Kindergarten, Ready?


My daughter was born just 14 days after our school district has a standard cutoff date for Kindergarten.

She will turn 5 in a couple of days and will wait another year until she can start kindergarten at the same school as her older sister. The great “are they ready for kindergarten” debate is a hot one among people who have children born around the start of school, and I am no different than others, it is on my mind too! Some people think that it is beneficial to be the oldest child in the class because things will come easier to them in the academic and physical arenas, also known as “red-shirting” a child. On the other hand, parents will argue that being the youngest in a class has no real disadvantages if the child shows school readiness and is prepared to be challenged in a way that preschool cannot provide. The debate is one that every parent who has a child on the cusp of kindergarten might face.

I spent time with some kindergartners this summer and actually felt that my daughter was socially, emotionally, and academically more advanced than many of these kids.

By no means is she a gifted child, she falls within what I would think is the norm, but stacked up against what the definition of “kindergarten ready” is, I think she could hold her own. I have been asked several times if we are going to challenge the cutoff date and ask for a variance so she can start early. I have been asked if I am frustrated that she misses the cut off by a mere two weeks.

Honestly though, why do I need to push her?

Although she seems like she could be ready for school she could also use a bit more support in the emotional arena. Then there is the issue of how fast they grow up! My oldest daughter just started second grade and the past two years literally flew by. Once school begins it seems like time starts to perpetually get faster! Another year of having her home with me, playing, fine tuning her small motor skills, making connections at preschool, and getting to be a “kid” isn’t a bad thing. Plus if she were to start kindergarten now she could be mixed in with kids who have been red-shirted, making an age difference of over a year to some of her peers. If she is ready now, just imagine how ready she will be next year when the time comes. Giving her the extra year and start when she is the oldest in the class must also come with its advantages, right? She will be more mature than some of the other children, gross motor and fine motor skills will be more developed, and all around things should come easier for her.

My girl ready for her first year of preschool last year.
My girl ready for her first year of preschool last year.

BUT, do I always want things to come easy for her?

I want her to be challenged and learn that you have to work hard at things before you can master them. We know many children that she will head off to kindergarten with her and I tend to feel that my daughter is a bit more “developed” in many areas than her peers. Maybe this is because she has an older sister or because she socializes with kids who are several years older than her. Won’t this put her at a disadvantage? I’m not sure that being the oldest in the class is what is best for all kids. Will she hit puberty before some of her friends? Will her interests change faster than the other kids? Who will she look up to or will she always be pegged to be the “leader” because she is older?

For us I think the best decision that we can come to is to let her have another year at home, at preschool, exploring what being 5 years old is all about. This is time that I won’t get back with her when she is 18 and heading off to college. School is going to be an exciting adventure when it does start but it is a chaotic one. I want more time with her to snuggle, to watch her play at the park, and most of all to spend with her younger sister who will be sad when all of the playmates have gone off to learn. So much learning though is happening now! We can embrace that see the value she will gain from staying home another year.

Kindergarten can wait; maybe it is me who is just not ready!

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After spending a lot of time and money on an undergrad and masters degree, I realized that the only thing I wanted to be when I grew up was a momma. Three beautiful girls later; Emma (7), Sophie (4), and Madelyn (2), my husband Geoff and I have been married for 13 years and are happy to have planted our family in Fairfax, Vermont. My journey as a mother had been fairly typical until my oldest daughter was diagnosed with type 1 juvenile diabetes in August of 2011 when she was 3 years old. I recently took on a part time position with JDRF, an organization that funds type 1 diabetes research and also provides advocacy. Being a "work from home" mom with three kids under foot is going to be a whole new journey!


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