First, I want to acknowledge my influx of new followers from Twitter, Facebook, and Feedburner. I’m happy you are here so let’s get moving.
Today, I want to delve into my theory of when to send a child to school. Most parents who have the means really care about “the where.” In other words, they study schools relentlessly until they have discovered “the perfect fit” for their child. Although where a child goes to school is certainly important- WHEN they start should be, in my mind, an equal consideration.
After being an elementary teacher for 7 years and studying this topic at length, I have some fairly strong opinions on this topic. Here are three reasons parents should wait until their child is 6 before sending him/her to kindergarten.
1. The Maturity Factor– Speaking in general terms, there is a major difference between a 5 year old child who was born right after the cutoff date versus another child who is a few months older. Children in kindergarten are considered fairly equal in age but the truth is the months that separate children can be significant. When I was a teacher, I never looked at a child’s birth month in my class as a contributing factor of success although maybe I should have. Over time, children naturally separate themselves in terms of cognitive ability. This separation is really important. In many schools, they are “grouped” or “fast tracked” into ability levels. As a parent, do you want to give your child the best chance to be placed in the higher ability group and thus pushed to succeed at a higher rate?
2. Bullying- Obviously with time, children grow. Would you like your child to be one of the bigger ones in the class? The biggest children in the class aren’t the most bullied (unless we are talking about a weight issue which is different). Instead, what I have found is they are usually the leaders of the class other children look up to. Sometimes, they wind up being a bully but that is more of a parenting issue or a teacher’s lack of control.
3. Athletics- For the sake of kindergarten, this doesn’t matter but as time goes along, it certainly does. It’s advantageous for any child to be one of the older ones on a school’s sports team. Although sports shouldn’t dictate when a child goes to school, it can be considered with points 1 and 2.
There are some who will argue that their children are ready for school and in some cases it’s true. I have close friends, for example, whose child is one of the youngest in his class; yet one of the smartest. Also, the school he goes to is a blue ribbon school which basically means they have tested in the top 10% in the country of Catholic schools in the last seven years. He is certainly an exception to the rule.
In most cases, what I find are parents who decide to send their child to school merely because he/she is 5 and going to school at the age is the social norm. They believe the child is “ready” but I question if that should be the criteria.
With my youngest child, it’s true that he would be ready for kindergarten by the time he is 5. But, readiness isn’t my criteria. I am looking to give him more academic time in a one on one environment which you do not get in school. Certainly, this won’t hurt my child to say the least. More importantly, it should help down the road and has certainly paid important dividends for his older brother where the same tactics, in essence, were implemented.
While I acknowledge each parent has to decide for themselves what is best, I have heard few counterarguments once the facts are on the table. The only good exception I have heard is if the parent doesn’t bother to work with their child and watches trashy talk shows all day. In that case, please disregard this post and send your child to school as early as you possibly can.
I will be writing to you again Friday. Until then, have a terrific week!