The Great Debate

In his current “class” at “school” (I use those terms very loosely, as he is four and preschool is still daycare) Alex is one of the youngest. In fact, he may be the total youngest. With a birthday at the very end of August and cutoffs around this area of September 1st for Kindergarten, I realized a while back that his age could potentially be an issue.

An “issue” only in that I am scared. I am scared that it is an issue.

As the youngest in his class at school, he isn’t the most advanced. He isn’t the fastest; he hasn’t learned the most letters; he isn’t as close to writing out full sentences as some of the other kids; he has trouble sitting still for as long as they want them to. As the kids turn 5 month by month and Alex is still closer to 4 than 5, as the teachers have approached us with concerns that he is talking too much during circle time and isn’t picking up on his writing like his classmates, I worry. The teachers aren’t particularly worried, but just the fact that they brought it to my attention makes me feel like a worrywart.


I find myself doing all of this comparison that I swore I really don’t do much of these days. And I still swear I don’t. I got over most of it when I saw, time and time again, that kids are all different! It seems so obvious, I know, but it took me a while.

And now, here I am, back to comparing. I don’t want to be. I don’t want to be worried about whether my kid is smart. I don’t want to be worried about whether he will be athletic. I don’t want to be worried that he, like me!, will be called a “chatterbox” and be removed from activities in early elementary school. I don’t want to worry that he will be too young and the teachers won’t recognize that he is young and then blame his inability to sit still on ADHD or some such nonsense.

He’s four.

Four year old boys don’t sit still. And four year old boys will talk to their friends if they are sat next to each other. A four year old boy will throw things. And fight. And wrestle. And scream. And my four year old will always choose building with blocks over working on his letters. Every. Single. Time.

With many months of living ahead of Alex, I see his classmates and think, “Wow! Look at them go!” But…they are older. And, quite frankly, it doesn’t even matter. Every kid is different. Even if they weren’t older, I tell myself, it wouldn’t matter that they are writing their name better. It wouldn’t matter that they can recognize the whole alphabet and Alex can’t.

So, in a few months we will be receiving information in the mail about enrolling Alex in Kindergarten. The “Big K.” Real Kindergarten, in our public school system. Real Kindergarten, with the cut off date 3 days after Alex’s birthday. And here I am, wondering. Worrying. Contemplating.

At the end of the day, I want him to do the best he can do. I want him to learn the most he can learn. I want him to be as smart as he can be. I want him to be challenged, but not to the extent that he feels stupid. I don’t ever want him to feel stupid. I want him to like school. I want him to be enthralled by learning.

So, at the end of the day? I think we are going to give him another year. At his current daycare there is a full day, legitimate, Kindergarten program. I think we are going to let him do that. Another year to determine the best route for him (and us!) to take. Maybe after this Kindergarten year he will be ready for first grade. Or maybe another year will help us determine that he is a little boy and should be one of the oldest in his class instead of one of the youngest.


6 thoughts on “The Great Debate

  1. I know lots of Moms in your predicament and most of them have chosen to hold their children back a year. It has been a good choice. It seems that a lot of kids were already 6 when Liam started K at 5.5. He wasn’t the youngest but he was by no means the oldest either. I think if Alex isn’t quite *there* yet, giving him another year is a good choice for him.

    Also, I don’t know how your school district is but in mine, Kindergarten registration is RIGHT NOW. In fact, it was TODAY at our elementary school. They start the process so early it’s a bit shocking. That’s not to say that you can’t register him later if you choose. Also, I never got information sent to my home about it. I had to talk with a neighbor whose kids were already in school to find out the registration date and then I took Liam and showed up to register.

    Anyway, you guys will make the best decision for Alex and if it’s waiting that won’t put him behind in some way or strange to his classmates.

  2. Jack is only three, and you know I’m already agonizing over this. He is just a few weeks past the cut-off and part of me has always said that he is a smart kid so I should fight the cut-off. But then there is that other, protective part of me that wants him to have the best shot at success.

    In talking to multiple teachers, I’ve come to the conclusion that not fighting is going to be our best option. I have a close friend who teaches 8th grade. He told me that absolutely without a doubt, do not put Jack in kindergarten early. He can easily tell (in 8th grade!) the kids who started a few weeks early or who were right on the cut-off. It’s usually more of a maturity thing than anything else, according to him.

    I know that this is a tough topic and a hard decision, but for us, it is made a little easier because we adore our preschool. They don’t have a kindergarten class, but they do have a dedicated room for 5 year olds that is designed for those kids that are like our boys, close to the cut-off. I have no doubt that they will do everything they can to keep him engaged and learning.

    It’s apparent from talking to you and reading this that you have Alex’s best interests in mind and THAT will help him be successful his whole life.

  3. Hi, Allison. My son’s birthday is on 9/1 (and I’m an 8/31 baby!). We decided to do exactly what you are suggesting — my son went through the accredited kindergarten program at his daycare center and then again at school the following year. There were a few times in his “second” kindergarten experience where he may have exceled past the other children, but more often than not he was on par with them in terms of maturity and ability to pay attention, which is a huge part of school. I’d also say that being in the school environment makes it a completely different experience. At daycare they sit down for school, but then most likely clear those same tables and the kids can play; it’s not the same as being at school just for school.

    We were happy with our experience — my son is 10 now and in 4th grade and doing great. Go with your gut. You can’t go wrong, imo, with this path — he can go through the daycare program and then would be eligible to go right into first grade if you and the teachers think he is really ready, or he can go through kindergarten in school-school. Hope this helps — and all best to you! – Susan (formerly of One-Woman Show)

  4. You have to do what you feel is right – regardless of what anyone thinks. I have always felt that having them be a little older & ahead is better than having them fall behind because they aren’t ready.

  5. My son is also a late August birthday. The questions to be asking his preschool teachers are: Is his behavior AGE-appropriate? If so, you’ve got nothing to worry about. Is his learning academically appropriate?

    The hold-back rate, especially up here in the Northern Suburbs, is high. My district has something like a 50% hold-back rate.

    How this affects Alex (or not, depending on the hold-back rate where you are) is that the teachers begin to expect Kindergarten children to act like six-year-olds, not five-year-olds.

    I had this struggle with The Girl Band, who we grade advanced in kindergarten. The first semester was rough, but her teacher knew her and would have to stop and remind herself that The Girl Band’s behavior was AGE appropriate — NOT what has become grade appropriate. By the time January rolled around, The Girl Band had caught up to her classmates, behaviorally. By May, she’d gone beyond them, even the kid who was seven. (Academics were never an issue. I probably could have put that kid in first grade instead of kindergarten and she’d have been fine. Academically.)

    Hang in there, Allison. It’s a toughie, so don’t hesitate to holler if you need to talk to someone who’s been there.

  6. Let me say that #1, I get it. Our Abby was born Aug 31, so she is the very last day before the cutoff. So I hear you.

    We sent her to Kindergarten – we thought she was ready, especially socially, by the time the time came. I still think about it sometimes, but honestly, I never think it would have been better for her or her classmates to wait another whole year to send her. I do think sometimes about her lack of focus, and inability to sit through a task and complete it, but I think that is her personality, and not an age-defined characteristic. You may think of some things like that – like the fact that Alex will always choose building over practicing letters. That might just be inherently “Alex” and not due to the fact that he is younger than some of his peers.

    I won’t push you either way, but I just wanted to put out there that we thought through some of this, but never really considered it an option to wait another year, considering how well Abby handled daycare/Pre-K and such.

    Every child and situation is different, and only you guys know your son best. Good luck!

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