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
- 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
- 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.