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Kristen

My Baby Is Off to Kindergarten

Posted by Kristen on August 30, 2010 at 7:45 AM in School
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Ok, well, not yet. He will be going in a week, but that's right around the corner. I have been a little stressed out lately, because I'm worried about kindergarten. Ethan did not go to preschool this past year and for the last few months, I slacked off on working with him. I expressed my concern that Ethan's writing was a little shoddy and my mother nearly lost it.

"He is five years old, Kristen. It is kindergarten."

My mother really won't discuss this with me. I made a crack about Ethan's knowledge of physics being below a first grade level, and she nearly hung up on me. Her memories of children going to kindergarten involve kids learning to adjust from being away from home and the institutionalization of snack time at 10 a.m. She doesn't know that red shirting your kindergartener is all the rage.

Before you start looking at me with the wonky "she's one of THOSE parents," let me say that I truly could not care less if Ethan is the best and brightest in his class or if he has any chance at the Kindergarten Top Gun trophy. I am simply worried that he will show up at school and everyone else will already know everything, and he will be mad or frustrated that he is behind. Sick, I know, but it's better than wanting to hold him back a year so he can possibly be the biggest quarterback at high school twelve years from now. Those people are really crazy. I'm just a little crazy.

In the old days (pre-1970s), a child would go to kindergarten if he or she turned 5 years old at some point during the school year. In the 70s, school began implementing birthday cut off dates such as December 1 for admittance to kindergarten. Red shirting your kindergartener, or holding them back a year if they have a birthday on or around the cut off date for admittance to kindergarten, is very popular these days with upper middle class families looking to give their child an edge in school. It's a less common practice for people with less money because kindergarten is free and daycare is not.

Red shirting your kindergartener once meant holding your soon-to-be five year old back a year and starting him in kindergarten as an older five year old. But with school cut offs now rolled back to September or even August in so many places, parents are looking at their "young" five year olds with summer birthdays and wondering if they are ready for the stresses of all day kindergarten.

It is understood, of course, that nearly all of these children have gone to daycare or preschool. What about my friend Jess who couldn't send her son to preschool because it started at the same time her older son got on the bus for school everyday? No preschool, and he missed the August 1 birthday cut off day by two weeks. The school said she could test him in, but he had issues with upper case versus lower case letters on the test. Are you kidding me? She found a private kindergarten that starts AFTER her other son gets on the bus, and the school said she can retest him at the semester break.

Now there is as much as an 18 month age spread in kindergarten. Some kindergartens are still half-day while others are full day. Some have cut off dates of August 1, while others have cut off dates of December 1. Hasn't it gotten a little out of control? Even I should be smacked for worrying about the big ticket items like "will he remember his seasons."

I mean, it's just kindergarten.

It's that time of year. Why don't you join us in a little sidewalk love as our kids start the school year out? Invite your kids to be agents of happiness and hope on the sidewalks nearest you, then upload your pictures to the PBS Parents Supersisters Flickr Pool or tweet us a picture at @pbssupersisters. You can also leave links to your pictures and stories in the comments below.


59 Comments

Jenn writes...

I get frustrated with this, too. Pre-K is the new kindergarten. When I was in kindergarten it was all about playing, getting used to a school setting, learning the alphabet, and learning how to count to 10. Now a kid is behind (at my son's school, anyway) if he or she doesn't know the entire alphabet (upper & lower) and/or doesn't know how to write the numbers to 100. Crazy!

Mary Ellen writes...

Or, there was my mom who sent me to school Dec. 2nd just because I was a cry-baby. It worked out though. :)

When Faith went to kindergarten, I thought that I was in good shape until I realized that she didn't know how to write her last name. Crap! I have her library card to prove it and I absolutely love it!

Ethan is going to do so amazing. I know you were there for me when I was stressing that Elijah couldn't hop on one foot. I had to teach that at home?!? :)

I hope that he has a super great day. Let us know how the other two do without their fearless leader. :)

Manic Mommy writes...

