What I Had Wrong About Public School Kindergarten

The first couple weeks of kindergarten for my oldest last August were brutal.

For all of us.


He spent mornings – very early mornings since school for him started at 7:30- crying, telling us he hated school, begging us not to send him. He came home with behavior marks for things like talking at lunch. 

I began the school year in defense mode. I’d read what today’s American public school system can do to kids, especially rowdy little boys. I read the blog posts about how it could break them down, turn them into soulless drones, repetitively filling out worksheets that would train them to take tests.

I began the school year with my shoulders tensed, nearly convinced this would be devastating for him, this wild spirit of a boy who OF COURSE wants to talk at lunch when it’s one of the only times during the day he’s not supposed to be listening to a grown up.

I began the school year even considering that maybe this just wouldn’t be a good fit for him. I looked into local charter schools. I considered homeschooling. You MUST know how desperate of a thought that was for me.

I was wrong.

Kendall made it through kindergarten. He didn’t just survive, he thrived. He learned to read and write. He made friends. He discovered a love for the library, and science, and he will talk to you all day about recycling, birds, and plants.


He wrote stories. He told stories. On the last day of school, he won the “Whopper Award” in his class for being such a good story teller.


He learned about bullying. He learned how to be a part of a team. He learned compassion.

I thought kindergarten would be about what Kendall would learn, about his journey, his challenges, his lessons.

I was wrong.

This year was as much about us, his parents, growing alongside with him as it was about him learning proper punctuation and how to sound out words. It was about us learning to trust others to guide him. It was about us learning to advocate for him while giving up some control to others who also had his best interest at heart.

Did he take standardized tests? Yes. Did he continue to get behavior marks for talking and not sitting still? Yes. Did it continue to be a struggle to get him out of bed and to school so early? Yes. Are there things I’d change in my Utopia about his public school experience? Yes.

But there will always be things I’d like to change to make life different… easier (?), more adaptable, at least, for my kids. I’m learning that sometimes I need to fight for change, and sometimes I need to step back and let them learn to deal.

I thought kindergarten was going to be something we’d suffer through, the first year of a long trudge through the public school system, that we’d have to fight at every turn to not rip the spirit out of our energetic boy.

I was wrong.


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  1. Congratulations to Kendall and to you and Scott for a successful year of school.

    I have many of the same worries and apprehensions about sending our kids to school. Sophia is going to school starting in the fall and I trying to keep my hopes high for an enjoyable experience.

  2. What a great post! I love hearing that your public school experience was a great one this is something you don’t hear about often. There really are great teachers who work so hard both at public and private schools. I hope your son enjoys sleeping in this summer! 🙂

  3. As a new teacher without kids of my own, this blog post was a great reminder that I’m not just teaching kids, I’m working with families. It can be easy to forget when you are knee-deep in curriculum, standards, projects, professional development, emails, plus your own life. It sounds like you worked with an awesome teacher! I second a comment I read above… thanks for a positive article on schools! They are not perfect, but there are many teachers who care deeply and work so hard for their students and their families.

  4. Cassie Artes on

    What exactly happened to help foster your attitude change? What changes did the school make to help your son succeed? I have a very spirited and active little boy, and I am nervous about how public school will go. He attends a private preschool and has done very well. I have my degree in elementary education, and while I would make necessary changes in my own classroom to accommodate children with different learning needs, I know that this is not always the case. Im just curious as to what attitude adjustments should I prepare myself for as a parent, as it is a very different view as a teacher.

  5. Meredith Rowland on

    Your post is excellent. We also had a kindergartener this year (almost done with school! – we’re in CA) and had some of the same fears you did. This year was full of growing for us all. I was particularly worried that our kiddo would ‘fall behind’ due to his speech and OT needs, but really those were unfounded fears and our kiddo excelled, and met his goal of learning how to read.

  6. I work at that school and am proud of it! Thank you for posting …lately I talked to a parent that had a negative view of public school and I tried to tell her that it’s not that way everywhere. We have some quality teachers out there that care about their students and make it so worthwhile.

  7. My daughter started this past Wednesday and it’s been a struggle. A struggle for her to get up early and do something EVERY DAY. To be away from her dad and brother who she’s spent all her time with up until now. It’s been a struggle missing her, and seeing her little brother miss her. It’s been a struggle hearing her coming home complaining about having to SIT ALL DAY (why don’t kids get more recess? Why do they have to eat their snack during recess time? Why does kindergarten have to be SIX FREAKING HOURS LONG?). I remembered this post and came back to it to read it for strength and a reminder that this is all going to be okay. So thanks, Jill. Thanks for leaving this here for me to come back to, to rely on when I need it most.

  8. Designer Daddy on

    Jill, this is so awesome/scary. Our son sounds a LOT like yours, and he starts kindergarten in the fall. I’m going to send myself a reminder to read this post on a monthly basis starting in September. 🙂

    • You got this! I have to say, it’s been a year since I wrote this, and I have zero reservations about public school with him now. He is really flourishing.

  9. Pingback: Baby Rabies | This Much I Know About Starting School

  10. Se ad uno piace travestirsi, faccia pure (anche se magari, mettersi davanti ad uno specchio non guasterebbe) ma se poi costui si crede la reincarnazione di re Artù o di Nostro Signore… forse, due omaccioni vestiti di bianco che lo portino via sarebbero da auspicare.

  11. I wish I could say something funny or cute but the truth is Liam, Wy, Star and Kate are helping me through a really rough spot in my life’s journey right now. We discussed this on FB earlier, Dana. A sneak peek at the new novel would be a true gift right now. Thanks for considering me.

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