Why I worry about Kindergarten

Emby will be born after September 1rst…this means she will be 5 on the first day of Kindergarten (according to most district’s rules) and turn 6 about ten weeks into the school year.

Many people will say “so what?”

Not my husband and I.  We are both October babies, born when the deadline was much more fluid, and who both entered kindergarten at age 4, turning five at some point in the first ten weeks of the school year.  We were both more than academically ready to do so, and in fact, were both offered the chance to be skipped a year or two within the first three years of school.  While neither of our families chose to take advantage of that offer, we were both often either at the top of our class or bored or both in school  We both started college at 17 going on 18.

I am already worried about this for Emby.  If she takes after my husband and I, holding her back a year would accomplish nothing for her, except to create a fight on our part to get her skipped immediately.  Or it will cost us between one and two years of private school tuition (no small amount of money in the Greater Boston area) to force her into first or second grade on the schedule that we feel is appropriate, which will both cost her up to two years of socialization with her local peer and two years of college tuition from our bank account.  At the moment, there is only one town that we could move to that would allow us to pay a fee to have her evaluated for K readiness at 4 and accepted into K if she tests well.  The catch is that town is close to an hour away from husband’s work, which is not the commute we would prefer to have.

A solution to this would, of course, simply to be to homeschool Emby and any siblings she may have through middle school and send them to a private high school or to the appropriate public high school ready for the honors/AP track.  I’m not sure that’s the right move.  Husband and I are very geeky and not incredibly well socialized (or weren’t until college) and I’d like to spare E and her siblings that awkwardness if at all possible.

Another solution is to suck it up and pay the private school tuition.  We could afford it, especially if I return to work, but we dislike the idea of setting her up with one peer group and then changing her world again a year or two later.  I’m more ambivalent about this idea and often find myself leaning towards it.

Another solution is to delay her to the district’s start date and then use my “insider” knowledge of how to manipulate the system.  I could probably have her in first grade within a few months once we provided the correct data and privately paid for assessments.  However, she would go through a lot of upheaval in those first few months of school, and have to readjust mid-year.  I would probably walk out with a less than friendly relationship with my principal and school board, as I know firsthand what kind of strong personality it takes to force a district into something like that.

Finally, there is a chance that I could force a district to accept her early with the appropriate testing.  This is a much less slim chance and would probably still necessitate her ending up at a private school for a year or two as the age requirement at most extends through grade 1.

You can ask me why I care when I still have 14 weeks and some odd days of gestation until my due date.  My answer is that education is my god and as a teacher, I understand all too well how schools work in their own best interests and not the children’s far too often.  Just watch a family trying to get the special education services their child needs and all the hoops and excuses a school will make rather than pay for a one on one aide (for example).  I understand why the school does this, from a budget and class size perspective as well, but it’s hard to have sympathy for that when I’m more than happy to pay higher taxes to help fix these crises.  It’s also hard to have empathy when I have an equivalent degree to husband and make 1/4 his salary because I’m a teacher.

So with all that in mind, it makes my head explode to hear about parents calculating the advantages to holding their kid BACK a year, choosing to wait to start K until their child is six because it might mean higher test scores later.  Or that some states are pushing back the birthdate deadline to September 1 or earlier when possible because they think a child who waits to start school will be “more confident” and “less likely to drop out,” (neither of which I buy for a second, after having worked with a high-risk population).

Holding kids back so that they appear smarter only results in bored kids, not “smarter” kids.

I would kill for the chance to live in a district with a December 1 cut-off or the chance to pay to have my child evaluated for K readiness at 4 with a real chance of attending K in fall of 2013.

Yet, if it were that Emby wasn’t ready for K at 4 going on 5, I would choose to hold her back, and I would support other parents doing so as well.  It’s certainly close to impossible to hold a kid back once they’re IN school in many districts.  But there’s a chasm miles wide between a child who isn’t ready developmentally or intellectually and a child who is being held back by parents who think doing so will net them admission to Harvard or MIT as opposed to a “second tier” university.

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One Response to Why I worry about Kindergarten

  1. My daughter will turn 5 at the end of January. Here the cutoff is the end of December. If the child is born between September and December, the parents can hold him/her back from first grade with no evaluation. But pushing ahead is hard. When I tried to get my March-born son into first grade early, I was told there was no way he was ready. But his skills were more uneven than my daughter’s. We ended up skipping him from 3rd to 5th, which was traumatic. My daughter reads two languages, has great social and fine and large motor skills, etc. I cannot see having her be the oldest in her group when she enters first grade next year (when the decision is made; her 4 and 5yos are together here. There’s no concept of kindergarten.). But I think they will give me a hard time because her Hebrew vocabulary is smaller than most kids her age. Of course, things may change over the course of the year.

    I was born in November, and passed a standard test to go to first grade early. I was very small for my age. It was hard socially, but not academically. I think it was definitely the right decision and boredom is an issue. But when a child is borderline, it is not always clear cut. The social issues can be critical.

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