Why My Five-Year-Old Isn’t Starting Kindergarten This Year

Many parents struggle with what my husband and I have been contemplating for months – do we start our daughter in kindergarten this upcoming year or do we wait and do preschool over again? I quickly learned that much like breastfeeding and birth plans–everyone had an opinion, and what is right for one family isn’t always the best for another. Instead of focusing on the reasons why we decided not to start kindergarten this year, I want to tell you the reasons why we decided to allow our daughter another year of preschool.

My daughter attended a VPK (Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten) program twice a week at our church. She loved everything about it; her teachers, her new friends and really the entire experience. This was the first organized anything she had attended, and she never went to daycare or any nursery school.

Pre-k

Lily didn’t seem to grasp the curriculum as fast as the teachers had hoped, and I always thought it was because she was a “young four” (meaning with the way her birthday fell in the year, she was one of the youngest four-year-olds in her class). As the year progressed, her learning improved but still not to the level we thought she was capable. So during Spring Break, we seriously started considering repeating preschool and delaying kindergarten. After discussions with her teachers, a meeting with the elementary school principal, talks with her potential kindergarten teacher and feedback from friends and fellow parents, we have decided to do just that.

Florida law, [Section 1003.21 (1)(a) and (2), Florida Statutes], specifies that all children who have attained the age of six years or who will have attained the age of 6 years by February 1 of any school year are required to attend school regularly during the entire school term. Specifically, children are eligible to enroll in public school kindergarten if they have attained age 5 on or before September 1 of the current school year.

In simple terms, my daughter was not required by the state of Florida to begin kindergarten immediately after VPK. I was surprised to find out just how many people I knew who started their child in school at age 6 and had an extra year of preschool under their belt. The argument to delay the start of “required” school is a strong one, and here’s why:

1. The standards of academics have changed over the last 20 years. With this new era of standardized testing and college discussions beginning in middle school, kindergarten isn’t the nap time and play-doh filled days of our youth. As one kindergarten teacher put it, “Kindergarten is the new second grade.” On the other hand, educators will say that children do not need to know the alphabet or their numbers before starting school, but what if you had another year to make sure they had a great foundation?

2. It is much easier to wait a year before “real” school rather than be held back. In my discussions with the principal and kindergarten teacher, they both said that if a child needed to be held back in kindergarten, first or second grade, it would have a larger impact than if that child waited a year before starting kindergarten.

3. We are living longer. The average life expectancy is currently 85.4 years a woman. And yet, we are demanding more of our children at a younger and younger age. Children have 12 years of school once they begin, plus college! Kids have their entire lives to be adults, but adults can stop and just be kids again. Why the rush?

I’ve had people say,”it’s just kindergarten, she should be fine.” Before I enroll my child in school, I would like to be fairly certain that she is prepared. And with my neighborhood “A” elementary school averaging 39 kids in a class (YES, you heard that right, 39!) I do not want to send her into that environment thinking,”well, she will probably be fine.” As a parent, you have to trust your gut, and my gut said she wasn’t ready for eight hours a day of academics.

Like I said at the beginning of this post, what works for one family doesn’t always work for another. But in the end, I feel like my little girl having a summer birthday was a gift, a gift that’s allowed her to take another year to work on our ABCs and 123s. So she’ll be 19 when she graduates? That’s just fine with this momma. 🙂

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24 Responses to Why My Five-Year-Old Isn’t Starting Kindergarten This Year

  1. Amanda Aug 7, 2013 at 10:05 am #

    My little Paityn’s birthday is July 26th and this was an extreme concern of mine when she was this age. I had quite a few shrug it off and say she would be fine and made me feel as if she would be ok. I regretted that decision half way through kindergarten. At that point I knew I had made a big mistake. It is so hard not to listen to all of the outside influences and opinions of other people. She is now in 3rd grade and we are homeschooling. I felt this would be the only way at this point to get her “caught up” without holding her back. She also deals with asthma and allergies and missed quite a bit of school and that did not help her already struggling efforts. Paityn is a very smart girl, but has to work very hard for things to come to her. I would much rather my child be on the other end of the spectrum with the higher standards set out for them and excel than to see them constantly struggle. Kuddos to you for listening to your gut!

    • Caroline Aug 7, 2013 at 10:29 am #

      Hi Amanda! I’d love to hear more about your homeschooling experience in this area- this is an option were considering for our little love.

