Kindergarten Round-up: How to Handle Spring Birthdays

Kindergarten

Kindergarten Round-up for Knox County Schools is fast approaching, and it falls on Tuesday, April 12. I recently started a dialog with my mommy friends that are also facing this decision and I was surprised that I was basically of a totally different opinion on the matter than most of my peers. If you do not already know, Knox County’s official policy is children should be five by August 15 to enter school for the upcoming school year.

My situation is a little bit different because, while she has a spring birthday, my daughter was born four months early. If I were to use her actual due date to make this decision, she would not be eligible for kindergarten this year; her due date was August 23. I didn’t really have to think on this too long to know I was waiting until she was six to send her. I think I decided this when she was two! But we have kept an open mind about it, and batted the topic around a few times since then.

Once, while discussing the topic with a kindergarten teacher I was told, “I have never had any parent regret waiting a year for kindergarten.” That wise woman was Patti Bounds, Knoxville School Board Member. I was fortunate enough to have her as my oldest daughter’s kindergarten teacher. Let me tell you, we hit the jackpot! We had a lot of homework, but she prepared my child for first grade and for a successful school career. I still do not remember why we were even talking about it, and it was several years ago, but I made a mental note right then and there to remember that if I were ever faced with this decision. And here I am, with a spring baby approaching five years old.

Most of my friends are sending their kids, both boys and girls, with spring birthdays to kindergarten this fall. I am a little sad because I want my daughter to stay with her peers, but I also know this is the best decision for my child. I heard a lot of reasons for going at five from the moms I asked. Some as simple as a financial-good bye to the day care bill, and I totally get it. Some have “Irish Twins” and cannot have them both in the same grade so they just do not have a choice. Many moms who have already jumped this hurdle said their kids did great and ours would too, and they are probably right.

But what if they are wrong? Do you remember those kids growing up that “got held back?” I can’t do that to my kid; I mean I totally will hold her back if I have to, but I would much rather make the decision now to just put kindergarten off a year.

The pros are good:

Larger in stature (my kid is TINY — so this is big in our home. Trust me; she just now grew into size 2T clothes! And this will be even more noticeable in middle school when the rest of the class reaches puberty and the younger kids are still far behind), attention span, cognitive ability, social and emotional maturity. If you’re six when you start school, and the rest of the kids are five, you are more likely to be a leader. Don’t we all want our kids to lead and not follow? What about when they are 16 and first to be licensed to drive among their peers? YES, PLEASE!! I absolutely want my child to be the one learning to drive from all adults, and not her crazy, heavy-footed friends. I am sure for athletics, being older can only improve your sport. Now, on the flip side, I remember a few seniors that weren’t able to play that year because they were 19. But I am fairly certain that was not because their parents waited until they were six to send them to kindergarten. Ahem.

Let’s let our kids be kids; they have the rest of their lives to be growing-up! Why not give them one more year before they are faced with school or work for forever? Can I get that year back, too, please? Because naps.

In preparation for this post, I reached out to a few of my teacher friends. Patti Bounds had this to say: “In my 40 years as an educator, I NEVER had a parent say, ‘We wish we had started them earlier.’ But I sat across the conference table from many parents over the years in tears that said, we wish we had waited…If we had only known. Time is the greatest gift we can give our children. What has compounded all of this is the rigor of our curriculum and the developmentally inappropriate expectations for kindergarten. Without knowing birthdays, I could tell within a few weeks of school which students were the youngest because they always looked to the older students who became the leaders of the class.”

The flip side to all of this is that, if your child is ready, they will be learning to read and write earlier, which can only be a good thing, right? Also, if they are ready, they may end up bored and then have behavior issues or just simply be bored and not learning up to their ability.

I do know that kindergarten is more academic now, and the standards expected of our children in school increase every year. Here are some things to help you decide if your child is ready for kindergarten, taken directly from the Knox County Schools website:

Letters and Sounds:

  • Enjoys being read to and can retell a story
  • Recognizes letters (upper and lower case) and some letter sounds
  • Repeats the first sound in a word
  • Speaks in complete sentences
  • Prints his or her first name

Math:

  • Counts in order from 1-20
  • Recognizes numbers and quantities to five
  • Names and sorts items by color, shape and size
  • Understands concepts such as more, less, same, above, below, big, small

Social:

  • Settles in to new groups or situations
  • Can concentrate on a task for five minutes
  • Follows simple directions
  • Shows kindness and concern for others

If you want a source other than Knox County Schools, I found this checklist helpful.

