You’ve investigated the age requirements. You’ve checked bus and/or babysitting schedules. These factors all say your child is ready to start kindergarten. But is he really? There are some important factors to consider before enrolling your child in school.
For one thing, consider your child’s physical readiness. If he still takes a nap, will school interfere with that schedule? Many schools have returned to a half-day kindergarten schedule because of budget constraints, so it may be possible to enroll your child in a morning program if he needs an afternoon nap, but you should investigate the likelihood before going further in the process.
Size is another physical factor to consider. A child small for his age, particularly if he comes from a family of small people, may have particular difficulty in school. The problems don’t usually occur in kindergarten, but by the time he and his classmates are in middle school, size can make a huge difference, particularly if your child’s maturation rate is behind those of larger children.
Fine motor skills should also be part of the decision to start kindergarten. If your child has trouble gripping a pencil or crayon for extended periods, much school work will be difficult. For instance, to learn the alphabet, most teachers require students to trace the letters on a worksheet or in a workbook. If your child has little control over the pencil, he will not be able to follow the lines well and will likely become frustrated. If you decide to wait because of fine motor skills, use activities over the year to strengthen the fingers. Modeling clay and rubber balls are items that can be used to help work the muscles.
You should also consider your child’s social readiness to start kindergarten. Children who have had regular contact with other children tend to adjust more readily to school. If your child has been to daycare or has spent significant time with other children in the neighborhood, the transition to kindergarten will likely be easier. However, the age of those children and the kind of relationship they have with your child need to be taken into account. If he is very close to them and they are a year younger, you might want to wait to start kindergarten so he can have some friends in his class, easing the transition.
Obviously, you need to think about your child’s learning readiness to start kindergarten, as well. If he can already read, recite the alphabet, do basic counting and so on, keeping him out of school another year can lead to boredom in classes in the future. Children who are bored may get poor grades or act out. Kindergartners may not be able to skip class, but they can be very good at feigning illness to avoid going to school when they are bored.
On the other hand, if your child struggles with these basic concepts, waiting a year to start school might be more appropriate. Although many parents think of kindergarten as the year to learn such concepts, the truth is that many children start kindergarten with this knowledge already in hand. While it is not necessary that your child learn the basics before starting school, the ability to comprehend them is needed.
If you are unsure if your child is ready to start kindergarten, contact your school district. They often have materials or programs to help evaluate student academic readiness. While age is important in determining whether or not a child is ready to start kindergarten, it should not be the only factor. Spending a little extra time working with your child and examining his readiness can make his entire learning experience better.