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Is Your Child Ready for School?

Kid holding up art

Redshirting. Holding back. Giving the gift of time. No matter what you call it, one thing is clear: Making the decision to delay kindergarten or not for a young 5-year-old or, in some cases, a 4-year-old who's close to the cutoff, isn't easy. Get the inside scoop from parents who've been there: some who decided their kids would be better off with one more year of preschool, and those who weighed the pros and cons and sent their children on to kindergarten.

 
We Did Another Year of Pre-K

"Bryn's preschool teacher expressed concern that Bryn wasn't as far along academically as her peers and, more important, wasn't interested in learning. But I didn't want her repeating the same program. I enrolled her in a 'Young 5s' class that taught a lot of the same stuff that kindergarten would but in a small, interactive setting. I never felt that she was wasting a year, and when she began kindergarten, she was ready to learn."

- Melissa Wightman; Huntington Woods, Michigan. Bryn's birthday: October 15; kindergarten cutoff: December 1

 

"Will's preschool teacher and I agreed that he lacked fine motor skills and social maturity. I decided he needed another year of preschool to work on these things. But I would recommend that other parents check with their school district. When I registered Will for kindergarten the following year, I got a phone call from our district telling me that he would need to enter first grade unless I got special permission from the principal to enroll him in kindergarten. Fortunately, I was able to."

- Pam Belko; Edison, New Jersey. Will's birthday: August 10; kindergarten cutoff: October 1

"Teachers said it would be a gift to give my son an extra year of preschool to grow as a person, because he was the type of child who kept quietly to the sidelines. By fourth grade, other parents started saying that I held Luke back so he would make the A team in sports. But some sports go by grade (where he's among the oldest) and some by birth year (where he's the youngest). He makes the highest level in both. Delaying kindergarten helped him become a confident young man, not a better lacrosse player."

- Stacy Krys; Ridgefield, Connecticut. Luke's birthday: September 27; kindergarten cutoff: December 31

 
We Sent Our Child to Kindergarten

"I didn't want to hold Gianna back for her shyness; that's just her personality. She would be shy even if we waited a year. She had a tough transition into kindergarten, but now she's in second grade and doing well."

- Laura Gomoka; Staten Island, New York. Gianna's birthday: July 25; kindergarten cutoff: December 31

 

"Both my daughters were born in September -- and both of their pre-K teachers recommended holding them back. I was told one cried when she was frustrated and the other had trouble cutting with scissors. I didn't think those were good reasons to keep them back, so I sent them to kindergarten. Did the preschool want an extra year of tuition from me? I couldn't figure it out. My older daughter, Kayla, is now in fourth grade and in her school's program for gifted and talented kids. My younger one, Jillian, has always been mature for her age and keeps up with her sister."

- Maryann D'Agostino; Westfield, New Jersey. Kayla's birthday: September 23; Jillian's birthday: September 18; kindergarten cutoff: October 1

 

"My son is in second grade and doing very well. But in kindergarten, teachers were quick to blame his age if Jayden had behavioral issues, like having a hard time staying on task and sitting still. I wanted to say, 'Maybe kindergartners are supposed to be this way -- and more would be if they went to school at age 5 like they should!'"

- Maria Giancotti; Geneva, Illinois. Jayden's birthday: July 29; kindergarten cutoff: September 1

 
The Bottom Line

While it's helpful to learn from other parents, keep in mind that there are factors that are unique to each child and family, says Nancy Cappelloni, Ed.D., adjunct professor of teacher education at the University of San Francisco and author of Kindergarten Readiness. These include everything from a child's social skills to academic readiness. "Parents shouldn't just think about kindergarten and first grade but also down the line to the next ten or 15 years," says Dr. Cappelloni. Making the decision might feel daunting, but remember: No one knows your child better than you do.

Originally published in the May 2014 issue of Parents magazine.