I am reaching out regarding Universal TK a free program that will be available. Of course, there are pros and cons that may affect your choices. Of course, educators of young children are biased. My years as an educator of elementary children are the basis of my bias and nonetheless our preschool is fully invested in helping you make this decision-– to mirror how we help parents navigate the Kindergarten Process – we begin to match the readiness of your 3 and 4-year-old depending upon your choice of schools for Kindergarten when they turn 5+. In this case we begin assessing the readiness of your 2-3 -year-old for the 4-year-old Universal TK program in a public school if that is something you are considering.
Cons: Class size will be 25 children per teacher, with limited hours of the school day and placement not necessarily at your home school, which may mean another move after one year. Consider the difference between who is making decisions and setting goals, who is available to talk with you, and who can prioritize individual over group, and who has time to give love.
Naturally, I am biased. Not as a preschool owner, rather as an educator. As a teacher 40+ and an administrator for 30+ I have experienced first-hand how crucial the soft skills are, when and how to build them, what readiness for serious learning looks like , natural transition times arrive, and when a child is ready-set-go. Naturally, 10th Street hopes children will stay to play and practice these skills until the very last day of summer before Big School begins. Preschool is a dress-rehearsal of sorts, for the world outside the Red Door. Preschool is the time to plant grow and nurture self-esteem, confidence, personal best, intrinsic motivation, friendships and kindness before turn 5 and become gardeners in KinderGarden.
Over the years, some parents have chosen to swap their 3rd year of preschool to attend TK at a public or private school. Some parents believe this is the gateway for entrance into private school or an opportunity to experience getting ready for public school. This is a falsehood. Grammar schools do not appreciate families who enroll a child who is not ready for that next challenge or a family who enrolls for just one year before applying out to private school.
Universal programs, under the auspices of the California Department of Education typically write different kinds of mission statements as they charged with serving a multitude of children. They are not able to offer a myriad of learning opportunities catered to your child’s learning style at 3, 4 or 5 yrs of age. The sheer number of children and the system itself cannot set goals geared for individual children, the neighborhood, or community. The look and feel of most grammar schools is very different than our small private environments. This does not make theirs bad. It is just very different. When a child is ready for this difference, they are ready-set-go.
Naming a program TK, DK or PK doesn’t mean it’s automatically age-appropriate for your child, your family, or your community. Private Schools have autonomy when writing mission statements, setting goals, and taking time for self-reflection and course correction. It is also true that many private grammar schools with middle and upper schools typically focus a large percent of their attention on the upper grades.
in the past, we have had 10th Street children, who chose to begin their third year at TK grammar school have positive experiences, others not so much. Some dropped out and returned to their cubby at 10th Street, some sent their first child to an outside TK and returned to 10th street with their 2nd child. It depends upon your child and the school. A difficult TK year is not a good omen for Kindergarten and not a graceful way to begin your child’s elementary experience. No one gains when the first year in public or private school is not successful, be it TK or K. The child’s self-esteem can suffer not to mention social or academic growth. No one learns when they feel less than. This is why private schools many years ago, and public school have just recently gotten on the same page, moving the cut off date up one month each year. They want the children older before KinderGarden arrives.
Our Preschool Program is planned for a 3-year stay. We offer a 5 year stay if you includeToddler & Little School. We have scores of parents who are willing to share their experience of going or staying, the benefits of a third year in your very own private preschool, why TK/PK in private or public school can be overwhelming and what it takes to be successful. Start by talking with our very own Teachers/Mommies Melissa and Heather who are always generous about sharing their time, their hopes and their truths. Both have 2 children and have chosen different routes.
We know from firsthand experience and plenty of research that young children need time to grow their soft skills, we know these crucial skills are the true predictors for success in the real world. We base our curriculum on the social/emotional well-being of the whole child at that moment in time, for example we changed our curriculum when the children came back from lockdown. In my bi-annual community Kindergarten Mtgs we will take more soft skills, what readiness looks like and the culture of both public and private grammar schools in Los Angeles. Our spring meeting, mandatory for current JPK parents and open to all, will be scheduled for April.
For 3 decades 10th Streeters have been accepted into the finest private schools in the country, if ready and properly matched. Big Schools want 10th Street children, because we are known for growing children who come from kindness, who are serious and creative learners not afraid to take learning risks. 10th Streeters know they deserve to be heard and how to listen. They know to be part of a group while maintaining their individual integrity.
Every 10th Street Graduate has an internal toolbox that holds their kindness, soft skills, coping skills, resiliency and practiced friendships. If ready and properly matched, children are ready-set-go for life outside the Red Door. Others, who may have a bumpier transition at the start, know how to use these tools to find their footing as they settle into their new school setting and find a sense of belonging. Soft and hard skills are nuanced sophisticated skills and and the tools in the toolbox are complicated that take time to build and years to practice. Maturity can’t be rushed.
