March 1, 2018 8:02 pm

Kindergarten is optional, depending on where you live

WATCH ABOVE: Most children attend kindergarten but some kids are skipping the traditional stepping stone to Grade 1 altogether. Laurel Gregory reports.

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At five years old, Parker Formaniuk can count up to 1,000 and write down numbers in the hundreds. His latest challenge is learning to add and subtract three digits. His father attributes his success — in part — to his education at an alternative kindergarten program.

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“The teacher ratio to students I think is a lot better. I think there’s only about 12 kids, plus or minus, to every one or two teachers,” Devin Formaniuk said. “It’s also more individualized. It caters to the student, I think a lot more than a public system would.”

Since age three, Parker has attended Riverbend Montessori full-time. When it came time to shift to a public or Catholic school for kindergarten, Formaniuk didn’t want to disrupt a good thing.

“It was a lot easier of a choice because he’s been in it, he knows it and we found his learning and development was a little further than the Alberta curriculum was.”

Every year there are one to four children in Parker’s program who forgo kindergarten. Riverbend Montessori director Pam Gill says parents’ reasons vary.

“Sometimes they don’t want the kids to have the stress of going to school on the bus, or picking them up and dropping them off, or they don’t find a school of their quality in their area so they want to keep them with us.”

Not every Canadian family has the ability to choose. Kindergarten is mandatory in three Canadian provinces.

In an email to Global News, News Brunswick Education spokesperson Kelly Cormier writes, in part, “Kindergarten is mandatory so all children have the opportunity to be exposed to the school culture at the roughly the same age. They are also exposed to the same quality experience in the classroom.”

Edmonton Catholic Schools expands on the benefits:

“Kindergarten is an integral step in a child’s educational journey.  Starting kindergarten in one’s neighbourhood school allows the child to establish roots, as kindergarten is a positive early step in a child’s continuum of learning. Being part of a school community offers the opportunity for a smooth transition into the regular academic programming of Grade 1. Children enrolled in kindergarten have the opportunity to interact with students within the school, allowing them to be active members not only in their classroom, but also in the life of their school.”

Devin Formaniuk expects attending Grade 1 at a traditional school this September will be an adjustment for Parker, but he’s certain the alternative program has given his son the love of learning that will serve him his entire education.

“He loves it,” Formaniuk said. “He loves coming to school everyday.”

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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