Programs for little children should be in the morning - and that's that. This is when they are most awake, when their digestive systems are supporting their growth and the outward gesture of being with other people. We in Waldorf talk about rhythms all the time - where is the healthful rhythm of having kindergarten in the afternoon or all day?! Kindie should end at lunch, when the children go home to have a hot meal and then a nap. Period.
But.... parents work and even those whose schedules can accommodate the inclusion of their children still send their little ones away, convinced that this is what they need. And so kindergarten programs, even in Waldorf schools, have now grown into full days. THIS IS WRONG! It is criminal! It makes cranky, tearful, stressed out children and is bad for their health and their development. And yes, there are many who seem just fine. But we are looking at a larger picture of health - and ill health does not always manifest in obvious ways. Sure, children can cope - even apparently thrive. Millions of children all over the world go to day care from babyhood - but is this, in the long run, healthy? Does it foster the kind of human relationships which we want? I would say NO! Yes - children can indeed adapt. But there is no good reason under the sun for policies or beliefs that little ones' needs are better served outside the home.
When I was a girl at my Waldorf school (the Rudolf Steiner School in NYC ) there was no all day kindergarten - that was unthinkable. Even first grade was half day and it wasn't until SECOND GRADE (not yelling - emphasizing!!) that a couple of full days were phased in. Until we graduated in 12th grade we still had two "short days", ending an hour earlier than usual.
When, as an adult, I lived in the UK, we lived in a Camphill community which was one of three such communities in the immediate area (curative communities where we lived and worked with developmentally handicapped adults or children, based on the work of Steiner) We were the majority of families at the local Waldorf school (the Ringwood school). We were from communities which deeply understood the developmental needs of growing children and so guess what - kindergarten was a half day program (which many of us only used sparingly anyway) and full days were very gradually phased in for first or second graders (you could opt - as we did when my son was briefly there - for half days in first grade). And the entire school, grade 1 through 8, had a half day on Thursdays when the teachers were then able to have a sane time for their meeting, instead of it crowding into their own family lives.
A pre -k program which runs from 10 to 2 is weird in my mind - I can only think that the rational is that people with little ones tend to get out the door slower than those with older children (true, true!) and that there is something healthy about the children eating together. Nice - but I think it is FAR healthier for a family (even if one parent is out at work) to eat their meal together at home.
Sorry - I seem to explode onto the forum when I'm here! But it's these early years topics that do it to me - I feel so strongly about this and see it everywhere. Even Waldorf early years teachers who themselves know that what they are doing is detrimental to little children's health do it.... It's time to stand up and reclaim Waldorf early years education for its health-enhancing effects and not bow to popular pressure.
OK - I'm done....