  2. Caroline Aug 7, 2013 at 10:20 am #

    Love this! As a past K teacher at a local private school, I agree children are pushed more at this age than ever before. I had many friends that joked I was going to work to finger paint- ha! Not the case! Those babies are reading chapter books and writing reports by the end of the year. My daughter is 3 and were considering many different options for her future education. Do what’s best for your babies Mamas! 🙂 Great article!

  3. Peggy Aug 7, 2013 at 10:54 am #

    My son’s birthday is August 19th, which means given his private school’s start date, he was still four years old when he started Kindergarten (even if it was only for a few days). We struggled with this decision as well, but ultimately decided to go ahead and send him. With Luke, academics has never been a concern…he’s always been at the head of the class, even being the youngest. But for us our struggles have been more emotional, behavioral, with some maturity issues thrown in. I thinkwaiting a year would have helped him in these areas, but we knew that repeating VPK wasn’t an option from an academic stand point for him. I say all that to get this across…when weighing the decision to send your child to school, be sure to take all the factors into consideration and not just academics. Your child may be like mine was, and academically ready, but could. Still benefit from waiting a year to mature emotionally.

  4. Lisa Aug 7, 2013 at 11:43 am #

    As a teacher and a parent of a child who had an extra year in pre-k, I totally support this decision. My son was able to grasp all of the early concepts, but he was very small for his age and I knew he just wasn’t mature enough to handle the rigors of today’s kindergarten class. Now that he is going on 12, I feel that the choice we made to give him time to mature and grow was the best option for him. He starts middle school next week and is a very social and confident learner. I can see that it is better for him to be the oldest in his group than the youngest.

  5. Jennifer Brown Aug 7, 2013 at 11:55 am #

    I agree with you. Gracie did PK 2x and started K the week after she turned 6. The twins will start at 5, but turn 6 a month later.

  6. pam ellis Aug 7, 2013 at 8:26 pm #

    I have a 14 year old daughter I would have had to send to high school this year!! I can not say enough how happy we are for our decision to let her repeat 4k. I am at the older end of this and can say having an extra year with your child is a GIFT as they grow so fast. My son just turned 11 yesterday and the same thing we let him repeat and not a second goes by that we regret the gift we gave our children and are blessed that our children’s preschool director was knowledgeable enough to advise us. Our children have been blessed to be mature, confident students in their classes. It is such a hard choice to make for everyone, but I can tell you I have never met someone that said “I wish I didn’t do it”…only those that say “I wish I had”. Good luck to those deciding! And cherish those preschool years!! :0)

  7. Lea Aug 15, 2013 at 10:05 am #

    I had the great pleasure of attending the Clinton Foundation’s Health Matters conference in Palm Springs in January of this year, and a great deal of the conference was focused on wellness of people at every age. There was an entire session that focused on mental health, and I was shocked to hear a former Surgeon General of the US share that the fastest growing demographic of people in the US who are being put on antidepressant and antianxiety meds are PRESCHOOLERS. There are many reasons for this that are deeply disturbing, not the least of which is the degree to which we are sacrificing character development for esteem-building, but I have to believe it can also be strongly connected to the pressure being put on children to “perform.” Children who are under such constant expectant scrutiny will become insecure and self-absorbed young adults who can’t get out of their own head space to enjoy life, serve others, and walk into adulthood with emotional confidence. Good for you for recognizing that your child’s wellbeing comes first.

  8. Veronica Nov 4, 2013 at 2:52 pm #

    Hi, I have a 4 year old who’s B-day is in May. We discussed until we were blue on getting her into Kindergarten early. Our only concern was maturity. By today’s educational standards she was way ahead of the curve. So we talked to the principal and K teacher at a private school and decided to enroll her and see how she did (she tested in). It took a couple of weeks for the kids to take her in. Although she is the youngest, she is tall for her age so I don’t think her age was the problem. Being a private school, these kids were together for a while in Pre-K, my child was new.

    She is excelling and is top of her K class; so far her age is not a factor, maturity or otherwise. I believe it depends on the kid, their surroundings and their own personal drive. We don’t push our child, instead we encourage her to do her best and offer her praise when she excels and pick her up if she struggles. She is beyond happy and very well adjusted, she loves school.

    Sure an early start isn’t for every child and I think the parent is in the best place to make that determination, a parent knows their child’s limits. My 7 year old niece, who is in 1st grade should’ve started early too, she is now in an advanced curriculum. She was so bored and not at all happy, now she’s getting the level of education that she needs. On the other side of the coin I have nieces and nephews who started early and shouldn’t have. No child is the same and shouldn’t be treated as such.

