Kindergarten Choices

Kindergarten Choices
30 Days to a Better Life
By: Mary-Ann Maloney
Your child is five-years-old. Does that mean she should go to kindergarten? Not in today's world. Kindergarten has changed drastically over the years. Some teachers are seeing five year olds coming to school already reading!
Nadine Mainor has taught kindergarten for more than twenty years. She says today's kindergarten was first grade ten or fifteen years ago. In Mrs. Mainor's class at St. Vincent's Elementary in Cape Girardeau students are expected to sit for long periods throughout the day and focus on the work at hand. Kindergarteners are spelling, working on vocabularies and even rhymes. The school day runs from 7:30 in the morning until 3 in the afternoon. Not every child is ready for that.
How do you know if your child is ready for school? Debbie Landgraf has been teaching preschool for more than thirty years. She says you have to look at your child and decide for yourself whether or not he's ready to go. Can he sit and listen to the teacher or is he poking his finger at his friend sitting next to him? Can he play with others? Does he ask lots of questions? Is he excited to learn? If so, your child may be ready to go to school.
My son Griffin turns five in June. While we believe that academically he could hang with his class, we're not sure if he's mature enough to handle kindergarten just yet. Although he could go next fall, my husband Andrew and I have decided to hold him for a year. Selfishly, it gives us one more year with him. We know that once school starts, we'll be busier than ever, our influence in Griffin's life will lessen and before we know it, he'll be in college. Maybe it's us who aren't ready! Seriously, we figure Griffin will be in school for a lot of years so why not enjoy being a kid for just one more? He's always one of the youngest in his classes, down the road we think it would be better to be one of the oldest.
Zoe Koetting is more than a month younger than Grififn, but she's going to school this fall. Her parents, Pat and Robin Koetting, have kept in close contact with Zoe's teachers over the years and they tell them Zoe is ready to move on to kindergarten. In fact, Zoe gets up every morning and asks her mom if she's five yet because she wants to go to kindergarten so badly!
Educators will tell you there is a difference between girls and boys when it comes to school. Girls usually arrive ready to learn and please their teacher. Boys typically aren't as excited about being there and aren't as eager to please. They do catch on though as the year progresses.
The principal at St. Vincents, Nancy Heberlie, tells me that usually all children do fine in kindergarten. Trouble starts to appear in the second, third and fourth grades. That's when some students start to fall behind. Many of them are boys who just weren't ready for kindergarten and now it's finally caught up to them.
There are a lot of things to consider. If you hold your child, they'll be one of the oldest in their class. That could help them study more easily. They'll be the first to get their drivers license. A little maturity goes a long way. Perhaps they'd make better choices in life if they're a bit older.
Ultimately whether a child goes to kindergarten at age five or six, is a personal decision. No one knows your child like you do. If you think she's ready, then send her. But if you have some doubts, Debbie Landgraf advises that you follow your heart. It will never hurt a child to be held back, she says. However, it could hurt a child if they go too soon. Mrs. Landgraf says she's never had a parent tell her that they wish they had sent their child to school. Rather, she says, parents tell her they wish they had held him or her because they learned too late, their child wasn't ready. Five is not a magic number.
Here are a few things to look for in your child to determine if she's ready to go to school.
Is your child enthusiastic about learning? Are they curious about things around them? Does she ask lots of questions?
Does he have solid oral-language skills? Research shows that one of the best predictors of later reading success is a well-developed vocabulary in kindergarten.
Does she have the ability to listen? Students must be able to concentrate on what the teacher is saying, listen carefully for directions and tune in to the sounds in letters and words.
Does your son have the desire to be independent? Independence is critical for your child to adjust to school. Can he get his coat on and off and hang it up by himself? Can he go to the bathroom and wash his hands? Can he fasten and unfasten simple buttons and snaps?
Does your child play well with others? Children are naturally egocentric at this age and they can't share everything. However, they should realize that they can solve differences with their words and that two people can use the same thing at the same time.
Does your child have strong fine-motor skills? Your child's hands must be strong enough to master coloring, cutting, pasting and holding a pencil--fine-motor tasks that kids use every day in kindergarten.
Can your daughter recognize letters and numbers? Most kindergarteners should be able to recognize letters by sight. They should also be able to count to ten, identify numbers one to five and know some shapes and colors.
Remember, that kindergarten is the foundation of your child's school years. Everything after that will be built upon that foundation. If your child is miserable, it will follow them through their life. Kindergarten, Mrs. Mainor says, should be a happy place. And it will be if your child is ready for the challenge.