Gremlin has his Kindergarten TESTING next week. I swear part of me wants to cram with him. I am That Mother.

Jess writes...

School starts next week here and my middle son, who turned 5 in June, will be headed back to preschool and not kindergarten. Giving him an "edge"? Following a fad that's "all the rage"? Absolutely not. Waiting until he's socially and emotionally equipped to handle the longer day and the expectations of the kindergarten teachers? You betcha.

We all know how broad the range of kids' abilities are in the early years, so why are we so hung up on calendar dates? I'm this kid's mom. I know him and I know what kindergarten at our local school is like, and the two should not mix this year.

Redshirting is about prolonging a player's eligibility so you can get more years of better performance out of him. Waiting to enroll a child in kindergarten is about not putting a kid into a situation that isn't appropriate for him or for her. Oceans of difference.

cindy writes...

I agree with jess

Jay writes...

I actually have another point of view. Why not enroll kids according to their abilities and not just chronological dates? I have a six and a half year old who started last week in second grade, and she is fine in fact, I think she may actually even be ready for third grade.

Yes, she is ahead of her "age" level for her grade and is a well-adjusted child in her class. (I can see the same trend continuing with my two and a half year old as well). However, school "regulations" deem that both maintain their current grade levels because of their chronological age which I think is an outdated concept.

There needs to be a wide window of entry into school and parents and school administrators should be the ones to determine when children are ready and when they are not, based on some standard bench-mark assessments and not just use chronological cut off dates.

Rachel writes...

i agree! life is short and we all go through highschool then 4 years of college, school should be more adjusted to how well you do to allow you get ahead, to do more in life. and congratulations on your kid's excellence in school!

Jocelyn writes...

I agree with Jay. My daughter missed the cut-off date to enter Kindergarten last year and I was bummed. I wasn't aware of the early cut-off date, because I came from a different state where the cut-off date is late Dec. My daughter is a December baby. But, has always been bright and mature for her age. No Separation anxiety here and a total social butterfly, she is not afraid to talk to adults or children alike. She loves to learn and ask questions. She's been reading since about age 3, Without any of those your baby can read programs. Anywho, I wish they would have based her ability for entering school rather then just the cut-off date.

Mary Ann writes...

Why worry? Homeschool.

Emily writes...

Jay, I disagree - I think it's inappropriate for younger kids to be in with older kids. Sure, academically maybe my daughter could go to third grade (she's 7) but the reading material and discussion topics might not be age-appropriate (not to mention the kids' conversation topics!) I also find it annoying that she's in a class with one boy who's an entire year older than her because his mother thought he was "immature," so an exception was made for him - he went to kindergarten one year late. (He does not have any serious learning issues). This means when she's 12, he'll be 13, etc.

Betty writes...

Knowing what I know now (13 years since my last child crossed the Kindergarten bridge), I totally agree with Mary Ann. If I had to do it all over again, I'd home school from the beginning. I have real issues with robbing little ones of their childhoods by plunging them into institutionalized schooling (I wont go so far as to call it "learning.")

Kathy writes...

I had 2 boys with September birthdays. The cut-off date for kindergarten here was October 15. As a former high school teacher I had observed boys who were younger and not as mature in high school. I also realized in preschool that shortly after my son's 3rd birthday, there were children turning 4. I felt that was a big difference. I debated and researched the idea of holding him back. I talked to the schools he attended and would attend. I also spoke to kindergarten teachers. We decided to hold him back a year. He is now turning 29 and his brother is turning 25. I have never regretted giving them that extra year. If I had a girl, I may have decided differently.

Audrey writes...

Homeschooling solves all of these problems. Everything discussed is a non-issue for homeschoolers and it all seems kind of trite.

KristenAuthor Profile Page writes...

Audrey, Not everyone has the luxury of home schooling so the issue remains important for a lot of people.

Kara writes...