    I think if we limit our children because of our fears or what the government deems appropriate then I think we our failing them. This is just my opinion and life experience, agree with me or not, it’s your choice. Good luck to all parents. ☺

    • john and marlia Feb 20, 2014 at 10:06 am #

      Hi Veronica, We went through a similar experience with our daughter this current school year and she was able to start kindergarten early. She had to demonstrate her competency and a private school was kind enough to provide the opportunity. Every child is different, but for our daughter it has worked out great. She loves school and she is actually still ahead of grade level in math, reading, writing and spelling. What has been difficult for us though is finding other children her age with similar abilities for play dates and such. She does have friends her own age–but they are not near her level of advancement. And although she does play with older children as well, it would still be nice to find other 4 year old children in kindergarten for her to associate. If you still live in Florida and would be interested in possibly talking about our daughters’ educations and maybe even having a play date at some point you can reach us at [email protected]

  9. Jill Schenk Mar 20, 2014 at 3:22 pm #

    It’s so awesome to be able to wait. My older two started Kinder when they were a new 6 and have always been ahead! My nephew started Kinder as a brand new 5 and has always struggled despite being a VERY smart kid…..now our third son will start kinder as a new 6 year old and it was so worth the cost and wait!!!!

  10. Stephanie Apr 1, 2014 at 6:56 pm #

    That’s so refreshing to hear that other Mother’s are having similar ideas about holding their little ones back. I have boy/girl twins who will turn five in late August. They are currently in VPK but seem to struggle academically plus they aren’t as mature as my older son was at this age. I would like to hold them back a year but I’m not sure where they should go during that time. Private school or some kind of a preschool. I have talked to a few teachers who told me to “just enroll them in kindergarten, they’ll be fine” but I’m afraid they won’t do well. I just wish I had a magic crystal ball that could tell me if I was making a good decision. Ugh!

    • Kathryn Williams Aug 29, 2014 at 4:02 pm #

      Hi Stephanie, I read your post and I am right now struggling with the same issue. I decided to hold my son back in preschool because he just turned 5 August 19th and the cut off in my state is Sept. 1. The preschool director approached me because he scored really high on his first assessment and she wants to make sure that I don’t want to reconsider enrolling him in kindergarten. I was not expecting this and I am really stressed with what to do. I’m not sure if he’s ready socially. I was wondering what you decided and what factors influenced you one way or the other. Thank you.

  11. Robs Jul 4, 2015 at 5:38 am #

    Will Florida pay for free VPK (3 hours per day) twice if I decide to have my daughter repeat VPK (at 4 and 5 years old) to delay her entering kindergarten until she’s 6 or will I have to pay for the second VPK? Thank you.

    • Sandy Jan 27, 2016 at 3:20 pm #

      At our child’s daycare, we were told that the state of Florida will only cover one year of VPK.
      If our son repeats the year it would not be under VPK pricing, he would be a regular student and we would pay full tuition.

  12. Alyla Jul 17, 2015 at 1:33 pm #

    Hi Jessica,
    I would like to know the results of your redshirting decision so far. Please let us know how Lily is doing and if you are still glad that you went through with this. I am considering redshirting as well, so I would really like to hear about your experience. Thank you.

    • Jessica Morgan Jul 18, 2015 at 10:48 pm #

      Hi Alyla,
      Lily is about to start first grade and I couldn’t be happier with my decision. Giving her a second year of Pre-K is just what she needed. She became much more confident and mature in her 2nd year. She is one of the oldest kids in her class, but I spoke with a few parents in her class that did the same thing as me and were also very happy with their decision. I feel as though after going through kindergarten this year, that if I needed to hold her back in Kindergarten, it would have been more of a big deal to her. She was young enough when she repeated PreK that it was a non-issue, and the fact we changed schools for the second year was helpful as well. It is still the best decision I ever made! Good Luck Alyla!

  13. stacy Jul 21, 2015 at 11:12 am #

    All my homeschool friends told me not to start my son until he was 6 and when I emailed CHEC they told me the same thing. My son turned 6 after September last year so I’m starting in like a month and he seems WAY easier to work with when it comes to schoolwork right now. But my 4 year old is really really interested! So it Just depends on the kid and I don’t think there is a problem with it at all. People do give me funny looks though, cause he’s supposed to be in 1st grade I guess. I want him to love learning and most kids don’t. I get worried with people’s looks, like I hope I did the right thing but I think I’ll find I sure did.

