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Saturday, 01 January 2000

Ready for School, but Too Young

Written by  Toby Klein Greenwald

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QDear WholeMom,

Why isn't there a test to determine readiness for kindergarten, instead of these magical dates that are law? I have a son whose birthday is 19 days past our state cutoff date, and I feel that he's ready for kindergarten now instead of waiting a year. He thinks he's ready as well, and has been pushing the issue. He has met all of the requirements listed by the school district, such as knowing his ABC's, counting to 20, starting to read, dressing himself, etc. and is extremely bored in preschool. He even does 1000 piece puzzles and uses my home computer to entertain himself! He's been in daycare since 3 months of age, so he's used to socializing.

I am worried that he will be as bored in school as I was and lose interest completely. The other issues that concern me are eventually trying to force a rebellious eighteen year old who's bigger than me to finish high school, and the fact that full-time daycare costs are driving our family into bankruptcy. (We have another child due 28 days after the cutoff date of September 10, and daycare costs will then be more than our mortgage.)

I never got to vote on this magical date, so I'd like to know how the state determined it. I can't find anything listing age requirement cutoff dates for other states, and the state legislators won't respond to my letters. The superintendent of the school district did mention Early Childhood Development and statistics claiming that parents should wait that extra year, but I don't see where 19 days is going to seriously damage my child in the future.

Thank you,
- Jen

ADear Jen,

I empathize with your plight both as a mother and an educator. These dates are indeed somewhat arbitrary and there should be a different system, in my opinion. But I, like you, did not vote on the issue and the people in power are the people who decide.

So let's get real here and ask ourselves: How do we cope with the situation? I have several suggestions, some short term and some long term:

Keep going above the heads of whoever gives you negative answers about having you son begin until you get to the most senior person you can. Come in armed with any professional assessment you have to back up your case. Ultimately, though, you may be able to do nothing about it.

If you can afford a private school, there is sometimes more leeway there. Check out schools that use special methods, like Montessori, Waldorf and others. Even if they have classes that are divided by ages, they will probably help the child progress at his own speed.

If the cost of schools like that is prohibitive, then give your child whatever intellectual stimulation he needs to be happy.

Get involved in parent groups in your local community and try to change the rules. Lobby your local school board.

Your letter indicates that you may be assuming that he has feelings similar to those that you had in school. You may be right but you may also be wrong. If he gets enough stimulation outside of school and has a pre-school teacher who is willing to work with him at his speed, he should be a happy little boy anyway. Who knows - maybe there are other children in a similar situation and the teacher can put a few of them in a more advanced group.

Lastly, try not to transfer your concerns to your little boy, who has to live with the situation. When life tosses you a lemon, make lemonade. Discover together with him and his pre-school teacher learning fun that is less structured than what he'll get once he starts school and make the most of it!

Good luck and let me know what happens.


Last modified on Tuesday, 14 May 2013 11:13
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Toby Klein Greenwald

Toby Klein Greenwald

Toby Klein Greenwald, Executive V.P. Creative Development, is a founding partner and the editor-in-chief of WholeFamily. Toby is an educator, journalist, photographer, scriptwriter, poet, playwright, lyricist, and theater director, including for populations that have experienced trauma or are at risk. She is a Playback Theater conductor and is the recipient of Israel's Ministry of Education's Egerest Award for Culture, for her work in educational and community theater. She has more than 30 years of teaching experience and has served on numerous educational think tanks. Her specialties include the creation of innovative educational programs, and teaching Creative Writing and Film to AD(H)D and LD high school students, and to senior citizens. Toby is married to Yaakov and they have six children, most of whom have made her a proud mother-in-law and grandmother.

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