The Gift of Time

We try to meet the needs of each student exactly where they are. Cheryl Gayer, teacher

By Kathleen Swift

Children usually start kindergarten if they have turned 5 years old by August of the school year. But for some children with summer birthdays, this may not be an appropriate placement. In response to parent requests, the Seneca R7 School District has initiated a transitional kindergarten program.

Elementary Principal Shanna Eidson explained, “The system we use to place children in school was developed in the early 1900s. It is a system that is based on a child starting school at a particular age. What we know is that some children with birthdays in summer months are not always ready to enter kindergarten. We have an excellent early childhood program in Seneca, but some students are not quite ready for kindergarten when they age out of the early childhood program. Our transitional kindergarten came about because of a need expressed by parents. Their children were kindergarten-age appropriate but were just not ready for a typical kindergarten class. Their needs stemmed from immaturity to fine and gross motor needs. The transitional kindergarten offers time to explore, play and receive motor learning. Transitional kindergarten gives a child the gift of time.”

Parent Rose Yust agreed with Eidson. “Transitional kindergarten gives them more time to develop mentally and socially to be around kids their same age.”

The 14 children currently enrolled in transitional kindergarten are given the gift of time to mature and develop the skills needed for the next step in their education. Cheryl Gayer, the transitional kindergarten teacher, says, “The children are allowed more freedom to exercise and build the core muscles and fine muscles they need. We go to the motor lab every day, where the other classes go once a week. The children work at various stations for 1 minute each. For example, children might pull weighted objects, walk heel to toe or work with bouncing balls. These are all muscle functions that affect learning.

“We try to meet the needs of each student exactly where they are. If a student in transitional kindergarten is reading, he goes to another class for reading. Some students are still working on letters and sounds in pre-reading. The other kindergarten teachers support this program and share ideas. We work as a team and teach to the same standards as the other kindergarten classes.”

Parent Chelsi Beville voiced the sentiment of parents whose children are a part of the program. “The transitional kindergarten class provided an opportunity for my daughter to gain another year of maturity rather than start kindergarten this year among the youngest of her peers. It created an avenue for her to start school with a modified curriculum geared toward children who still need higher levels of physical activity and/or specialized focus. We have been pleased with the progress she has made and feel that this was the best choice to set her up for success!”

At the end of the year, the children may go to first grade if they are ready, or they may go on to a regular kindergarten classroom.

“This really changes the way we do academics,” said Eidson. “We have to meet the needs of the whole child in education.”

“Transitional kindergarten has been a blessing for our child!” said parent Brooke Hutching. “He has struggled with the confidence in his learning at school, and this has helped him build to be fully ready for kindergarten while he still has fun!”