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Starting Kindergarten Early
Our child will be attending kindergarten at 4 (turning 5 in November). Since California has changed its birthdate cutoff dates for kinder, public school is not an option. We will do private school for a few years and will try enrolling in the local public school in grade two or so when age is not such a defining issue.
Our child is three right now and starting to read, knows the alphabet and sounds, can count to one hundred, is learning to write name, etc, basically ''academically'' ready for kinder, has good focus and can sit still for lessons, is socially on par with peers, has been attending preschool since age two and I don't think another year will provide too much benefit so we're pretty much set on this decision.
Anyone else consider taking this route, or have experience? Which private school did/will your child attend and how did they fare? Looking for tales of joy or woe from parents of other ''young'' kindergartners who did a short track at private school... Young kindergartner mama
I just wanted to throw in my experience as a person with a November birthday who started kindergarten in public school as a 4 year old way back when, and also offer you what I've experienced as a private school parent to two kids, (though they both have spring birthdays).
First off, it does sound like your child is academically ready for kindergarten. I was too, which is why my parents wanted me to start at 4 (and the cut off was Dec 1 then). I did well in school until I reached 5-6th grade, when the social aspects grew in importance and I felt as though my friends had moved on without me. I simply wasn't ready to grow up as quickly as they were (I wanted time on the monkey bars and I certainly didn't care about how I looked or if boys were paying attention to me). I had friends who were nearly a year older than I was, and at 10-11, that is a pretty big range developmentally. My insecurity over the social scene spilled over into my academic life and somehow, school got harder, too. Perhaps it would have happened anyway, but being young is something I never noticed until I hit 5-6th grade. I would actually argue that it is easier to be younger when in K-4 than as a preteen and teenager.
I have seen this theory in action as a parent of two kids, a girl, 10 and in 5th grade and a boy, 6 and in 1st grade. We have been in both private and public schools. My observation is that parents of the younger kids notice the differences more as their child grows than they did when the kids were all in K together. I have seen parents make tough decisions like changing schools or holding younger kids back a grade.
These days, most private school cut offs are in September, so you will need to find a school that will make an exception for your child. Our school has done that occasionally. My son's K class last year had 1-2 younger children with fall birthdays. This is the exception, rather than the rule, and there were children in his class who were 12-14 months older than the young ones.
So, all of this to say that, based on these experiences and observations, I would advise you to think twice about jumping into kindergarten. These early years have children all over the map in terms of their academic abilities and teachers are accustomed to dealing with that. Later down the road, it's nice not to be behind socially and developmentally. Of course, every kid is different, and at the end of the day, you know your kid best and no decision is irreversible in this situation. It's not so bad to wait
I'd be interested in hearing other people's experiences with this as well. We're in a similar situation: My daughter is just a month shy of the requirement to enroll in kindergarten at BUSD (she's 4 now). Right now she's in the transitional kindergarten (TK) program, but prior to this she had been enrolled in private montessori pre-school for two years. We fretted about sending her into the TK program, but we simply could not afford another year of private school tuition rates. Here's what we've learned from her first two weeks:
During the open house the teacher gave her view of TK and kindergarten as a former kindergarten teacher in the BUSD system. She stated that a lot of teachers are burnt out on trying to get kids ready for 1st grade reading and writing; it sounds like many of the kids simply don't have the small muscle skills necessary for writing cleanly and aren't fully prepped for 1st grade as a result. As such a lot of teachers are excited about TK in prepping kids for the rigors of the public school format. Additionally, the TK program is more open format (i.e. montessori-like) in that it blends a scheduled day (math, reading, writing at certain times), but also allows for some personal exploration (also scheduled). The curriculum is wide open, thematically, and the teachers love that they get to craft what they do during the year around the student's interests as a whole. They use this overarching theme to deliver topical lessons in math, writing, etc. So there's a lot to be excited about there.
That said, they're taking a while to ramp up into the school year. I understand the necessity of this, particularly in getting everyone comfortable with the school and learning system, particularly for the kids who haven't been able to receive a pre-school education; From an informal survey I'd say about half of the kids in TK haven't been to pre-school. The result, however, has been a pretty light two weeks academically. Math currently consists of understanding one-to-one correspondence (i.e. counting objects). Writing won't really start until the beginning of October. My daughter is way beyond that already, being able to add and subtract, and writing and reading a bit. My hope is that she'll be able to move forward in her capabilities within the open class structure, but maybe she'd benefit from the kindergarten class?