I wasn't sure if I was going to put my kid in kindergarten or pre-k. I ended up leaning towards pre-k. I figured it would be better to have that extra year maturity-wise, not just in kindergarten, but in the 10th grade too. At preschool orientation I was shocked to learn that my daughter will be learning not just the alphabet, but upper and lower case. I'm glad I made this choice if pre-k is going to be that much work.

Katie writes...

Mixed-age groupings sometimes just happen, but often they are a deliberate result of thoughtful elementary and early-childhood pedagogy. I went to a pre-K through 6 school with mixed-age classrooms with a sort of rotation, year to year, so that one year I would be in the younger group in my classroom, the next year in the older group, the following year in the younger...etc. Every year we would have a range of three ages in a class. Far from being detrimental to any sort of appropriate or inappropriate content, the age mixing was beneficial to our social, emotional, and academic development. We were given the opportunity to learn to work and play closely with older and younger children, and a skilled educator knows how to create lessons and use small group work appropriately so that each child receives the learning opportunities that s/he needs.

I'm not meaning to make ANY sort of comment on the question of whether or not to hold a child back from kindergarten a year for whatever reason, I just wanted to comment on the topic of mixed-ages in a classroom and to share my very positive experience with it. I wish all schools followed the same structure!

Bonnie writes...

I am not a parent of a young child, but I have taught for nearly ten years. I've taught preschool language immersion, GED studies for students who have dropped out at an alternative school, elementary school and I am now teaching at a small liberal arts college. I hate to sound negative, but seeing as this forum is meant to be "snapshot" reactions, I have to say homeschooling is NOT the cure all. I have many homeschooled students that are far behind where the "institutionalized" (!! really??) students who went to public school are heaps and bounds ahead...emotionally speaking, too. I can only think of one student who was homeschooled that was as well-adjusted and on grade level. Students who come to my freshman English class expect to be coddled since Mom was their teacher.

Kerry writes...

I looked at the long term for my son when deciding to wait a year before starting him in kindergarten (he has a late Aug. birthday). Deciding to wait wasn't about kindergarten, it was about his entire school career. He was academically ready at 5, and he was even a little bored in kdg, but why push him to do more academically at age 5, when it's really his last chance to play. Every single person I talked to that waited a year with a child with a summer birthday had no regrets no matter the academic level of their child. What people don't seem to understand is that it's not just kindergarten where they expect more of children now, it's all throughout, and when they are in the 5th grade, and the teacher is expecting abstract thinking, it is far less frustrating if the child is not the youngest in the class struggling to keep up if he is still cognitively in concrete thinking. I also want my son to graduate from highschool at 18 and not be starting college at 17. My husband jokes that we get an extra year to save for college, but in the end, my son gets an extra year to be a kid since kindergarten is what 1st grade used to be.

Kerri writes...

Bless you for writing this. I feel like I'm the lone voice of reason and fairness when I bring up the redshirting = cheating for the those who can afford it argument. Inevitably someone quotes their mother or aunt who says kids should be held back because it would make for a better learning environment.

But what makes a better learning environment for your child could be detrimental to other children, and therein lies the rub.

We are raising generations of kids who get their environment manipulated by their parents so they always win. We can't let go. That's not real life, and doesn't teach coping or creative problem solving skills.

Ever try to hire a 21 year old nowadays? The sense of entitlement - I want to be VP and not do the grunt work to get there - is astonishing.

lynda writes...

I have to take issue with describing "red shirting" as something done by crazy parents wanting their kids to have an "edge". The demands of public school these days are insane, especially as compared to the mid-70's, when I started school. My son, who turned 5 in late June, is repeating pre-k this year because he is really very immature. Every single person looking at our situation from a developmental standpoint encouraged us to have him repeat, despite the fact that he can read and is a very tall kid for his age. Every single educator except for his classroom teacher thought we were crazy. I don't want my kid to be any more or less than he's meant to be, but I didn't ask for high stakes testing in 3rd grade, either. To describe "red shirting" (a term I don't really agree with) as something only affluent people do to give their kid an "edge" isn't fair.

