So today is the last day of summer break. It’s truly amazing how fast it’s gone. I wish I could say that we’re spending the day cherishing each other’s company and doing something extra-super-fun, but in truth…. I think we’re all feeling just a little bit done with summer. (A couple of weeks ago Piper threw a coin in a fountain and wished “that school started tomorrow.”) The girls are more interested in trying on their first-day-of-school outfits and packing their backpacks than going on some last summer adventure. They’ve been fighting more than usual, and I think it will be good for them to have some consistent time apart. As for me, I’ll definitely miss having so much time with them (especially Piper, who won’t get home until 4:30) but I’m also looking forward to having my mornings free and being able to get some things done while the girls are in school. Last year their school schedules didn’t overlap so I didn’t have this luxury, but this year we have one in 1st grade and one in AM kindergarten. Which brings me to….
Yes, Kadence will be starting kindergarten tomorrow, at 4 years-old.
It’s not as crazy as it sounds, really. Her birthday is 16 days past the (Sept. 30th) deadline to enroll in kindergarten. I won’t hash out our entire decision process because it involved a LOT of thought, discussion, reading, and testing. But overall, (in no particular order) these were the reasons we decided to send her to kindergarten at 4:
– She’s already had 2 years of preschool.
– Academically, she’s (at least) where she should be to enter kindergarten (largely due to having a year-older sister that she’s always trying to keep up with).
– She’s tall for her age and won’t be noticeably smaller than her classmates.
– She REALLY wants to start kindergarten instead of return to preschool.
– She’s very used to interacting with and being around slightly older kids (Again, it comes with having a sister who’s a year older.)
– She has no problems (or, as few as any kindergartener has anyway) with paying attention, following directions, sitting still in class, etc. In fact the school psychologist who interviewed her was stunned that she sat and worked (and it was work) for the entire 3-hour evaluation without taking a single break (despite the interviewer’s offers to get a drink, walk around, etc.)
– I spent a decent amount of time volunteering in Piper’s kindergarten class last year, and by my observations, Kadence fits in much better with those kids (at least as they were then) than she did with her previous preschool class (of whom she was the oldest). I’m NOT saying she’s amazingly advanced or anything like that. In our case, I really do think it has so much to do with birth order. Kadence always wants to do what Piper’s doing, so when Piper practices reading, memorizing sight words, doing addition & subtraction – Kadence is right there with her trying to learn it too. And while she is a step behind Piper, there were (a few) kids in Piper’s kindergarten class who were still learning to identify letters at the beginning of last school year, and others who had major issues sitting through circle time. Assuming her class was a pretty typical kindergarten class, there is no way that Kadence will be behind academically or behaviorally, at least initially (I guess I can’t say what happens after that.)
– And – this is a big one – after putting her through a pretty extensive evaluation process, the school district agreed that she was a good candidate to start kindergarten early. They just transitioned to a more structured and stringent early-admission evaluation this year, and it included not only testing her academic skill level but evaluating her aptitude to learn (including an IQ test) as well as factoring in her social and emotional progress (mainly based on their observations as well as input from her preschool teachers and us.)
There are other things that weren’t really deciding factors but are nice bonuses, like the fact that she’ll be in class with 2 neighborhood girls. (Both are the younger sisters of Piper’s friends from her kindergarten class last year.) And how my life will be a lot easier without having to rush around combining bus drop-offs and pick-ups with driving her to & from preschool (20 minutes each way). And I can’t say I’ll miss writing that preschool tuition check.
Starting your child in kindergarten at 4 isn’t a popular decision, it’s true. The Internet is filled with stories from parents of older kids saying they wish they had waited. (I wonder if the ones who don’t regret it barely think about it anymore, and are less apt to read & comment on articles on the topic.) Some studies have shown that kids who are among the youngest in their class struggle more throughout their school years. (It’s also been pointed out that these studies don’t account for the fact that higher-income families are more apt to wait, because paying for another year of daycare/preschool isn’t an issue. So there are likely many more factors at play in the students’ differences than their age.)
Almost everything I read/everyone I talked to expounded the benefits of waiting – if she starts this year she’ll be one of the very youngest in her class, the last to drive, hit puberty, etc. She’ll graduate at 17, and due to increasingly-popular practice of redshirting kindergarten, she’ll be in class with kids who are 6 1/2 at the beginning of the school year. These are valid points that we did consider. But in the end, none of them concerned us enough to make us decide to wait. Kids all develop at different rates. Somebody’s always going to be the youngest. People have all kinds of advantages & disadvantages, and everyone struggles with something.
In the end, she’s (just over) two weeks past the cut-off date. She’ll likely have classmates who are only a month or so younger than her. Would she be much different if she was born 2 weeks earlier? Doubtful. (And since I’m not a fan of redshirting when there’s no true reason to wait, if she was born 2 weeks earlier, she’d be starting this year.) Since everyone (meaning my husband & I and the school district) agrees that she’s ready, and she’s excited for the challenge and really wants to start kindergarten, is it that critical that we make her go to a 3rd year of preschool? In the end, we just didn’t think so.
It was a tough decision though, and if you would have asked us in May or even early June we would have said “no way should she be starting kindergarten.” But something crazy happened this summer….she changed, almost overnight. The little breakdowns she used to have when she was frustrated have all but stopped. Instead of barely muttering “hi” if they said it first, she’s started chatting up random people like cashiers and waitresses. The kid who used to flip out if she couldn’t find the socks she wanted has become….chill. Some of her favorite phrases are “it’s OK, I can live with it” and “I’m just going to go with the flow.”
Piper giving Kadence a tour of the classroom
So that’s why I ended up contacting the school district in July to arrange for the early-entrance evaluation. By the time they interviewed us, reviewed her paperwork, did the evaluation, and we had the meeting to discuss the outcome, it was early August, which made this all kind of a last-minute thing. It all worked out though – and she ended up getting the teacher that Piper had last year, who is wonderful.
So we’ll see how it goes. Who knows – there’s always the chance I could end up being one of those parents saying I wish we would have waited. If she ends up struggling, we will deal with it at that point. But right now, this really feels like the right decision. She seems like a kindergartener. And she is one!
OK, now I’m off to practice some potential first-day-of-school hair styles :) Good luck to all of the kiddos going back to school this week!