Whatever Happened to Half-Day Kindergarten?


back to school

I don’t know about you, but I went to a half-day kindergarten. And that was a pretty common thing at the time. In fact, I have vivid memories of getting home from school, changing out of my clothes, and into my pajamas, to take a nap after lunch. 

Nowadays you will be hard-pressed to find a kindergarten in Dallas that offers half days, let alone a nap time. And that was a problem for me as I began researching schools for my oldest child several years ago. 

You see, at the age of four my daughter was still taking a nap almost everyday. And I didn’t see that suddenly stopping (without some effect) as soon she walked into those kindergarten doors. Second, I felt like she was a bit immature to be in an academic setting for eight hours straight. And my “tour of schools” had made it clear: kindergarten was no longer finger paints, ABC’s, and play time. It was full on reading, writing, and arithmetic with very little down time.

But my instinct told me that my daughter still needed time to pretend, to play, to be outside, and, yes, to rest. 


Now I understand why half-day kindergartens (and even half-day preschools) are disappearing. Schools have to cater to the rise of two working parent families. But instead of marketing it that way, schools seem to tout their advanced curriculums – taught at much younger ages than decades ago – as if to persuade parents that more school equals better students. 

But a little research shows that’s not necessarily the case. 

You may have read recently about how compulsory education in Finland does not start until the age of seven – yet their students rank among the top in the world. And studies seems to show that it is not an earlier start to academics that determines student success but, unfair as it may be, a family’s household income.¹ And here’s a shocker for you: did you know kindergarten is not even mandatory in the state of Texas? 

Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s great if a child can write paragraphs and read chapter books in kindergarten. But most developmental specialists will tell you that is not age appropriate to expect all kindergartners to do so.² It’s like walking: the child who walked at nine months is not necessarily a better athlete later in life than the child who walked at 17 months.

Let me give you a non-scientific anecdote: a few years ago I had four different friends who were advised to get their kindergarteners tested for dyslexia because they were having trouble reading. (None of them did and they are all reading fine now.) 

My Facebook feed is filled with editorials about our overworked and overscheduled children. How they are deprived of the glory and free time of childhoods past because they go from eight hours of school to an extracurricular activity then straight into several hours of homework, while often not getting enough sleep. And we read how all of this is related to the rise in depression and anxiety among children.³ Yet we start them on this path starting when they are in kindergarten. 


My husband and I chose to send out daughter to one of the few schools in Dallas with a part-time kindergarten and (gasp!) first and second grades. I remember that year we’d often eat lunch at the park and other moms would be in shock that she was spinning on the merry-go-round instead of sitting in a classroom. I was constantly asked if I was home-schooling her on the side so she wouldn’t get behind, all while learning that many moms in my area were having their children tutored before they even started kindergarten…


Three years later my middle child is about to start kindergarten. My husband and I really considered more school for her because she was a preemie so I feel more pressure for her to “keep up.” 

But as we see our third grade daughter, who’s now reading books like The Secrect Garden and doing four-digit multiplication, we realize these things will come in due time. We’d like to think the extra time enjoying the pleasures of childhood- and the additional time I have to nurture her and encourage listening and respect – will serve her far better in the long run.

In a few years we will consider what’s best for our third child. If for some reason I am no longer able to stay at home, I will surely look for a kindergarten that offers more time to play and rest. If one even exists. 



¹ Why Finland’s Schools are Top Notch

 Parental Income Now a Strong Indicator of Success

² Requiring Kindergarteners to Read – as Common Core Does – Harms Some

³ Give Childhood Back to Our Children



  1. Hi Lee,

    I really enjoyed reading your article. I especially enjoyed this part “We’d like to think the extra time enjoying the pleasures of childhood- and the additional time I have to nurture her and encourage listening and respect – will serve her far better in the long run.” I’d like to think that too 🙂

    Some of our COA school have part time kindergarten so other kids can enjoy their childhood just a little bit longer. http://www.childrenofamerica.com/locations.cfm

    -Michelle from COA

    • Thank you, Michelle! I truly believe the extra unstructured time my oldest had to just be a child and “play in the dirt” so to speak was one of the best decisions my husband and I have made as parents. So glad to know there are still some part time kindergartens out there!

