Kindergarten -Where 5 is just a number

It has been 15 years since I have had to navigate the kindergarten process. The age requirement has remained unchanged yet the choice to delay students a year has parents making a tough choice for an important educational beginning.

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  1. Allow me to set the stage for this important milestone in education. My youngest son is about to complete his second academic year of pre-school. He will soon be five and we have been gearing up for the much anticipated Kindergarten year. However at the parent teacher conference in March the teacher made the recommendation for "Kaleidoscope" which is a "Junior Kindergarten, or Kindergarten-Prep program for children who are five years of age by September 15th." It is a half day program and promotes: " The extra year before Kindergarten allows children to further develop academically, physically, socially, and emotionally." Since March I have been wavering about the merits of both options.
  2. Recently at the parent meeting for Kindergarten Round Up a folder was given to each parent. he principal, the school nurse, counselor and teacher gave the parents a crash course about what to expect for Kindergarten.
  3. The speech therapist wasn't able to attend and the meeting was held in the media center which I understand she is a parent also and had other commitments. Since the meeting was held in the Media Center I had hoped to have information from the librarian with resources to help our kids and future students on their kindergarten journey but unfortunately that didn't happen.
  4. Inside the Kindergarten folder were the necessary medical forms, school handbook,Kindergarten Supply list, a sheet of upper and lower case letters, brochures: Introduction from the school counselor, Communication Skills in Kindergarten, Stepping Stones to Literacy, a two sided sheet about Kindergarten Common Core standards and pamphlet- "Every Child Reads-Getting Ready to Read: Suggestions for 3-5 year olds Selecting Fiction Books from the Iowa Department of Education 2002 and a four page overview of Kindergarten.
  5. The age requirement listed in the handbook is the one element that has remained consistent: "...children must have reached their fifth birthday on or before September 15..." My oldest son just barely met this requirement fifteen years ago however he has been one of the youngest students for most of his academic career. My daughter's birthday fell after this date so she has been a bit on the older side of her peers throughout her academic years. My youngest son has a summer birthday which has been a source of discussion if this is a determining factor of staying back another year or not.
  6. This is the first article I found hoping to find a correct answer to my dilemma and was excited to read about this study: "The Effect of a Child's Age at School Entrance on Reading Readiness and Achievement Test Scores" which concluded, "...no significant difference between the samples in reading test scores as a result of chronological age." At the end of the article I felt this information may be a bit outdated since the post was from 09/22/1997 and by now there must be a more definitive article to guide myself and other parents about this important choice.
  7. So I went in search for something more current and found this article on the GreatKids site. It brought my attention to the following points and introduced the term "redshirting:"...you can easily find a 4½-year-old and a 6½-year-old in the same kindergarten class", "Being younger is particularly problematic as kindergarten becomes increasingly academic" and "...concerns — for a child’s success in kindergarten and through adolescence — are driving forces behind the popular practice of “redshirting,” or delaying a child’s kindergarten entry by a year or more" and "...a longitudinal study that looked at academic and social outcomes of delayed kindergarten entry over the course of about 20 years. . He (Painter) followed children starting at age 4 or 5 through age 25 or 26. Incredibly, he found no academic or social benefit to redshirting..."
  8. So far these articles suggest no to a little to no difference in test scores based on age, and being younger in the class room could be an issue due to the increase of academic standards however the last study saw no benefit "social or academic" to "redshirting" so I looked up my state's recommendations.
  9. The core standards are great to know yet: "This guide provides an overview of what your child will/should learn by the end of kindergarten" and doesn't help me assess if my son is ready to get on this path to learn all of these things. My next step was to seek a medical opinion.
  10. The Mayo clinic offered the following advice: "When trying to determine if your child is ready for kindergarten, don't worry about whether or not he or she has mastered specific skills. Instead, consider his or her readiness to learn. How well is your child able to communicate and listen? Is your child able to get along with other children and adults? Use your own intuition as a parent and consult your child's doctor, preschool teacher and any other child care providers for useful, objective information about your child's development and readiness for school. "
  11. "However, research suggests that children who are old enough for kindergarten but postpone enrollment for one year don't perform any better than children who enter at the usual age — particularly if the child remains in an environment where readiness wasn't being fostered. In addition, other studies show that a child who is old for his or her grade is at higher risk of behavior problems during adolescence."-Mayo Clinic
  12. Thank you Mayo Clinic for giving great considerations and a new perspective, such as not focusing on certain skills but the "readiness to learn" and for also stating what is becoming a theme in the information which is delaying entry for a year doesn't increase their success/outcomes compared to kids who enter at age five.
  13. A search of "preschooler readiness" on Twitter brought me to this tweet and information on the Kids R Kids Learning Academy. Their best advice:
    "While there are pros & cons to each side of delayed enrollment, we want to stress that children grow and develop at different rates, and what is good for most children may not be good for your child."
  14. These guidelines and examples have made the most sense to consider if a child is ready for Kindergarten:
  15. Enthusiastic About Learning: Your preschooler should be eager to explore and discover new ideas or concepts and needs to be comfortable asking questions. A child that is willing to persist even when a task is difficult is often ready for kindergarten.
    Language Expression & Communication: Your child should be able to communicate needs and express feelings appropriately, both among peers and to teachers.
    Ability to Listen: A child ready for kindergarten will be able to follow simple two-step instructions and listen to stories without interrupting.
    Desire to be Independent: If your child can be separated from you easily during the school day, will take responsibility for personal belongings and can use the bathroom themselves, it is a good indication that they are ready for kindergarten.
    Ability to Interact with Peers: A child ready for kindergarten should be able to share or is learning to share, can take turns with classmates, and is showing interest in problem-solving.
    Utilize Strong Fine Motor Skills: Preschoolers ready for kindergarten will be able to hold and use a pencil, cut with scissors, and in the process of learning to print their first name.
    Have Letter & Number Awareness: If your child can sing or recite the alphabet, recognizes letters or numbers, and can count to 10, they are a good candidate for moving on to kindergarten.
  16. Enter Early or Hold Out: The Kindergarten Age Dilemma By Sandra Crosser, Ph.D. has this great article that actually did answer the question how does a parent know if they are making the correct choice of "redshirting" their child or not:
  17. "They can't. Based on the available knowledge, there is no clear-cut answer."

  18. Crosser also points out: What Advice Can Teachers Give Parents About Delaying Kindergarten for Their Children?
    "Teachers need to be knowledgeable about the research and forthright in telling parents that we do not know if it is wise to hold out young children. It would be less than professional to advise parents one way or another based on limited and inconclusive findings. The wise teacher could point out to parents that academic achievement is only part of the puzzle. We also need to consider the social and emotional effects of being the youngest or oldest in a class. We need to consider the child's physical status, too. If the child is particularly large or small for his age how will he feel about himself this year, a year from now, five years from now? In making the decision, it is important for parents to consider the type of kindergarten program and academic expectations the child will face."
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