As another school year starts, many parents wonder whether their child is ready for kindergarten. What should they consider?
Age is an important consideration. Years ago, the “old wives” rule was that if the child could put her hand over her head and touch her opposite ear, she was old enough. The rule has some basis in fact since toddlers cannot touch their ear this way and almost all six-year-olds can.
But age cannot be the only factor. These days, cut-off dates and birthdays should be considered. If the cut-off date is September first, and the child has a summer birthday, the child will be one of the youngest in his class. He might have classmates who are a whole year older, a whole year bigger, a whole year more experienced in living.
Intellectual development should be considered. If you have been told by your child’s pre-K teacher how smart she is, or how eager she is to answer questions, then she may be ready to start kindergarten even if she would be one of the youngest students. What was her parents’ achievement in school? If they skipped grades or graduated salutatorians, there’s a good chance the child inherited high intellectual abilities.
Physical height should be considered. If your child is tall for his age, then starting school when he is younger might make him feel more comfortable since some of his older classmates will be near his own size.
The activity level of a child should be considered. If a child is calm and reserved and can sit still for a half hour at a time, he might be ready to receive instruction even if he is young. If he is hyperactive with a short attention span, probably he should wait.
The length of the school day should be considered. Some younger children can last a half day but grow cranky and uncooperative in a full-day session. If the program is a full-day one, does the school offer nap times?
The child’s fine motor coordination should be considered. Can the child hold a pencil and trace lines with it? Can she button her coat? Can she wipe her bottom when she uses the toilet?
The child’s interest in academics should be considered. Does the child enjoy recognizing letters, making letter sounds or even reading small words? Can the child add small numbers or use manipulatives to figure out subtraction of small numbers?
The child’s pre-K teacher’s recommendation should carry weight since that teacher has seen the child “in action” in a school setting. So should the evaluation of a kindergarten teacher at the beginning of a school year. A few days after my son began kindergarten, his teacher begged a classmate’s mother to keep her son home for another year. Her son was not ready, said this experienced teacher. He could not follow directions. He could not sit still for more than a minute or two. He cried at being aroused from his nap. His only interest was the playground. The mother sent him anyway. He repeated kindergarten.
If your child has started kindergarten and comes home happy each day, congratulations. If not, or if you have doubts, contact the kindergarten teacher to get her assessment. Kindergarten, first, and second grades provide the foundation of your child’s education. You want to get it right.