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Mom's Talk

Parents, not the calendar, should decide when a child takes the kindergarten plunge.

It’s August and most parents are trying to squeeze in the rest of their planned summer fun activities before the new school year begins.

While many parents are beginning to prepare their children for the start of the school year, there are plenty of other parents who are wondering if they should even send their child to school. I’m talking about parents with children who have those pesky late birthdays.  Many often question whether they should send their “ber” birthday child (meaning a child born in the months of September to December) to kindergarten when they are not yet 5 or if they should wait another year before sending the child. The State of Connecticut recently asked itself these questions and tossed around the idea of changing the kindergarten entrance date from the current Jan. 1 to Oct. 1 meaning that a child would have to be five years old prior to Oct. 1 to enter kindergarten. The measure ultimately did not gain enough support in the General Assembly to pass but it certainly had a lot of parents talking about it at the playground!

Many feel that there are so many requirements on the children now in kindergarten that what’s wrong with allowing the child to be a kid for one more year, and there are others who feel their child is bored and needs the challenge of school. There is no right or wrong answer here and in my experience the answer that most parents give to this question is determined by whether they did or did not send their “ber” birthday child to school or held them back. For those parents that ultimately decided it was best for their child to wait another year, the answer is typically that there have been zero regrets about holding their child back. However, there are just as many on the other side of the aisle who feel that the best decision for their child was to send them at age 4. But these are answers to the question after the fact.  The question remains, how do you know if your child is ready for kindergarten at age 4?

Some children do exceptionally well despite their birthday being during the later part of the calendar. Others do not. I was always the youngest child in the class yet I always succeeded in school. My sister who was also the youngest in her class always struggled. Every child is different and to make a decision simply by the date of their birthday seems a little arbitrary. As parents we can and should be able to determine whether or not our child is ready to take the kindergarten plunge. I know that as a parent of three children they are all very different (and all with late birthdays!).

A friend of mine has a son with a birthday in November. She originally set out to hold her child back a year by enrolling him in a 3-year old preschool program when he was about to turn 4. At the time this seemed the best for her son considering he had a tough time separating from his mom and seemed immature. One year later, and rather than sending him to the 4-year old preschool program, she is now sending him off to kindergarten. The boy seemed to mature throughout the year and in April knew all of his letters, upper and lower, and their appropriate sounds. 

Time will tell if the decision to send him to kindergarten was the best, but when time is not on your side, it is often best to rely on that mother’s intuition. Parents know their children well and often have a feeling of what the best choice will be for their child. However, if the parent is not sure, there are several people that they can contact to assist them in their decision making. These resources include the child’s daycare and/or preschool provider and the teachers and specialists at the elementary school who can assess the child to determine if he/she is kindergarten ready.

Remember the right decision is the one that you, the parent, feel good about!

Editor's note: Have a suggestion for a Mom's Talk subject? If so, please feel free to email the author or michael.bartolotta@patch.com.

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