To K or not to K.

When compared to war, economic crisis, and climate change, the entrance age for kindergarteners is not critical. This is not the kind of issue that needs to consume enormous amounts of time and energy. But for those of us right in the thick of raising little people, sometimes it does.

You read and hear a lot about “redshirting” these days, which is the practice of having younger kindergartens — especially boys — start a year later, when they’ll (some say) be more mature and developmentally prepared for the experience of full time kindergarten. I’m told that it has become practically standard in some cities or some parts of the country. For a variety of different reasons, there are also places where it’s still hotly debated.

Parents make choices on behalf of the littles a million times a day. Organic or non-? Daycare or nanny? But for some reason, this seemed like an especially big one to me. John has a birthday in late August so he could have gone either way. I wished that a grown-up would swoop in and make a command decision, but it turns out that we’re the grown-ups now.

Last year, Matt and I read all the research (which is constantly evolving), talked to friends, talked to family, and went back and forth a million times. Our school was considering changing the entrance dates, so we tried to take that into account. We thought about what John’s friends would be doing and what kind of person and learner he seems to be. We considered what the alternatives would be to starting kindergarten.

I tend to be very conciliatory by nature, so my first thought is to look for some kind of middle ground. When there is not one, as in this case, there’s nothing to do but make a choice. In the end, we just went with our instincts. Because that’s what you always have to do, right? It’s always about figuring out what to do in your individual situation and with your own child.

John turned five in August and started kindergarten ten days later. With the exception of the occasional “My stomach hurts and I can’t go today,” he seems to be thriving. He likes P.E. best, but is fine with all the other learning as well. Lowercase letters! Field trips! New friends! I can’t imagine him being anywhere else this year.

I feel good about the decision (and relieved that it’s made). I wonder if there really is a right or a wrong answer, or if it’s always just a matter of doing the best you can to inch along the right path. I hope I’ll remember that when the next big one comes along.

2 thoughts on “To K or not to K.

  1. This issue was big way back in the 1980s when I was working in the public schools. Back then Kindergarten teachers used a Gestalt screening test in the spring before children would enter K. Parents still got the final say.

    I’m glad you decide to go ahead and send your child. Back in the 1960s I entered first grade at age 5 and did not turn 6 until late October. Sure I’m female, but today I probably would not have been allowed in from what you posted. I was never top of my class but not that far off. And my best friends were always a year or two older. I can not imagine having to wait another year before starting school.

    I know several adult males, now it there 50s, who skipped a grade & graduated H.S. at 16 or 17. Given that “skipping grades” is absolutely frowned upon now I think making perfectly bright young boys wait to enter school is silly. There is always a wide range of abilities between students in an elementary classroom no matter how close or far apart their birth dates.

  2. Hey Katie – I’m late reading your post, but we’re in the throes of this decision now with Connor. He has an early August birthday with a Sept. 1 cutoff. Until recently, we were all gung-ho about sending him to kindergarten next year; he’d actually starting k at 4, turning 5 a week later. Lately, we’re reconsidering. and it’s really stressing me out! He’s on the small side, too. Can you send me those calm parenting vibes so we can make the right decision? Of course, any decision at all is at least 4 months away, but still. I feel as though it’s really the first big decision we have that could really impact him his entire life. Ugh …

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