Not ready for all-day K
This school year my daughter will be starting sixth grade and my two middle boys will be entering third and first grades.
Our youngest son could start kindergarten this year (he turned 5 in July), but based on his development — social, emotional, academic and physical — we made the decision to delay his entry into kindergarten until he’s 6.
That means we’ll be paying weekly child-care expenses and tuition at a part-time private preschool for another school year. Ugh!
But it’s a decision I know is in his best interest — and I know there’s a good chance it could boost his academic confidence throughout his entire educational career.
Deciding whether your child is ready for kindergarten isn’t always easy, but it’s a decision that — from my perspective as a kindergarten teacher and mother of four — demands thoughtful consideration.
It’s important to reflect on your individual child’s needs and development, not just how many birthdays your child has had. Just as every child isn’t ready to walk on his or her first birthday, not every child is ready for kindergarten at age 5.
I’m aware of books, articles, research, reports and studies that share conflicting opinions either criticizing or advocating a delayed entry to kindergarten in various situations.
In my own classroom, I’ve seen some young 5-year-olds experience success. Others struggle.
Downsides to delaying
I understand that delayed entry to kindergarten isn’t always the best answer.
Some young 5-year-olds are just ready, similar to those toddlers who start walking at 9 months.
But for those who simply aren’t, there are other factors to consider:
- The cost of childcare or preschool can be prohibitive for families.
- Though there are some excellent programs designed to fill a gap year for young 5-year- olds, not all families have access to those options.
- Not all preschools offer programming for children who meet kindergarten age eligibility, such as Head Start. (In Minnesota children who are age 5 by Sept. 1 are eligible for kindergarten.)
Academic, social demands
Parents who send their 5-year-olds to kindergarten can rest assured knowing that schools and teachers are expected to differentiate instruction to meet the needs of each individual learner in their classrooms.
Every fall, I start the school year with a kindergarten classroom full of kids with unique needs, strengths and abilities. I’m committed to do my best to help every child learn and grow, both socially and academically.
But the reality is that some kids struggle with the intensity full-day kindergarten and, as a result, have to work extra hard to keep up with academic and social demands.
These little ones end up expending a lot of energy working to stay on task. This can cause some children to become tired and frustrated — and they may act out with negative behaviors and/or emotions, which can affect the child’s own learning and the learning of others.
Taking more time
Delayed entry to kindergarten can be the best choice for some children.
Some kids, like my 5-year-old son, just need more time, and will benefit from an additional year to grow and develop before their little bodies and minds are ready for the pace, standards and objectives that accompany all-day, every-day kindergarten.
Waiting a year to start school can be a good decision — especially if the child’s alternative will be immersion in an enriching environment that promotes school readiness, independence and positive social skills, whether that’s at home, in a preschool setting, at a transitional kindergarten or as part of early-5 programming.
Megan Devine is an elementary school teacher who lives with her husband and four children in Northeastern Minnesota. Follow her on Instagram @megtdevine. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org.