Finally, I'd like to add to your questions and ask specifically if anyone has experience with having your child evaluated by the BUSD teachers to see if moving up a grade is appropriate (academically and socially)? Someone back in 2012 wrote on BPN that their child's TK teacher had taken the initiative to do just that on their own, but I'm not sure what the circumstances were. I'd love more information. Feel free to email me directly if you do. Thanks. - Greg
I have daughter with an October birthday who started at four. She is now in third grade and the youngest in her class. Overall, I think we made the right decision. She was definitely ready for kindergarten when we started her. She spoke in full sentences at age two. She could skip at two and a half. She could pump herself on a swing at three. She could hold a pencil, write her letters, sit still and focus. She is also the second tallest girl in her class, which for us was another consideration. She is doing fine in third grade and every year when her birthday rolls around, her classmates are shocked to find out that she's just turning...fill in the blank age.
However, this is not something to consider lightly. There are a couple of other kids who are only a few weeks older than she is, but there are a lot more who are a full year or more older. She is socially fine, but there are some older girls who are just way more savvy about manipulating others to do their bidding. My sweet girl HAS struggled with this. She just wasn't able to see through the manipulation and stand up to this behavior. First grade was hard because of this and it was a big deal. These experiences opened up a lot of conversation about what it means to be a true friend, but they also shook her confidence and she continues to struggle with that even now. With the cut off date moving (it was Dec. 2nd when she started), I would expect even more older children in kindergarten and I would be surprised if your young child did not have some sort of similar experience. Exclusion is a developmental stage that hits around first grade and it is tough for the younger ones to navigate.
In short, I think you probably know if your child is ready. BUT, you can't control what other parents will do and this will affect your child. The reality is that it is hard to be the youngest. anon
She had a December birthday. She didn't make the cut-off. There were a couple of private schools that would take her, but they were not my first, second or third choice schools.
So, I left her in another year of her play-based preschool, where her group of ''cut-off ineligible kindergardeners'' developed a plan to build a fort on school property. They had to think about what they could build and what they could afford with their meager fund-raising. Then they worked on how long and how wide it would be, practiced using nails and hammers. Decided on a fabric roof so they could roll it back when the sun came out. They had a walking field trip to Ashby Lumber and bought their materials. Learned to use a level and so on.
My daughter went on to a public kindergarten. She was a little older and taller than most. By third grade most heights and student skills evened out. She was always a leader in her class. She still loves math, science and engineering. As a high school freshman she is captain of her multiple sports teams, in student government, given one of two awards for outstanding middle school student and has been able to learn three languages in addition to her native English.
If you ask her, she will tell you that she learned how to join a group already in play, how to be kind, how to negotiate, learned to LOVE not just like science, and found out that there are many other students who could navigate education as well as she and many who could not - she mentored those.
I am forever grateful for ''missing the cut-off''. It gave my daughter a gift of a year of play and exploration that she could have never been given at any date in the future, because once you start school you are in the thirteen year run, without ever being able to stop and play. Give the Gift of a Year While You Can
The advice I got from a mom of four kids when I was thinking about similar things was that being bored in first grade is a little problem, being socially too young for the grade in middle school is a big problem. The pain of not fitting in in middle school is much greater than anything you could consider now as you look at your four year old child.
Elementary school is easy for many kids. That a child can handle the work is a poor reason to have them skip a grade -- the work is not difficult. My impression is that it is impossible to ensure that your child is always adequately challenged. Skipping a grade seems like taking a hatchet to the problem. As a mom of an eighth grader and a third grader at two of the best private schools here I can tell you that whether the kids are adequately challenged in the early grades is something nearly every mom worries about. You could send your kid to school a year early and they would still be bored -- if they are smart they will just adjust to the expectations of the higher grade.
Lastly, I enjoyed the time before my kids could read -- once they were reading, there was less music, less art, less outdoor play -- by second grade they were zoned out for hours reading novels, which was not so different from losing them to the t.v.. I'm a professor of literature at Berkeley, so I am not against reading -- I just think that although reading independently will probably be the greatest pleasure of your young child's life it is a pretty sedentary and isolating activity, and the time with your child before he or she can read is precious. There is no need to rush. another mom
This is just anecdotal evidence from my experience (as is everyone's advice), but I'd say go for it. By the time I was in high school, my AP classes were FILLED with folks on the young side. I saw about the same 30 kids all day, every day (in my graduating class of 550) and not a one of us turned 18 before the spring of senior year. So, only some kids were in the ''right'' grade for their age, but all of us were in the right grade for our academic ability. The social issues of middle school were long behind us, and I don't think that's a reason to hold a kid back who is ready for school. Life is a lot, lot longer than the social anxieties of middle school.
