What is Kindergarten?

by Tori Smith

Kindergarten is a complicated year for children and their families. It is a year when a group of individual spirits come together for an adventure unlike anything else they have ever experienced. There is a new physical terrain to explore and adapt to, new social complications and expectations, new emotional responses, and new behavioral demands.

In addition to these new trials to balance, each child is also asked to put aside some individuality to become part of a cohesive group tasked with building a learning community. It is a hard task. It is hard for the individual children, for their families making adjustments and turning over their babies to new caretakers, for the teachers and aids charged with guiding and coaxing the brood for much of the day, and for the larger established school community welcoming the new clutch of chicks into its fold.

Kindergarten is a year when all of this is sorted and squished about, massaged and nurtured. Each part – social, emotional, behavioral, and intellectual – pushes forward in fits and starts. In addition, a concentrated dose of academics is worked into the mix.

Throughout the year, the trajectory of growth is uneven and unique for each child, but typically always forward and higher. By the end of Kindergarten, most children, and the children as a group, reach a place where they are ready to take on the challenges and adventures of an academic school life, one that still involves emotional, social, and behavioral growth, but with a new and greater expectation of intellectual exercise and personal independence.

The trajectory of growth is also uneven and unique for each family. This is true for families who are experiencing Kindergarten for the first time, as well as for those who are experiencing it again with a second or third child. As those parents well know by now, each sibling is unique. While some parts of Kindergarten may feel familiar, it is important to honor each child’s experience as his or her own. We encourage you to share family experiences with other families and build relationships, to build a flotilla with your many separate boats.

Your journey begins. It will be an exciting one for sure. We are here to help you navigate when you need extra help. Just ask.

Tilden School’s Green Practices

by Karin Beck

At Tilden School our physical site was selected with the idea of decreasing our ecological footprint. As such, we rent our classroom space from an organization that only needs its classrooms on weekends, thus creating a multi-use model. We have no intention of purchasing or building our own structure.

For P.E., recess, and off-site lessons, we use local parks and community centers, again utilizing preexisting sites.
Modes of transportation include walking and King County Metro Transit. Once more, we use what has already been established, and do not intend to purchase vans, buses, or the like.

There is no cafeteria or lunch service at Tilden School. Every day students, faculty, and staff bring their lunches and eat together in the classrooms or at a park. This significantly decreases food waste, as everyone is eating food they prefer. And on those few occasions when a child does not care to eat a lunch item, that food item is repacked in the child’s lunch bag to go home, not discarded.

Of course, there are many other ways faculty, staff, and students conserve energy and materials, such as shutting off lights, running copies on scratch paper, and using castoff materials for hands-on lessons, models, and projects.

All of these greener practices not only help our planet, but also keep costs down; therefore, we are able to offer a rich curriculum and small class size for a comparatively affordable tuition rate.


Why did we set the cutoff date to July 1?

by Whitney Tjerandsen

After much consideration, many discussions with staff and parents, and examination of our previous student data, we made our Kindergarten entry cutoff date July 1. Children must be age five by July 1 to apply for the Kindergarten in the fall. Students entering in later grades must meet a corresponding cutoff date.

We have had the privilege of teaching children at Tilden for 30 years, and have noticed that a very high percentage of students with late summer birthdays struggle with school readiness—socially, emotionally, and/or academically. Even academically gifted students who are young pay a stiff penalty in other areas as their school years progress. (We recently verified our concerns by analyzing data we’ve collected over the last ten years.)

As you know, we are a small, independent school with very carefully dedicated resources and a great heart. We do our very best to provide a high level of support and personal attention at a moderate fee. Our goal is to help all students develop into independent learners. Even with the support we give, we found that the younger students in the class were often not able to join in the educational journey to access their capabilities. They often struggled with social skills, and were unable to confidently manage their in-school academic work and homework, found long-term or extended projects unnecessarily daunting, had difficulty managing their time at a grade-appropriate level, or felt emotionally overwhelmed. The discomfort and stress (and tears) these students experienced was unnecessary, and affected them, their classmates, and the learning environment as a whole. The same students flourished when they were given the extra months to mature.

We decided it was important to establish a cutoff date that would help us best fulfill our mission of providing a high-quality learning environment for all students, and to build an educational foundation for children that sets each child up for long-term success.

To honor the integrity of this age-at-entrance policy, and the goals of our school and programs, we will not be able to make exceptions for children with birthdates just shy of the cutoff. In fact, we hope that you will consider those children with June birthdays as possibly better off after another year before starting Kindergarten. Being very capable does not provide the confidence and maturity of children who are a year older.

