Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The kindergarten conundrum

Since September, we (well, mostly I) have been wrestling with what to do with Peanut next year.

She is in preschool in the “fours” class, but her late August birthday makes her one of the youngest in her class. Since the beginning of the school year, a slew of her classmates have turned five. Some are nearly a full year older than she.

If she goes off to kindergarten next year, she will one of the youngest in the class, especially since there are many families around here who intentionally keep their children out the first year - even if they have spring birthdays - to give them a leg up in size and maturity later. Thus, it’s very likely she’d enter kindergarten next year with children who are six years and several months old.

So the question is: do we send her, or do we suck it up and pay another year in somewhat hefty tuition to send her to her preschool’s pre-K program?

In addition to being young, she is small. She stands a full foot shorter than some of the girls in her class. And, as I’ve posted before, she struggles a bit socially.

She has a good friend at school.

One. Good. Friend.

Last week, that girl was out sick for three days and it threw her into a tailspin of whining and crying every morning. I’m not foolish enough to think that in a year she’ll be “cured” of her shyness, but I have hope that she’ll be able to relate to more of her peers, be more on par with them socially and size-wise, and thus be more confident.

Of course, nearly everyone else has an opinion about what we should do. Other parents from her school, while not coming right out and saying, “send her to pre-K” nod knowingly and tell me how quiet and small she is.

Others have told me that these differences in maturity don’t often manifest until the children reach high school. Suddenly, you have a 15-year-old with a bunch of 16-year-old friends (who are driving and doing Lord knows what else). This is not to say that every child is influenced by the stupid things their peers do, and everyone knows even older “more mature” kids make stupid choices, but it seems to me to be tempting fate a bit.

Meanwhile, our family and friends who know the Peanut I do – the vivacious, inquisitive, bright girl who can read and spell close to a dozen words and whose vocabulary includes the likes of “enchanting,” and “magnificent” and “complicated,” think I’m crazy for even considering keeping her out of kindergarten next year.

Much to my chagrin, like a lot of parenting issues, there is no clear-cut answer to this. Instead, I have to go with my gut.

I hate having to rely on my gut. I don’t do well trying to rationalize these squishy issues. I much prefer cut-and-dried answers written by “experts” in parenting books or websites. But alas, there is no formula, no “here’s what to do if your child has a late summer birthday” solution, despite my best efforts to find one.

I put Peanut on the list for pre-K months ago to hold her a spot. The program is popular and fills every year. We have to make a decision next month – a deadline that looms ever closer and will be here before we know it.

I think I already know the answer. I think I knew it months ago when I signed her up. Maybe my gut instinct isn’t so poorly honed after all.

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Anonymous Aunt Shirley said...

Among her preschool group, how many are boys her age? Boys tend to mature later than girls and thereby gain a lot by waiting that extra year. Girls' fine motor skills, social skills, language and reading skills develop a bit earlier making them better able to handle kindergarten at an earlier age. Also, doesn't your school system (or preschool) test for readiness? Good luck; I know you'll make the right decision.

8:12 PM  
Blogger Amanda said...

Oh these forks in the road, they get harder and harder as we have more of them under our belts, or at least that's how it feels today. I wish you luck, though I think your last line might be the wisest.

8:49 PM  
Anonymous Rocas said...

My daughter also had a late year birthday and was a bit on the wee side. We didn't have a choice in when we could register her for school, but in the end, it turned out good for her. She was amongst the oldest and usually was in line for 'things' before her peers. She always thought that was cool.

Good luck

7:16 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

It's hard to beat that mama-gut instinct. I feel for you...we'll be going through the same thing with our son in a couple of years. He has a late July b-day, and being a boy, well you know how it goes. Whatever your decision, you know your kid the best--just remember that!


11:06 PM  
Blogger Maureen said...

I say go with your Mommy instincts! It must be a difficult situation. I have a friend going through the same thing. Her daughter's birthday is 3 days before the cut-off. She isn't quite sure if she should hold her back or let her continue on.

I think whatever you choose, just be comfortable with it and know she's going to be ok!

9:16 AM  
Blogger Kelly said...

Whatever decision you ultimately make, just repeat after me, 'It'll all work out just fine.'

Back in the day, both my husband and I entered kindergarten at age 4. I turned 5 in Nov and he turned 5 in December. Now, that's practically unheard of.

7:35 AM  
Anonymous Aunt Kath said...

Troy was a May birthday and I held him back. Drew & Amy were September birthdays so it was easy. They don't have kindergarten readiness tests anymore in our town because of the expense. Troy did very well in preschool, but immature in social situations. The preschool he went to was run by the public school system and they told me I couldn't keep him out and I said oh yes I can. Legally a child does not have to go to school until age 6. They wouldn't allow him to go back to preschool. That year Troy, Amy & I made many trips to the library and we had our own fun educational field trips and many play dates. Troy's in 5th grade now and back when he was in Kindergarten I told the teacher during the teacher's conference what happened. She told me I did the right thing without a doubt. This year I told the 5th grade teacher about what happened so long ago and he said my instincts were correct. Troy is an average student in math and science but an amazing reader and speller. He's well liked by his classmates, but immature about stepping up to some of his responsibilities. The point of all of this is, there is nothing like a mother's gut instinct. No one knows your child like a mother does. Troy is happy and we did the right thing. You will too!

4:00 PM  

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