My kid has an August birthday, so she'll be starting kinder right after she turns 5. But if we're one day blessed with #2, we'll start him or her in school at the time they're academically ready, even if they're 4 at the start of the year. Jessica
In high school, a lot of math concepts are dependent on a certain amount of maturity in the brain. Her brain is just not there yet, and I really see a difference between her (at 14) and many of her classmates (many of whom have already turned 16).
I cannot go back in time, but if I could, I would not have put her in kindergarten at age 4, especially knowing that she would spend the next 15-20 years in school! My God, what's the rush?? Regret that decision!
I can tell you, also, that I skipped a grade as a child and experienced no negative social-emotional consequences. My parents were offered the opportunity to skip me a 2nd time, but were afraid of potential social-emotional consequences. In hindsight, I think they should have gone for it. I spent nearly all of my school years bored out of my mind, and learned the hard-to-unlearn skill of shutting up and making myself small so as not to be noticed or picked on for my braininess. Had I been in a class of intellectual peers and/or actually challenged, I might have learned it was ok to be my full self. There is a good body of research which validates the appropriateness of early entrance and grade-skipping for gifted kids, esp where no gifted program is offered by the schools. Early entrance just right for some
I was really surprised to learn that there is an age difference of 20 months (the age difference between my two children that are two years apart in school) between the oldest and the youngest in my children's classes.
My sister, a pediatrician, sent me this: http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/youngest-kid-smartest-kid anon
Does anyone have any advice on how the process works to request kindergarten enrollment for a kid that just misses the cut off? Our daughter misses it by only a few weeks, and we've been told by a few former teachers that she's ready. So, I'm trying to validate that we think she's ready, while simultaneously figuring out how to request ''early enrollment'' at our neighborhood elementary (Thornhill). If anyone has been in this situation, I'd love to hear your thoughts. Thanks!
I'm looking for advice on early admission to kindergarten - that is, admission to kindergarten on a ''case-by-case basis'' for a child that misses the cutoff date. Does anyone have experience with this? I've also been told that a child admitted via the early admission to kindergarten route would be required to repeat kindergarten the following year because he or she would not be age-eligible for first grade. Is that really true? That sounds absolutely crazy to me.
Hello, my question is about how to find a school that will entertain the thought of having my daughter starting kindergarden early. I keep reading about people that have done it by going to private schools, but all the ones I have contacted are not willing to even test my daughter, saying that they go by the CA guidelines about admissions. Note: This question is not about the merit or demerit of accelerating a child, it is about how to do it practically. I understand this is a very controversial issue, and am not trying to get opinions whether I should do it or not. I am very much open to the idea of testing the kid and having her appropriately assessed before making any decision, but so far I've only found closed doors... Any schools you recommend? We are in Castro Valley, but I would be very interested in at least talking to someone that is open to the possibility. Thank you very much for any lead you might have to offer. Jenny
Even though there was a strict interest in having the children in a class fall within one year of the same age, by the time they were in middle school enough exceptions had been made that there were kids in her class close to 2 years older than she was. I don't know if having a large range of ages in the same grade is a good or a bad thing! She was also the smallest child which can lead to injury when kids get rough.
Many people consider starting Kindergarten at age 5 to be ''too young'' but in this case it was the only year she could start. I started Kindergarten 5 months younger than my daughter did, and I was also very small - not even 25 lbs when I started Kindergarten. I don't think that starting that young was an advantage, but of course I don't have anything to compare it with.
The un-aknowleged fact is that girls and boys develop differently. I had a long talk with a high school teacher driving to a field trip recently, and he said he thinks the ''maturity gap'' between girls and boys continues through high school, in general. Maybe some day in the future, boys will be in the same grade as girls a year or two younger than they are. mother of a girl
We have 2 children at Redwood Day with ''late'' birthdays (both in the late summer) and both are doing just fine. Good luck with finding the school of your dreams
Thus far, the only truly receptive folks I've encountered have been some in the Montessori world. There are a few Montessori schools with ''bridge-K'' programs, where kids in the multi-age classrooms range in age from 4-6, and materials as advanced as your child needs can be brought in.
There are schools for gifted kids in the South Bay and Marin which start at age 4, and there is a co-op in Alameda.
