Proposed changes to Ontario’s kindergarten program are causing anxiety among parents and for good reason. While Premier Doug Ford has assured the public he will not be eliminating all-day kindergarten altogether, modifications could include releasing the ever-growing class-size cap. This is concerning for parents and educators alike, who, at present, manage 29 students daily. Contrast that with grades 1 through 3, which are only permitted 23 students per classroom. Those numbers may not seem alarming, when one looks to a higher education model, where lectures can entertain upwards of 600 students per class; but, in the younger years, as every parents knows, attention is key and that is precisely what these children are lacking.
Larger class sizes mean more safety risks, increased burnout among teachers, an ineptitude to moderate negative behaviour, increased anxiety in children, and an ineffective learning model. The monetary gains pale in comparison to the future negative outcomes, which result when children aren’t allowed to succeed in the younger years.
After looking at European trends, it would seem that the golden number is 20. Research indicates children are less prone to grasp concepts and are likely to fail when classrooms exceed this number. It is easy to see how increased class size equates to poor academic outcomes. The need for education reform is constant. Educational outcomes directly coincide with the health of a nation. When a government cannot meet the most basic needs of the nation’s most malleable minds, it should trigger alarm bells for parents.
The question then becomes, what are my options? For many, the real question remains, do I even have options?
Andrea Veldkamp, is among one of many Canadians who has embraced an alternative form of education: homeschooling. An estimated 40,000 school-age children are homeschooled in Ontario alone. Andrea pulled her son and young daughter from private school after her third grader began to lose his love of learning. Even at his tender age, it was no longer ‘cool’ to enjoy learning, at least not in the presence of his peers. Andrea’s son would come home exhausted every day, something she attributed to too many hours in the classroom and on the bus.
“I [thought] he could really blossom at home. He could really reach his full potential at home.”
For Andrea, the opportunities at home outweighed those of a brick and mortar classroom. She and her husband both received a private education as children, but Andrea saw homeschooling as a way to ”…really cater their learning [and allow them to] pursue their interests. I [thought] he could really blossom at home. He could really reach his full potential at home (Veldkamp).”
Andrea was right. Her children soon regained a desire to learn and began to excel academically.
Home education may seem unattainable for some Canadians, but for those interested in trying it out, cost-effective options do exist. In the younger years, when play-based-learning is essential to the development of fine motor skills, curriculum for a kindergartner can be free. Many resources are available online, in community centers and local libraries. Lending libraries provide an array of children’s toys, often for a very small fee.
It may be time for Ontarians to do some reevaluating. That is, after all, the one thing our young people don’t have.