I was thinking more along the lines of what was different about my kindergarten, my kids kindergarten and the grandkids' kindergarten.
I had a wonderful experience for kindergarten. Some of my first memories involve that year. When I was 5 kindergarten was not something that was included in school. Elementary school was 1st through 5th grade. Preschool? Not heard of.
My kindergarten was on a farm. There were horses, cows, goats, chickens and hay rides once a week. We went half days on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and full days on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It might have been the other way around. Anyway it was fun. I remember I took my little sister Catherine for show and tell once. She even got to bring her own blankie for nap time.
Kindergarten was used as the place to get kids used to being social and to learn the rules and it was not required to enter 1st grade. I don't remember if we learned our alphabet, but I imagine we did.
By the time my oldest daughter was 5 kindergarten was part of elementary school, but was still used as a vehicle to get children ready for "real" school and had to be completed before entering 1st grade. When she was 4 I learned about preschool. We were stationed in Wiesbaden Germany and the church on the small base we were on offered it. Being the oldest child she really hadn't had a chance to learn how to play well with other children, so I signed her up. It was free and she thrived there.
I don't really remember why but my second child, our son, didn't go to preschool. It wasn't a mandatory thing and for some reason I decided he didn't need to go. Perhaps because he was the 2nd child.
The third child? No preschool for her either, but she had her Grandma living with us and she loved spending time with her. It never appeared to have hurt either one of them to go directly to Kindergarten with no preschool.
Skip to the grand kids. I really can't tell you if preschool is mandatory, but I know of no child their age that didn't go. A majority of the preschools are at the elementary schools. Even if they are not mandatory, socially speaking it would seem it would be.
And kindergarten is different now. What we as children learned in 1st grade they are now teaching in kindergarten. It's no longer a school prep, it IS school. Now you have preschool for the school prep. I expect that in the next few years it will be widely accepted that preschool is mandatory and must be completed prior to entering Kindergarten. I would even imagine there will be children deemed not ready for Kindergarten and "held back" in preschool for one more year.
I'm not against all this, just noticing the difference. It has been a natural progression I suppose. More parents both being in the workforce and those out of the home working parents wanting child care where their children also learned something. I like the idea. I probably would have jumped all over it when my kids were young if it had been more widely available.
Anyway, just one of those things that has changed over the years. The thing I always wanted when my kids were young was year around school. But that's another subject.