Thursday, April 7, 2011

Registering for Kindergarten, or: Three Years of Indecision Put to Rest

Today was a big day.  We registered Bug for kindergarten!  I'm not completely falling apart, although I did take it kind of hard when Pie, having newly reached the ripe old age of 3, told me this morning that she was going to be a grown-up soon, and that (with hands thrown up in the air) she wouldn't be living here anymore.  After careful consideration, she did promise to visit.

Back to my kindergartner, and why I'm not falling apart (yet).  Bug turned 5 in the fall, 2 weeks before this year's registration cut-off.  That means she could be in kindergarten now, and we'd be preparing for first grade next year.  Now that I'm a mom, I hear of other moms planning births so that their kids have a leg up in school.  The thought never entered my mind with either of my kids, but I soon figured out that with my oldest, we had some decisions to make.

Had I sent her this year, she'd be the youngest in the class.  We had constant communication with her preschool teacher last year on Bug's progress.  In the beginning of the year, her fine motor skills were behind.  Toward the middle of the year, she was having some socialization issues with kids that were up to 10 months older.  At the end of the year, the prognosis changed and her teacher suggested that she might be ready by fall after all.

We researched.  A lot.  We heard the cliche, "You never regret holding them back, but sometimes regret sending them ahead."  Bobby read Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell, and had visions of Bug playing pro hockey (not really, but most pro hockey players were born in January because those players were the oldest - and often biggest - in their youth leagues).  I talked to a trusted friend, a former kindergarten teacher, who told me she thought kids should be at least 5 before getting on that bus.  And that we'd see the difference in the middle and high school years. 

But while we can hope for more maturity in middle and high school, she's likely to be taller than everyone else for quite some time (her mother certainly was).  That's tough.  And she IS ready academically.  So we considered the other side of the story.  We heard success stories from friends that sent their kids ahead early.  I listened to other moms who were contemplating the same issue, except a year behind us.  I often heard, "Well, my kid is READY,"  and felt a little put out, because I wasn't really considering holding Bug back for academic reasons.  She started reading when she was 4, without any help from us.  Comments like those made me feel that my kid was inferior somehow, when I knew she wasn't.  I had to put those feelings aside and try to figure out what was the best option for her.

Finally, after a long and arduous decision-making process, we decided to keep her back.  It's not because we want to give her an advantage academically.  What tipped the scales in favor of her being the oldest?  I looked at her set of friends that are in kindergarten this year, and those that will go next year, and determined that although she adores both sets, ultimately, she's more of a confident leader among those a few months younger versus a few months older.  And perhaps promoting that confidence is the best thing we can do for her.

So today we filled out our forms, and then toured the school, checking out the art room, the cafeteria, and the kindergarten classrooms.  We looked for her friends' names on the wall, those that started kindergarten this year, and talked about all the kids she knows that will be going to school with her next year.  She's sad about leaving her preschool, but I explained that her preschool doesn't have a class that will teach all she needs to learn next year, and that her teachers have worked hard to get her ready to learn more and more.

I couldn't imagine putting her on the bus at 4 years old last year, and having her away from me all day.  But the separation isn't going to be as difficult this fall, I think.  She's truly ready now - her teachers say she's a different kid this year - and I couldn't be more proud of her.

Some points for those of you struggling with the same question:

The metro area's kindergarten registration information brochure lists the following milestones for kindergarten readiness:

  • A variety of quality learning experiences
  • Comfortable with children their own age and get along with them
  • Able to communicate and interact effectively with adults
  • Have basic life needs met so they can put their energy into learning
I remember reading recently that most parents expect kids to know letters and numbers before kindergarten, while most teachers just want the kids to be able to behave socially, sit quietly, pay attention and have an interest in learning.

An article from Richmond Magazine presents different angles, too.

So there are lots of advantages and disadvantages to the debate.  I guess I'm seeing the advantages of waiting, but really, it's an individual choice for each individual kid.


  1. This makes me feel better about my decision! Had fun at lunch today! Lets do it again soon!

  2. Love that your are blogging! :) I have to admit-- I sent my kids on to the big blue beyond at that younger age and they are ... as you might expect.. shorter and less confident than their almost year older class mates at times -- I guess time will tell if I made the "right" decision. If they are anything like me and my hubby -- they will be glad to get out of the house a year earlier and escape to college at 17 1/2! It is an admittedly hard call (damn Outlier book) to make for so many reasons that I am only now beginning to unravel!! Who wears that college sweatshirt anyway? me, right?

  3. It's funny, Talley, back in our day the cut off was much later! Deciding whether to send a September birthday would have been a no-brainer. I still have a little regret not sending her ahead when I know she's capable, but in her case, I think it's done well for her self-confidence. I can't imagine yours lacking that leadership drive, whether younger or older than their classmates!