The Kindergarten Question

With M’s 4th birthday quickly approaching I am of course already thinking about next year and how that would mean kindergarten and OMG my baybeee!  But then a few weeks ago I came across this post about “red-shirting” kids for kindergarten and the comments made my head spin.  Parents of developmentally-normal kids holding back children who are 5 ½? Parents of kids with March and April birthdays considering them “on the cusp”? I mean, I know that parents of kids whose birthdays were within 60 days of the start of school have always red-shirted but kids who are of age by 6-8 months?  I was floored. 

As it is, our district has a cut off of September 30… her birthday is on the 23rd. If she starts next year she would still be 4 for the first six weeks of school. Other schools in the state have a cut off of August 30, so in the next district over this wouldn’t even be a question – she would have one more year of preschool.  In other areas of the country the cut-off is December 30 so she would be right in the middle of the pack in those schools.  And even though it’s almost a year away, if you follow me on Twitter you know I am totally stressing over this.

First off, I am also a September birthday and was always the youngest in my class.  My mom, a teacher, started me “early” because I was a tall kid and she was worried that my size would be more pronounced if she waited another year. (As an aside: I was the tallest kid in my class until the boys caught up in 4th grade.  I’m a pretty average 5’ 8” now). I did fine in school.  More than fine.  I was in advanced classes from 2nd grade on.  The only downfall I can think of was having to beg rides off people until I got my license and not being able to go to any of the 18+ clubs for the first few weeks of college. 

But!  That was when it was rare for anyone to hold back kid for any reason other than real development issues.  But now, talking to some people in the area I’m finding it’s common for kindergarten entry to be delayed until 5 ½ – 6. For one, I don’t think that’s fair for teachers to have to deal with that wide of an age range.  Secondly, WHY? Why are parents doing this? So their better in sports later in life? So they are the smartest, biggest, best in the class? This is infuriating!

I think M will be ready.  She already knows her letters and can read several sight words.  She’s got some math under her belt and has been in full-day preschool/daycare since she was a baby.  She thrives at school.  But, she’s also on the small side for her age (32 lbs, 37 inches) and has the normal lack of impulse control you’d find in any almost-4 year old.

Second, while she’s used to a full-day of school she’s also used to being in a class with only 6-8 classmates, not 20 or 25.  She’s used to naps and lots of one-on-one interaction.  She adores her school, the teachers and we love the facility.  We live in a fantastic school district and I have no worries about the quality of the curriculum and teachers but the idea of thrusting her into that environment so young does bother me.  Especially when she might be dealing with kids 12-18 months older than her as classmates.

Finally, I wouldn’t be truthful if I didn’t admit that the financial side of things weighs heavily in the start sooner column.  Daycare cost is, I’m not kidding you, the same as it would be to send her to my college alma mater – WITH room and board!  (And her tuition is about the same as other full-time programs we’ve looked into, so there’s no savings to be had).  Even though we’d still be paying for before and after care, our budget would get a huge boost.

So, what’s your stance?  Did you start a kid early or red-shirt?  If you did hold back for a spring birthday – why?  If you’re a teacher I’d really love to hear your thoughts on this!

Right now I’m leaning towards waiting one more year.  But, we will talk with her teachers and meet with the school’s principal this winter to discuss what’s best for M.  I’m just feeling almost forced to red-shirt based on the actions of others.

13 thoughts on “The Kindergarten Question

  1. What we know as school has drastically changed.

    Kindergarten is the new first grade. The kids are tougher (how could they not – check out what some kids watch on TV) and smarter.

    No one can tell you what to do. You know her best. But school is nothing like when we were young.

    With that said – if you are leaning on holding her back you should look into a traditional pre-k classroom. Orange has the best early childhood pre=k – you don’t have to live there – it’s amazing. They also have daycares picking up afterwards. It’s full day and I have know many parents that put their kids through the program – most of them where kids that were held back. Look into it, just for fun.

    And good luck with your decision. Once you make it – don’t look back. Kinda of like picking a wedding dress or a husband or… well you know what I mean. Don’t look back.

