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The great age debate

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Posted at 3:09 PM, Aug 02, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-02 17:09:41-04

Dawn Ramsey from the Jordan School District discussed the great age debate many parents face - when should my child start kindergarten?

Many parents wonder if they should start their child`s formal education at age 5, or wait until age 6. This is an especially common question for parents of children born in the summer or early fall. While there is not a hard rule for either case, there are several important things to consider while making your decision.
Every child learns and develops differently. Even in your own family, what`s right for one may be completely different than what`s right for another. This is a decision that needs to be made for each child based on their personal academic, social, emotional, and physical readiness.

Academic Considerations
Kindergarten is fun but is definitely more rigorous than it used to be. For example, many kindergarten classes begin teaching children to read early in the school year. (This is one small example and a decision should definitely not be based on reading readiness alone.) One thing to consider is will the child be bored in school if you keep them back a year. Do they know the alphabet; do they recognize letters and already know the sounds they make? Teachers do an amazing job of keeping students challenged at their own level, but if you feel they are academically ready that may be more important than their age.

Social Considerations
There is nothing wrong with having your child starts school as the youngest in their grade. Many kids are very ready when they turn 5 and it`s the right decision for them. Remember to look beyond kindergarten and ahead to the future. For example, if they start school very young, they may not be old enough to get a driver`s license their sophomore year. For families who encourage their children to wait until they`re older before they begin dating, they may not get to date until their junior year. Do these things matter to you, or are you concerned about how they could affect your child? Many of us have done that and been just fine, these are just things to consider, as you know your child best.
Also, do they have a group of friends all going to school the same year that they (or you) would like them to stay with? If so, that may be an important factor in this decision and keeping them back may not be in their best interest.

Physical Considerations
For many, this isn`t a big deal, but I know parents who have taken this into account when deciding, and some who didn`t and wish they had. For example, is your child really tall or really small? If you have a daughter who is very tall for her age would holding her back a year make her extremely taller than everyone else when she starts 7th grade? Those middle school years are difficult as it is, and for some kids, that is very uncomfortable and can have an impact on their self-esteem. The same goes for a very small child starting very young. Again, definitely not the only thing to consider, but if you are in a situation where this could affect your child`s self-esteem or confidence, I recommend talking to other parents or young people who have experience with something similar.

There are other kindergarten readiness skills to consider, including:
• Enthusiasm for learning
• The ability to speak understandably
• The ability to listen and follow instructions
• The desire to be independent
• Playing well with others (most of the time)
• Willingness to separate from parents

There is no single development area that means your child is completely ready to start school. It`s important to look ahead to every stage and consider how it fits your child`s situation. Ask yourself if they are ready to be placed in this task with this timing, remembering a child who might not seem ready in the spring could very well be ready by the time school starts in the fall. Visit with your elementary school counselor, kindergarten teacher, or even your pediatrician if you need more guidance making this decision.