Angie writes...

There are so many parts to being whatever "ready" means for kindergarten. We are doing way too many tests on our young children - tests that are biased and don't reflect truly what a child knows. I do think that parents know their children and know what is best but should also just talk with the teachers for any advice. I have a K teaching background and a masters in early childhood but when my oldest started school I felt so lost as to what was best for her because she was my child!! She was a Nov b-day so a young 5 with developmental delays. We were very involved and have created her own combo of education. I still never feel like I am doing the "right" thing but kids grow and develop in their own way. I believe they need to be with kids of the same age for social and emotional reasons - academics can be individualized as needed. Homeschooling works for some but the social part of school is really important especially in the younger years. Not every child is supposed to be at the same level in every subject. Every class has the high/average/low and that's OKAY. We worry too much especially when most delays even out by 2nd or 3rd grade.

Julie writes...

I'm a little frustrated with your characterization of why a family decides to wait to start kindergarten. Last year, my son beat the cut-off for mandatory all-day kindergarten by two days. He had gone to a co-op preschool part-time two years earlier, and three days a week at a preschool the previous year. He's very bright. He's known all the basic kindergarten stuff for years. But, socially, we simply didn't think that he would do well in an all-day program where he went from a class of 16 in preschool to a class of 24 in kindergarten. It had nothing to do with wanting him to excel at sports or even at academics. It was all about him being ready and I felt that we were fortunate to have choices about what we believed was best for him -- so, that he didn't start his school experience feeling overwhelmed and socially unready. We thought that would affect his interest in school from there forward. I talked to many, many parents, and especially parents of boys (where boys tend to be a bit less mature than girls), in every case they said that they either were glad that they had decided to wait a year for their son, or they had regretted not waiting for their son. If we had had a half day option, I might have gone with it last year. But, I think a parent knows whether their kid is ready or not, and ours simply was not. This year, after another year of preschool, he's doing great in kindergarten -- not just academically, but more importantly for his challenge, socially!

Micaela writes...

Lucky you! Our school year started the first week of August, our cut off birthdays are in either August or September which leaves a lot of "older" kids a year late to kindergarten. But, with the homework load (yes, tell your Mother, homework) longer school day, and increased expectations (by the end of kindergarten, my son was adding, subtracting, and writing, or scribbling book reports!), I consider that move less "red shirting" and more consistent with a new academic realism that goes beyond story time sitting in a circle whist sipping milk and taking naps. I personally think children are getting the rush job to make the test scores look good, but missing out on some of the sweetness of childhood in the bargain.

Jenna writes...

Glad someone called it for what it has become. Red-shirting.

MC writes...

This past spring is the first time, when discussing the classes our respective kids would go into, that a mother said, "I don't know where this whole holding kids back came from... I think it's so that kids can have an edge when it comes to sports."

I sat there in awe. In every moment of wondering what I may or may not do, that thought never once crossed my mind.

For me it's always been about the emotional maturity and readiness for what a full day at school requires. It's not about the academic strides or what may or may not come of size and ability in something that he or she may or may not even want to do. Maybe my child is destined for the trumpet or writing and nothing that has anything to do with keeping score.

I once worked in a high school and met a fair share of parents who maybe wished at that point in the process that they had kept a child back a year. When students are juniors in high school, though, that's a little tougher to do.

People get too caught up in what may or may not happen, who thinks what about what and who, and what they're doing wrong instead of what they might be doing right.

Taking the time to listen to what your child has to offer in actions and emotions could be all the proof that one needs in determining what's best. That, and maybe taking a cue from a teacher or two who is with him or her in a school setting. And maybe all of that combined with a parent's best resource -- his or her gut check -- is all that's needed to make such a decision.

Cause, really, when all is said and done is anyone asking someone when they started kindergarten after inquiring about what they do for a living or where they grew up?