When parents have a capable child, they are often eager to get that child on the academic path. Unfortunately for the younger kids, no matter how capable they are, being young just makes them feel like they aren’t as smart as the others, when their classmates are ready for the concentration, follow through, and love of work that they exhibit because they are older.

The reason many parents give for having them start early is that they worry their kids would be bored if they didn’t start Kindergarten. On the other contrary, a year to gain maturity, run to your heart’s content, get to be the older one in class of a good pre-school is not boring … it is age-appropriate, and these children come in ready for Kindergarten the following fall, can separate from their parents with eagerness for the academic day, are ready to do things that are new, and can learn about science, Spanish, art, reading, and math, with the attention that comes with maturity.

From a parent’s perspective, I know that there is life beyond Kindergarten. I know that going to junior high as one of the youngest kids in the class does not work as well as being one of the older kids does. Going into high school when you are one of the youngest and smallest work doesn’t work very well, either. Kids begin driving at 16; younger children can’t drive until the summer after their peers begin. (I trusted my own kids’ driving, but the idea of my kids driving with other 16 year olds was truly frightening.) And then there is going to college as one of the youngest…the major changes that your child will face are all made from a more confident perch if they are a bit older.

Regarding Recess

by Whitney Tjerandsen

Every day, all Tilden students have at least 45 minutes of free-play recess after lunch, supervised by the principal and three or four more teachers or aids. First grade and Kindergarten students also have a morning recess. We use three playground areas:

  • As soon as parents leave the drop-off parking lot, we close the gates to make a huge, safe, fenced playground. During recess, students use the wide variety of play equipment stored in the shed.
  • During lunch recess, students may choose to join a group of fewer than 30 students, supervised by a teacher and another staff member, to play on the grass at Dakota Place Park across the street to the north.
  • Every Monday, the 2s and 3s walk with their teachers to Hiawatha to use the park for recess, and use the big field for PE. (If it’s raining hard, they take the city bus to use the gym.) The PE teacher is a champ at teaching exciting games requiring strategy and cooperation, ball skills, and sportsmanship. On Wednesdays, the 4s and 5s do the same. On these days, the remaining 4 classes have the school playground to themselves.


The shed on the property holds all sorts of balls, ropes, *rockers, hula hoops, tether balls, skippies, etc. The parking stalls work effectively as boundaries for 4-Square competitions, monkey-in-the-middle, and other games. The other playground areas are used cooperatively. There is a large area for the usual running and imaginative play, many days including a colony of penguins, or herds of horses, or puppies and kitties to play with or “be”. There is also a humble fairy tree with fairies who need food or homes, readily provided by their enthusiastic friends from found leaves and moss, gently hung back on the old lilac tree. The fairies are protected from marauders, too! Did I mention the “food stand” that never closes, offering moss and leaf tacos, and imaginary coffee, too?

*Rockers have been used as fences, guitars, backpacks for playground camping trips, skis or snowshoes tied with ropes to the children’s feet, slides to sit on while partners pull the occupant with rope, and so forth.


The principal and 3 or 4 other teachers and aids are out with the children for lunch recess every day. This consistency helps keep rules and expectations the same from day to day. Recess begins with a short, whole-group discussion focused on playground behavior. Students are taught:

  • to include everyone in their games
  • that being honest about being “out”, and playing by the rules, makes games much more fun
  • that name-calling and bullying are not allowed
  • what to do if something happens to you that you don’t like
  • to tell someone directly if their behavior toward you is a problem, and immediately get adult help if the behavior doesn’t change—don’t wait and just hope things will get better

The pre-recess discussion sometimes addresses other specific situations of concern.

The children play across grades, so recess time is like multi-aged neighborhood play. Fifth-grade buddies help the Kindergarteners join in the playground offerings, and then the 5s choose their own activity—often a very engaged game of 4-square, of which they never seem to tire.

Rainy Days:


On rainy days, of which we have only 8-14 per year, the kids LOVE indoor recess. They spread throughout the school, choosing quiet rooms, active rooms, Legos, drawing, “product” creation (such as pillows, lovingly filled with scrap paper and stapled shut), working on pictures for their art history books, etc. It is endless fun for the students. (The teachers are glad if the next day is not rainy….)

In sum:

Recess at Tilden is wonderfully active. Kids organize structured games, conceive imaginative play, invent new games, or practice and then perform music and/or dance numbers for the supervising teachers or for groups of friends—or for the whole school after recess cleanup (getting ready for their Broadway openings that are sure to follow!)