In eight months, my now 4-year old son will be ready to enter Kindergarten. He can already read hundreds of words, type the names of all of his friends at school, sit and listen to a performance for over an hour, and follow a series of directions to accomplish a task.
But he’s not going to Kindergarten next year.
Why not? Because no one else is going.
His birthday is in the last week of October and the trend of redshirting Kindergartners seems to be rampant enough amongst my peers that I am convinced that he would be the youngest child in his class.
When we began toying with this decision and I thought, “That’s weird – he’ll be in a different class than the other women I was pregnant with at work,” only to learn that even one of those women, whose daughter was born in July, was considering deferring Kindergarten for a year.
My local parenting discussion board is overflowing with anecdotes from parents who say that holding back a fall baby is the best choice. Is it the best choice for every individual kid? No. But, if MOST people are doing it, the average age of Kindergartners is edging towards 6, not 5, and so the group with whom my son will be competing or compared against will be older.
In our school district, the rule is that a child must turn 5 before December 1 to enter Kindergarten. Private schools, however, use September 1 as their cutoff. This is one more thing that swayed me. We are not considering private schools, but this fact indicates that someone out there believes that kids should be 5 by the first day of school.
Ok, back to why I allowed my decision to be influenced by what other people are doing. I am convinced that my child himself will thrive in the public Kindergarten setting next year. However, I am not convinced that it’s as easy to be 12 when everyone else is 13. When the other boys start liking girls and listening to rap metal or whatever genre of music will be delivered intravenously to their brains, what if my year-younger boy doesn’t “get it”. Will he be as equipped to go away to college at 17 as he will at 18? I don’t know, but I’d like to give him the chance to be more mature before he flies the coop.
Certainly there is a socioeconomic thing going on here. By deferring the Kindergarten year that we are entitled to, we are opting in to another expensive year of preschool. (Side note: we found a wonderful preschool program designed for fall birthdays, and it calls itself Kindergarten, but the children are expected to move on to a new Kindergarten after this bridge year.) Other students in public Kindergarten will certainly be 4 years old on the first day of school because their parents are embracing the free education that they are entitled to, as quickly as possible. So, for the teachers, the graying of Kindergarten, which is likely more prevalent amongst the middle class and above, results in a classroom with more than a one-year age span amongst the students. Some be 4 years and 10 months, and some will have turned 6 in August or even July.
It doesn’t make me happy to perpetuate this trend, and I wish I could say I was bucking it, but this is what we’ve decided to do, in hopes that it will be best for our child. And that’s our job here.
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