Kids, Kindergarten and Controversy

Even though we are a home school family–or maybe because of it–I spend a good deal of time keeping my finger on the trends in public education. There is so much to think about when you consider how to educate your child and many factors go into deciding where and when your child will learn.

It’s the “when” that I’m thinking about today. A few days ago, a House Bill was introduced here in Georgia that would change the cut off date for children entering kindergarten. As it stands right now, a child has to be 5 years old by September 1st of the year they wish to enroll in kindergarten (in our area, school usually starts the first or second week in August). The bill proposes that for the 2015-16 year, children must be 5 by August the 1st. The date would be moved up to June 30th for the years after that.

The concept behind the bill is that children are not mature enough to enter kindergarten as an early 5-year-old or an older 4-year-old. State supporters point out that for some children, kindergarten is their first school experience and they’re just not emotionally or mentally prepared.

JC’s birthday is at the end of July, so we started thinking about his early education, my husband and I took this into consideration. As the rule stands right now, JC would have entered kindergarten a month after his 5th birthday and always be one of the oldest children in his class. Under the new rule, late summer babies would have what equates to two years in pre-k and not enter kindergarten until they are 6 years old. It’s a pretty big change, and parents are up in arms about it here in Georgia.

Before I was married and had a little one of my own, I taught pre-k at a private school. We followed the Creative Curriculum, which I liked a lot. Then, when the weather started to turn warm in the spring, everything got crazy because it was time to “prepare for kindergarten”. We were given a list of the things that our students would be expected to do when they got to kindergarten in the fall and had to have meetings with the parents to discuss their child’s kindergarten readiness.

I remember two meetings in particular, both with parents I felt had students that would not be able to handle kindergarten as they stood then. One mother of a little girl cried but said she wasn’t surprised, and that she wanted her daughter to be emotionally prepared and knew she wasn’t. The other mother was furious.

“I just don’t understand why he can’t write his name,” she said to me when I showed her his printing. “His older brother could write his name just fine, and his name is longer!”

I thought back to the day the child had written his name, knowing his mother would see it and wanting to do a good job for her. He had brought his paper over to my desk to work, away from his buddies who were done and distracting him. I remembered his concentration. I thought about how he didn’t write or read as well as the other boys in the class–but he was a kinder, gentler kid. He noticed things the other kids missed, and he was very artistic. In many ways, he was smarter than the rest of his class.

But he couldn’t write his name well, and that meant he wasn’t ready for kindergarten. And  his mom was ticked off.

Part of me couldn’t blame her. And part of me was annoyed with her. It was the hardest part of being a teacher.

I think of that conversation a lot when I think of JC’s education. It’s one of the reasons I so fervently believe in homeschooling and letting kids learn at their own pace. Public school kindergarten is hard–even for kids that are in a pre-k program. There’s major structure, a lot of sitting still, and even homework. Some kids are ready for it–and some aren’t.

Will changing the age fix this? Or will it just make kindergarten even more hardcore than it is now? I think it’s good that lawmakers in our state are clearly seeing that the system that’s in place isn’t working–but I feel like this bill might just be slapping a band-aid on our state’s education problems.

What do you think about pushing back the kindergarten age? Would you “redshirt” your kid if you felt they weren’t ready for kindergarten?

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10 thoughts on “Kids, Kindergarten and Controversy

  1. It’s an interesting point–that age and readiness are 2 different things. Some states have a more liberal pre-k and kinder policy– half day, partial week, promote to full day/full week options when the parent and teacher decide. (The places I know of are in Co and In and are in educated, upper middle class areas close to universities.) Some regions of Australia, they start kinder at 5 and stay in it til they are ready for 1st grade.
    Some places I’ve worked (in ga) and have heard of this in Canada… Parents want their boy to be bigger and larger than other kids for football and hockey reasons. I can’t think of a sadder thing to do to your kid.
    You mention the boy with artistic and emotional talent. David Bruner writes on the subject of Multiple Intelligence in the classroom–and research shows EQ may be more important than IQ when it comes to future success. Isn’t that what we want? Parents, teachers, kids… For us to be happy and successful here/now and in the future?

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    • YES. I was so upset by that particular mother because I didn’t feel like she was giving credit to her son’s talents…just focusing on what he couldn’t do and comparing him to the older brother. And I’ve also heard of boys being held back so they will be bigger–it seemed to be a REALLY big deal a few years ago. While I’ll never tell JC to hold back because of his size (and he’s on the tall side) I would never delay his education to give him that one up on other kids. I mean, yikes.

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      • Yeah, I cannot imagine holding a kid back merely for size.
        I babysit a family that has a child who was in a traumatic car crash at 6 mos and is physically and mentally delayed for it, at 3. I sincerely hope the family has the option to delay starting her in kindergarten. The doctors think she is catching up… I fervently hope she will. On the other hand, she is the sweetest kid and adores anything Frozen. Her personality is pretty great, regardless of charts and expectations. (:

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  2. Hmm. I think having one standard age that children enter kindergarten may the problem in and of itself. Each child is different and saying that they have to wait or have to enter kindergarten all at the same age is unfair on every child.

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  3. I have to agree with Jessie on the cause of the problem. Just as the article shows, one child was ready, and one child was not. Is it right to force a child not ready to go to kindergarten? Most likely it is not, because the teacher may have to pull away from other students to spend more time with that child. Is it right to hold the child that is ready back because of age? Again most likely not; Look at kids or people in general, when someone is not challenged, they often get bored and withdraw. Kids are no different; A bright child that is held back or forced to repeat a year of school due to the law may withdraw and not reach their full potential. I have friends that started early and were always motivated to succeed throughout life. One was a grade ahead of me, and became a doctor. Everyone is different. An age law is not going to solve anything. There will still be children who are not ready. Each child needs to be looked at individually to determine readiness. That is why I started a petition against the amendments.( https://www.change.org/p/georgia-state-house-oppose-georgia-hb-100-amendments ) I’m not saying the laws don’t need to change, but I know the current proposal isn’t it.

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    • Thank you for sharing! I agree, there needs to be a better way to test readiness that isn’t based on age. It’s one of the reasons we decided to keep JC out of public school. We wanted him to be able to go as fast as he pleased when he was good at something–and to take the time to help him when he struggled. Thanks for reading!

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