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Kindergarten: ready or not?

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By GreatSchools Staff

Should you wait?

Every parent wants his child to succeed. With many kindergarten classes extending to full days, and academic standards increasing, more and more parents are opting to delay kindergarten for a year. "My son who has a September birthday would have been fine socially in kindergarten, but he had no interest in letters or numbers," says Jill Minus, a California parent. Minus opted to send her son to a preK program. "It's nice to have my son in class with kids that are all the same age. I also like that reading and writing begin in the spring which gives the kids a chance to settle into their new class before too much work is piled on."

Minus isn't the only one who sees the benefit of these programs. "The experiences children will have in preschool and pre-k programs will never be revisited again. Kids need to be allowed to enjoy these early experiences and develop a love of learning without pressure," says Edith Fecskes, who has been teaching preschool and pre-k in California for more than 20 years.

Pennsylvania kindergarten teacher Kimberly Colvin has been a teacher for eight years. She spent her first year teaching kindergarten, then taught second grade, and has returned to teaching kindergarten. "I can't believe how much the curriculum for kindergarten has changed since I taught it seven years ago", says Colvin. "I am teaching sight-words and letters to prepare these kids for testing in November. I used to teach this stuff to my second graders." As a result of the more rigorous curriculum, Colvin notes, more children aren't developing their fine-motor skills. "I am now seeing kids who don't even know how to cut paper."

Colvin also observes that while many children do fine in kindergarten and first grade, by the time they reach second grade, "they can't hold it together — they fall apart and really struggle." Colvin understands the importance of teaching children to read and write, but she feels that forcing the memorization of sight-words is premature. "With so much time spent learning letters and numbers, the children have no time for crafts projects or creative activities. I think it's sad, and I worry about new teachers who might feel pressured by the academic curriculum and forego any activities in order to prepare students for testing."

Delaying kindergarten can cause problems

Many educators contend that the trend to delay kindergarten has caused more problems than it has solved. Some argue that parents, who wait to send their children to kindergarten when they are older, create an unfair environment for the students who start as soon as they are eligible.

A northern California mother said she debated whether to send her son, who has a late-November birthday, to kindergarten before he turned 5. She ended up enrolling him and although she says it has been a little tough for him socially, "He was really ready for the academics and structure. He is a little behind the other kids in terms of his social skills, but I'm confident he will catch up."

Donna Adkins contends that a good teacher can teach to a range of developmental stages, "Most kindergarten teachers are expert at targeting instruction to the children in their room. We have always had children who could read and those who couldn't even recognize their name or sit down."

How parents can help

"One of the very best ways parents can prepare their children for kindergarten is by reading to them again and again," Adkins says. "Reading to them helps them develop the language skills needed for reading." Adkins also emphasizes the importance of learning social skills by providing opportunities for children to interact in small and large groups.

