Nowhere does educational bureaucracy of the public school system cause more havoc than when a parent is forced to decide if their child born in summer should head to kindergarten or hang back for a year. While heading to school ensures the kid will be attending with children who claim the same age, it also means that they have one less year of preschool than their classmates born in October. And that’s the least complicated scenario on a list of fairly complicated scenarios.
“Technically the young August child may be two years difference if someone did hold their old August child back,” explains Nancy Gretzinger, Ed D, a retired educator with over 40 years of experience. That’s a distinct gap in experience for a young kid and could make the first year of Kindergarten a struggle.
READ MORE: The Fatherly Guide to Kindergarten
That said, Gretzinger notes that parents have a variety of reasons they might want to send their kid to Kindergarten right away, rather than hold back. She suggests some parents might want to keep kids with friends they’ve developed an attachment too or even siblings. Other parents may want to get a child into the public school to eliminate the costs of childcare. Finally, many parents might simply believe their child to be ready. Getzinger is used to hearing the phrase, “They’re so smart.” When this happens, she urges parents to get as much confirmation as possible on apparent precosciousness.
“Many schools have registration the prior spring before for planning purposes,” she says. “Typically, this may also include a kindergarten readiness screening.”
These screenings look at skills that are expected for kids going into Kindergarten and also check skills that are helpful but not required. On the expected front, children going into Kindergarten should be able to know and print their first name, know and draw shapes and recognize their colors. They should also know their phone number, be able to separate easily from their parents and engage in parallel play.
The list of skills that ease the Kindergarten learning but aren’t mandatory include knowing, and being able to print, the alphabet and being able to recognize the simple consonant-vowel-consonant words (called CVC words). It is important to note however that some school district may have different requirements.
How to Decide if an August Baby is Ready to Go to School
- Check to see if they can meet the educational requirements for Kindergarten entry — including knowing and printing their name, being able to recognize and draw shapes, and knowing their colors.
- Understand if they are able to meet the social requirements for Kindergarten, including easy separation from you and your partner and the ability to easily parallel play.
Learn the local community norm as to when summer children are generally sent to school.
- Consider holding a child back who appears to be slightly behind the developmental curve compared to their peers.
- Keep in mind that holding a child back before kindergarten has far fewer repercussions that holding them back once they’ve entered the school system.
But knowledge isn’t the only consideration to make according to psychologist and author of Laugh More, Yell Less: A Guide to Raising Kick-Ass Kids Dr. Robert Zeitlin. “What’s the local norm?” he encourages parents to ask. “Is it a school district where parents take an extra year before kindergarten so they’re more developmentally ready for challenges in middle school, high school, and athletics?” He notes that this is an important consideration. “The way education is going, we’re skipping so many steps in socialization and play and the necessary building blocks for 21st-century skills we should be building in kids.”
He feels that keeping a kid back in preschool allows a child to develop more skills before heading into what he considers has become essentially a 1st-grade curriculum. Plus, he notes, holding a child back after they actually get into the school is more deleterious in terms of educational outcomes. Not only does it affect the perspective of teachers, administration, and peers, it can also affect a child’s view of themselves.
“If you suspect your child is slightly behind the curve developmentally, and if you can afford to, take the opportunity to retain them before kindergarten,” Zeitlin says. “At least 75 percent of the time, I’d recommend parents consider that.”