most progressive and revered- and yet the way we approach our education system says that education isn't a priority and, even worse, our kids are not a priority. As I wipe away my son's tears and tell him it's ok to be nervous and he will figure out his way in that sea of kids,  it pains me to see us making the same mistakes when it comes to our public schools- not learning from them- and failing our youngest and most vulnerable over and over again.


  1. Well said and so very sad!

  2. I went through the same thing with my son all last year. A daycare kid from the start with an older sibling already in the system, we thought he'd be fine. For 10 straight months he suffered. His teacher kept telling me he would adjust; it would get better. It never did and he never adjusted. What helped was my flexible work schedule and the fact that kindergarten is not mandatory. I took him out of school two afternoons a week, sometimes more, or kept him home in the morning and dropped him off at lunch for the afternoon in class. Those were the days that he managed ok. And my son has no personality issues, mental health issues, is not shy, is not aggressive, is not a slow learner. We sought help from our pediatrician because we were led to believe that the problem was our child. Turns out, he checks out fine.

    And it's not only the large class sizes. My son's class had only 24 students. I was a huge supporter of full-day kindergarten a couple years back. I'm completely against it now. Young children need their families. Years ago, children didn't start school until the age of 6. Times have changed and full-day kindergarten is our children's reality. It's a horrible reality in my opinion, but a reality nonetheless. Smaller classes would help, for sure. But there is so much more to it than that. Beyond kindergarten, the system is just as bad for the primary and junior grades, and there will be a whole generation lost to the politics and bureaucracy of our system. It's enough to make one run screaming to the homeschooling hills.

    1. Oh Nancy. That made my heart hurt so badly. It's so sad to see our kids hurting this way and being so affected by these external circumstances.

  3. Our son is going through the same thing. All of a sudden he isn't enjoying being dropped off for school. I feel so helpless. It is nice to know we aren't alone in this. I hope things turn around for you.

    1. "helpless" is exactly the word. That's how I feel every day.


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