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Should 4-Year-Olds Be Allowed to Attend Kindergarten?

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Recession Mama Michele Ashamalla: In California, the minimum age to enter kindergarten has just been changed. Previously, a child had to have been five by December 2 of the school year, one of the latest dates in the nation. The new date is September 1 and will be phased in over the next few years. I am conflicted over the change. I hope that in the face of ever-increasing class size, this will make teaching kindergarten easier and that classes will be full of mature, ready-to-learn students. My kids all have summer birthdays, one in mid-September. They have all been in classes with kids over a year older than them which I fear may turn out to be problematic later.

birthday cake

I have volunteered many, many days over the years in several different kindergarten classes. I've seen kindergartners who can do a fair amount of mental math and others that can't put on their own shoes. Sometimes it's the same kid. The older kids aren't always the most mature or advanced in the class, but they are often the biggest. Here, many choose to "give their child an extra year" rather than start their eligible children who have birthdays near the cutoff date. I respect that decision. When I grew up, kindergarten was often the first school experience children had. We had lots of recess time, took naps at school and probably didn't do anything much more challenging than growing a marigold. Expectations today are very different.

I think when you start your child in school is a very personal decision and no one knows your kid like you do. You should pay attention to preschool teachers who may have a better idea of what kindergarten will be like for your child. I know our state doesn't have the funds, but what I'd like to see is a provision for an individual evaluation of kids that don't make the new cut-off. Under the new law, one of my kids would have had to wait another year to enter kindergarten. Although that wouldn't have been the end of the world, it would have meant that he would have finished the first Harry Potter book in preschool.

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62 comments so far | Post a comment now
TheMadMom October 4, 2010, 4:20 PM

I wholeheartedly agree, Michelle. Where I live, the cut-off is December 31st and although my kid was born in Dec, he came with plenty of preschool and daycare experience and could keep up. Three years later, I’m so glad I didn’t redshirt him.

Sol October 4, 2010, 7:18 PM

My parents had 4 kids. Two were ‘red shirted’ and two started at 4. My parents made their choices based on the ability of each child, both academically and socially. I think giving parents a choice is a good thing.

Cat October 12, 2010, 12:57 PM

The September 1st rule was in effect when I started school in Florida. My parents thought that waiting was a bad idea and enrolled me in a private school at 4. I did fine. It depends on the child but for some it is a good idea to start school at 4.
On the other hand I had a cousin that didn’t start till he was 6, which is what his parents believed was right. So to each their own.

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j December 1, 2010, 2:54 PM

I don’t know what my family would have done with me if the school had refused to let me in at 4.
I was reading novels and calculating tax and interest to get treats from my grandpa, and doing math in car trips for fun!
Even going in early by a noticeable chunk (late Dec birthday), I was still disappointed in what we did in school. Days of the week? What to call the weather? Great, like I didn’t know that already from being around other human beings who spoke out loud.
I can’t imagine how much more frustrated I would have been with the slow pace if I had been almost 6 years old when they let me in, instead of almost 5.

And all this was without preschool and other learning places.
Definitely, more schooling should be based on ability rather than age. Not just when you start, but what year you’re in once you get there. If it was done for every student instead of just rare ones, the age difference wouldn’t make any difference. I was friends with my mom’s adult friends at 12, so why couldn’t I be friends with a 9 year old at 7? The only reason different ages don’t get along well in school is because they’re taught not to. There’s no shared activity in elementary schools between grades, I didn’t even know anyone outside of my class until 5th grade.

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Anonymous December 23, 2010, 5:45 PM

Why not? I started primary school when I was four, high school at eleven, and university at seventeen. What’s the problem?

Carmella Descoteaux January 22, 2011, 8:16 AM

not to play devils advocate but it couldnt be that straightforward

Allison March 6, 2011, 5:19 PM

Just LET THEM BE LITTLE! Kindergarten is not like it was when WE were small. It’s the new first grade. It’s full day, they have homework and need to sit still- a lot. If your kid is “bored in preschool”, why did you put him in preschool so early instead of keeping him in daycare? Of course there are some gifted kids who definitely should start at 4 BUT- the majority of kids just happen to be average.

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