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.
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. 🙂