Should I send my 5-year-old to Kindergarten, or should I wait a year?
What are the benefits of ‘redshirting’ my child for Kindergarten?
Does another year of preschool really make that much of a difference?
What’s the big deal?! It’s KINDERGARTEN!
It’s so funny how often I’ve referenced a piece about our reflections on sending Owen to Kindergarten that I wrote for the DC Moms over five years ago.
Probably a dozen times each and every summer, readers email me with the million-dollar question: Should we send our 5-year-old to Kindergarten or should we wait a year?
I send them a link to my article and say, It’s totally your decision, but here’s what I think. . .
So I’m just going to run the piece here, and honestly, I’d love to hear what you think and what your experience has been. If your child has a fall or winter birthday, it’s usually not a big deal; it’s a no-brainer. You send your child to school when she’s 6.
But if your child is a late spring or summer birthday, the question sometimes arises: send the child as a young, newly-turned 5-year-old or wait a year until your child is 6?
Here’s what we did:
Delaying Kindergarten: Our Experience As Parents and Educators:
** Originally posted on August 5th, 2011 by amy mascott on the DC Moms **
Our son turned five last August, and he was slated to start Kindergarten here in Montgomery County three weeks after his fifth birthday.
But we decided to wait a year to send him to Kindergarten.
He didn’t go. We redshirted him, and we couldn’t be happier.
Neighborhood kids who hit the big numero-cinco last summer walked up the street and to the school on August 30, brand new backpacks filled with super-cool supplies, packed lunches, and bellies full of butterflies.
But my son did not join them.
Kids all over the county just days or weeks older than my son—some even younger than he—sat through five hours of lessons, five days a week, for nine months of this year, but not my son.
Instead, my son scooted to and from the elementary school each day to drop off and pick up his first-grade sister, and he went to three days of pre-K—one half day and two full days where he stayed for ‘lunch bunch’ with his buddies.
Instead of going to Kindergarten, my son, my youngest daughter, and I hit parks, hit libraries, hit nature centers, and hung out during the times they weren’t in preschool. We read books, did puzzles, went grocery shopping, had playdates. We took the Metro into the city, we went to the zoo, we took our dog to the dog park. I watched as mathematics and numbers opened up to my son, as his curiosity about the world around him grew and he became a reader.
Instead of beginning his public school career at the ripe old age of five, my son played a little longer. His Matchbox cars, dinosaurs, and Legos saw a lot of action, ran a lot of races, fought a ton of battles. He kicked around at indoor soccer. He helped me try new recipes. We played games. He played with his sister. Some days they were best friends; other days they fought like strange bulldogs.
Sure, waiting a year to start public school meant that we ended up paying a pretty penny for another year of pre-K, but we did it, and we are glad. Though it was a decision that we labored over, talked about for months, and really questioned long after plans were firm, it is a decision we felt was necessary and right for our son.
Both my husband and I are professional educators; he is an administrator who taught both elementary and high school, and I am a Reading Specialist and former high school English teacher. We understand the game, but it doesn’t make a decision like this any easier. It does, however, give us a little more insight as to the demands of school today and what our son will be faced with down the road—not only in Kindergarten but in grade three, six, nine, twelve.
Just because I could quite often discern my ‘young’ ninth grade boys from the others because they were a few steps behind socially doesn’t mean it’s the case for every younger student. There’s no scientific proof or compelling data that will demonstrate to us that the decision to redshirt our son was correct. Maybe there will be down the road, but there’s nothing now. We looked. We researched. We had to go with what we felt would be right.
We might say we understand the public school game in our area because we have experience in this arena; we are, however new at this parenting gig for which there’s no manual, no degree, and no certification. All we know for sure, as we walk this journey is that everyone we leaned on for advice—every seasoned parent who had to make this same decision—suggested we wait. They advised us to wait a year on Kindergarten because they did the same for their close-to-the-cutoff birthday child, and they felt it was the best decision they could have made—for their child, for them as parents, for their whole family.
