Kindergarten Is More Important Than You Think

charter school kindergarten student focused on her writing

Imagine building your house without a foundation. On the surface, it might initially seem fine. But as you add pictures to the walls, they begin to crack. As you move furniture into the rooms, the floor noticeably shifts and sinks. The walls follow the floors, and the roof follows the walls—gravity pulls them all towards the missing foundation. Eventually, it all leads to collapse.

Now, imagine your child as a 1st grade student, without having first attended a high-quality kindergarten. On the surface, it all seems fine. School is fun; the teacher is nice; friends are made; lessons are learned. But, the foundation underneath all of that is missing. It might not ‘lead to collapse’ like your foundationless mid-century modern, but your child might well be behind academically, socially, and emotionally compared to classmates later on. While it’s hard to see the foundational absence when you snap that “First Day of School” photo . . . eventually, the cracks will appear.

Educators of young students see this phenomenon happen all too often. We do our best to overcome it, but it can create ongoing struggles and challenges for some students. The solution, quite simply, is a high-quality kindergarten program—like the one I’m a part of at BASIS Charter Schools.

It’s important to note that for students who miss the chance at that foundation, it can be isolating, socially and emotionally. It can create gaps in learning and academic readiness and progress.

Kindergarten Lays the Foundation

The kindergarten program at BASIS Charter Schools was designed to provide students with academic opportunities that will prepare them not only for first grade, but for their entire primary school path, and thus their entire educational path.

There are many advantages that the BASIS Charter School kindergarten program delivers. Most notably, our students in kindergarten through grade 3 enjoy the unique advantage of having two expert teachers in each classroom – allowing our educators to focus on small group learning and differentiated instruction, which quite directly builds those foundational concepts. Our two-teacher model and focus on foundation creates a dynamic classroom environment for nurturing the open and eager minds of these young students, easing them into a readiness to learn, the confidence to ask questions and seek answers, and even the ability to connect concepts in a way that many kindergarteners—and, indeed, many primary grade students—simply don’t, or can’t. And we lead students to attain these abilities, starting in kindergarten, because it sets our students on the precise path they need to succeed in school.

Here’s the thing I see in the classroom—it’s actually the thing that our network’s founders, back in 1998, saw so clearly in their middle schoolers: students want to be on that path. Students of any age, but particularly younger kids, are eager to learn, to ask, to answer, and to know. It’s instinctive for children to desire knowledge; giving it to them, in a manner that they can carry forth into grade 1, and on from there, is the entire point of our kindergarten program. We see that success is more assured if this process—a process that children welcome, and to which they eagerly acclimate—begins in kindergarten, rather than later on.

As a renowned, highly-ranked, highly-regarded network of open enrollment, tuition free public charter schools, BASIS Charter School campuses are known for our high-achieving liberal arts and sciences curriculum. It’s “our thing.” Our educators have developed a truly unique kindergarten program, academically focused on starting young learners on a strong foundation. The BASIS Charter School Curriculum itself is utilized at all 31 (as of 2021) of our campuses across the nation.

Begin with Reading and Math in Kindergarten

There’s obviously no way to have such a substantial program for, say, middle school and high school students without applying the same acumen for even our youngest learners in kindergarten. Our curriculum “spirals” for a given subject: math courses one year spiral directly to math courses the next grade up. The same is true for the curriculum overall: kindergarten spirals to grade 1, and on to grade 2, and so on, through our program. Driven by data and pedagogy, our passionate teachers embrace and nurture the eagerness of students, creating a unique start to academic life, instead of a common kindergarten route.

Specifically, kindergarten students at BASIS Charter Schools learn quickly, with attention paid to each student for their own best pace. They are proficient in addition and subtraction by early winter. Their phonics and reading comprehension skills continue development throughout the school year. By the time they’re finished with kindergarten they are usually at a grade 1 reading level—with the ability to find the main idea of a story, supported by specific details.

Getting a bit more granular: kindergarten students at BASIS Charter Schools are provided with ample resources throughout the school day. They enjoy different types of lessons, in different sized groups. They might be standing, or seated in a circle, or sitting at a desk; they could be listening actively, or talking in turn, or perhaps encouraged to speak off the cuff or joined in song. Our classrooms are at times quiet, at times rambunctious, and at times somewhere in between. Students have the chance to burn off some of their energy, to run and stomp and connect with their peers; they also have some one-on-one time with their teachers. They love the daily and weekly routines; there are also new concepts and different situations involving new skills introduced, too.

BASIS Charter School kindergarteners learn a variety of subjects and topics in the arts and sciences—from plant life cycles to geography of continents and oceans; from the atmosphere to foundations in the social sciences and engineering. Our kindergarteners enjoy daily lessons in art, music, and drama, as well as spoken and written Mandarin language, wading deeply into each subject, and at times connecting the subjects, too.

child raising hand during basis charter school kindergarten lesson

Choosing BASIS Charter School Kindergarten Programs

Our parents are invariably pleased. They see what’s happening, just as I do. BASIS Charter School parent Maher Rassas shared why his family chose our network for his kindergartener: “After touring several schools in the area,” he said, “we chose BASIS Charter Schools because we could tell that the teachers were a lot of fun and were going to keep our son engaged and excited about learning.” The outcome, he added, was beyond his expectations. “The results we have seen for our son are phenomenal in math, reading, and every other subject!”