The "Tortoise and the Hare" rings true in a lot life's pockets. But then again, it's not about athletic prowess.

It's about ones readiness and reserve for the long road ahead.

Ana writes...

Aloha, Both my daughters are May babies, so we did not face this issue. However, there are children in class with them who are almost 2 years older because their parents held them back. Our friends held their July child back a year so she could attend "pre-kindergarten" and then kindergarten the next year. Now she just seems so much younger than the one year that separates her from my daughter. Kindergarten should be fun. Children have years to learn what they need to know. Let them be kids.

KristenAuthor Profile Page writes...

Ana, I think you bring up an excellent point but I think I still disagree. LOL. I think (after reading all these comments from everyone) that people are still perceiving kindergarten as a place for kids to play and learn in a carefree manner. I think that the numbers of children being educated before kindergarten either at a daycare or at preschool is so high that so many children already know the things that kindergarten would have eased them into.

I would go out on a limb and say that nearly all children in daycare who meet the age cut off for school are going to attend. I would go further and say that lots of children who aren't in daycare have parents who send them to preschool or teach them at home. Looks to me like kindergarten is the new first grade.

Thanks for sharing.

Ellie writes...

I have a boy with a June birthday going to half day Kindergarten. I worry about him a bit because most of his peers have gone to preschool and are older (10 months can make a big difference cognitively at 5).

So far he is loving it and the 10 month age gap will become less of an issue with time.

I have more of a qualm with full day Kindergarten and excessive homework than with holding a kid back. The most important thing about Kindergarten is that the kids start off enjoying education. Long hours or daily homework assignments can make education feel cumbersome to a little kid.

KristenAuthor Profile Page writes...

Ellie, I agree with what you are saying about all day kindergarten and the homework. But I do think that a parent has a lot to do with whether or not their child will enjoy education or enjoy learning in general. My husband would say that he hated school because he was bored. It didn't stop him from getting multiple advanced degrees. Even though school frustrated him, I think his parents always remained positive and that helped. I think that half day kindergarten is probably the answer here but I think that is out of my hands. Thanks for your perspective and for sharing.

Nancy writes...

As a parent of a now 24 year old who was kept him out of kindergarden when he could have gone, I am still pleased I sent him to another year of pre-school and sent him to public kindergarden the following fall. I had him tested and the comment from the tester was "He sorts buttons very well." This was not what I was looking for. I wanted a confident and capable child ready to meet his peers and enjoy his school years (and he did!) Age should be a guide, not a rule!

KristenAuthor Profile Page writes...

Nancy, I'm so glad it worked out for him. But kindergarten today is not what it was 20 years ago. I really think it is what 1st grade used to be. Thanks for sharing your success story though!

Cristina writes...

I agree with Bonnie. Homeschooling is NOT the answer. I have been an elementary educator for 13 years, and am a mother as well. Homeschooled children lack the socialization needed to survive in life. They know how to communicate with other homeschooled children, but not anyone else. I do however agree that a child's age should not determine their grade level. I have known many a "young" student to far exceed his peers academically, and many an "older" student who just needed a little more time. There should be some sort of assessment standard (hands-on as well as written) that helps administration determine readiness to enter school.

KristenAuthor Profile Page writes...

Cristina, I think that home schooling absolutely is the best thing for some children. I'm not sure I agree that home schooled kids can only socialize with other home schooled kids. Most I know are on county sports teams or attend band practice at local public schools and don't seem to be any different from any other kids. I'm sure in your experience as an educator you have seen some children have difficulty mainstreaming from home school to public school but I wouldn't paint such a broad brush on all home schooled children. Thanks for your comment.

Tracy writes...

