The Fraser Mustard Early Learning Academy is a kindergarten-only school that opened in September in an area of Toronto known for its high immigrant population. Fraser Mustard, named after a key advocate of early-childhood education, is one of the largest all-day kindergartens on the continent, and is considered a key test case in the effects of such programs. Read more about Fraser Mustard and its pupils here.
The parents of four Fraser Mustard pupils spoke to The Globe about their children’s experiences.
Neha Charles, 5
Last year, five-year-old Neha Charles struggled with counting and stumbled on the alphabet. Now, she confidently counts to 40, writes her name and insists on being read to before bedtime.
“I’m continuing to read to her because she is not allowing me to say no,” says Neha’s mother, Chitra Venkatrao. “If I were to say no, she will not sleep.”
Neha, who is usually shy, has started speaking more. The words are not always clear, but the little girl keeps talking. The changes have motivated Ms. Venkatrao to ask Neha’s teacher what she can do at home to encourage the young girl’s learning. She is now teaching Neha how to rhyme words.
“In half-day, they can’t concentrate. In full day, they can concentrate,” Ms. Venkatrao says. “I can see the difference.”
Manha Idrees, 4
Hina Afreen asked her four-year-old daughter, Manha Idrees, a week ago what the big needle on the clock was pointing to. It was on the number five, which means 25, her daughter responded.
“I was totally amazed,” Ms. Afreen says. “‘How did you know?’ I asked her. She just laughed.”
Just the other day, when Manha was playing with letter blocks, she put together a word, looked up at her mother and said, “Mama, H-A-T – hat.”
Ms. Afreen, who credits these achievements to a full-day learning program, is so encouraged by Manha’s love for learning that she has started teaching the girl phonics at home.
With her third child in full-day schooling, Ms. Afreen is taking the time to volunteer at the school, helping out with a morning snack program.
“I like full-day kindergarten because I have the freedom to do work as well,” she says.
Aizah Kamran, 5
When Aizah Kamran had to leave school after a half-day of kindergarten, she would be in tears. She wanted to remain there with her two older siblings.
Her mother, Ambarin, also wasn’t a fan of the half-day program. She would drop off Aizah, who would spend the first part of the day learning in the classroom, then had to get dressed to go outside to play. And before you knew it, her half-day of school was complete.
“Full-time is good. I like it,” Ms. Kamran says. “They spend the whole time reading, focusing.”
Five-year-old Aizah is already able to read larger words than her siblings did at that age. “I’m surprised by her reading. She reads four and five letters now,” Ms. Kamran says.
“After one or two weeks at school, she read with me. I said, ‘Wow, you know this word? How do you know?’ She said, ‘My teacher told me.’ ”
Zain Siddiqui, 4
Like many four-year-old boys, Zain Siddiqui is active. His mother, Nadeem Siddiqui, says he can be a tad on the naughty side – and she was afraid of the notes that would come home from school.
But being in school all day has changed Zain, she says. She is a lunchroom supervisor at the Fraser Mustard Early Learning Academy and has heard from Zain’s teacher that he is a good listener and concentrates well on the task at hand.
The full-day program is keeping Zain’s brain active, she says. For the first time, he’s enjoying books, especially reading Pete the Cat. He was never interested in learning to write at home, but at school he’s learning to write the alphabet. He puts up a fight if he has to miss a day at school.
“Full-day kindergarten is helping him learn in different stages, and he’s learning more things,” she says. “He’s learning every day.”