How to Know if Your Child is Ready for Kindergarten
Having a mulit-subject credential, a Master's Degree in Education, and having been a third grade teacher, I am frequently asked about kindergarten readiness. As a teacher, I saw children that would have greatly benefited if their parents had held them back to start kindergarten a year later. Since I have an innate interest in the topic of school readiness I have done a lot of research on the subject. Because of this, I have been asked the question many times, "Do you think I should send my son/daughter to kindergarten this year, or should I wait?
Is My Child Ready for Kindergarten?
The quick answer: In most cases, I would advise parents to wait if possible. It is very uncommon for parents to regret the decision to have their child be on the older side for their grade. However, it is very common to hear parents say they wish they had waited to send their child to kindergarten. I have known many parents send their children to a separate school for a year to repeat a grade. This is especially true once a child is in high school. My advice, if you can afford it, hold your child back and research a good Montessori preschool that will challenge them and get them ready for kindergarten.
Julia graduating from preschool
How to Know if your Child is Ready for Kindergarten?
Whether or not to send your child to kindergarten is a concern for many parents. We all want our children to succeed and whether or not you choose to put your child in kindergarten when they're four or five can have a great influence on their success. In the United States there is a cut off date for beginning kindergarten. In California today, students must be five by September 1st to enter school. However, parents can choose to hold their child back a year if they feel it will be an advantage. When our girls were starting kindergarten, the cut-off date for school was Dec. 1. They have late November birthdays. The school district would have permitted them to begin kindergarten at four; however, we chose for them to wait a year to begin kindergarten. I will give our reasoning for holding them back, and why I felt like it was the best option for our family.
The below chart is a basic starting point on the kindergarten readiness scale. All of the points do not have to be 100% fulfilled to enter kindergarten, it is just a foundation. Most schools would recommend that If your child is missing all or most of the criteria, it would be a wise decision to keep your child back a year. On a personal note, while this might be a measurement for schools to use to determine readiness, I would recommend that most or all of the criteria be met, plus a few more to actually start kindergarten.
Our Experience in Elementary, Middle, and High School
Our girls that are old for their grades are in middle and high school now. It has been a great decision for us to have them be old for their grade. They are at the top of their class, adjust well socially, and are not overly stressed about the rigor of academics. Both of them were reading early (at the age of three because I'm a teacher) and had no behavior issues. However, I'm still happy with our decision. Especially if you have a child that has a lot of energy, I would highly recommend an extra year of preschool. It is easy to recognize, even at the high school level, the students that are old for their grade and the ones that are young.
As an aside, many schools will advise you to send your child to kindergarten early, but you don't have to. Do what is right for your child and family.
Basic Kindergarten Readiness Scale
Motor Skills and Self-Care
Knows their ABCs - recognizes letters
Can control themselves
Has small motor coordination - can manipulate small objects
Can pay attention
Relates to adults and children
Has general large motor coordination
Can express own feelings
Can take care of their own basic needs, e.g., go to the bathroom on own
Can count at least 10 objects
Follows simple directions
Is willing and eager to learn
Engages with literature
Can solve basic problems
Can express needs and wants
Can write their own first name
Plays well with peers
Can recognize rhymes
Particpates in class time
Is My Child Emotionally and Intellectually Ready for School?
Even if your child displays most or all of the above criteria, it is still not a given that they should absolutely start kindergarten. For example, our daughters would have passed the above criteria to begin kindergarten when they were 4. However, we were convinced that it would only benefit them to have an extra year of development—physically, emotionally, and academically. I realize that for many families, this is not an option. Preschool is very expensive and public schools are virtually free. However, if you are able to pay for another year of preschool, it can be a huge advantage for your child.
Malcolm Gladwell in his book The Outliers discusses the advantage of holding children back a year in kindergarten and the long lasting effects on their education. Children that are more emotionally and intellectually ready to learn in kindergarten are grouped accordingly, thus they are learning more and are pushed more than the other students in the class. They aren't necessarily smarter than their peers, but they are being challenged in a way that will benefit them in the long run. Most-likely those students will continue to be put in the more challenging groups for reading and math and continue to excel. These small advantages in the beginning lead to larger advantages over the years.
One study conducted by Kelly Bedard and Elisabeth Dhuey looked at Math and Science tests of fourth graders. They found that on average those students that were older scored between four and twelve percentile points higher than their younger counterparts. The difference in scores could make the difference in making the cutoff for a gifted and talented program or other extra programs that further the gap.
Another interesting point that Gladwell discusses is a teacher's mistake of judging emotional maturity for intellectual maturity. Students that are older are able to sit for longer periods of time and act in a manner that is more acceptable to a classroom. While students that aren't emotionally mature aren't necessarily any less intelligent, their teachers may see them as such because they aren't emotionally ready to learn yet.
A child's confidence is also an enormous factor in their success. If your son/daughter legitimately sees themselves as a top student in the class, they most likely will live up to this expectation. Plus, when school isn't frustrating and extremely difficult, it becomes more fun, which begins a life-long love for learning.
If you are still unsure if your child is ready for kindergarten, take the quiz below, and I'll let you know what I think. ;)
Is My Child Ready for Kindergarten Quizview quiz statistics
After taking the quiz, I'm going to send my child to kindergarten
Questions & Answers
Wouldn't it make more sense to hold your child back if they struggled in kindergarten? I feel as parents we should at least see how they fair before making a decision. I would rather them repeat kindergarten than Pre-K. To redo circle time, play time, and nap just seems like a waste.
Most districts make it very, very difficult to repeat kindergarten. I've known parents that had to escalate to the superintendent to hold their child back in kindergarten. There's also a stigma for the child that isn't moving on, which isn't great for their self-esteem. I would suggest a Montessori preschool for older preschool children. Our daughters actually learned more academics in their preschool than they did in kindergarten.