Moms' Talk: Kindergarten Readiness

Do you think, as many legislators feel, that unless the state offers preschool for all children, that the cutoff date for kindergarten enrollment should remain January 1st?

This is the time of year when parents across the country are helping their children make life changing decisions from career choices, graduate school decisions, college acceptances and kindergarten readiness. No matter how old your children are, these choices you help them make are monumental.

There are myriad news stories about the college application process, the job opportunities for college graduates and the best graduate degrees to pursue, depending on the economic climate.  What we do not hear about is the angst and handwringing that precedes the start of a child’s formal education, entering kindergarten.

Do you remember when you sent your children off to kindergarten for the first day? How did you feel? How did your child feel?

There is currently a proposal before the Connecticut General Assembly’s appropriations committee to change the deadline for turning five years old from January 1st to October 1st for children to begin kindergarten. Another bill is to require children to start school by 6 years old, instead of the current 7 years old.

As it is now the age range in kindergarten classrooms can be from 4 – 7 years old.  I personally think this is too wide a gap.  The social and academic readiness of a 4 year old can be vastly different than that of a 7 year old.  We need to narrow that gap and change the cutoff date to October 1st for the benefit of all our children.

What do you think?  Do you think, as many legislators feel, that unless the state offers preschool for all children, that the cutoff date for kindergarten enrollment should remain January 1st?

I remember, like it was yesterday; sending my oldest, now almost 16 years old, off on the big yellow bus for the first time.  Ana was 6 years old and totally ready to get the most out of her first year at school. 

This self-assurance came from waiting a full year from when she could have started, until she actually did begin that first year.  There were lots of sleepless nights, conversations with friends and family, inquiries to educational professionals and introspection before deciding that a year of pre-K at Temple Beth Tikvah Nursery School would be best for her.

None of this ever came into play with my 12 year old, Sophia, because she was a mid-January baby and thus was almost 6 years old the September she began kindergarten.

Our reasons for “holding back” Ana were purely social.  She could read, she could write, she could do age appropriate math, but she was shy.  My friend, Jill, and I were always the only parents who ever stayed at birthday parties because our children were too timid to be left alone.  We swore we would be accompanying them to their junior prom, their senior prom and maybe even their honeymoons!

Both these girls followed the same education track, starting kindergarten a full year after they could have by law.  This decision served them well.  They have both blossomed into smart, well-adjusted young ladies with bright futures ahead of them. 

Have you grappled with any of these issues? Do you have any sage advice for parents of young children who are making these monumental decisions?

Carolyn Murphy May 20, 2011 at 12:11 AM
It's a tough call. I sent my son, who is a late September baby, because I thought he was ready. But really, most of the kids in his class were held back and I am constantly second-guessing my decision because he's dealing mostly with older kids.
Barbara Salzano May 20, 2011 at 02:15 AM
I had no reservations about my December-born daughter going to Pre-K for a year. Now, eight years later I'm glad she's not yet in high school.
Sarah Page Kyrcz May 21, 2011 at 03:38 AM
Since I have two girls I do not speak from experience, but I have heard that boys,especially, can benefit from starting school later. The important thing, though, is that we each have to assess our children individually and do what is best for them. I know I did the best for my children and am pleased with the way things have progressed. Many people told me it was a gift to give children a little extra time before starting school and I truly believe that. Thanks for commenting, Carolyn, we can all learn from each other!
Sarah Page Kyrcz May 21, 2011 at 03:38 AM
Barbara ~ I remember that feeling and now that Ana IS in high school she is ready. That extra year was a gift for all!
Rebecca Jones Kauffman June 15, 2011 at 02:52 AM
Factors to take into consideration are age of onset of puberty, which can't be known, and flexibility in the school system for moving a child later. Part of our decision to hold back two of our children was because of the structure of the schools. They were overly academic in traditional ways, required lots of sitting, and did not allow for enough physical activity. However, holding back can result in frustration at the immaturity of the other children. Going to college at 19 can have a down side at an age when kids really want to separate from their parents. Being the youngest can be tough too.
Joan June 15, 2011 at 10:44 AM
My son has a July birthday and was the third youngest boy in his grade in Madison. It was the worst parenting decison I made to send him at the right time. It was not about kindergarten readiness, it hit him in middle/ high school when he was just less mature. He actually beleived that it was uncool to be smart by middle school. It made him unpopular, and the teachers openly asked if he was "slow." It really hurt his self worth and he struggled through high school. Only now in his twenties, is he regaining his stride. So if you have a boy and/or a middle of the year birthday HOLD HIM BACK no matter what the school says.
Sarah Page Kyrcz June 17, 2011 at 02:50 AM
Rebecca ~ I think you have hit upon some good points. You have highlighted, most importantly, that this is a very personal, individual decision and one that should not be taken lightly. Every child is different and thus should be dealt with in an individual way! Thanks for commenting.
Sarah Page Kyrcz June 17, 2011 at 02:53 AM
Joan ~ I have girls so it I am not as well educated in the education of boys, but I have enough friends and family with boys to know what you are referring to. I must say, though, that this same situation can come up with girls and parents need to know what is best for their children and be their advocates because no one else is going to go to bat for your children as well as you!! Thanks for commenting, love to hear from my readers.
di June 17, 2011 at 03:18 AM
I was so happy my son was a January baby so he had a little more time to grow (mature) because of the cut off. My daughter was born in December and was always clingy - I was the only mom who stayed a birthday parties too!! So I always knew I'd keep her out of school that extra year. She still struggled a little socially in kindergarten, but she is doing great now as she finishes 2nd grade. I always say, being a little older is NEVER a mistake.
Darcy Sordo June 17, 2011 at 01:11 PM
My now 11yr old is a December baby...bright and wanted to know about everything since the moment she was born...Red Barn & 123 grow w me advised me that at 4 1/2 she was ready and though it was my decision, she was ready. Well I dont believe in regrets but Looking back I wish she waited. Emotionally being w other students up to 2yrs older than her is difficult add to that shes a girl and girls in 4th grade up are brutal. I think waiting would have given her a bit more maturity when dealing w girls... but I didnt think ahead of the middle school yrs when it was decision time & she did great through 3rd...
Rebecca Jones Kauffman June 17, 2011 at 03:56 PM
Darcy, that was my experience with my August born daughter. She did fine through second grade. Middle school was tough on all levels.She was a late bloomer in an age when girls grow up very fast and can be very brutal. Around 11th grade, everything evened out socially and academically. I had planned to hold her back at kindergarten, but she was very bright and bored and her teachers encouraged us to move her up. Holding back my oldest son was the right choice. Very bright but very shy, he has continued to thrive academically through graduate studies and blossomed socially in high school. He had a July birthday. Holding back my second son who was a late spring baby was a mistake. He was frustrated by the immaturity of his peers academically, socially and athletically.He slid through elementary school and didn't have to develop study skills. His senior year was very tough. He was ready to go to college, but the school system would not accommodate this. He hit puberty very early which further frustrated him even though he always had lots of friends and was a natural leader. I was much more comfortable as a mother with my children being overripe for school. I liked having the extra year with them and I think it made them closer as siblings. It is a tough call. Puberty is unpredictable and school systems are rigid. Like so many parenting decisions, we do the best we can and help our children learn to adapt. Learning to adapt is one of the biggest lessons for us in life.
Joan June 17, 2011 at 06:10 PM
The biggest thing to remmber is that you know your kids best. The schools want as much homogeny as possible so they push to send on time. You need to know that in this and many other towns, most parents wait. The schools almost always will advise against waiting.


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