By Jill Martin
When I began school in the Duxbury Public School System, the state mandate was that all children must be five by December 31 in order to start kindergarten. My brother and I, both with December birthdays, started kindergarten at age four. This was before early childhood programs flourished on the South Shore, and children had multiple opportunities to socialize, play and, if curiosity permitted, absorb various art and academic pre-kindergarten skills.
Since then, the state has changed the cut-off date for kindergarten to August 31. We now see children, age birth to six years old, enrolling in numerous music, art, science, language and gross-motor play classes. In many cases these enrichment classes are added to their two, three, four, and five day a week preschool programs. Exposure to these early childhood programs results in early acquisition of preschool skills and heightened cognition for many children before they reach kindergarten. So, what happens when a particular child has danced through the preschool progression of classes, has mastered some pre-k skills, is socially comfortable around peers and adults, but does not make the public school cut-off date for kindergarten? Another year of preschool or pre-k is what many parents are faced with, trying to supplement their readiness and curiosity with more enrichment opportunities, play-dates, and at-home activities.
At South Shore Conservatory (SSC), we are happy to address this very issue by opening our specialized arts-integrated kindergarten program to children who miss the cut-off, yet are turning five before December 31, and whose parents are searching to give them more than just another year of preschool or half-day pre-k. Starting fall of 2016 we are offering a multi-age setting for those students who show a readiness for a full-day, five-day a week transitional kindergarten program.
As lead kindergarten teacher at SSC for 12 years, I have welcomed students who were developmentally beyond a half-day pre-k program but had September or October birthdays and could not proceed to public kindergarten. It was amazing to see how well these four-year-olds harmonized with the five- and six-year-old kindergartners. Their birthdate may not have complied with public kindergarten, but developmentally they tap danced through all the music, art, drama, percussion and reading specialist’s classes, sometimes outshining much older children. I even had one of my September birthday students clinch the lead role in our end of the year play!
Our arts-integrated kindergarten curriculum is constructed to meet each child at their developmental readiness, regardless of age, and guide them through an engaging, hands-on thematic journey that inspires and develops the whole child. We foster a love of learning and self-esteem because every child is allowed to share their gift or talent, and feel validated and successful in this cooperative, multi-age setting. Whether they are four, five, or turning six, we have tailored our curriculum to meet every level for every learner!
If you know your child is ready for kindergarten, but has a late summer or fall birthday, please feel free to stop in for a visit and see this engaging, magical classroom come to life for all learners!! To learn more about SSC’s art-integrated multi-age kindergarten program, we encourage you to attend our Take a Peek Open House on June 23, at 9:30 am or 1 pm. Please call Meredith Stypinski at 781-749-7565, ext. 10 to reserve your spot.
Jill Martin M.A.Ed., has been with South Shore Conservatory since 2004.