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Starting Kindergarten at Age 6

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Guest blogger Ronda Kaysen: More parents are deciding to delay kindergarten for a year, so their kids will have a leg up at school and be more mature when they start. After all, due to "No Child Left Behind," the days of freewheeling kindergarten classes with lots of playtime have been replaced with more academically rigorous programs.

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But here's the pickle: The kids who start on time at age 5 are suddenly finding themselves being the youngest kid in class -- and are having trouble keeping up.

In a lengthy New York Times piece, parents lamented the woes of starting their kids too early. Some worried that their child wasn't mature enough to sit down for a full day; others, that their kid would be the youngest in the class. But one mom whose child started on time had a good point."Someone has to be the youngest in class, no matter how you slice it," Washington mom Susan Messina, 46, told the Times.

Messina's daughter, Clare, started kindergarten at age 4.Now Clare is 9 -- and has classmates who are a year and a half older than she is. "She has friends who are 11 who are going to get their periods this year, and she's still playing with American Girl dolls," said Messina.Other moms worry that their appropriately aged kids will be benched on the high-school basketball team because their older classmates will be bigger and stronger than they are.

Theparents who decide to hold their kids back, meanwhile, say they're worried about their kids' emotional development and want to make sure they're not pushed too fast too soon."Technically, Lillian could go to kindergarten," said Ohio mom Rachel Tayse Baillieul. Her 4-year-old daughter, who was born five days before the kindergarten cutoff date, could have started kindergarten this year. But when Lillian's preschool teachers recommended that she take another year of half-day preschool,Baillieuldecided to take their advice. "They said staying in preschool a year longer will probably never hurt and will probably always help, especially with social and emotional development," she said.

But holding a kid back has its risks, too. A 6-year-old might be bored and restless in a class designed for 5-year-olds -- and that problem could continue throughout his school years.And then there's the issue of cold, hard cash. Deciding to hold your kid back for a year requires money: You have to be able to afford another year of private preschool or another year of childcare. Parents who don't have that luxury just send their kids to kindergarten when they reach the right age, whether they're ready or not.

Moms, what do you think? Have any of you decided to delay kindergarten? How did it go for you?

next: Skip the Lavish First-Birthday Parties!
76 comments so far | Post a comment now
mollysmom:) August 27, 2010, 11:17 AM

we didn’t have a choice as she missed the deadline by 3 weeks. my birthday was one day before the deadline so i was the youngest in my class and loved it. i worried about her for a couple of years starting later as she is naturally smarter than others her age (ha!) but now i’m glad she had wait, she has more confidence in herself and really wants to learn. she just started monday and truly loves it, now if only those 5 year old boys could behave and stop disrupting class :)

Nikita August 27, 2010, 2:00 PM

It bothers me when parents do this. It seems to me (who will be putting my daughter in school nex year 1 month after turning 5) that its a seperation issue. I dont want your overgrown 7 year old in my daughters Kindergarten class when she’s already smaller than the norm. Cut the umbilical cord already!

Wendy August 27, 2010, 7:12 PM

I think that in some cases, it does make sense to wait to start. If you can clearly see your child isn’t ready, then by all means, don’t try to force it. But I don’t think that delaying school just for the sake of a possible advantage, or to keep them from being the youngest in their class, or because you want them to be older/smarter/more mature than their classmates is a good reason. Nor is not wanting to let them grow up just yet. I love my kids to death, and if it were up to me, they’d be little forever. Unfortunately, life doesn’t allow for that, so even though *I* wasn’t ready for them to start school, when it was time, they went.

I also think it will present problems later, when you have (like one person mentioned) kids with rather large age gaps, of a year or even two, in the same grade. While that one or two years might not seem like much at age 5 or 7, once they hit 10 or 12, that age difference is noticeable and it does present a problem. You’ll have some girls developing and starting periods while others aren’t, you’ll have boys discovering girls who aren’t old enough to be discovered…you’ll have some kids trying to act younger than they are to fit in, while others try to act older for the same reasons.

I think, if your child meets the age and birthday requirements for kindergarten, and there are no obvious reasons to delay, then send them to school.

XXXX August 28, 2010, 9:01 AM

This is the lamest excuse I ever heard.

abby August 28, 2010, 5:23 PM

i started kindergarten about a month and a half after i turned 5…i have a summer bday so im always the “right” age…my mom really didn’t want me gone all day and luckily i went to private school and there was the option of half day kindergarten…i dont see why you’d purposely hold your kid back its one thing if they miss the cut off but you need to let go and let them grow up…they have to eventually…I’m usually the youngest of all my friends but I’m also smarter than most of them even though theyre older so I dont think you really have any advantage of starting later because I’m also the most mature in the group and always have been…so it makes no difference just start them on time

Sam August 29, 2010, 7:13 PM

The decision needs to be based on each individual child. Girls are usually more mature than boys at this age. My son has an end of August birthday and was eligible for Kindergarten last summer. But how could I send him at age 4 for the first week, when there were already 6-year-olds there? If he had arrived on his due date in early September, then he would not have even been eligible until this year. Technically, kids in kindergarten are always 5 turning 6. Summer birthdays allow a family to decide to start a child at 5 OR at 6. I honestly believe our state’s cut-off date should be changed from September 1st to June 1st.

kate August 29, 2010, 8:08 PM

I decided to hold my son back because he was going to be the youngest in his class. NOT based on some academic advantage, but for maturity time. As a former teacher I saw a big difference in the boys that were sent to school before they were able to adapt. Girls handle school at the earlier age better.

Makismom August 29, 2010, 10:22 PM

My due date with my daughter was 3 weeks after the September 1 cutoff date, but she ended up being born 3 months early. I was worried about
Prematurity issues, but also didn’t feel it was fair to start her early just because she was born earlier than planned. Being one of the oldest in the class has been great for her in terms of maturity. I would make the same decision again.

Paula August 30, 2010, 5:17 AM

I think the decision should be based on the readiness of the individual child. But, in a lot of cases nowadays, people are just holding the kids back because of the age ready the kids is actually ready or not. My son started kindergarten just about a month after turning 5. He could already read (had been going to pre-school 2 years) and we felt was emotionally ready for kindergarten. It never occurred to me to even consider holding him back, I would only have considered it if there were some sign that he wasn’t ready. All of the other kids in his preschool with August birthdays stayed another year.

Me September 7, 2010, 10:46 AM

With how our son’s birthday fell he would have either been one of the oldest or one of the youngest kids in his class. At the age of five I truly didn’t feel that he was emotionally or developmentally ready to go so we waited a year. Today he started 5th Grade and we still do not doubt for a second, our decision to wait a year. Our daughter misses the kindergarten cut off by a matter of days so with her we don’t have to question at all when to send her. She’ll be an older kindergartener just like her brother. The teachers always have told us that we would never regret sending later, only regret sending early because they just may end up not being as ready as they seem. Anyway, I think it totally depends on where the child is at emotionally and academically. In our case waiting to be a six year old kindergartener worked out very well.

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