    • May I ask where you found a half day kindergarten? I’m in the same boat- our public school is full day kindergarten only. I’m not sure where to look for 1/2 day…. private schools seem to only offer full day too.

  2. I too remember half-day kindergarten (mid-1980’s), but we were at school until the busses started their routes. After a half hour lunch, we’d play outside for a half hour or so, and then take naps. The naps must have been a good hour. Then we’d play outside for about an hour until it was time to load up on the busses and go home. We did not have homework.

    I had piano lessons once a week, and my mother required me to practice regularly, but I don’t think she required it every day until I was older. It’s the one activity that I enjoyed and stuck with throughout the years, eventually earning a BA in music. Given that I grew up in the country, commuting 15 minutes one way was not conducive to multiple after-school activities for four kids, amongst cooking dinner, corralling all kids to complete their homework and getting to bed early enough to get enough sleep with a 6am wake up to catch the 6:45am bus.

    • That sounds so logical to me! I really think young elementary children need a nap or quiet time. I am not a child development expert, but just seeing how it benefits my own children is proof enough for me! Thanks so much for commenting!

  3. Saw this title in my email inbox & had to hop over & maybe even share our love for a part time kindergarten (& 1st & 2nd grades). Then I see the post author and I’m thrilled!!! Great writing, Lee

  4. As a Kindergarten teacher, I LOVE this and agree wholeheartedly. I teach right down the road in College Station and our school is Monday-Thursday, 9-2:30. We incorporate play with the academics and I believe social centers are a valuable part of our day. Getting out at 2:30 still allows for a daily nap and parents love having Fridays off for their kids to recover. No, it doesn’t suite everyone’s work schedules, but parents make it work. My students go on to public school and thrive there, but we are looking to expand our grade levels.

    • Amy, We have had so many requests for this since the post so will definitely compose a post about it! Be sure you are on the DMB mailing list (sign up at bottom!) so you don’t miss it! Probably will post later this fall or after Christmas as people start thinking about schools!

    • Anu, yes absolutely. DMB will put together list of part time kindergartens. Be sure you are on their email list so you don’t miss it. You are also welcome to email me as well on my personal blog. (Link at the bottom of the post).

      • Has the post with the half day kindergarten list come out yet? I haven’t seen it, and we’ve looked everywhere trying to find something. We are in Arlington but would drive. Thanks!

  5. Yes please share! I’m the mother of an almost four year old and married to a school teacher who is averse to delaying Kindergarten or First Grade. Help!

    • Will do! We have had a lot of requests for this and will definitely be putting this list together in the coming months. Make sure you are on DMB’s email list so you don’t miss the school roundup lists!

  6. Lee-just found this article and I so whole heartedly agree. I have taught kinder for 17 years in a school that has half day kinder with an option of staying the whole day. In the afternoon they nap, have centers, do enrichment and have a low key afternoon -children. Need to be children as long as they can. It always evens out in the long run! Loved reading your take in this!! Wish more schools could follow. There is a misconception that earlier academics with no creative outlet (of childhood and play) equals smarter -not always true! We hope at our school to always hold onto that!!

    • Thank you Laurie! I am all for the “let children be children” mantra! It is so good to know that there are still kindergartens like that still out there! You sound like a wonderful and wise teacher!

  7. We LOVE our half-day Kinder program so far here in Dallas, we go M-Friday 8:15-11:15am. They are so young and get tired easily, so I am glad she is getting her ‘instructional’ time in the mornings to learn and socialize and then have the afternoons to rest and play. I do agree in letting the children be children, because they will have the rest of their lives to be in a big structured setting. I love having the extra time with my oldest and she gets to spend more time with her younger sister too. Kindergarten is an age for fun, and play!


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