COSTA MESA — Back in the day, kindergarten was about taking naps, eating snacks and learning the difference between the boy's and girl's restrooms.
At Mariners Christian School in Costa Mesa, students have the option of attending class for more than six hours. There, they learn not only the alphabet and the fundamentals that will prepare them for the first grade, but also how to log onto computers and perform other tasks that even a generation ago went untaught.
It's called All-Day kindergarten, and begins at 8:15 a.m. and ends at 2:30 p.m.
Principal Sue Celek said she couldn't be prouder of her kindergarten classes and that parents have the option of either enrolling their children in the all-day class or, if they feel it's too long, they can always opt for 8:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Tuition is $7,273 for the two-thirds day, and $7,626 for the full day.
So far, as the school at 300 Fischer Ave. enters its third week of instruction, teachers and faculty say the rigorous standards — offset by a well-deserved hour of recess and lunch — are starting to pay academic dividends for the 5- and 6-year-olds.
They're beginning to show a talent for thinking beyond their years, teachers say.
"It's so much fun to see when one of my students catches on, and I witness the moment when they say, 'Oh, I get it!'" said Lynda Lynch, a kindergarten teacher for 15 years, the last four with Mariners.
Lynch said that if kindergarten teachers hunker down and keep teaching the children patterns and concepts, eventually they're going to reach a point where a light turns on in their heads.
Mostly, Lynch said, the "Eureka!" moment occurs after she's just taught her class a certain set of numbers or vowel sounds — or the pronunciation of certain letters, such as H, as in Thursday's example of Henrietta, the Happy Hen.
Eventually, they'll make a connection a week later in a completely unrelated instance, and that's when teaching becomes fun; when the students begin to retain what they've been taught.
But that's not to say that the class is all work and no play. Indeed, because children will still be children, the first week of class at Mariners involved teaching the kids how to play and work together cooperatively, lending credibility once more to the famous book, "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten."
Which goes like this: Share everything. Play fair. Don't hit people. Put things back where you found them. Clean up your own mess. Don't take things that aren't yours. Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody. Wash your hands before you eat. Flush.
So some things haven't changed.