I am a former public school kindergarten teacher and a current homeschooling mom. No, homeschooling is not the cure all for every child or family. Neither is public schooling. Every child and family is different and what works for some may not work for others. Be an adult and respect what works for other even if you don't agree with it. When to start school for ANY child should be dependant on the child and what that child can handle. And just for the record Cristina and any others with the same opinion, homeschoolers are not aliens with our own special language. My 11 year old son can communicate with any person regardless of age or back ground because I have taught him how to communicate with fellow human beings. We socialize with people from a variety of back grounds and ages in a variety of settings. Not all homeschoolers are the same, don't package us all into one box and assume that we are all bad. Again, be an adult and respect what works for all families whether you agree with it or not.

KristenAuthor Profile Page writes...

Tracy, that may have been the reputation for home schooling 20 years ago, but everyone home schooling now that I know has their kids doing so many activities with other children that my head spins. Kids are getting the interaction with other children that they need to have. Thanks for bringing your perspective as a former teacher and a current teacher to your son.

Bonnie writes...

Tracy, I do respect other adults' decisions...but you must look at yourself objectively. I would probably argue that you are in a different category than most homeschoolers because you most likely were trained to be an educator. Therefore, you are more apt to actually recognize the importance of offering your children the out-of-home experiences as a part of you schooling them. I do still have to argue though that most homeschoolers I have encountered (notice I'm not claiming this to be a Truth, capital T) do not have the skills to weather their own social problems as kids who have been out of the home. Homeschooling is akin to the media problem in our society. We are becoming more divided because we have such a pick and choose society...you don't like something, you can change the channel/buy a different paper, etc. Therefore, I'd argue that homeschooling some children who are not ill or special needs really creates problems in the long run because it's a way to avoid some temporary hassles.

KristenAuthor Profile Page writes...

Bonnie, I see what you are saying but I think that home schooling has evolved so much in the last decade and is well on the way to being "mainstream." I know LOTS of people that home school for lots of reasons and the thought has crossed my mind more times that I would care to admit right now. Every home schooler I know personally has their children involved in what I considered an excessive amount of group activities (but I'm new to this school game since my first is 5). Sports, music lessons and my local gym has P.E. classes for home schoolers. Most of these kids are doing group activities with their peers 4-5 days a week. Just not for academic learning.

Kristen writes...

I have a son with a July birthday. He attended a half-day preschool last year. Toward the end of the school year, his teacher told me that he would be okay either way, whether he stayed an extra year or went off to kindergarten. The school cut-off date here is September 1st. We were really on the fence, especially because he is as tall as a 7 year old despite being the youngest in his class. He was keeping up academically, but he was always complaining about his birthday being last. We agonized about it for months. One day, when the subject came up at the dinner table, our son said, "Mommy, I want to be the engine and not the caboose." In the end, it wasn't because we wanted to give him an edge in school or in sports, it was because nobody--absolutely no one--had one bad thing to say about waiting, but plenty of people who had sent their kids on had regretted it later. I look at it as a gift to be able to slow down and not rush.

KristenAuthor Profile Page writes...

Kristen, Since there is always a youngest and always an oldest with so many others in between, I can only imagine how difficult that must have been for him. It sounds like this is what he wanted to so I'm glad you are able to do it. Best of luck when he starts and thanks for commenting.

Amanda writes...

My issue with red-shirting is that it is partially responsible for changing the landscape of kindergarten. Whereas before all kindergartners were 5, now 6 is fast becoming the norm, and expectations are higher. So, because other people wanted to be good and certain that their children were "emotionally ready" for kindergarten, my son has to wait lest he be grouped in with a bunch of hulking 6-year-olds. He's bright and advanced and I have no doubt that he'd do great in kindergarten...REGULAR kindergarten. Not kindergarten full of giant children who should be in higher grades.

If there are going to be parameters, let's have them in both ways. (If you are 5, you go to kindergarten. If you are 6, you go to first grade, etc.)

KristenAuthor Profile Page writes...

Amanda, or maybe kindergarten really is the new first grade and we should change the age requirement to 6. That would level the playing field again.

Alida writes...

That's why I home school. Who has time for all this nonsense? Apparently school boards do.

