Friday, May 17, 2019

Why We’re Choosing Not to Send our 5 Year Old to Kindergarten

A note before I begin. Who knew this was such a hot topic? I never knew there were so many OPINIONS out there about this, but whew! Here is ours, and why we’re choosing not to send Oskar, who turns 5 in June, to kindergarten just a few months later. I fully understand that every child (and parent!) is different, and if you’re making a different choice, I’m absolutely sure it’s the right one for you. I’m sharing here only to offer our perspective, some food for thought, and ultimately, what we felt was best for OUR child in hopes that this can help anybody still on the fence when Googling and reading and gathering different points of view. Also, the fact that we mulled this over for SO LONG means that there are definite advantages to sending vs. red-shirting, so this is certainly not black and white, by any means. All this said, here goes!

1. There’s a high rate of delayed entry in our township. Truth be told, we were fully expecting to send him to kindergarten until the parents of his classmates in his current Pre-K class told me that it was much less common to send children with summer birthdays than it used to be. During our registration meeting at the public school (because I went ahead and registered him anyway, to keep our options open), the kindergarten teacher I met with told me she only had one or two students with birthdays after April in her classroom that year.

2. He’d be 5 for almost the entire school year, where many children have already turned 6 or will turn 6 over the course of the year. Months, and certainly a year, make an enormous difference in terms of maturity, patience, and CONFIDENCE. We had to decide whether we wanted him to be 10 months younger or 10 months older than some of his peers. When we looked at it this way, the answer started to become more clear. Interestingly, several teachers also told me that this age gap isn't always noticeable in Kindergarten, but becomes much more obvious in 3rd and 4th grade.

3. Social readiness. While he shines academically, he’s extremely sensitive, internalizes nearly everything, and can be shy. We also know, on the flip side, that he makes an amazing leader when he feels comfortable in what he’s doing. We want him to be able to walk tall into a classroom and be an active participant in his learning. To not only enthusiastically raise his hand, but to help and guide others as well. This is when we know he’ll be at his very best.

4. The 3 best educational systems in the world (Finland, Switzerland, and Belgium) ALL begin schooling at 6 years or later. Sure, I may be comparing apples to oranges here, but I truly believe there’s something to this formula that works well. Learning through play, creativity, innovation, and time outdoors are strongly emphasized, and longer lesson hours, homework, and teaching to a standardized test are discouraged if not completely eliminated. Kindergarten in the US has become so much more than coloring and recess, with rigid curriculums and teaching to what was a 1st or even a 2nd grade level back when I was growing up. According to researchers, since the late 1990s, the expectations teachers have for kindergarteners has become tremendously higher and more focused on reading and math over social skills. At the same time, unstructured play time, art and social interaction has greatly decreased. Am I all for reading and math? Of course. And honestly, Oskar already DOES read at a Kindergarten + level. However, these subjects seem to be taught at the expense of all of the other things that are so critically important and developmentally necessary for a 5 year old brain, and I want to continue to give them to him for another year, if I can.

5. I’ll never wonder if I should’ve sent him. My final takeaway was this one. I’m saving myself all of the worry on whether I’m doing the right thing, because when he goes at 6 years old, I’ll KNOW he’s ready a hundred times over. While I don't want to discredit how incredibly smart he already is, I know that he'll only succeed that much more, given another year.

So, there are all of my jumbled up thoughts that have been bouncing around in my head for months now, written out as clearly as I could manage. Again, this is not meant to sway you, but to shed some light on our decision and how our upcoming year will look. 

So, what WILL we do instead of kindergarten? Well, kindergarten. Kind of :). His current daycare center has an accredited kindergarten classroom, and he'll attend there for 3 days a week as a preparatory year for when he begins 5 days a week at our public school after turning 6. We didn't want to keep him in a Pre-K classroom for another year because: 1) We feel as though he's mastered those skills and is ready for something new, and 2) Because they are required, by PA law, to have a designated nap time for Pre-K students, and we're well past that now.  We think this bonus year will challenge him while offering him an ideal balance of school AND at-home play, where he'll be with my mom and little brother August doing all of those things mentioned above, like riding bikes, attending a music class, and going to karate.

So, there you have it. Let me know if you're in the same summer-birthday boat, and what you've decided on for Kindergarten this fall!

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