Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Is Your Child Ready to Begin Kindergarten?

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This is a question that I am asked a lot; and rightly so.
What is your opinion about sending kids to kindergarten who have summer birthdays (or those who are close to the cut off date?)
As far as I know, every school district has a cut-off date for children to start Kindergarten.  The school districts that I have been around have cut-offs in August or September.  But, I have heard of schools waiting until December.  If I had a dollar for every time that someone has asked my opinion on this matter, I would be rich!  So here it goes...

I am a firm believer that if you have ANY doubt about sending your child to Kindergarten, you need to wait.  We held back our oldest and will hold back Little Man as well.  Because of their due dates, I knew before both boys were born that they would be "red shirting" Kindergarten.  After telling our pediatrician this decision, she said:
I have never met a parent who regretted holding back his/her child.  I have met many who regretted sending their child.
Both my husband and I were sent to Kindergarten even though our birthdays were close to the cut-off date.  Both of our moms say that they wish they would have waiting one for your to send us. 

Here are a few things to consider:
  • Just because the child is ready academically doesn't mean that he or she is ready emotionally, physically, or socially. 
  • Very young children may require a nap or require more sleep at night as going to school all day can be exhausting. 
  • Waiting to start a child is much easier than having to retain (repeating a grade) the child the next year. Even at a young age, retaining a child has a lasting effects on the child.  Effects that may not show up until later in teenage and adult life.
  • The child may not show signs of struggling until he or she is older (past Kindergarten and 1st grade when it is harder to retain.)
  • Paying for one more year of preschool or daycare is much cheaper than paying for tutoring and/or watching your child struggle through school.
  • There is a lot of concern about boredom if you hold a child back.  The boredom probably won't last more than a year, maybe two.  Struggling can last many years.  Another point:  Don't tell your child or let him hear you mention boredom. If he hears you telling everyone he is bored, he will be bored.
  • Keeping up with or competing with children who are nearly a year older can be frustrating. Waiting a year may mean they will be more successful academically, athletically, musically, etc. by the time they are in high school.
  • "My child will be the tallest and biggest in his/her class."  - Bubs is the tallest in his class.  Sweet Pea is too.  They think it is cool but we all know that in a few years that will change as kiddos go through growth spurts at different times.
  • "All of my child's friends are going to Kindergarten." - This is a statement that I hear a lot. This happened with Bubs. At church, all of the kids moved up and he stayed in the same class. It was rough for a few hours but he very quickly made new friends. Actually one of the younger boys that moved on is repeating Kindergarten so Bubs will be back with him next year!
  • "But my child thinks he/she is going to Kindergarten." - Bubs was asked for many months about Kindergarten and he learned to say that Mommy and Daddy are waiting another year. It truly wasn't an issue because we talked about it. If it had been, we would have handled it just like anything else - Mommy and Daddy know best.
  • "But my child is already enrolled?" - This is a tough one but sometimes Mommy and Daddy's change their minds. Also, I know of schools that say at orientation (the day before school), "If you have any doubts, now is the time to change your mind. And, we will look forward to seeing you next year." A school would rather have a child who is truly ready than a child who will struggle because of their age. Plus schools have children drop all of the time!
Advice from a 1st Grade Teacher:  My aunt who taught first grade for 39 years would highly recommend waiting to start a child (especially a boy) in school if his/her birthday is within a few months of the cut off date. She personally experienced this causing her to enter college at age 17 and beginning teaching at 21. Looking back, many of the struggles she experienced could have been avoided if she had started school at an older age. Also observing children in those 39 years of teaching, many children would have been happier in their education experience if their parents had not sent them to school at such a young age.

There is not a magic formula to help you make this decision.  It truly comes down to a decision that needs to be made by each family for each individual child.  This is the question that I ask each person who seeks my advice...Do you want to start your child a step ahead or a step behind?

Update:  We "red shirted" both Bubs and Little Man.  Everyone was supportive on giving Bubs another year but we took a lot of flack for Little Man since he was very advanced for a five year old.  But we held strong knowing that he was not ready behavior wise.  Even being ahead of his classmates academically, we haven't regretted the decision for one moment. 

For more information check out the Kindergarten Readiness page at ABCJLM.

Disclaimer:  The thoughts expressed in this post are my own and do not apply to all children.  Please seek the advice of a professional for your specific situation.


  1. Good job Momma C! You gave lots of good advice to parents.

  2. I love this. I was talking with a mommy friend about this regarding her son. She is very concerned about him being socially ready for kindergarten as am I with mine two boys. In our state the compulsory school age is 6 so I told her not to worry. But on the other hand there aren't any daycares in the area that will take a 5 year old, so she's struggling a little with that.

  3. I was one of those kids that had to repeat kindergarten because I was very young and wasn't ready for first grade. I remember, even at that very young age, feeling embarrassed because my friends that went on to first grade thought I had "failed" kindergarten. It wasn't until later in elementary school that I understood what it meant to be held back by my parents rather than failing.

    I sent my oldest daughter to school when she was 5 but she had JUST had a birthday. She did well all through elementary school academically and even socially. The mistake has caught up to us now, however, in Middle School. So think beyond the elementary school years! Again, academically she is doing fine but socially and emotionally, she is very immature compared to the other girls in her grade. As if middle school isn't hard enough, she has delt with added issues caused by her immaturity which has compounded some of the middle school girl drama!

    I did make the same mistake twice and held back sending my son to kindergarten until he was 6! It has been wonderful! His teachers have complimented every year about his responsibility, his attentiveness in class, and his organizational skills. Also, because he was learning things a little quicker than most kids in his class, he was placed in accelerated classes (yes, they have those in MANY elementary schools now! Sometimes those classes are called by other names like talent pool or gifted.) and works with another teacher several times a week in reading, math, and science.

    Holding my son back has caused him to have a VERY positive elementary school experience and I do not regret it at all!

    Gina DeBruler

  4. I'm interested to more about emotional and behavioral readiness. I hear this all the time but I'm not sure I know how to evaluate it. My little guy has a June birthday, so I'm in this boat, too!

    1. Great question! When I think of emotional and behavioral readiness I look at the maturity of the child. Does the child still take occasional naps? Can the child sit still and quiet by himself for a time? Can the child begin and see to completion a small project? Can the child share and get along with peers? Is the child able to get ready in the mornings unassisted? Can the child eat lunch without assistance?
      Of course on answering all of these questions you look for age appropriateness.

      I don't know you nor your son but I can say from experience, I have no regrets and I have never met a parent who regretted the decision. I know so, so many who sent their child and wished they would not have. If you have any doubt at all, I can't encourage you enough to give him an extra year.


    2. Do you think a child should demonstrate these types of behaviors even if homeschooled (Kinder day around 2 hrs or less)?


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