KristenAuthor Profile Page writes...

Alida, I'm glad that you are able to home school your children. But like red shirting, there are many people out there who cannot afford to home school either because they need to have a job. It's just something to consider as well. Thanks for your comment.

Cristina writes...

Tracy...I am sorry. I did not mean to sound as though ALL homeschooled children are socially inept. Of course I believe all children are different, and therefore learn differently in different situations. Unfortunately, the children I have encountered from a homeschool background do have difficulty interacting with others once introduced to a classroom situation. I am however glad to hear that there are people like you who strive to give your child a "whole" education with opportunities to interact with people from all situations and backgrounds.

Sharon writes...

My experience is almost identical to Kristen -- our twins were born late July, both boys, smallish in size -- and everyone I talked to who had waited to start kindergarten (especially with boys) had been pleased with their decisions. I talked to teachers, moms, good friends and people I'd just met...and found out that lots of people felt (now) that their sons would have been better equipped if they'd waited.

Our choice had nothing to do with sports (please!) and everything to do with confidence and maturity. They love 1st grade and all the new experiences...a year ago, I really think they would have been much shyer and less comfortable in their public school.

The decision is something each family makes based on their specific situation. This worked for us. Homeschooling works for others. Starting a little early if the child is ready works for those families. I'm sure there are families who do different things with each child! We all want the same thing...and it's not quarterbacks, believe me!

KristenAuthor Profile Page writes...

Sharon, I think that while a small amount of parents are waiting a year for their children to go to school so they will be bigger for sports, I don't think that is the reason for many people. I did notice that you mentioned that your boys were "smallish in size." It seems a common theme that is recurring when people are talking here about the confidence level of their children in going to kindergarten. My suggestion is just that, were there fewer 6-year-olds in kindergarten, the size of your boys may not have been an issue at all. As twins, I would venture a guess that they were born earlier and that certainly factors into developmental readiness as well. I'm so glad that it worked out for them and that they are enjoying their schooling experience. Thanks for commenting.

Nicole writes...

Wow, this is my first time reading this blog and as the parent of a now "5" Kindergartener (he'll be 6 in March), I didn't realize the pressure cooker that would be this conversation. There are so many things about elementary school these days I didn't realize. I was in preschool in 1969 and K by 1971. I may have started school early but at that time it was all about the fun, learning to socialize with my peers...we also learned shapes, colors, ABCs & numbers basics...days of the week, month in the year but mostly it was time to learn how to treat and get along with others in social situations and have a fun, positive attitude toward school and learning. I started school early (a December baby) and even being a girl didn't matter. Looking back I don't think that the maturity level was there. There are times when I wish that my parents would have held me back. I was always the youngest and don't feel that I was ready. I got by and I graduated but I wasn't really ready for college and I think I would have done better if I had started kdg at 5. Now that's beside the point, now I have 2 children of my own to consider and I will definitely keep their best interests at heart. K is the place where our children make their initial opinions of school...will it be a place where they grow, mature and learn in a fun environment that keeps them wanting to come back for more or will it be a place that the equate with misery? I vote that the latter should never happen. Education should be an adventure that keeps kids wanting to come back. Take your que from your kids, if you're paying attention they'll let you know when they are ready and that has nothing to do with "red-shirting".

KristenAuthor Profile Page writes...

Nicole, you make a great point about how first impressions form our view of education. Thanks for sharing.

Theresa writes...

It is not true that there were no cutoff dates before the 70's. I started K in 1959 and the cutoff date was Dec.1 - you had to be 5 by that date to start K. My birthday is Nov. 10 so I started K when I was still 4 and started college when I was still 17. I had no problems. I don't understand the phenomenon of "red shirting" (never heard the term before today but I know of parents who have done this to their kids). Unless a child is really developmentally behind it doesn't make sense. Most kids will catch up to their peers quite easily once they start school.

KristenAuthor Profile Page writes...

