Check out your local kindergarten.
School cutoff dates vary widely -- from July 1 in Indiana to December 31 in the District of Columbia -- and they may change from year to year (visit superpages.com/supertips/age-to-start-kindergarten-by-state.html to find yours). Beyond the average age of students, kindergarten classrooms vary significantly in personality, often even within the same district or school. Teachers' personalities too play a large part in setting the tone. Whereas one instructor might favor traditional learning methods, like a heavy dose of repetition, another may emphasize free thinking and creative problem solving. The school's curriculum will also shape your child's kindergarten experience. By the end of the year, will he be expected to count to 100, add and subtract, and recognize sight words -- and will your child be able to handle these challenges?
Cheryl Roberts, Ed.D., vice president of The Source for Learning, a nonprofit that provides educational resources for parents and teachers, recommends sitting in on a local kindergarten class the spring before your child is scheduled to start. Afterward, ask the teacher to describe the curriculum and the rules, how she handles kids who misbehave, and what she does to help those who are struggling. If your school doesn't have a visiting day, ask to make an appointment with the teacher (or, if she's not available, with the principal) to discuss the kindergarten program.
When you have a clear idea of what's in store for the coming year, analyze what you know about your child and the kindergarten, and ask yourself, Will he thrive or flounder in this environment? Keep in mind that since it's another three to six months before your child would start, he'll be further along developmentally and may surprise you by excelling at things that seem impossible right now. So as long as he's making progress, he'll probably be right on target come September, especially with a little coaching from Mom and Dad.