Three Reasons to Delay Kindergarten

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!

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  1. TheNextMartha says:

    My older sons birthday falls in the middle of the school year so holding him back was not thought of. My younger son has a summer birthday. The norm in my area IS to hold back boys that have late birthdays. I will not be holding him back. Your logic with maturity and success is somewhat flawed. The argument should be that a child may not be emotionally mature enough to handle the stress of starting school. Not that a year of maturity will possibly relate to success in academics.

    • First Jen- thanks for your comment. Though I certainly see and respect where you are coming from, I'm sticking to my guns. Even if a child is emotionally mature enough, there are so many more benefits to holding them back. This opinion is intertwined with the fact though that parents who hold their children back are willing to work with them while they are home.

      I've been very fortunate to have met several outstanding kindergarten teachers and watch their classes in action. Being a former first grade teacher, I'm acutely aware of their abilities. Comparing their outstanding work though with what I've accomplished with my oldest child (by keeping him out of a 5 day program) is, in essence, no comparison. Again, this is a very personal decision but I don't recall ever meeting someone who gave their child an extra year at home and regretted it. My youngest child will be reaping these benefits as well so I obviously hope to duplicate my success.

  2. Becky Jane says:

    I'm going to write my response before I read your post. That way you'll get my real feelings!
    I never did like the kindergarten age being 5. They are still too young. They usually love interacting with the kids, but they get too tired and cranky. I've waited to send my kids when they were older. My husbands mother sent him to kindergarten when he was 4 years old. He has commented several times about how difficult is was for him. None of my kids have been bullies, so being older made them more of a friend to the smaller kids.

    I also feel that a parent should look at the maturity level of the child and not just their age. Sometimes we get impatient and want to get our kids in school as soon as we can so we can pursue our own desires whether it be a job, getting the house to ourselves etc. The child's mental and physical capabilities should be a big factor in when they are ready for school.

  3. OneMommy says:

    As a former teacher myself, I have to say even as they get older, the younger kids seemed to fall more under others' influences… At first I considered putting my daughter in preschool this year and possibly kindergarten next year. Her birthday is in October, and she would have to test in early as she would be 4 at the start of kindergarten. Then I really began to think about it… Waiting until she is 5 and turning 6 at the start of the school year will be so much more beneficial to her. Not just in her learning, but in her maturity levels and dealing with peers.

  4. Tracy says:

    I have a different opinion. I'm sure some kids truly should be held back. However, it seems some parents are making this the norm without any "real" reason, other than the birth date on the calendar. My son turned 5 in early June. He just started kindergarten. He is completely ready, he loves it, he's very smart, he's mature enough. I know of kids whose birthdays are 1 month later, and they are being held back. Again, for some kids, there are genuine reasons why they should be held back. However, I personally think it's nonsense (sorry!) for a child to be held back just so he can be the biggest…or just so he can be viewed as smarter because he is older. What does this do to the kids who start kindergarten on time? If all parents start holding their kids back it will turn into a never ending cycle of kids being held back. Then, no one will start school until 6 or 7, and what will that do to the future of our educational system? Unless the child has a learning disability or something similar which would prohibit them from fulfilling their own potential, then they should not be held back. My daughter will miss the cut-off for kindergarten, so she will be in preschool a full extra year. She would be ready for kindergarten when she turns 5, but the state will not allow her to go. Because of this, she will be bored with the curriculum, and as parents our hands are tied. I think many (not most) parents need to toughen up, let little Johnny grow up as he should, and not keep him under a bubble because they are afraid he may not be the best or the biggest. Great topic.

  5. Jessica @FoundtheMar says:

    I have mixed feelings about Kindergarten. My son misses the cutoff by a few weeks and I do feel like he'll end up in the right place in the long run.

  6. We kept our daughter home an extra year (June birthday) and have not regretted the decision for one moment. In making our decision we talked with many experts, all who said that delaying a year will NEVER hurt the child — can only help. (Especially those close to the cut-off date).

    Our decision was ultimately made when we looked at the kids in high school (my son is a senior this year) — the young ones, who will graduate before or near their 18th birthday, generally struggled socially and emotionally more than the older kids. I'd rather have my daughter lead her peers than be led away by them. (My son has a middle of the pack birthday and went to kindergarten at 5).

    Great article.