We have been helping parents decipher readiness and make smart choices since the 3rd year of preschool began many years ago. Many families struggled when faced with a choice – do we stay a 3rd year in preschool or go to Kindergarten? Private schools, always able to make decisions before public schools, changed their age requirement early on…demanding that children be older before starting Kindergarten. They changed their start dates which forced the decision, to take it out of parent’s hands. This was a huge relief for everyone. The pressure to choose was gone. Your child must be older to go to Kindergarten. Private schools wanted children who turned 5 in the Spring. ‘they determined that ‘Summer babies, children who turn 5 after May were not ready. Finally, at least 10+ years later, the public schools followed suit and over the past few years have moved up their start date one month each year until it is Sept 1. It has been clear for years that all schools, traditional or developmental, public or private, recognize that older children have more success. They are not concerned about academic maturity; they have based these changing age requirements on emotional and social maturity.
So now, faced with Universal TK, some parents have the choice once again. When to stay and when to go. Its hard to pass up on Free, or being with an older sibling (if you are able to secure a spot at your ‘home’ school). Starting TK or PK in a public or private school is a very different experience for a 4-year-old than starting Kindergarten when 5+. They have more opportunities to grow their soft skills in a small preschool setting.
I began my career as an elementary public-school teacher with LA Unified School District mostly in the inner-city neighborhoods. I began with high hopes and eventually taught every grade K – 6, beginning with 6th. I thought the older children would be more eager and able to learn, more independent, more expressive, able to take learning risks, sustain focus and delve deeper into creative play and creative learning. I had a lot to learn about learning. Every year I asked to be moved one grade younger, hoping to find children who still felt free to think, to express, to question, to play with kindness rather than competition. Children who approached learning with optimism. Every year I kept asking to teach the next lower grate. I asked to stay with the same class, and then, I asked to mix ages. I was surprised when I was given permission. I had a particularly attuned principal, who was also very busy elsewhere. These were the times we needed to beg the secretary to give us another ream of paper, when we made worksheets and reading materials one by one, sharing the one mimeograph machine in the front office. The importance of consistency became clear, to stay together, be ready to keep learning when September rolls around again, to not need the first 3 months of Fall for children and teachers to find their way.. Consistency and mixed age made an enormous difference.
After 10 years, I grew to know that hope was alive in children younger than 5. I found that the seeds of creativity and freedom live inside Young Children. I needed to find a Garden for them. I left because classroom teachers, who knew the children best, did not have a voice. Children did not have a voice. Bad teachers stayed. Good Principals were transferred as the crow flies. But mostly, those with the power to make decisions were not able to make decisions based on children’s needs. Bureaucrats don’t have the freedom or the first-hand knowledge to make appropriate plans based on the individual needs of the children or community they serve. They cannot share the same priorities as early childhood educators. Typically, they are not educators. During my 10 years, no matter what neighborhood, schools were mandated to teach the same tasks and skills for all children. Recognizing learning style, interests, abilities, or communities was a luxury they did not have time for. Goals were set by people in ivory towers, rather than teachers who work and play in the Big House or even the Slide House.
I am a proponent of Public School, It is the ideal notion, the way it was supposed to work and it can work beautifully for many. One size does not fit all, and our size changes as we grow. I am not a proponent of rushing readiness. So, along with many others in the field, I urge you to think carefully when choosing this path for your young child. Let us help you. We may be biased but we share the same goals. Transitioning to Kindergarten is a milestone that must be met, there is a time when children must leave the Red Door.Starting Big School at age 4 raises other questions including, where they are going and when are they ready to go.
Here is how you can kick the tires:
Get a sense of how the Calif Dept of Education sets goals, writes mission statements and makes decisions. I am not making it bad; I am asking you to kick the tires. Give the same scrutiny to the schools you choose for K to the ones you may choose for TK.
Know what you are choosing and why. Universal TK may prove to be a blessing, especially for those who cannot afford private preschool. That was the point of Head Start.
Read the attached document sent to educators and families from the admins of Universal TK. I’ve titled in Inner Workings.
Check out this link sent from the Calif Dept of Education to educators.
Listen to James Heckman, an economics professor, who emphasizes the importance of soft skills.
Watch the Marshmallow Test from 2009. ( at every Kindergarten meeting I serve marshmallows to parents to do the test too! Since we are not in person, try it yourself! It is impressive in its simplicity and clarity. Evaluate how you approach the marshmallow and how you think your child would.
Read this NPR article. A top researcher says it’s time to rethink our entire approach to preschool
Of course, you are the expert on your child. We are the experts on educating young children and will continue to share more information/research from educators about Universal TK. We want to approach this decision with our combined eyes on each child’s readiness, just like we do with kindergarten placements. At this younger level, when you still have a choice, it is even more important to assess readiness and to make the best match. When Kindergarten comes, they need to go. Watching them graduate is bittersweet. The sweet comes from knowing they are as ready as they can be to ‘walk feet’ out of the Red Door. It is a beautiful and proud moment. It is a profound milestone.
We are happy to help you kick the tires and we are available to talk about this. While we are clear about our bias, we are also clear in our shared goals and will be proud to say, yippee, your 4 yr. old child is indeed ready or ready enough to go.
After all, your children are the pride of 10th Street, at every age, and we are and will always be a family.
Thank you for reading this far.
Coming from marshmallows,