As the mother of three children, two of whom are now in early grade school, I’ve noticed the trend of parents keeping their children home another year. Lauren, our first child and now a third grader, was born on October 7th. The kindergarten cut-off for our school district is September 25th. Lauren was a bright, active and very extroverted toddler and was the same as a preschooler. I couldn’t keep her busy enough on our limited budget for preschool and five-year old dance classes. Had she been been born two weeks earlier, I would have gladly sent her to kindergarten. In hindsight, was it better to keep her home the extra year, even though I didn’t have a choice, so that she was older and therefore better able to meet school age expectations? Probably. But I still would have sent her. Lauren was, however, not the oldest in her class. Not by a long shot. There were many kids, both girls and boys, who had been born right around mid-August, who made the cut-off for kindergarten by well over a month, but who didn't attend kindergarten until the following year. This trend has not worked out so well for my April baby, Kate, who wasn’t “close enough” on either side of the cut-off to keep home for another year or not. Kate, now in first grade, has classmates who were born in August while she was born in April of the following year. What concerns me is this: the educational milestones that children are expected to meet in kindergarten are a far cry from what they were when I was a kindergartner in 1979. I remember coloring and singing and playing house and doing some work with letters and numbers. But it wasn’t until first grade when I remember learning to actual read—“the cat sat on the mat.” Now it seems that kids are practically expected to be reading at that level when they enter kindergarten. As a July baby, I was exactly five when I started kindergarten and six when I started first grade. But my five year old started kindergarten with kids who turned six before kindergarten even started. Looking at what is expected of children now, I can honestly say, I wish we’d had that option. But it is what it is and I have a feeling that as the kids get older, the gaps start to close. Babies change so much from one month to the next and until they are seven or eight, six months to a year can mean eons of change emotionally, physically and socially as their little brains and bodies continue to grow. Two years ago, when Lauren was in first grade, she was reading at “grade level.” Even in the two years that have passed, what would have been grade level then, is considered “under grade level” now. So Kate, even though she is now reading at the same level Lauren was in first grade, is considered below grade level because the bar has been raised. I absolutely believe in giving our children a good education and it saddens me how far the United States has fallen behind compared to other countries. But here’s one of the problems: Grade schools are demanding more and more skills from our kindergarteners and first graders but all kindergartners come to school with different levels of preschool experience and some are much older than the other children. Some might have been in daycare, some might have been in a curriculum based school or even pre-K, some might have had a Waldorf background and some might enter kindergarten with no previous school experience whatsoever. We have private preschools and public elementary schools. With the higher expectations on kindergartners, it means some kids are more likely to be labeled as "under grade-level" right from the start. Is one option better than the other? I don’t know. But I do know that preschool is far from free, in fact, it’s pretty darn expensive. Have you held any of children back from kindergarten even though they made the cutoff? Or do you wish you had? What are your thoughts on the expectations your school has of your young children?
I was just talking about this with my mom how kids are expected to learn more skills even younger. My daughter is 3 and in prek but probably learned her abcs and to count younger than me. And that is normal for them. I thought she was this genius (still do ;) ) but they are suppose to know this so in kindr they start reading. Its crazy
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When our oldest was 3, we had her screened for pre-school. It’s free here, but the spots are limited. They didn’t have room for her. Two years later, they called us, and we told them she was already reading (she didn’t make the cut off as her birthday is LATE October, and the cut off her is September 1.) They told us they wouldn’t take her in pre-school because she could read so just forget it basically.
I was already home-school pre-schooling her anyway, taking a topic, like pumpkins, and reading a bunch of pumpkin books, doing a worksheet where she cut and glued the life cycle of a pumpkin on paper in order, toasting and eating pumpkin seeds, and so on. I had to keep her busy somehow! She learned a ton and was reading chapter books.
