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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!
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