  2. JMH says:

    I think you need to wait a bit and think about it more in the spring. Being “ready” for Kindergarten is much more than academics, kids need to be socially and emotionally mature too.(not that she isn’t…I think she is fantastic!!) You can always take her through kindergarten screening in the spring but that doesn’t mean she has to start in the fall. The kindergarten teachers can be very helpful when you are making the decision. And I am sure she will be great in kindergarten, no matter when she starts 🙂

  3. lindsay says:

    If I were a sahm I might want to keep my kid at home the extra yr to enjoy the time together. In a situation where the child is attending daycare and has thrived there already I think I would opt for putting her into K in the fall. You could share your concerns about her physical size relative to the other kids with the teacher so if any issues crop up you could address them early. A benefit to the early start would be that she sort of jams an extra yr into her twenties then, because she would graduate college at 21 instead of 22…maybe save her some of the stress of jumping right into a career and instead travel or something for a yr. …perhaps a crazy line of thinking but there you have it!

  4. LL73 says:

    Hi Katy,
    My 2 cents…
    My daughter started kindergarten 2 months after she turned 5, she’s the smallest in her class, but she would have been anyway, her parents are shorties! She was WAY ready for K, she went to an awesome pre-k and was used to a classroom, and her K still had ‘rest time’. She had an amazing year! I would go with your gut. Girls are generally more ‘ready’ than boys.

    Also, I don’t think it’s a sports thing, I think sports are age oriented, not grade oriented. My son is on a U10 soccer team, not a 4th grade soccer team outside of school. I guess it depends on the school though.

    Like JMH said, wait until the spring and see how she’s doing, I’m sure you’ll have a better idea then. Good luck!

  5. Thanks, everyone for your input.

    OhMommy: I will look into the program at Orange. We’re also asking her preschool to restart their defunct PK next year.

    LL73: thanks for commenting. It’s good to hear from someone who’s on the other side of the decision already.

  6. Well, as a licensed teacher (but one who hasn’t spent much time in the classroom do to the two little ones I have) I can tell you that the best scenario (statistically speaking) is to have your child start when they are supposed to, based on the guidelines of the school.

    On a personal note, my husband was held back a year and it was traumatizing for him. Even at that young of an age he can remember all the kids on his street starting 1st grade and he was in kindergarten. He is even slightly embarrassed by it.

    Whatever decision you make will be the best for your child. No one knows her like you do. I can already feel myself getting stressed out about my oldest starting school- and she isn’t even old enough for pre-school!

  7. Chrissy says:

    As an elementary teacher in the NE Ohio area and the mom of a 4 year old who will turn 5 next September, I would opt for sending her. From your posts, I sense that she is ready, and that you feel she is ready. It is true that school is not the same as we remember (K now is what we remember doing in first grade), but there are several supports within the schools. If she is ready and is already functioning well in the preschool environment (as she appears to be), I have not doubt that she will do well in the elemenatry setting. (By the way, I have a boy with an early September birthday, but the cutoff in our district is August 1, so I have no choice but to wait a year). I actually started school myself on my fifth birthday.

  8. In my pre-motherhood years I taught Kinder & 1st grade, and then was a reading specialist. I never met a parent that regretted waiting, but met several that regretted NOT waiting. I have a little one who is a July 20th birthday (girl) and our state cut-off is Sept. 15. I am not going to send her. Do I think she’ll be ready for kindergarten? Yes. BUT would I rather have her facing the middle school peer pressure with an extra year under her belt? Or send her off to college at 18 ready to be 19 instead of 17 ready to be 18? Yes. You know your daughter better than anyone, but I think you have to think of more than just if they’re ready for kindergarten 🙂

    • Thanks for the input. I think she would do well either way right now, but the later years (middle school especially) have me leaning towards waiting. It’s going to be a tough decision and we’ll have some serious talks with both her teachers and the K teachers before we decide.

  9. WHOAH. I just fell down the rabbithole of reading all of the comments on the blog you mentioned. I had NO. IDEA.

    So here’s my (probably useless since I didn’t even know anything about this until a half hour ago) thoughts… I’m working on potty training my kid. The other moms I roll with think I’m insane. That it’s way too early and she couldn’t possibly be ready for it. But she is. She tells me things… and … yeah. No gross potty details needed. My gut is telling me that she’s ready no matter what the other moms think. So we’re going for it. Bottom line? Go with your guts. You know your kid and what she is/isn’t ready for better than anyone else.

    although I might be singing a different tune in a month if this potty thing doesn’t work out for us…

    GAH. Parenting. GAH.

    • @Sourire – GAH is right! The problem right now is that I’m not sure what my gut says. I need to visit the school and see how big the classes are, what the expectations are, etc. Once we do that I think I’ll have more of an idea. Right now I go back and forth all the time.

      Also – good on you for potty training your girl! Smart to try to get it done before the baby comes!

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