Then she had her K screening and the questions were so easy, we were astonished. We found that in Kindergarten, they learn colors, the alphabet, and so on. Here, they are NOT expected to read— and in other places like where you live, they ARE, so that’s what we had prepared her for. I drilled her on the sounds of letters, addition and beginning subtraction, hoping she’d be ‘close’ to the level of other kids that had been to pre-school. But she was miles ahead of all of them.
A lot of parents wait to send their kids so that they have a more firm foundation, are bigger and stronger- and some of them do it on purpose to give them an edge in sports, too. Bet that blows your mind. So that a 6 year old can eventually make a school sport team over their 5 year old counterparts in 6-10 years. Crazy. But it’s true.
We actually found that our ‘advanced’ 6 year old started to have poor speech patterns, get confused easily, and picked up numerous bad habits: stammering, lying, tattling, blaming, hitting— which she had never had before, in her time in Kindergarten. She’s more shy now than she was before she started public school. Our outgoing, friendly, intelligent kid had become shy, mean, and backward at school. When she was out for the flu, we had 2 days of homework for her. It was about 6 pages, and reading a paper book of about 5 pages. Most of her day was on the bus, standing in line, or waiting for the other kids to finish up. She was bored, and she wasn’t learning anything. She complained about not being able to read, about playground time being taken away from the whole class. Kids were spitting at her and she climbed up on the desk after them to tell them to leave her alone. Guess who got in trouble? We got calls about behavior. Eventually she learned how to cheat the system to get candy. They got candy for everything. By Christmas break we felt like she was a stranger in our house. Our 3 year old spoke better than she did. So we pulled her out of public school and I began home schooling her (again). Her speech patterns are better and her behavior is finally starting to come along, but I seriously regret ever sending her, no matter what the age. For her, it was a trip backwards in every aspect of her life.
I’ve written about a lot of this on my blog and talk about the home schooling things we do with her and the 3 year old on there, as well. She learns a lot at home, has plenty of time to read, plenty of time to play and just be a child, and she still gets to ‘socialize’ with people of all ages- in community sports programs, at church, at the grocery store, at the library, and so on. Being around other 5 and 6 year olds exclusively was a detriment to her. The race to learn and etc. is insane. They’re even changing up the district now so that kids out of town will be on the bus about an hour and a half in the morning and at night. That’s 3 hours on a bus, wake up at 530, bus at 630, school at 8, home at 430, homework, dinner, bath, and bed. No time for playing, no time for reading, no time for getting to be with your family or extracurricular activities, and the only time you’re with your parents it’s ‘hurry up or you’ll be late’ and ‘hurry up and do your homework before dinner it’s almost bedtime’…. that is not the life I want for a 6 year old.
I am lucky to be able to stay home with my kids, and not every parent or set of parents wants to work around home schooling- although even dual income parents still make it work in thousands or millions of households across the country, trading work schedules so that the kids are always cared for throughout the day. It’s not for everyone, but it is a viable option—after all some of the greatest minds we’ve known were home schooled.
I’m not sure what the future holds, but I do know that I’m doing what’s right for my child now. Everyone has to take their child’s age, learning ability, income, time, and school system available into account, and that is not an easy task. It’s okay to change your mind, do something different, and just say no, that doesn’t work for us, too.
sorry for the book, guess I had a lot to say about kindergarten :/
We struggled with this as well and after much prayer felt that sending my son as a five-year-old was the right choice. He went into kindergarten knowing how to write two or three letters and he didn’t know very many letters or their sounds. He is dealing with Sensory Processing Disorder and dyspraxia, which caused a lot of behavior problems and difficulty learning to write before he went to school, so it was hard for me to trust that decision, but now it’s very obvious that it was the best choice we could have made for him. Having a routine at school (plus getting occupational therapy) has really helped to stabilize him, and he quickly caught up with his handwriting and knowing the letter sounds. He is still struggling a little with reading, but the improvements he has made this year are really amazing, and I know it wouldn’t have been that way if I had kept him home another year. I do wish that they wouldn’t push the kindergarteners so hard, and I resent that they only get one fifteen-minute recess every day, but overall we have had a positive experience.
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