I am not the expert, and I am only offering opinion. Every family needs to make the decision that best suits their family and their child’s needs. Let’s have a discussion here about it. Weigh in; tell me why or why not to send your spring baby to kindergarten at five or six!

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7 Responses to Kindergarten Round-up: How to Handle Spring Birthdays

  1. Sarah W March 14, 2016 at 4:52 pm #

    My late-April boy will not be starting in the fall because his preschool teachers couldn’t recommend it—he needs the extra maturity time. Hard decision to swallow, but I have also heard about ‘waiting being a gift’ over and over. As a parent that TOTALLY freaked out about this decision, I have now calmed down a bit after literally every single person I talked to agreed that boys sometimes need the extra time to find thier own personality.

  2. Lisa March 14, 2016 at 9:22 pm #

    My son is only 3 1/2 right now, but I will not be sending him to kindergarten until he is 6 yrs. old. His birthday is at the end of May. He was born 6 weeks early and isn’t as advanced as his peers. I think it would not be a good decision to push him, only to have frustration and tears because he isn’t doing what is expected of all the kids. He does things at his own pace and has met all developmental milestones, but later than most children do. I look at it positively as having him spend more time with me.

  3. Emily March 20, 2016 at 6:47 pm #

    I am moving to the Knoxville area this summer and I have a little one with a late August birthday. I was planning on having her start kindergarten till I found out about TN’s cut off of August 15th. I was wondering if you know anything about the maturity test they have for children who don’t make the cut off.

  4. Mary Jenkins March 21, 2016 at 12:20 am #

    My daughter went to kindergarten in NY where the cut off isn’t until December so she was able to start at 4. She will be 17 when she starts college. I absolutely considered keeping her at home one more year, but she wouldn’t have it. And she was already taller than her older classmates. She is in 3rd now. Her grades are good, but I can’t help but thinking that if I started her on time, she would have had an advantage academically.

  5. Jaime March 24, 2016 at 11:28 pm #

    My son is a July baby and I decided to put him into preschool at 4. I was worried but told that I can keep him in preschool another year before kindergarten if I felt the need. I noticed tho, that within the first week his speech improved and he was so excited to learn more and more. The choice for kindergarten is coming up fast with him turning 5 this year and I asked him if he was ready to move on up and his eyes got bright and he was excited to talk about the new teacher and going to all day school. So I guess we are doing this. I feel he is not as mature as some of the kids whose birthdays are before his, but he seems ready for the new horizons. I guess the worst that could happen is I hold him back in kindergarten if he has problems. His teacher seems to think hes ready. Its hard to make that decision. I’ve worried about it and still am worried about it. I’ve been told by teacher friends that kindergarten class will give you a better idea of where your kid is then preschool can. Preschool is basically a glorified daycare (sorry preschool teacher friends, but you know it’s true and I do appreciate all you do). Most have told me to hold him back at kindergarten or to start him a year later. I kind of wish I would have just waited, let him just be a kid one more year. Now that he’s already started he is ready to keep going… We will see how this next year goes.

  6. Lisa March 26, 2016 at 3:38 pm #

    What it comes down to is a handful of factors.
    1 you know your child
    2 finances, if you can afford to wait a year and pay for a year of preschool your child will have some advantages. (These are economic and parlay into academic advantages)
    3 you need to visit your possible schools, the culture can vary widely from one to another even in the same system

    We have opted to have both our Summer boy and Spring girl start Kindergarten at 6. Our children attend a school where these birthdays are middle of the age group for their classmates.

    Kindergarten is so much more like what I had as first grade. It’s not the same as when I started school.

  7. Doris March 31, 2016 at 4:25 pm #

    Every child is different. My daughter, who is now almost 22, was barely 5 when she started, and did great entering kindergarten. She had been in preschool for 2 years and was ready in every way. My son waited until he was 6. He needed more time to mature along with another year in preschool. Finances didn’t really play into it. You have to know your child, and assess the situation looking at every angle. If there’s any doubt hold them back now. It’s so much easier than doing it later.

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