Should I hold my child back from starting kindergarten? This is not an easy question for any parent to answer. It can be a very emotional time when your "baby" is suddenly ready to start school. Every parent hopes that their child will do well in school, will make friends, will have a wonderful time, and will develop a love of learning. On the other hand, most parents are a bit concerned that kindergarten might prove to be too much for their child to handle. How do you figure out if you should hold your child back from starting Kindergarten this year?
There are no hard and fast rules to help you make this decision. As a former substitute teacher, who has worked with countless kindergarten students, I can recommend some things to consider as you make this difficult decision. Answering the following questions will give you a good idea if your child is ready for kindergarten, or if you should hold your child back.
Is your child completely potty trained?
Kindergarten students are expected to be able to identify when they need to use the bathroom, and to be able to do all the necessary actions involved in doing so, all by themselves. There are no changing tables in a kindergarten classroom, and it is not part of the kindergarten teacher's job to change diapers. Children who are still wearing diapers (or "pull-ups"), or who are having frequent "accidents" are going to be teased by the other kindergartners who have mastered the skills involved with potty training.
Children can be mean, and they have long memories. Being called a "baby" in kindergarten because you wet your pants is not something that is going to be forgotten about next year in first grade, or years from now when everyone starts high school. Some schools will ask parents to remove their child from kindergarten if the child is not potty trained. If your child is fully potty trained, but sometimes struggles with the buttons or zippers on his or her clothing, then I would suggest sending your child to kindergarten this fall. Just send him or her in sweatpants for a while.
Has your child been to some sort of preschool program?
Teachers can tell right away which children have been to preschool. These are the kids who know their names, and may even be able to recognize it in print or write some of the letters. These are the kids who can sit down for an entire five minute story time, without getting up to go do something else, bothering their neighbors excessively, or talking over the teacher. These are the kids who can identify at least a few colors, can count to five, and have a favorite story. In other words, these are the kids who "get" how school works.
Children who have been to preschool have a definite advantage over their peers who have never been in any sort of preschool program before they start Kindergarten. In addition to being familiar with the academic concepts covered in Kindergarten, and the understanding of how the school day will go, children who have been to preschool have learned some of the social skills that they will need in order to start making friends. Has your child been to some form of a preschool program? Does your child have a group of children whom he or she interacts with on at least a weekly basis? Have you been working with your child at home on letter and number recognition? Can your child sit through a five minute story you read to him or her? If the answer to all these questions is yes, your child is ready for Kindergarten. On the other hand, if your child has never interacted with other children before, (or has severe difficulty doing so), has a shorter than average attention span (when compared to his peers), and has never been around adults other than yourself, I would suggest you hold your child back this year.
Is your child five years old yet?
Some schools will have a cut off date, and disallow children who are not five years old by that date from attending kindergarten that school year. One thing to consider is that if your child is not yet five years old, they will have some disadvantages their peers will not face. Younger kindergarten students are sometimes less mature than their peers, making it harder for them to make friends, and often smaller in stature than their peers, making it harder to fend off bullies, or to compete in athletics.
If your child is five by the time Kindergarten starts, or will turn five within a few months of the first day of school, is average size when compared to his or her peers, and is maturing socially along with his or her peers, then your child is ready for Kindergarten. If your child will not turn five until the school year is nearly over, is dramatically smaller than the other kids, and is noticeably less mature in terms of social skills than his or her peers, I would suggest that you consider holding your child back.
There are other factors to consider when trying to decide if you should hold your child back. All kids are different, and you will know best what your child's specific needs are.