I was chatting with my 4 1/2-year-old's teacher today, just after I dropped my daughter off at school. My daughter spent last week at a local camp with her older siblings, and really missed her Pre-K teachers and classmates while she was gone, opting to return to school instead of spending a second week playing sports and making crafts at camp.
Her teacher wasn't surprised. My little girl, she said, smiling, "just loves her books and puzzles. And she still seems to need that rest time in the middle of the day. This fall, depending on which Kindergarten class she's in, she won't get that, so you'll need to transition her before September."
Except my daughter won't be going to Kindergarten in September. Her birthday nearly two months after the Sept. 1 cutoff date in our town. Which means that, even if she's ready, she can't go.
According to MassachusettsPreschools.org,
it's a pretty common situation. "The problem is that this kindergarten age cut off, out of necessity, is arbitrary and does not take into account developmental milestones achieved or academic skills developed by individual children."
So, why have a cut off at all? Andrea Evans writes:
"Because of increased pressures around standardized testing in the second and third grades, kindergarten has become much more 'academic' in nature." In order to give their kids an edge, some parents have decided to "redshirt" their 5-year-olds in the hope that, by enrolling them in Kindergarten when they're a full year older, they'll be better able to handle the academic and social challenges that come with starting school.
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports that about 9 percent of
children entering kindergarten are redshirted each year; the number is higher among boys and in more affluent areas (where, presumably, paying for childcare isn't as much of a problem).
Experts are on the fence as to whether redshirting really gives youngesters an advantage. A report in Science Daily
says that any academic edge the child gains is short-lived: Older kindergarten students scored 24 percentage points higher than their younger peers during the first few months, but the lead narrowed to just 4 percentage points by the time the students were in the eighth grade.
But what about parents in my predicament, with children who seem ready at too-early an age?
Turns out we have a few options. Children who attend private kindergarted can often go right into first grade when they're done (at least in my town). We could continue with preschool for another year, supplementing with plenty of trips to the library and more challenging work at home, if she seems bored. Some people choose to homeschool, and find that learning at home works best for their kids. I'm thinking that we'll stick with her current preschool, and see whether she seems happy or bored this time next year.