I agree: It would be wonderful if schools would assess the individual child for readiness, based on where they actually are in all areas of development, as opposed to strictly based on birth date. also interested in early k admissions
I live in Oakland with my 3-year-old daughter. She is exceptionally smart and tall, and her birthday is in December. Normally she would start kindergarten in Fall 2009, after 3 years of pre-school, and would be one of the smartest and tallest kids in her class. I'd like to explore the possibility of having her start kindergarten a year earlier.
I don't want to push her into something she's not emotionally ready for, so I would only want to do this is after a psychologist has assessed her ability to handle this.
Can anyone recommend a psychologist (who is an expert on kindergarten-age children) who could help me evaluate if this would be appropriate for my daughter?
Do the Oakland public schools (or CA public schools in general) have a process for early enrollment?
How would this affect our participation in the lottery system? (Would we need to get clearance for early enrollment before being able to enter the lottery? Or do we enter the lottery to choose a school, and then get clearance from the specific school?)
If anyone has done this before, I'd love to hear about what you did and how it worked out.
I don't know how smart is smart for your daughter, but I know that starting K early in the public schools wouldn't have helped my son at all. His birthday is in November, so we could have started him last year. However, he had a firm grasp of all the academic material presented in K the year before that, when he was 3 turning 4 (including the fact he was reading well), so starting K would have still been a poor match for him.
We decided to go with a private school we feel is a much better match for him, and he just started K this year. He will turn 6 in November, and he's doing 5th grade level work in many areas (including math and reading). It remains clear that K a year earlier wouldn't have benefited him at all, and socially this is exactly the right thing for him.
Best of luck as you make the right choice for your family. So glad we waited
What I can tell you about this decision is that in discussing it with most other people, the response to this idea was overwhelmingly negative. Besides our preschool teacher, who knows our son and who really encouraged us, other adults (a kindergarten teacher, a pediatrician) were extremely discouraging to the point of hostility. Many other parents had the same reaction. It is hard to take that kind of negativity.
If you are willing to buck the trend of having older children in school, be prepared for a lot of opposition. Our son is doing very well in school, now in first grade, plays soccer, is very happy and has lots of friends.
Good luck. Not an easy road
He's now in second grade, he's reading at 5th grade level and is bored to tears. He's still the tallest kid in the class, his friends are 10 year olds and I can't get Oakland Unified to help with an assessment to move him up to the next grade. I REALLY wish I had forced the issue 3 years ago.
So, I'm sorry you're not getting the support you need. Keep moving the process forward. To those parents who say an extra year in preschool is fine, sometimes it is not. Should have Listened to My Son's Needs
I am wondering if anyone has had any luck with early entrance to kindergarten in the Berkeley school district, or perhaps advice for me on what to do with a child who DEMANDS to be taught academic subjects at age 4. I checked the website, and it was all about deciding whether to hold children back an extra year. My son will turn 5 in January, so he just barely misses the December cutoff. He has been reading for a while, loves to count into the hundreds, demands math ''homework'' like his older sister, insists on practicing addition and subtraction facts. He also has a long attention span and can sit quietly. Now, if he were happy in preschool I'd have no problem keeping him there... I'm a believer in the ''let the child enjoy his childhood'' type of thinking. But recently he has started screaming and refusing to get ready in the morning, complaining that he hates his school, and the teachers have said that he is starting to act out (whereas before they always commented on how well he sat in circle, etc.). If he's unhappy, he's not enjoying his childhood. The problem is I can understand all too well what he might be going through because I was in a similar situation as a child, so I feel I'm too emotional about schooling and can't make an objective decision.
I remember my own miserable years of elementary school spent counting the tiles on the floor while pretending to listen to the teacher explain the same things over and over again. Every morning I would dread going to school and count the days until Saturday, when I could read my library books all day (I wasn't allowed to read books in school). And I remember thinking that it was all my fault, that I was somehow bad for not liking school. Eventually when I got into high school I was allowed to take college classes, and it felt like I had been set free. I finally made some close friends, with kids five years older, and finally had challenging and interesting work to do. But the dead years of my childhood had their effect on my self esteem... I never finished my education and have been an underachiever all my life. I don't want my child's life to be ruined too! I think all children deserve an appropriately challenging education. However, when I called the Berkeley school district they said they don't allow early entrance to kindergarten. I understand private schools feel the same way, and in any event, I don't think we can afford them.
