This story is sponsored by Waterford Institute – A nonprofit research center that creates personalized cloud-based instruction through an award-winning curriculum, content and assessment for children aged preK to 2nd grade.
You’ll get emotional when you drop your child off for their first day of kindergarten. You’ll be proud and a little nostalgic, but you’ll also be anxious. Then you’ll wonder if you prepared them well enough.
It can be hard to know if a child is ready for kindergarten. Pediatricians and educators have benchmarks for speech and language ability, social interaction, and motor skills, but every child is different. It’s common for children to excel in one development category and lag slightly behind in another. But that doesn’t mean they won’t be ready for kindergarten.
In addition to a high-quality preschool program, is there anything you can do to prepare your child for kindergarten at home? Yes!
Thanks to the interest in early education nationwide, you won’t be short on options. Don’t be confused or discouraged by the clutter. Here are five things to focus on when choosing a kindergarten readiness program.
‘Sticker shock’ was my first reaction when searching for “Kindergarten Readiness” programs online. I was surprised what most services charge. Before you pay for a service, make sure you research what options might already be available to you. Some school systems or local governments may already subsidize or fund a kindergarten readiness program for you. For example, Utah residents are very fortunate to have free access to the internationally renowned Waterford Institute‘s UPSTART program. The program is 100% funded by the State of Utah. The lessons are conveniently available online, and some families even qualify for free internet and computers through the program.
A lot of Utah families are discovering that even expensive programs are sometimes little more than glorified games. It’s hard to know whether your child will get a good education, or whether you’ll just be wasting precious time.
As a parent, here’s something to watch for: The highest performing online programs will have rigorous and independent reviews that verify results. As is the case with programs like UPSTART, this information should be made available to parents and the community. Current data shows that, on average, when UPSTART children begin kindergarten, they are already at the level of peers who are finishing kindergarten. The higher than average performance of UPSTART children is also independently demonstrated across all demographic lines including English language learners and special education students. Research has also shown that UPSTART students continue to outperform their peers even through the fourth grade.
That’s the kind of information you deserve to know as a parent.
Since every child is different, education needs and learning patterns will vary from child to child. You need to find a program that will fit your child well. Unfortunately, custom curriculums are expensive, and will often try to turn the parent into the teacher. You probably don’t have time for that. Look for an online program that automatically customizes for your child.
New developments in education technology have brought us “adaptive” lessons. As your child completes the work, programs like UPSTART can carefully watch the performance and then automatically adjust to help your child learn what they need to learn. Different children will have a different education experience but still arrive at the expected level.
This kind of technology is a game changer for kindergarten readiness programs because it gives you a customized education experience without the time and expense of creating a custom curriculum from scratch.
Don’t bite off more than you can chew, you’ll sabotage your efforts. The busy day-to-day activities of Utah family life combined with a toddler’s short attention span is already a difficult challenge. When choosing an at-home kindergarten readiness program, find a program with a time commitment that you know you can maintain even as other activities are crammed into your calendar.
A well-designed program like Waterford UPSTART will help maximize your time. UPSTART families spend 15 minutes per day for five days a week in the summer before kindergarten. If your program is any good, you shouldn’t need much more than that.
The smaller time commitment is key to parents following through with their commitment to kindergarten readiness. Children, on the other hand, will care about having fun and not being bored.
I know I’m not alone in this, but as a parent it’s hard to keep my kids interested in anything that doesn’t scream FUN from the start. Do yourself a favor and find a program that is obviously fun. Look for reviews that confirm kids enjoy the work. Some UPSTART parents report their children asking to “play UPSTART”. That’s about as good an endorsement any at-home education program will get. The lessons are designed to be used by children, so your child will probably be able to work independently after just a lesson or two. That will free up even more of your busy day.
Finding The Best Kindergarten Readiness Solution For You and Your Child
On day one of their education career, make sure your child is already at the front of the class. Find a kindergarten readiness program that is affordable, high-quality, catered to your child’s unique situation, good for your schedule, and lots of fun. It’s only 5 things, but it will make a real difference in getting your child off to a great start.