Comments from readers

"Please read what the experts have to say in the articles on HalfDayKindergarten.Org for all our childrens sake... We need to protect our children! Thank you!"
"Hi born in the 60's. I started Kindergarten @ 4yrs old. Birthday late Oct. My mother keeps bringing up the fact that she got letters home that I was a 'dreamer' not paying attention but a good kid. They did not want to hold me back, but just hoped I would catch up. I was not socialized w/other kids much and i was always around adults. Grandma babysat me mostly was a schoolteacher, but also schizophrenic. Grandpa an alcoholic. Mom had to work full time being she was only 19. Mom says I was extremely smart though. Don't know. I could take apart clocks and put them together. I was very curious about the natural world around me she says. She still thinks there was something wrong w/me then. If I am not mistaken, back then you were looked down on if held back. I know the letters really bugged her alot. But, I also think that she was not upfront @ the home situation, due to embarrassment and I probably suffered for it. I think it is pretty obvious. I should have been held back. It is as simple as that to me. What do you think please?"
"The link here to check the cut off dates is incomplete (does not list Tennessee) and wrong for at least Maryland."
"If a 5 or 6 year old is not ready for a San Francisco public kindergarten then the parents should get on the ball. As far as I can tell, my 3 year old has the necessary skills to make in an SF kindergarten, where they're expected to learn the alphabet and alphabet sounds and count to 30."
"It should be noted that each child's growth in these areas is highly individualized and often occurs at uneven levels, making assessment challenging for schools, educators, and parents. Regardless, physical well-being and motor development are central factors to a young child's early learning experience."
"Wait a second, didn't kids used to learn all this stuff in Kindergarten? I thought the whole point of Kindergarten was to learn your ABCs and 123s?? Now they have to know their name, full address, telephone number, be able to cut with scissors?? Since when do Kindergarten teachers not teach that stuff? This is absurd!"
"My son was born Nov. of 03 he is 6 and is at the end of his K year. My son has always been rather excitable but until he started school I hadn't considered him to be ADHD but now I have no doubts. After reading the criteria in the DSM IV-Tr the boy has almost all of the criteria for it. I was diagnosed with ADD as a child but I didn't have a bad case of it. My son has had to struggle with this all year and now they're talking about holding him back and as it stands now he will be 19 when he graduates if he gets held back he will be 20yrs old and what 20 yr old do you know that wants to go to highschool?! I don't know what to do I don't want my baby to feel like he's a failure! I don't want him to give up either. He is a smart kid but he has trouble staying on task! You can see the attention leave his brain by looking at his face! I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO FOR MY CHILD. "
"As a kindergarten teacher, I suggest keeping the kids home another year if they are not ready or if they are not totally potty trained yet. Look into a good part-time preschool for that time. The best thing you can do is read to much as they want. Also, when you teach them to write their name...please don't teach them in all capital letters. It is so much harder to reteach them when it is so much simpler to do it the first time. Look for a kindergarten class that stimulates their imagination and learning too. One where the teacher reads lots of books to the kids every day as part of their curriculum. Get involved and volunteer in your child's classroom. Keep communications open between you and the teacher. "
"'My daughter turns 5 on Sept. 23rd, but the cut-off date is Sept. 1 for my school district. Does anyone have any ideas to how I can get my daughter in school. Are schools willing to waive the date, when it is only the difference of 3 weeks? Any advice would be helpful. thanks!'"
"my son is going to kinder garden this year and i am looking the best school in downey the best rating and score can you help me please"
"I have a concern about my 4 yr old. He attends a daycare that has a preschool program however, I would prefer that he would attend an actual preschool. He has not been able to since he is not completely potty trained. I will have to enroll him in Kindergarden soon and I am concerned he will not be able to attend when he is suppose to since he is having potty training troubles. Has anyone had this same situation? and how did you approach this?"
"My son turned 4 in Sept and he should be attending kindergarten next year. He couldnt even go to preschool because he is not completely potting trained. What happens if he will not be potting trained by the time he has to go to kindergarten"
"I started school at 3 going on 4, graduated highschool at 16 and started college 3 months before turning 17, I was well adjusted and mature enough . Now I have twin boys that were born in MO in Sept, so they missed off the cut-off date by a month, so they went to pre-K an extra year and turned 6 a month after starting K, the good thing is that they were not the only ones. But then mid year in K we moved to NY (we're a military fam) and here they are considered behind a year since cut-off is DEC 1st. Eventhough they were at the same level as other kids in K somehow their teachers expected them to be more advanced because of their age (ex. 'he should be able to do simple addition because he is 6 and here that would've put him in 1st grade'). They will be in 5th grade this year where they will turn 11 at the end of Sept.,and they are doing fine, even if they're a little older than most of their classmates. I also have a boy who was born late June and attended pre-K this year('0! 8-'09), and his teachers told me that he was more than ready for K when he started pre-K but was too young, he's more than excited to start K this year, he just turned 5. My youngest one just turned 3 in April, and even way back in Sept. the pre-K teachers told me that by her observations of him and listening to him interact with the other kids, that he was ready for pre-K but he was just too young! Now we have to wait until 2010 to put him in pre-K because he will not be 4 before Aug 1st, and by then I KNOW he will be bored with it.I've always said that children should be put in a grade based on their maturity and not their age. Some 3 yr olds are ready and capable of doing K work, some 6 yr olds sometimes struggle with simple tasks.But what is a parent to do when even the teachers say that the system has their hands tied? Sometimes I wish that all 50 states would get on board with offering all children a great education and that they would make transitions between states ! easier."
