This is a question that I am very passionate about.
What is your opinion about sending kids to kindergarten who have summer birthdays (or those who are close to the cut off date)?
As far as I know, every state has a cut-off birth date for children to begin kindergarten. The states I am familiar with place their cut-offs in August or September, but some wait until December.
For kiddos who don’t have a birth date close to the cut-off date the decision to begin kindergarten is not an issue. But for those who have birthdays near the cut-off, it may be hard to decide whether to send or “red-shirt” the child.
I am a firm believer that if you have ANY doubt about sending your child to kindergarten you need to wait and give the child another year to mature and grow. One more year for the child to be a child.
Even though academically they were ready, we red-shirted our oldest and Little Man as well. Because of their due dates, I knew before these boys were born that they would be six-years-old before entering kindergarten. After telling our pediatrician this decision, she said:
I have never met a parent who regretted red-shirting his/her child.
I have met many who regretted sending their children.
Points to Consider:
- Just because the child is ready academically doesn’t mean that he or she is ready emotionally, physically, or socially.
- Very young children may require a nap or require more sleep at night as going to school all day can be exhausting.
- Waiting to start a child in kindergarten is much easier than having to retain (repeating a grade) the child the next year. Even at a young age, retaining a child can have lasting effects. Effects that may not show up until later in teenage and adult life.
- The child may not show signs of struggling socially or academically until he or she is older (past Kindergarten and 1st grade when it is harder to retain).
- Paying for one more year of preschool or daycare is much cheaper than paying for tutoring and/or watching your child struggle through school.
- “But my child will be bored.” – I believe truly gifted child do not get bored as their brains are always learning. Don’t tell your child or let him hear you mention potential boredom. If he hears you telling everyone he is bored, he will be bored.
- “But my child is gifted!” – As I stated, we red-shirted both Bubs and Little Man. Everyone was supportive of giving Bubs another year because of the delays he had due to open heart surgery at birth. But, we took a lot of flack for red-shirting Little Man since he was very advanced for a five-year-old. We held strong to our conviction knowing that while he would be academically beyond his peers, his maturity was delayed. And, we haven’t regretted the decision for one moment.
- Keeping up with or competing with children who are nearly a year older can be frustrating for the younger child. Waiting a year could mean the child will be more successful academically, athletically, musically, etc. by the time they are in high school.
- “My child will be the tallest and biggest in his/her class.” – Bubs was the tallest in his class. Sweet Pea was the tallest in the elementary school for several years. They thought it was cool because they knew that in a few years this would change as kiddos go through growth spurts at different times.
- “All of my child’s friends are going to Kindergarten.” – This is a statement that continue to hear and one we personally experienced. At church, all of the Bub’s peers moved up to the next class while he stayed in the same class. It was tough for a few hours but he very quickly made new friends. Actually one of the younger boys that moved on repeated Kindergarten so Bubs was in the same class with him the following year.
- “But my child thinks he/she is going to kindergarten.” – Bubs was frequently asked by adults about kindergarten. He learned to say that Mommy and Daddy are waiting another year. It truly wasn’t an issue because we talked about it with him.
- “But my child is already enrolled?” – This is a tough one but sometimes mommies and daddies change their minds. Also, I know of schools that say at orientation (the day before school), “If you have any doubts, now is the time to change your plans. And, we will look forward to seeing you next year.” A school would rather have a child who is truly ready than a child who will struggle because of their age.
Advice from a 1st Grade Teacher
My aunt taught first grade for 39 years. When asked about this she encouraged me to highly recommend parents wait to start a child (especially a boy) in school if his/her birthday is within a few months of the cut off date.
She personally experienced the ramifications of being sent too early to school. Looking back, many of the struggles she experienced could have been avoided if she had started school at an older age.
In her vast career, he also observed that many children would have been happier in their education experience if their parents had not sent them to school at such a young age.
The Magic Formula
There is not a magic formula to help you make this decision. It truly is a personal decision that needs to be made for the individual child. And, there are exceptions to every “rule.”
But if a momma asks me this question, I’d ask her…
Do you want to start your child a step ahead or a step behind?