Theresa, I think the norm was the calendar year. If you were 5 by December 31, you went that year. It's interesting that yours was December 1.

Amber writes...

My baby is off to kindergarten next week, too. I am immensely nostalgic.

Her birthday is in February, so none of this is an issue for us. Especially because where I live they still use the calendar year - all children born in 2005 start in 2010. There is some red-shirting, supposedly, but as this is my first foray into the education system I haven't seen it myself. All that I know is I can't believe my baby is so BIG, and I am so incredibly wistful.

KristenAuthor Profile Page writes...

I know what you mean.

The Aforementioned Jess writes...

Yes, I sent my son to kindergarten when he couldn't figure out the square root of pi. I could have homeschooled with much less pick up/drop off drama, but that wasnt right for our family. I could have easily held him back, but he was very ready for school. He is in his 3rd week of school (we start early here) and those lower case letters and the number 13 he forgot when he was counting are a "problem" of the past. Despite being a "young" kindergartener I think he will be juuuuust fine.

KristenAuthor Profile Page writes...

Jess, but I do think it's interesting that when one parent was describing Q to another parent, she used the phrase "he looks too small to be in kindergarten." Maybe he's just small? Luckily confidence is not even remotely a problem for him, regardless of his stature.

Shannon writes...

My son is just starting second grade, but when we were getting ready for kindergarten his preschool teacher asked me if I was planning on holding him back. I was immediately concerned, as his pre-testing for kindergarten had previously showed he was more than ready. He has a late spring birthday, so he was not event technically near the cut-off.

When I asked her why she asked, she said since he is so active in sports she didn’t know if I wanted to wait another year. I must have looked as shocked as I felt as she quickly explained that several boys at their preschool in the last couple years had been held back for that exact reason. When she confirmed there was no social, academic, or physical reason to wait, I sent him to kindergarten. Even with a late spring birthday, he was one of the youngest children in the class, and the youngest boy.

I am sure that is not the reason all parents choose to hold their children back, however I wonder how much is in the child’s best interest or ours. I have seen many comments indicating how their child is ready academically but not emotionally. I would ask that you really think carefully about that choice. As a 5 year old, my son was not challenged by the kindergarten curriculum. If I had waited another year, I cannot imagine the emotional difficulties of a 6 year old doing work that he was capable of 2 years before.

Susan writes...

It's a very personal decision, and we make the best choice we can. People can get worked up over any issue out there. It's a hard enough job raising kids without all the background noise. I think the worst thing we do to ourselves is to let others' expectations force our hands.

Autumn writes...

My daughter, Cailean, has an October birthday, and our school has a September cut off date. She actually had a social challenge because she was more mature than the other kindergartners. I hope that will be less of a problem in first grade this year. She doesn't mind that she already knows the answers to the review questions, and she's helping the other students along, which is a great way to make friends.

I also have an October birthday. I started highschool at 13, and I really don't recommend that to anyone.

Laura writes...

I found it very unfair to my kids that there were so many much older and more physically developed kids in their kindergarten classes(quite a few were already 6 before the start of the year!) I think it is unfair to the other students who are the right age to mix in the older kids who don't belong there. I could really see the difference when they were playing sports. I could see maybe having a "soft" cut off date so that perhaps December babies could go either way. But come on the difference between a kid thats 5 and one that is 6 and a half is too much. That is why they have different grades for different ages.

Kelly Salasin writes...

I considered "red-shirting" my boys given their summer birthdays--but I simply could NOT survive yet another year of preschool fundraising :) Luckily, our town kindergarten is still developmentally aligned--play based & half day.

Though there is a screening test in place, there is simply no expectation of knowing anything :) Neither of my boys could care less about letters or writing or sitting still for read aloud for years.

Both are now prolific readers, still hate writing and excel in all classes.

Thank goodness for schools and teachers who hold the line around the need for play-based learning, choice time and the gift of blocks--for ALL ages.

Kelly Salasin, mother & "recovering teacher"

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