"Children need the communication skills that will seperate them automatically from their environment,so they can adapt the most in life. Parents are the lead component for a child success."
"I just wanted to say to all the parents moving here foreign countries. You need not worry, if your son or daughter would have been in a different grade had they been born in the US, they will be put in that grade. It doesn't matter that their English is not good, that is expected. What I am saying is this, I am American but my children started school in Sweden where they start kindergarten a year later than in the US. I was concerned but when I went to sign them up, they said the only thing that matters is their birthday, if they made the birthday cutoff for that year they will put them in. They said it would be okay for my son and daughter to skip a grade but as they have fall birthdays, Oct and Nov, and would be among the youngest as California has a Dec 3rd cutoff, I think I won't have them skip a grade. I haven't made any decision but I think they are fine where they are as I don't want them under more pressure as their English will be behind, they speak it, because of m! e, but they haven't studied it in school. Anyhow, it doesn't matter about the English, this is the US, we are used to people immigrating and the kids pick it up quickly! They will just go by birthdates and leave the decision up the parents and I think many European countries start kindergarten later than the US. By the way, having your kid wait a year if they have a birthday close to the cutoff, I don't think will affect your child. A lot of people here are talking about how smart their kid is etc. My son and daughter excel at math and are excellent readers, but the thought of them starting college at 17 is frightening! I had a December birthday and I started kindergarten at age 4, I started college at age 17. I could handle the work but I wasn't ready to be out in the world. One more year wouldn't have hurt me. Looking back I wish my mom had waited. Middle school is tough and it isn't fun to be the youngest, my older friends, they were always older, made all the decisions ! and I deferred as the younger one. I have another child on the! way, a very late November birthday. She can wait until she is 5 going on 6 to start school. Anyhow, in almost every other US state all my children would have to wait because California has a really late cut-off date. It means most kids starting college in the US are a solid 18. The really young ones come from these few, 5 or 6, states that have late cutoffs. The rest of the kids applying to college are your kid's competition and kids on the older side tend to perform better, not always, but for the most part they do. 18 is really young! When I see an 18 yr old they seem like little kids to me, well 17 is even younger. No reason to force an early adulthood onto them. It's a personal thing but kindergarten today is not what it used to be, they even give homework in kindergarten now! I never had homework in kindergarten! My husband started kindergarten at age 6 but skipped 2 grades because they noticed he was bored and unchallenged in school. He was a straight A student, grad! uated at age 16 and went on to MIT. My point is that if your child is really gifted, they can always skip a grade later. And there are gifted programs in most schools, so your child can always be a part of that. It is a hard decision which is why I am still lurking for information on the web but I think my decision will go the way that I don't want my kids to be the youngest. One year won't make much different in the grand scheme of things I think."
"My son is 5 yrs on Dec 5 2009, but the cut off date in California is Dec 2 just 3 days difference, whereas he is able to write the alphabets fully italics as well and the numbers from 1to 50 and could read till 100 and a few words as well and he is ready to listen and explore.He is completely ready for a kindergarten can u help in this reagard or he has to wait for another 1 year. please help me...."
"we are moving next sunday to USA Henry County. We have a 5year old daughter. she turns 6 in september.our school system here in Germany is totaly different and i am confused now if my daughter will go to kindergarten now or first grade school. She speaks enough englisch to express herself and knows the numbers and letters in both languages. in Germany she would go to school this year. can anybody help me to let me know where i should bring my daughter wheter kindergarten, pre school or school?"
"we are new to USA, my daughter will be 5 on the 1st of august 09. she speaks only French, and she is excellent in everything except she does not speak a word in english. I need her to start as a normal child in grade K, what to do? what do you suggest me to do to get her start the K this year 09? thanks"
"What do I do for my child who is 3 1/2 and is ready to enter grade 'K' according to you skills listed? Will it hurt my child by not putting her in pre-k this year due to our state cut off dates? She still has 3 years before she is in 'K' and that is a lifetime for her before she in 'K'."
"What do we do when we're forced to wait? What about a September child not eligible for Kindergarten when she's turning 5, but now, at 5 1/2, is reading complex books, counting to 100 and beyond, doing addition and subtraction, is very independent, etc. and they want her to start Kindergarten? What do we do???"
"Thank you so much for your advices. I really appreciate it. I wish all parents get involved in their children education. My child its only 3 and he can write his name. Not only because he started Preschool when he was 2, also because my husband and I decided to teach him at home, how to write, and other educational skills. But I really know that those preschool programs are extremelly important for children. Thank you so much. But also I would like to take the opportunity to ask you if you can send me information about a good charter, or great school for kindergarten for my son. I am already looking for a great school for my son. Doesn't matter if is a little far. My son its really smart. I am not showing off. It 's truth. I think he deserves to go to a great school."
