Whitefield Academy Blog
Classical Kindergarten: What’s the Difference?
I’ve had a few experiences in my parenting life where I have officially felt like a parent. The first one was driving to VBS in my SUV while wearing a neon VBS t-shirt and playing bible songs for my kids in carseats behind me. The second one was sitting outside my oldest daughter’s Winnie the Pooh theatre class, waiting with all the other parents. The third was dropping my daughter off for full day kindergarten.
A Big Deal
Choosing a kindergarten for our child was one of our major parenting decisions. Along with choosing which hospital to give birth or which church to attend, we knew that choosing our daughter’s kindergarten was setting her up on a certain trajectory. We certainly didn’t need to be scheduling AP classes just yet, but choosing a kindergarten often decides where she attends elementary, middle, and high school. It determines who her pool of friends is. It puts our stamp of approval on someone else watching her, teaching her, and loving her for 35 hours a week. It’s a big deal!
Ultimately, we decided upon a Christian school because of that 35 hours stat. Deuteronomy 11 tells parents to “Teach [God’s Words] to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” I knew that we weren’t teaching God’s Word as attentively as we should. We had to find a school that would support us in taking up this charge and act as a safety net for all the important spiritual and scriptural things that were slipping through the cracks at home.
Sure, Christian, that’s normal enough. But classical? What is that? Long story short, a classical education is a whole education. It’s an education that trains students HOW to think rather than WHAT to think. It’s an education that focuses on training critical thinkers who can communicate clearly and lead others compassionately. Even at the kindergarten level, a classical Christian education is truly set apart from other forms, and that is what ultimately made the decision for us.
The Kindergarten Classroom
Remember when I said that these teachers are acting as spiritual safety nets for us? Well that requires special individuals in a special setting. The first thing that sets a classical kindergarten apart is the classroom. At Whitefield Academy, where both my daughters attend, they have very small class sizes and a low teacher to student ratio. It’s crucial that the teacher know each student in a unique and loving way so that these teachers can speak to each student’s heart in disciplinary situations, teach to each student’s learning style, and understand who needs to be stretched and who needs more training on a subject. Secondly, you’re not likely to see any screens in a classical kindergarten classroom. Even though classical education is ages old, our leaders are up to the minute on technology research, and they understand the huge detriments that come with conditioning kids’ brains with two minute video clips and using a screen as a babysitter. Finally, because a classical education is training the whole person, recess and gym class are a huge priority. Snow doesn’t even stop our kiddos from going out; they’re just told to pack their snow gear!
Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic
Not only is the classroom style different at a classical school, the style of teaching and some of the content is going to be different as well. At kindergarten age, our kiddos are expert memorizers. Just think of all the songs, jingles, and information they’re able to call up at any given time. A classical education takes advantage of that amazing and short-lived skill through an emphasis on memorizing Scripture, poetry, math facts, and phonograms in kindergarten. Phonograms are probably the biggest content difference that you will see with a classical kindergarten. Rather than teaching sight words and moving kids on once they know how to read, a classical school like Whitefield teaches phonograms, the 70+ sounds that letters make. Whether or not your child is reading in kindergarten, they will learn the sounds of all the letters and the reasons why those letters make those sounds. This phonogram education is the foundation for spelling, decoding, and vocabulary building that is crucial for being a good reader, a good writer, and ultimately, a good communicator. And finally, we can’t forget to bring up cursive! My daughter writes exclusively and beautifully in cursive now because of all her training in kindergarten. Click here to read more about why classical schools love cursive.
My Kid Can’t Do That
You may be thinking, “Memorize poetry? Recite 70+ phonogram rules? No way; my kid can’t handle that.” I tell you it’s true! Recently we had an “all hands on deck” kind of day where I, as a parent, had to give a new family a tour of the school. I brought them in to the kindergarten class just as the kindergartners were reciting their huge stack of phonogram rules. The touring couple marveled at the well-behaved children chanting melodically through a 2-inch tall stack of note cards. I laughed to myself because I knew this was the same class of boys who had goofed off during the Christmas concert the year before. A classical education is not just for sweet and quiet brainiacs. A classical education works with every child at the place where they are and trains them how to move forward. The results of high standards and patience are often astounding.
My older daughter recently gushed to my Pre-K daughter, “You are going to LOVE kindergarten!” I have to agree, I know she will too.