Hold five year old back from kindergarten

We had always assumed that our bright, happy son would be attending kindergarten in the fall of 1998. His birthday falls on September 8, which is actually the first day of school this year! I have been very surprised that a number of people associated with our local school board are assuming that we will keep him out another year. This has included one of the kindergarten teachers, a guidance counselor, and other educators. We meet these people in my husband's role as PTA president and when we visit the school for activities for our nine year old daughter who is in fourth grade, in the talented and gifted program.

These people do not know our son personally but assume that boys shouldn't go to kindergarten if they haven't turned five by June. Is there any hard and fast rule on this? Our son attends full-day pre-school three days a week with an excellent teacher, who assures me he is ready for kindergarten. He has long mastered the kindergarten readiness skills, with the exception of being able to tie his shoes!

One educator told me that our son may be ready for kindergarten, but by sixth grade he might be failing because his brain won't have developed enough to be able to handle the required abstract thinking. As you can imagine, this disturbed me quite a bit. My husband thinks he is definitely ready, but I have my doubts when the "experts" think he is too young, even though they don't know him. What advice can you give me to help prepare him to attend this fall or to help him wait another year?

Question:

Dear Peggy,

When boys are turning five in September, it is always a judgment call about whether to send them on to kindergarten. There is no "hard and fast rule." It's a clearer case when boys are born in November or December: they are usually not ready.

You have to use your own judgment about your son, and also, the judgment of his current teacher. If you all feel he is ready, then he should move on with his class. The major readiness requirements are social. What your son really needs to know is how to behave in the community of a classroom. He can learn everything else that we call "readiness" during the kindergarten year itself.

There are, however, two exceptions that I can think of. If your school has an accelerated reading program, where kindergartners are asked to begin reading, then you might want to consider holding your son back. Some children just aren't ready to read until they are six. Even though they would read perfectly well at that time, they can spend the year between five and six feeling like a failure in this situation.

The other exception is if all the other children in your son's class are six or nearly six. Then he actually is too young for the class. You should try to learn what the age range for this particular kindergarten class will be.

If neither of these exceptions apply, my best advice is to send your son to kindergarten. Another year of pre-school won't hurt your son, Peggy, but it really makes more sense to send him to kindergarten, and have him repeat there if he needs more time. That way, he'll have a stronger curriculum to hold his interest.

And don't worry about the brain development stuff. Most of the growth is done between four and ten years of age anyway. (We have more synapses in our brain than ever again in our lives during that time.) Puberty may be an issue, but it may be an issue no matter what grade your son is in! So, make your decision on what seems like the best thing for your child's development at this time.

Best,
Patti Greenberg Wollman

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