"What do you do if your child is bored in kindergartern because they have already mastered what is being taught and has very well exceeded anything that will be taught in the near future?"
"My daughter will turn 5 years old on December 3, 2009 ( her date of birth is December 3rd 2004) and I have learned that the cut off date in California is December 2nd. Is there any leniency to this rule since it is only an 1 day difference. And If no then should I wait until next year to start her in Kindergarden. She is already going to pre-school in India currently. She will be coming to USA by this month end. Please advise me. Thanks Hari "
"Today I signed up my son for Kindergarten that will start in the fall. Eighty five percent of the students in his class will be one year plus older than him. Educators tell me that this is OK, that my son is not at a disadvantage because of the age issues. Doesn't the attention span and ability to process learning grow with age? Is there really no difference in maturity with 5 year olds compaired to 6 year olds? Age really doesn't play a role? Then why don't we let our 12 years old drive to school? Why do we wait? I'm not an educator, just a Mom, but come on! There is a disadvantage to the younger ones! "
"I have a 3 year old who is already reading. He is an extremely smart boy. His birthday is October 1st. We live in Nevada so the cut off is September 30th.. He missed it by 1 day!!! He is not going to be able to get into kindegarten with kids his age.. because Clarke County school district will not allow him go to school 'early'.. he will have to wait another year. That is so upsetting. I tried putting him in a pre-school and even they will not take him because he missed the cut off.. by one day.. I do not want to hold my child back.. All I want is to get him into school with kids his age.. What should I do? I heard they dont make any exeptions.. Does anyone have any ideas?"
"I have a 4 year old, he will be turning 5 in October. I am having issues figuring out if i want to put him into Kindergarden or keep him another year in Preschool (He is currently attending preschool). This is a huge deal for me and what i decide will effect him. He knows his shapes, and his numbers to 5..but is struggling with letters. His Kindergarden teachers says that he doesnt have to know all that to get into kindergarden. I just dont know if he is ready and if its a mistake to throw him into kindergarden..or if its bad keeping him in Preschool again. I thought that Pre-K was the best idea but i cant seem to find a Pre-K class.. Help!!!!"
"My daughter is 6 (and will be 7 in Feb.'09) and is currently in 2nd grade in a private school that accepted her early (at age 4 1/2) for Kindergarten. We will be moving out of state to Calif. and are considering public school for her. Since she is already in 2nd grade (and advanced in her class) will most schools test an incoming child for the proper grade level? I am concerned that based on age they may make her repeat 2nd grade? This would be extremely detrimental for her and her self esteem since she is performing even above her current grade level. Do public schools still have 'GATE' classes for elementary aged children to participate in if they are advanced or should we look instead toward a Charter or Magnet school to fit our needs? Additionally, we have a boy who will be turning 5 in March and he is in no way ready for Kindergarten, especially full day. He attends public pre-k in our state for speech services 3 days a week for a half day and is overwhelmed and tired from all the 'learning' being crammed in a 3 hour period. With 7 or more months before school starts he may exhibit more signs of Kindergarten readiness by then, but as a parent I would like to be able to make that decision in September based on his readiness and not have it dictated by a calendar. Having a child on each end of the spectrum and this never ending age vs readiness debate...I feel strongly that a parent knows their child and it should ultimately be up to the parents to decide based on readiness. "
"mi nino tiene problema de hablar el ahora esta en heat star y tiene 5 anos a el le dan terapia para hablar,el cualifica para esta escuela por favor digamen como puedo enrolalor gracias miriam "
"I agree with all the posters who argue against holding kids back due to age alone. That's ridiculous! When we were kids, nobody was held back from Kindergarten and myself, my siblings and friends did just fine. It depends entirely on the child. And only the parents and pre-school teacher should be the ones to chime in their opinions. I think holding your kids back for no other reason than age, is probably more harmful than helpful. Our daughter, who turns 5 in early Sept, is more than ready. Her pre-school teacher agrees. The state I live in is considering a move to a Sept 1 cut-off in future years. I am totally against it. Each child is different. A few days or weeks will not make a difference. "
"I personally think sending kids to kindergarten before they are 5 is not good--especially for boys. Some are just followers which parents interpret as they are ready becasue they sit still or learn, but socailly they might not ever catch up! And by the time they are 5th grade many of the kids that are a few months older don't want to be around those who are not socailly ready. Even worse when you have a 16 year old boy who is a junior in high school and all the other kids are 17 or 18! They have no interest in being with 16 year olds at that point and I notice that the 16 year olds are very socially immature and become/seem very intraverted, have few friends and so. very careful if you have a child with a late summer birthday or fall birthday--even if they are the tallest kid in the class--this usually means they are uncoordinated also when they grow so fast--yet I hear many parents say...he's so tall, he's the biggest in his class, he must be ready! Usually they are not in so many ways. But...all parents will do what they want--but--think about it....if you h! ave a fall birthday child--sending them to K right before they turn 6--many of the kids will be that age also! Then there are more like each respect to social skills, levels of maturity, learning levels--the playing fields are more level for them all....throughout all their education--enabling them to have many friends of the same age-- I speak from some experience--a lady we know...sent her Oct. 1 son to K before age 5--now his only friend is the therapist they send him to. He is the 16 year old junior no one talks to/socializes with/invites over!"