Question: My son turns five in May. Even though he is old enough to start kindergarten this fall, many have advised me to consider holding my son back a year stating both academic and social benefits. Does this seem to be the trend right now? I believe he is a normal five-year-old boy. On one hand, I don’t want to hold him back if he is ready. Yet on the other, I don’t want to regret later the opportunity to give him the advantage of another year to mature. Help?
Answer: I am asked this question probably more than any other from the mothers and fathers of my four year old children. The answer, unfortunately, is not always clear from the start. There are many questions to answer and evaluate in order to make a good decision. Let me cover a few.
First, I will agree that many parents are delaying the start of kindergarten if their child has a summer birthday. Especially with boys, a spring time birthday is considered as a good cut-off. The decision to delay the start of kindergarten is many times not a result of an apparent slow learner, but more often a decision to give their child extra time to prepare for academic readiness. So you must ask yourself, if and how your child would benefit from this decision. Write out both short term and long term benefits that you see.
Second, I would suggest that you evaluate the foundation of your child’s readiness for kindergarten. The best test is not if they can recognize letters or read me a sentence or even spell their name, but are they outgoing, happy, and creative children. These traits are often the precursor to good students. I would also be aware of their development of senses, coordination and cognition. Children develop at different rates and that’s okay. I do have this observation. I have never had a parent regret their decision to wait a year, while I have had parents regret starting them when they were not ready.
Third, I would encourage you to make this decision based on the sole needs and benefits of your child. Instead of trying to comply with the current trend or what your friends are doing, think of meeting the needs of your son alone. Parental ego can get in the way of what is best for your child. Push that aside and evaluate with the end in mind. The decision you make today will in some way determine what his success or failure will be when he is eighteen. If your child could benefit from an additional year of nurturing and developing, give him that opportunity. If you sense your child is ready to go, encourage and support him as he starts his formal academic career.
Finally, let me tell you about a program we are offering next fall. Our Kindergarten Bridge Program is designed to meet the needs of the five year old child who would like to wait a year before starting kindergarten. Instead of repeating four year old pre-kindergarten curriculum, a special program has been designed to begin kindergarten concepts along with other more age appropriate and challenging learning manipulatives.