I will be sad beyond belief come August when my son, newly six and sporting his own brand new backpack, super-cool supplies, packed lunch, and belly full of butterflies, joins the neighborhood kids on their walk to school. I will miss him terribly for the long day he’s in that building just steps away from our home. But he will enter that school more ready for Kindergarten than he was last summer. He will be a more eager learner, a more patient friend, and a more capable student. And it is our simple wish that our decision to wait on Kindergarten will set him up for a more successful—worthwhile, meaningful, pleasant, and fun–thirteen years and then some.
And now, as parents of a rising 5th grader, did we make the right decision?:
Owen is entering 5th grade this year. Fifth grade. I cannot even believe it.
Though he is not even halfway through his school career, I think it’s worth stepping back again. If we would have sent Owen to Kindergarten as a 5-year-old, this year our O-Man would be entering the wilds of middle school. Middle school.
And that, my friends, we cannot even imagine.
‘Redshirting’ is a personal decision, made only by totally and completely assessing each individual child and family’s situation. What was right for one kiddo may not be right for another. We all know that. But looking back thus far, was it the best decision for our son?
Absolutely. 110%, yes and yes.
- Owen is a bright boy, and he went to Kindergarten feeling confident in himself and in his abilities. He could write his name, read some words, and play with numbers. He grew tremendously in his last year of pre-K.
- Because Owen excelled in Kindergarten, he immediately became a confident student and boy.
- Owen was able to help other students which made him a leader in the class and admired by his peers.
- Teachers challenged him and pushed him to go beyond what he believed he could do.
- Initially, Owen was a bit on the smaller side, and he has grown into a strong and physically-able young boy, managing P.E. and recess games with no problem.
- He scored high enough to be put in an accelerated math class which will get him on track to be continually challenged through middle and high school.
- He has worked through some initial speech issues but has totally become able to communicate effectively with administrators, teachers, and peers.
Now, were there times when we had to meet with the teacher to make sure he wasn’t getting lax in his work or over-confident in his abilities? You bet.
Were there times when we had to talk to him about all of the normal kid-things like acting in respectful ways to peers and adults? Yes.
Were there times when he struggled with homework or assignments and needed support? Absolutely.
Were there times when we had to help him to work through playground challenges with peers? Yepper.
Always, no matter who the child is, the open line of communication between the teacher, the student, and the parent is super-important and absolutely necessary no matter how the child performs in school. That’s the key, friends. The key.
Overall, we feel as though our decision–this huge decision–set him up for a solid school career. At least we’re hoping. We’ll check back again in a few years and let you know how things are going.
Until then, we’ll keep knocking wood and hoping–no, praying–that we’re doing the right things. Because goodness knows, this parenting gig is the toughest yet.
Want a little recent research that supports our decision?
Check out a recent study by Standford University. Interesting stuff.
What do you think, friends? What has been your experience with delaying Kindergarten?
I’d love to hear it!
Want a few cool alphabet activities? Check out:
- backyard alphabet hunt
- homemade alphabet book
- leafy letter learning
- ABC hunt
- on the road ABC hunt
- lowercase ABC hunt
- build your own bingo: uppercase and lowercase match
- ABC cards and clothespin match
- alphabet letter splash
- alphabingo (play with lowercase letters)
- alphabet letter lids
- leafy outdoor alphabet hunt
- build your own board game
- clothespin letter match
- 10 fun ways to learn the alphabet
And don’t miss our #raiseareader series on YouTube!
Follow us on pinterest, and check out our literacy pins:
Follow teachmama’s board LITERACY on Pinterest.
Zainab and Fatema
Hi Amy! Thanks for sharing your experience, insight and useful link to the Stanford study. My son was born in late August and is a couple years away from Kindergarten but I’ve already started thinking about and planning for his education. This gives me useful fodder. 🙂 My daughter is in a pre-k montessori program that goes through kindergarten. She is in her last pre-k year and since she was born in December so I’m confident she’ll be ready for public school when the time comes. With regard to my son, I will be referencing this article to make decisions as he goes through preschool. Thanks again! [email protected]
Zaina– thanks so much for taking the time to read the post and share your experience. Please stay in touch and let me know what you decide!
Zainab and Fatema
You’re welcome, will do! [email protected]