I can't homeschool because I have to work. In the meantime, my gentle, joyous little boy has stopped smiling and telling jokes, and has started hitting his sister. This is a university town; there has to be someone else who has gone through this! On the web I read about many children who have been ''radically accelerated'' (skipped multiple grades) and are happy; I know that would be been the right solution for me as a child. Is it possible in the Berkeley school district? What can I do for my child? Is homeschooling the only answer? Or do we have to leave Berkeley and move to Colorado? Please help! anon for the sake of my child My son will be 5 in October. He is reading at a 2nd grade level and is eager to do school level math. However, I will NOT put him in school until 2005. The academics are secondary to the emotional. A young 5 year old will be ''competing'' with boys who are 6. Give your child stimulating activities to develop judgment and compassion when you are at home. When he is older, and as an adult, those abilities will surpass how ''smart'' he is. In reference to his actions about going to preschool: Start looking for a different preschool. I had a similar situation and was ready to pull my son but the school changed the teacher and he was then happy every morning. In September I will be sending him to a preschool that will offer more stimulating activities and has computers. Mother of 4 year old
Sorry for the distracted note, kids are shouting for dinner. I hope there was something helpful in there. susan
I would also start researching schools now. Do the Berkeley schools offer gifted or accelerated programs? Many private schools offer financial aid... perhaps you should do some research on private schools that offer what you and your son need and talk to them about financial aid. I also want to add my! personal experience with skipping grades. My brother spent a good deal of 4th grade disrupting the class until the teacher sent him up to the 5th grade for math class. He went on to skip 5th grade. While it was a quick academic fix, he had a very difficult time socially and in sports, especially in high school. He now has an extremely gifted 12 year old girl. She is in gifted programs and gets all As and A pluses and often complains of being bored. I've asked him if he'd consider having her skip a grade. His answer is ''NO. Absolutely not.''
For example, at least in my experience throughout my son's kindergarten year (last year), a lot of the kindergarten and first-grade boys and some of the girls on the playground liked to play good-guys-battling-bad-guys games, ''army'' or quasi- martial arts games or the ''chase game'', and even if they rarely got into real fights, the games even at a non-contact level get pretty physical (My impression was that a lot of non- contact physical play got overlooked by playground supervision, even if their official policy was otherwise). Plus, there's in- jest name-calling (esp. among boys), not always with a teacher or adult around to say, ''Hey, that's not nice to call someone X...'' Also, it's a sad fact that some kids even at the k-level have a lot of stuff going on in their homes and come to school with bad attitudes and bad language--your son will be exposed to that. It's up to you to determine whether yo! ur four-year old can handle this kind of environment without the constant supervision or adult guidance typical in a preschool environment.
Since you aren't considering homeschooling or private school, the next best alternative, instead of preschool, might be to find an English-speaking nanny or tutor who is willing to spend the day taking your son to places like Lawrence Hall of Science, any of the local libraries, museums, etc., where they can explore things that interest him, one-on-one, at his pace, in an engaging, interactive way. That way, he will be getting his needs met on an individual level, rather than be thrown in with a group of older kids with a range of skills and needs, which is likely to happen in a BPS kindergarten class. CC
Keep in mind that school is a marathon, not a sprint. No matter how early a child catches on, there is no guarantee that he will have the maturity to keep it up as he gets older. Your child will have plenty of peer company at his ability in a year or two at most. The smart kids blossom and find their way around as they go through the first few grades. But the young ones can find it quite difficult to keep pace with the rigors and social demands of their older peers. It is a lot to ask of a 4-year- old that they function well in an environment designed for children that are older, particularly as the child goes through the rest of the lower grades. Ask anyone who skipped grades or started younger. It doesn't get any easier.
Fortunately, most schools do have differentiated learning programs that allow your child to accelerate through the subjects where they excel, so your child will likely not be as bored as we were ''back in the day.'' Go to the school and meet with the principal to find out what programs they have to accomodate your gifted son. A good school can always find ways to challenge and treasure a gifted child. Thankfully, though, they cannot find ways to make your child ''grow up.'' And while your son might be reading Harry Potter at age five and Proust at nine, the lovely immaturity and innocence of a four-year-old is a wonderful part of childhood that you can never recapture. Best of luck. No longer sprinting
Our child was born on 12/17, just missing the cut off to get into public school this fall. Does anyone have experience with petitioning Lafayette Public Schools (or any public school) to accept the child anyway? Can you? How does it work? Any tricks I should know about? I am not looking for advice on whether to send the child, because this listserv has already very kindly helped me with that decision, but I just need advice now on the petitioning process (if indeed there is one.) Thank you in advance. Maryanne M
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