Enrolling in the kindergarten program at a BASIS Charter School provides a child with the best tools to build the strongest educational foundation that they will carry throughout their academic career. We have often described our program as one in which our expert teachers “teach students to learn to love learning.” Granted, that’s instinctive in kindergarteners in a way that can change in later grades. But learning how to learn and learning to love the process of inquiry is something in which our network takes great and specific pride.

Our families agree. Time and again we hear parents say that in just one academic year, one truly foundational year, they’re amazed by the academic progress, the social and emotional growth, and the steady, growing-kid-maturity that their daughters and sons exhibit. It’s a spectacular transformation, driven by building this essential foundation, starting in kindergarten.

As an educator, I have had the opportunity to witness the sky view of how a high-quality kindergarten program helps students in their short- and long-term educational development and academic success. I’ve watched as kindergarteners matriculate, year over year, to higher grades, and higher learning. We can trace it back to kindergarten, for these successful students; we see the child is older, and has grown, but they’re on the same high-level academic path that they began as a kindergartener. That’s the bottom line for me; it’s how I know that what happens at BASIS Charter Schools is essential. On the very first day of kindergarten, students begin learning skills that we will build on throughout the school year—and throughout their school careers.

Kindergarten Builds a Love of Learning

Isn’t that the foundation we all desire for our children, and isn’t a love of learning aspirational? But the kindergarten program at BASIS Charter Schools is not just aspirational. It’s precisely what we do. It is fundamental for students to develop social and emotional skills, along with improving on fine and gross motor skills. It is a cornerstone concept for students to learn how to interact and engage with their classmates, to communicate with their teachers and peers, to problem solve, and to become self-sufficient as independent learners who love learning. Kindergarten is when our kids acquire the tools, start up the content, and are steeped in the concept that school matters, learning matters—and when each student learns to say, ‘I can do it, I want to do it, and I will do it.’

It’s what we do, at BASIS Charter Schools, and we begin doing it in kindergarten. With a strong foundation, a house will last for generations; with a kindergarten program that provides these essentials, your child will thrive for a lifetime.

About the Author

Originally from New Jersey, Eric Wiederlight moved to Arizona to pursue a degree in Elementary and Special Education, which he graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Arizona.

Mr. Wiederlight began working at BASIS Goodyear Primary in July 2015, as a Lead Kindergarten Teacher. In 2019, Mr. Wiederlight was awarded Top Teacher in the City of Goodyear which was one of his greatest accomplishments as a Kindergarten Teacher.

In 2020, Mr. Wiederlight took on the exciting role as Director of Student Affairs for the primary program at the BASIS Goodyear campus. As Director of Students Affairs, he is able to work with all of the primary grade students to help them achieve their academic success and to be part of those “light bulb” moments. Mr. Wiederlight’s goal is to continue spreading positivity in all children’s education.

Learn About BASIS on Charter Moms Chats

Watch Chris Ferguson, Head of School at BASIS San Antonio Northeast, and Stacey Schouten, Grades 1 & 2 Humanities Subject Expert Teacher at BASIS San Antonio Northeast, speak with Inga Cotton on Charter Moms Chats on December 4, 2020 at 4 PM Central live on Facebook and YouTube.

As Head of School at BASIS San Antonio—Northeast Campus, Chris Ferguson’s first priority is ensuring that all students experience an engaging, safe, exciting, and rigorous BASIS Charter School education. Mr. Ferguson has over 15 years of experience in the education field, and was a founding math teacher at BASIS Prescott, as well as the Director of Academic Programs. Most recently, he was a Director at BASIS Independent McLean, in Virginia. Having served students in grades K–12 at BASIS Prescott and BASIS Independent McLean, Mr. Ferguson has a wealth of knowledge about different strategies for student success. He truly believes in this curriculum and academic program.

Mr. Ferguson earned his Bachelor of Arts in Education from Prescott College, in Prescott, Arizona. He is highly qualified in Elementary Education, Middle School and High School Mathematics, and General Science. Before joining BASIS Prescott, Mr. Ferguson taught 6th–8th grade math and science in the Prescott Unified School District. While at Prescott Unified, he served as a team leader and department chair, and did data analysis on state and local testing.

Stacey Schouten is a Subject Expert Teacher at BASIS San Antonio Northeast. Ms. Schouten teaches grades 1 and 2 Humanities. Before joining this new campus, she was a founding Kindergarten Lead Teacher at BASIS San Antonio Medical Center campus for three years. Before joining BASIS Charter Schools, Ms. Schouten was a Kindergarten Montessori teacher in Germany. Ms. Schouten earned her Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology with a minor in Education from the University of Central Florida.

Read More About BASIS Charter Schools

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