Editor’s Note: Please keep in mind that kindergarten age requirements in California are in flux. This article highlights a PAMP forum discussion regarding kindergarten decisions for the current school year, when a child had to be age 5 by Nov. 1, 2012 to enroll. However, for the 2013–14 academic year, a child must be 5 years old on or before Oct. 1 to attend kindergarten. Prior to the current school year, the kindergarten eligible date was Dec. 2, and the date will be Sept. 1 for the 2014–15 academic year and thereafter.
My daughter is a September baby, and we are debating whether to start kindergarten, keep her in a third year of preschool or move to a Young 5s program. If there are any parents out there who have struggled with the same decision and would be willing to talk with me, I would very much appreciate hearing your experience.
- For an average well-adjusted girl born in September, I would let her go to Kinder. (I definitely would not advise another year of Pre-K.) For a boy born in November, I would wait. This is based on my direct observations of how well kids are doing in Kinder class compared to when they were born. There are lots of girls born in Summer and Fall, into Winter, all of whom are doing great and getting the more advanced stimulation they need. In fact, the girls generally seem to be adjusting better than the boys, as a whole, even though there are a lot more boys who waited an extra year. There are exceptions both ways, but these are my personal observations and thoughts.
- We struggled with the same issue a few years ago with my late September daughter. She couldn’t stay in preschool since she was technically Kinder-eligible, so that wasn’t even an option for us. Based on the feedback from her preschool teachers, she was on the borderline. She would probably be okay going straight to Kinder, but they said we should at least consider a Young 5s program. I’m so glad we did! Most of her peers in Kinder are older, and some friends with girls that are on the younger side (barely turning 5 in Kinder) have said that they feel their child is struggling a bit more. It’s possible that she would have been OK, but I’m glad we erred on the side of caution. One thing that a preschool teacher mentioned that I’ve never forgotten is that it’s not just about being ready for Kinder. It’s about the advantages of having a slightly older child going into middle or high school who is more mature, confident and able to make sound decisions in the midst of peer pressure. During my research, I don’t think I ever came across a parent that regretted enrolling their child in a Young 5s program but have known a few that regretted NOT doing it.
- I have a daughter (now in 6th grade) with a very early October birthday who we did not hold back. At the time our preschool did not have a young 5s program, (they do now) and socially and emotionally she was ready for Kinder. HOWEVER, if I were doing it again today, I would hold her back for the following reasons:
- The start date for Kinder has changed, so she would be even closer to being the youngest in the class.
- Our preschool has a Young 5s program now, so I would take advantage of that.
- While she was ready to go socially and emotionally, she did struggle a bit with academics in Kinder and 1st grade—and things have only become more academic since then. So much of early learning is age-related, and while she caught on to things at the same chronological age as her brother, for him 5 1/2 was October and for her it was April.
- She will be able to go to college at 17, when most of the rest of the country will be older (most states have later cutoffs than CA).
- Finally, just my two cents as the parent of a 6th grader and a 10th grader, there is no rush to make them grow up! School has become so ridiculously academic and test/grade focused that letting them just play for another year is a gift.
- For my October son (now a 1st grader), we went the Young 5s route and were very happy with that decision, but it totally depends on the kid. It’s definitely more common to hold boys back. I’d go by her level of social maturity.
- We did three years of preschool and it was great! My son has a December birthday.
- As an adolescent medicine specialist, I say send your daughter to Kindergarten. You want your daughter to be younger not older. As teens, the older ones get the boys’ attention and wander off the academic pursuit. Girls are generally more mature and better behaved, so your daughter should be fine.
- My twins repeated Kindergarten, and I’m happy they did! My son’s teacher, in particular, was pushing for him to repeat because he was very young (early September birthday). We went along with his advice and had my daughter repeat as well. She was very shy, and I think the move gave her a lot of confidence because now she is very social, with many friends, including a few good ones. As it turns out, both of my kids have learning differences, one minor and the other severe, so if we had not let them repeat, they both would have been struggling much more than they are. So my daughter will be one of the older ones. I actually think that’s a good thing. She has a good head on her shoulders, meaning she has a lot of common sense, almost a street smartness, and even though reading doesn’t come easily to her, she is one of the most determined kids I’ve ever seen and is extremely goal-oriented. I am positive she will get the attention of boys because she is outgoing and very pretty, but isn’t it my job as her parent to steer her in the right direction and teach her how to deal with distractions? Life is full of them. Does this mean all older girls are doomed to lose interest in academics and run off and get pregnant? My sister-in-law was an older, well-developed girl and had her share of boyfriends, but she didn’t let that stop her from studying biochemistry in college and then going off to medical school. I think (and have seen it happen) that it is more likely for a younger girl to go along with the crowd because she may feel under-confident or lack good judgment. Plus, there is no guarantee a younger girl will not be prettier or develop earlier than an older girl. Finally, so many families are delaying Kinder for not only their sons, but also their daughters that it is not going to matter, meaning there will be so many older girls that they will not stand out. Many will be academically focused anyway, because that is the culture around here. I think it is important to do what you feel comfortable doing. If you feel your daughter could benefit by an extra year, then send her to Young 5s, but if not, don’t hesitate to send her to Kindergarten.