Gearing Up for Kindergarten


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Gearing Up for Kindergarten Introduction & Overview

Introduction and Overview 

A child’s success in school is often critical to his or her future. The academic and social expectations of children entering kindergarten have changed a great deal from previous generations. Parents are a child’s first and best teachers, but many parents need and want support in their role of preparing their children for success in school. Research on the importance of children’s early years, increased high standards fostered by laws such as No Child Left Behind, and an emphasis on school readiness have combined to trigger greater interest by parents in helping young children enter school successfully.

National research suggests that teachers estimate 32% of kids have some problems entering kindergarten, while another 16% have difficult entries into kindergarten. Current research also shows that quality early childhood programs produce more successful students, better transitions between home and school, and increased abilities of children to navigate their world. Across the United States and the world, tens of thousands of young children between ages 0 and 5 are preparing for their entry into school and needing to gain knowledge and skills for success.

Gearing Up for Kindergarten is a prevention-focused parent and family education program designed to facilitate child development, school readiness and healthy parenting. The program focuses on engaging families with a child entering kindergarten in the next 1-2 years. The Gearing Up for Kindergarten program provides families with an intensive educational experience that combines preschool learning activities for pre-kindergarten children with parent education opportunities for adults.

Program History and Development

The Gearing Up for Kindergarten educational program began as a collaborative partnership in 2006 to develop and pilot an innovative, community-based approach to support children and families entering kindergarten. Gearing Up for Kindergarten is a Preschool/Parent Education opportunity for parents and their children who will be entering kindergarten in the following year. 

The program model, educational curriculum and learning activities for Gearing Up for Kindergarten were developed collaboratively by the NDSU Extension Service at North Dakota State University and the Region V Parent Resource Center (NDSU Extension Service) in Fargo, ND. Additionally, input and guidance on program materials and development occurred in collaboration with Fargo, West Fargo, and Northern Cass Public Schools; District 44 (ND) preschool; SENDCAA Head Start; Even Start; and Parents as Teachers. Funding for the program development and original implementation in Cass County, ND came from the United Way of Cass-Clay. Funding from the North Dakota State Parent Information Resource Center (PIRC) for additional sites across North Dakota was added in the 2007-2008 school year.

 North Dakota State University (NDSU) and the NDSU Extension Service, in partnership with their statewide network of Parent Resource Centers and local schools, have operated this school readiness and parent education program for 4 years. The curriculum has been piloted, evaluated and refined over a 4-year period to develop a high-quality educational program.  The Preschool Education curriculum consists of a flexible, adaptive set of parent-child learning and activity sessions. The Parent Education curriculum consists of a series of structured educational sessions that focus on child development, school readiness, and healthy parenting.

Program Objectives and Participant Outcomes

The key building blocks and objectives of the program are: 

  • School Readiness for Children Entering Kindergarten
  • Parent Education
  • Early Awareness and Intervention
  • Parent Involvement with Children’s Learning & School
  • Building Home-School-Community Partnerships

The goals of the program are intended to facilitate positive outcomes for children and their families, as well as participating educational entities:

  • Children participating in Gearing Up For Kindergarten will show positive and significant progress in being prepared to be successful in cognitive, social, emotional, pre-academic and practical domains as they enter kindergarten.
  • Parents and other caregivers will become more active in their child’s development prior to entering kindergarten.
  • Parents and other caregivers will increase their knowledge of child development, school readiness, and healthy parenting.
  • Parents and other caregivers will increase their intent to be involved in their child’s schooling and build linkages with the school system.

Research and evaluation on these objectives and outcomes is ongoing. Information about research on program outcomes is available on our Research and Findings page.

The Gearing Up for Kindergarten program includes the following features:

  • A comprehensive program and curriculum overview, which includes information on program coordination, program delivery, curriculum organization, handouts, parent/child take-home activities, supplies, staffing, marketing and promotion, logistics, and evaluation.
  • In-depth Parent Education curriculum with 16 lesson modules, which include a lesson guide, supply list, topic overview, lesson handouts, and parent/child take-home activities.
  • In-depth Preschool Education curriculum with over 100 separate hands-on, interactive learning activities designed to address knowledge and skills in math, science, reading/literacy, sensory awareness, motor ability, imagination, social-emotional abilities, and more.  Each activity includes a supply list, activity directions, and learning rationale.
  • Ideas on how to use and implement the curriculum, tips on teaching, and program administration.
  • Evaluation tools 

Topics addressed in the Gearing Up for Kindergarten parent education program include: 

Program orientation; the importance of school readiness; children and brain development; parenting styles; early literacy and raising a reader; effective nurturance and discipline approaches; children and media usage; developing responsibility and self-help skills; young children and the importance of sleep; learning styles and school readiness; child temperament; early literacy and math skills; social and emotional development; tools for nurturance and prevention; healthy childhood nutrition; safety issues; a parent’s role in school success.

The program delivery models used in Gearing Up for Kindergarten thus far have included: 

  • Two 8-week parent/child educational sessions (“semester” approach), one in the fall and one in the spring of the year prior to kindergarten;
  • One continuous 16-week program delivered in successive weeks;
  • One modified 10-week program delivered in successive weeks;
  • Short 4-session program for rural areas. 

The program uses small-group learning and activity sessions to facilitate school readiness and parent education. Research on the program indicates it improves school readiness for children, increases parental knowledge and skills, and builds home-school-community links to support children’s transition to school. 

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