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Parents Talk: When Is Your Child Ready for School?

My child will be 4 years old on the first day of kindergarten. Is she too young for a classroom?

You feel like you just left the delivery room when you find you have an actual person on your hands.

Someone who has opinions and tells them to you, readily.

Someone who can hold an actual conversation.

Someone who can challenge your intellect.

And then, your child is seemingly ready for school. But at what exact age should your child begin school?

The law creates a Sept. 1 cutoff. So that means a child born on Aug. 31 is deemed ready for kindergarten, while a child born Sept. 2 is not. You cannot blame the Minnesota school system for this—there has to be a starting point sometime.

My daughter, Faith, is entering kindergarten this year. She is 4 years old but turns 5 on Sept. 9. My husband and I feel she is ready to go. Her school agreed.

Most of the reason: she wants to learn. Honestly, I’m not sure I can teach her anything more without help from an all-day teacher. She can count to 100 and has a great vocabulary that includes phrases such as “I have experienced that.” She can do simple adding and subtracting, can spell a few words and is beginning to pick up words on sight.

There are other reasons we want her to begin school now. She would be one of the older children in all-day daycare. She doesn’t take naps—which is a problem for the daycare provider when she doesn’t, and a problem at bedtime for my husband and I when she does. Also, daycare is expensive, and though she will attend a private school this year, it is much cheaper for us—even combining tuition, lunch and after-school care.

Anytime I talk about this issue with another mom, she says boys and girls are so much different, both in maturity and learning. I don’t know this to be true, because our daughter is our only child. A great forum I found online addresses a lot of these issues from a parent's standpoint.

Faith is doing well intellectually for her age, but she sometimes has difficulty sharing and following directions. She might run off to a corner and throw a tantrum because things don’t go her way. I have to be honest: I’m not sure when, exactly, I learned those skills myself. Maybe I still have problems with them.

We were all told at our child’s birth—usually from the new baby’s grandpa or grandma—that no child-raising manual will pop out along with them. No answer comes down from the clouds to tell you what you should do. You have to decide things like school-readiness on your own, for the well-being of you child and family.

We want your thoughts: Did we make the right decision? When do you think a child is ready to go to school?

Share your opinions in the comments area.  

Melanie September 01, 2011 at 07:29 PM
My daughter was intellectually ready when she was 4/5 as well, but we decided to wait and enroll her in Kinder when the law suggested. She taught herself to read at age 4 and had the math and vocabulary skills you discussed in your child. She is one of the older kids in her class, and I'm thankful for many reasons. One: she was emotionally and developmentally ready to enter Kinder when we sent her. We felt that any younger and she would have not been. We also looked ahead to when she was in high school and I realized that we would much rather have her be on the older side than the younger (driving, dating, etc etc). Another thing to think about is sending her to college when she is 16/17. I think that's a dangerous endeavor. I would much rather send my child when she is 18. If your child still has the behavioral traits of a preschooler, my advice is to keep her enrolled in pre-k for another year. My daughter went to First Steps IB program at Aquila. She loved it and was challenged and happy. You can send her to before and after care that does not require napping. It may be cheaper to push your child ahead one year but I don't think that's a sufficient reason to do it.
Kevin O'Donovan September 01, 2011 at 07:40 PM
Napolean Bonaparte said a child's education should begin twenty years before birth. My wife and I read and played games that encouraged early reading and math at home. Our son went to a Montessori Pre-School at three years of age, on a half day schedule. We did some volunteer work as classroom assistants. He really looked forward to his time with friends and his classes. He was annoyed if we took vacations that kept him away from his school. My point is that much of the early education or prep is best done at home, to make education fun. There were no children his age nearby and to develop social skills with kids his own age, my wife suggested the school. It was great. We all benefited. I really believe, when possible, it is good for parents to spend some volunteer classroom time and become part of your child's education not be just an observer.
MattH September 01, 2011 at 08:38 PM
It might be interesting to get a (non-identifying) list of the birthdays for the kids in her class. Then chart it out. You might be surprised by the number of kids in the class who are a lot older than her. Remember that everyone with a summer birthday has a choice, and I have found that the vast majority of those parents are choosing to wait the extra year. Those 6-year-old classmates will be in a very different place than your kid. But maybe it's not that way in your kid's class; that's why I think it would be worth finding out.
Linda Trummer September 03, 2011 at 03:39 AM
i was an early first grader, and it was difficult academically, not because I wasn't smart - but because I lacked the emotional intelligence to keep up. Early childhood is a precioius time -- no need to rush it. Enjoy.... school is a long commitment, but the memories of spending time with mommy and daddy are forever :)
Nichole Thomas September 06, 2011 at 07:53 PM
It is a tough decision and I have two children that prove that it does depend on the individual child. My daughter has a late August birthday and my son has an early September birthday. They are just about three years apart yet four grades apart in school. My daughter showed strong academic potential and seemed ready to go to school so we sent her when she'd only been five for about a week. It has proven to be the right decision. For my son, we waited until he was five going on six and that was the best decision for him. Hopefully your daughter will thrive and have the support and opportunities that will maintain her confidence and love of learning so the age difference won't matter.

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