What parent hasn't had a million questions when their child is ready to start kindergarten? Is he ready? Will she understand the material? Have I taught him all the skills he needs to succeed in kindergarten? The list goes on and on. The Mommy and Daddy Guide to Kindergarten by Susan Bernard with Cary O. Yager ($14.95 retail from Contemporary Books) attempts to answer these questions and more. The premise of the book is that parents need information so they can make informed decisions about how to best navigate the ups and downs of kindergarten. The author states she wanted to write this book after her own experiences sending her son off to kindergarten. She interviewed dozens of "experts," such as parents, teachers, principals and psychologists, to gather the information needed to answer these questions. Each of the 37 short chapters starts with a vignette from the author's experience or her friends' experiences, followed by a synopsis of an interview with one or more of the experts. There is a list of resources in the Appendix that may also be helpful. The author brings up many issues that parents of kindergarten children may be wondering about and provides some thought-provoking answers.
I think the premise for this book has some very good merit. Kindergarten is often a time of transition for both the child and the parents; no longer a little kid, but not quite a big kid yet. It is important to keep in mind that this book was written primarily for parents who plan to enroll their children in public, or maybe private school. There is a chapter on homeschooling that barely scratches the surface of how and why homeschoolers are doing what they are doing or how successfully they are educating their children. One of the quotes from a parent in the homeschooling chapter is, "Our older children went to public schools. Seven years later, we felt that the schools had deteriorated so much that we homeschooled our youngest daughter. After kindergarten we couldn't stand it any longer [italics added]. She's much happier now that she's in public school, and so are we." The major thrust of the book, however, is the developmental, social and political issues of public and private schooling. I found that reading this book further cemented my commitment to homeschooling, although I don't think that was at all the intention of the author. There seems to be a definite liberal leaning in how issues are addressed and answered that presupposes children are best served by a public school education. In most cases, the experts in the book all seem to agree with the author, even on controversial issues where there is actually much debate in the field, i.e. bilingual education, use of computers in education, and multicultural education. The author does a great job of explaining many of the problems in the public schools, such as too many students with widely disparate needs, labeling kids, the difference in quality from one school or teacher to the next, kids who are ready intellectually for school but not emotionally, etc. These and many other issues, including religious convictions, are often the very reasons we choose to homeschool!
My greatest concern about this book, though, is that the author and the "experts" repeatedly say that research indicates this, that, or the other without referring to which research they are referencing or discussing competing research that indicates the opposite. Always be wary of research showing something without providing what research is being used, where it is published, if it was peer-reviewed, what other studies show, where an article can be found, etc. While the research being addressed may be very valid, the reader does not have the chance to go back and check or further research the issue if they so choose. A simple footnote in the
text with a list of references in the back of the book would have provided the academic excellence and integrity required without boring readers who do not want to delve into the research further.
Overall, I think this book does a very good job of raising some interesting questions about the transition to kindergarten, and thus many parents may find it interesting and helpful reading. It is very easy to read and contains many humorous antidotes and quotes from parents. While many of the issues do not apply in the same way to homeschoolers as to public school students, such as class size and finding the best school in your neighborhood, many of the issues are fairly universal, such as developmental and academic issues. I would caution, however, understanding the bias behind the book and the problems with the lack of documenting the research.
-- Product Review by: Dr. Anne Margaret Wright, TOS Magazine
Here’s another The Mommy and Daddy Guide to Kindergarten review!
Do you have a kindergarten age child? Do you know all your kindergarten options? The Mommy and Daddy Guide to Kindergarten by Susan Bernard and Cary Yager contains real life advice and tips from parents and other experts on surviving kindergarten. Author Susan Bernard is a mother and writer who specializes in education and communication. She has also authored of The Mommy Guide. Cindy Yager is a mother, writer, and editor. This is not a homeschooling how-to book, but a compilation of information on topics from age appropriate behavior to kindergarten readiness. Mrs. Bernard and Mrs. Yager interviewed over 70 experts, including educators, psychologists, researchers, and parents. Much of the information presented is interesting, but not a lot of it relates to homeschooling (five pages). So, should you buy this book? If you are concerned with art, before school and after-school programs, bilingual education, classroom size, computers, curriculum, friends, gifted children, homework, kindergarten readiness, parent conferences, public schools, report cards, special needs children, testing or the Zen of kindergarten, then this might be the book for you. Check into your local bookstore to purchase a copy of The Mommy and Daddy Guide to Kindergarten.