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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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