  14. mother Sep 27, 2015 at 4:42 pm #

    We did a year of private kindergarten (full-day) first, at age 5. Then at 6, we started public kindergarten. “It’s easy and everyone copies off of me,” my 6 YO said. 🙂 But even so, he said it’s all work, no play, and not fun. Kindergarten is NOT FUN and in my opinion, not ideal for any 5 or 6 YO. If he feels the day is long with too much work at age 6 (with a full year of it behind him) imagine how a new 5 YO would feel! Just too much boring work! Where is the painting and exploration?

    My second child…I can hold back BUT he is two years taller than his age. I think I might just send him. If you have a short or average child, I would never send age 5 to kindergarten. My kids start to hate school beginning in kindergarten now, as it’s the new first grade.

    Preschool is still fun. And, if you don’t enter our kindergarten reading, then it’s an uphill battle.

  15. Katie Jan 4, 2016 at 1:42 pm #

    Why will she be 19 when she graduates? A young 4 would still be 18 at graduation if waiting a year. If they had gone on time & not waited a year, they’d be 17 at graduation. If your child is 19 at graduation their birthday is before May/June which makes them 4, not a young 4. I have three kids with August birthdays. I am quite familiar with young fours. I waited with all three of them & all three will be 18 at graduation. I didn’t want them to be 17 at graduation. But 19 at graduation… That’s a whole different thing than being a young four. That’s just waiting a year. Still fine if that’s what’s best for your kid but it has nothing to do with her birthday.

    • Jasmin L. Jun 5, 2017 at 3:16 pm #

      Why is it a problem to be 17 at graduation? As someone who graduated at 17 and was a really young four(Dec.12) I think it is quite selfish for parents to hold their children back just because they don’t want to let them go or to have them be the youngest. Here in Florida the same law applies(Sept.1 hold back) but my parents were smart and realized that it would actually be detrimental to hold me back just because I was young. I’ve read through several post and realized that yes while every situation is different you cannot judge a child on their age alone. The author obviously had the best intentions for her daughter but some children need to be stimulated and challenged academically in order for you to see their potential. You fail several times in your life and at a young 18 I realize that! I’ve just finished my first year of college and I have to say I’m so grateful that my parents didn’t see my age as a limit but rather as a foot-up on the rest of my peers. I will have “more time” essentially in my adult years because I wish finish college early, I will finish med-school early, and I will become a doctor earlier than others in my class who are technically a whole year behind. I think it’s great to hold your child back and prepare them as much as possible but to say it’s because your don’t want them to be the youngest is quite foolish in my opinion. I’ve worked with children of all ages and just as many have stated you have to judge them on their ability and such. Maturity doesn’t really come until 2nd or 3rd grade(let’s be real) until then they’re are going to be goofy and sweet and lovable children.

      • Jessica Morgan
        Jessica Morgan Jun 5, 2017 at 4:00 pm #

        My point in writing the blog post was to share my experience and let parents know their options. I did not believe there was a “rush” to hurry up and start Kindergarten. I do not believe what I was doing was selfish nor do I think my decision was a “foolish” one. I imagine that when you have a child of your own, your perspective may change.

  16. Kyva Apr 10, 2016 at 9:55 pm #

    My oldest son has a late birthday (December 6th) and even though I had wanted to send him to school when he was 4 the schools in Florida would not let me. Public or charter were the two that I had tried but they would not even test him to see if he was ready. So we waited. Honestly I am glad we did. My son is immature and very selfish. We enrolled our son into a charter school for VPK and in 5 days of him being enrolled he was asked not to come back. Unfortunately though this year from what I am gathering by reading the statutes that I will be required to send him to school. He will be 6 in the middle of the year. I am considering homeschooling him for kindergarten because I know he can not sit still for long periods of time and has a hard time focusing, but I am not certain if that would be the best option for him.

  17. Anita Aug 16, 2017 at 5:14 pm #

    Our son’s birthday is in September and he is taller than his age. He has learnt a lot of basic things at home and through electronic gadgets, and stuff like ABCMouse, StarFall etc. He is starting VPK in a private school this season. My question is little different. Can we take him on a vacation outside of the country for like 2 months for a much-wanted family re-union with his grandparents and cousins? I am not sure what would be the impact of this vacation on his VPK, but as per his age, he can’t repeat Pre-K, since he would be 6 years next year and required to send to KinderGarten. Any feedbacks appreciated!

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