Mandatory Kindergarten sounds a little like an oxymoron, but according to OnMilwaukee.com, a Milwaukee news blog, Gov. Jim Doyle signed a law last October that requires Wisconsin children to complete kindergarten before being admitted to first grade, with the intention of stressing the importance of early education and to allow school systems to identify kids who are not attending school as early as possible.
Mary O’Connell, director of LifeWays Early Childhood Center, says the new law is insulting to parents who wish to homeschool their kids for preschool and kindergarten. “In effect, it’s saying that a parent who chooses to keep his or her child at home until first grade couldn’t possibly do as good of a job educating his or her child as a kindergarten teacher who has up to 20 children to look after,” she says.
Angie Aranda teaches first grade for Milwaukee Public Schools, and she sees the new law as a mix of things. “I think that because of the expectations for students entering first grade, it is very important that students attend kindergarten first. However, I think a kindergarten education can be achieved in a multiple ways — not just through attending a traditional school, but also through homeschooling,” says Aranda.
Aranda has taught in the public school system for eight years, but supports parents who choose to homeschool kindergartners. “I believe that most kids do benefit from attending a regular kindergarten, but for those parents who feel they would like to wait an additional year before having their children attend traditional school, homeschooling is an appropriate option for meeting the kindergarten requirement,” Aranda says.