By the age of five, about 87% of American children are attending school, most of them in pre-academic classes called kindergarten.
However, many American youngsters are introduced to their first school setting even before the age of five, through nursery school or day care attendance. In fact, about 29% of three-year-olds and 49% of four-year-olds are enrolled in one or the other.
Nursery schools accept children from three to five years of age for half-day sessions ranging from twice a week to five days a week. The typical nursery school is equipped with toys, building blocks, books, puzzles, art supplies, and an outdoor play-ground. These pre-school programs usually charge tuition, although some are subsidized, and some offer scholarships. Day care programs have similar facilities that offer all-day care for the children of working parents.
Elementary School and High school
In most areas, free public education begins with kindergarten classes for five-year-olds. There are usually half day classes- two -or three hours long, although some communities run all-day kindergarten programs. The primary purpose of kindergarten is socialization, but the young students also gain information and skills. For example, they learn to identify colors, count to ten, print their names, work with art supplies, listen to stories, and enjoy books. After kindergarten, American children begin their academic studies. Their schooling is divided into 12 academic levels called grades. One school year (from late August or early September to mid-June) is required to complete each grade. Academic work - learning to read, write, and do arithmetic - begins when children enter 1st grade, at about age 6.
The first academic institution that a student attends is called elementary-school or grammar school.^ri" Some school systems, elementary school includes kindergarten through 8th graded/and the next four years (taught in a different school building) arc called high school. In other school systems, there is a third division called junior high school (or middle school) which usually includes grades 6 through 8, but in some communities includes grades 4 or 5 through 8 and in others includes grades 7 through 9.
The typical school day is about seven hours long and ends about 3 P.M. Classes are in session Monday through Friday . Traditional vacation periods include a two-week winter vacation (including the Christmas and New Year's holidays),a one -week spring vacation (often coinciding with Easter), and a two-month summer vacation. In addition, there are several one-day holidays giving students a day off to celebrate.
Children going to public elementary' schools usually attend a school inand from school and come home for lunch. However, most elementary schools provide a place where students can eat if it is inconvenient for them to go home at lunchtime. American high schools are larger than elementary schools and serve a larger community. As a result, most high school students take public transportation or a school bus to and from school and eat lunch in the school cafeteria.
Grammar schools teach language arts (reading, writing, spelling, and penmanship), social studies (stressing history and geography), mathematics (up to and sometimes including algebra), science, physical education, and health. In addition, elementary school programs often include music, art, and home economics.
High school subjects are more specialized. English classes emphasize writing, grammar, and literature. Social studies is split into separate courses such as American history, European history, and psychology. Year-long courses in algebra and geometry are followed by more advanced math work in trigonometry and pre-calculus. There are also specialized science courses in biology, chemistry, and physics. Many high school students study a foreign language, usually Spanish, French, or German. Courses in music, art, home economics, and consumer education are also available, along with various vocational courses. As in elementary school, health and physical education classes are generally required.
During the elementary school years, students are grouped into classes, and each group stays together for the entire school day and the entire school year. Generally, the class has the same teacher for most subjects, although art, music, and physical education are usually taught by teachers who specialize in these areas. Also, in the upper elementary grades, students in some school systems have different teachers (but the same classmates) for their major academic subjects.
In high school, students move from one classroom to another and study each subject with a different teacher and a different group of classmates. Many high schools have what is commonly called a tracking system, which groups students according to academic ability and motivation. Thus, more capable and hard-working students take more difficult courses. Depending on the subject, classes may be offered at two, three, or even four different ability levels.
High school students have a very busy day. Many take five or six academic subjects as well as physical education. During other periods, students may be doing homework in a study hall, researching in the school library, or participating in activities such as the school orchestra, student government, school newspaper, or math club. Many extracurricular activities also meet after the school day ends. Students involved in time-consuming activities such as athletics, dramatics, or music may be at school from very early in the morning until dinnertime. However, these school activities are well worth the time because they help students find friends with similar interests, develop their
talents, gain greater self-confidence, and sometimes even discover their career goals.