Is Your Child Ready for School?

jiwasaki Thu, 02/10/2011 - 6:59pm

Is Your Child Ready for School?

Many parents of preschool-age children are on edge about their child’s birth date being “on the cusp.” While the cut-off dates for kindergarten enrollment vary among states, the question is still the same: “If my child’s birthday is close to the cut-off date, should I send my child early or wait a year?” The tips below can help you decide.  

Know Your Child. Is your preschooler excited about the idea of going to school and interested in learning new things and meeting new children, or is the idea of “leaving home” to go to school frightening? Shy children may do better by wait­ing a year, where eager learners may risk being bored if they stay home. If your child is near the cut-off age and reluctant to start school, you may want to delay for a year and enroll him or her in activities like pre-K or Head Start, as well as group activities with other children.

Boys and Girls. There’s often—but not always—a difference between boys and girls when it comes to kindergarten readiness, which is why it’s more common for boys to delay kindergar­ten than girls. Some children whose birthdays are close to the school cut-off have a hard time sitting quietly in a classroom and focusing. These social skills are just as important to kindergarten success as knowing the alphabet. Many times, these more active boys and girls are more successful when they delay kindergarten.

Physical “Fitness.” There are two kinds of physical skills that kindergarteners must have: “Gross motor skills” are whole-body skills, like hopping and skipping; “Fine motor skills” are things like closing a zipper or buttoning a shirt or coat, cutting out anoutline from paper using safe scissors, and coloring. Add to those areas the important fact that kindergarteners need to be able to use the toilet on their own and wash their hands afterward.  

Money Matters. Public kindergarten is free. Another year of preschool or day care is not. Sometimes money can influence a parent’s decision of whether to send a child to kindergarten. If your child is really not ready for school, though, either in terms of behavior or being ready to learn, it’s better to try to find affordable pre-K, Head Start, or other programs. Certainly, there can be advantages for children who start school a little later. They may do better on standardized tests, especially in elementary school, and may be seen as leaders among their classmates. But there are disadvantages, too. Children who are “old” for their grade are at higher risk of dropping out of high school. Sometimes these older children can use their greater size and age to bully other, younger children. And some children feel that they are being punished or have done something wrong when their preschool playmates start kindergar­ten while they wait a year.

Report to Parents, written to serve elementary and middle-level principals, may be reproduced by National Association of Elementary School Principals members without permission.