Starting Kindergarten: A Professional’s Perspective

By Keely Buchanan, Co-Founder Preparing for Denver Kindergarten

As owner of Preparing for Denver Kindergarten, a Colorado-based Educational Consulting company, I am often asked when is the “right” time to start Kindergarten. There really is no one-size-fits-all answer; each family has to make the best decision they can with the information, resources, support, (and instincts) that they have. And, generally, we find that the majority of kiddos thrive when they turn 5 before school starts.

Feeling uncertain about when your child should start?

Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What does your gut tell you?
  2. How old will he/she be in Junior High Health Class?
  3. How old will he/she be when starting High School?
  4. How old will he/she be when starting college?
  5. If you wait a year, what will that year look like? How will it prepare him/her for Kindergarten?  Is there potential that he/she will be bored for that extra year?
  6. Do you have the funds to wait a year and pay for an extra year of Preschool?
  7. What does your Preschool teacher(s) have to say about it?

According to the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES), the overwhelming majority of states (32) require kiddos to be 5 years old on or before September 1st in the year they start Kindergarten, 11 have a cutoff date between September 1st and October 15th, and 9 have a cutoff date between July 31st and August 31st.

Let’s not forget that schools are businesses: paid per student, per day, and the later the deadline is pushed, the more students can enroll.

In Denver, about 80% of public school parents follow the October 1st deadline, but this number is decreasing (in small numbers) each year. What this means is that you can easily find kiddos that are 4 ½ and 6 ½ in the same Kindergarten class. Per NCES, in the 2010-2011 school year, only 6% of kiddos started Kindergarten at age 4, 42% started between 5 and 5 ½ years old, 43%  were between 5 ½ and 6 years old, and more than 9% of kids starting kindergarten had already turned 6.And, the vast majority of private schools follow their state age cutoff. But, in Denver, we have seen multiple private schools choosing to implement earlier cutoffs (i.e. September 1st instead of October 1st).

The first thing we discuss when we talk to parents about when to start is gender. According to Dr. David Walsh, PhD:

Girls talk earlier than boys, have larger pre-school vocabularies, and use more complex sentence structures. Once in school, girls are one to one-and-a-half years ahead of boys in reading and writing. Boys are twice as likely to have a language or reading problem and three to four times more likely to stutter. Girls do better on tests of verbal memory, spelling and verbal fluency. On average, girls utter two to three times more words per day than boys and even speak faster—twice as many words per minute.

This explains why most girls are “ready” for Kindergarten, regardless of birth month, while most boys with late birthdays, are not.

We counsel Denver parents with boys who have August or September birthdays to have a serious conversation about whether or not they feel their son will be ready to start as an older 4 year old. Most boys are simply not mature enough at 4 years old, and some still aren’t at 5.

The vast majority of girls will be developmental ready, regardless of birthday, but it is still important to consider temperament, advanced intelligence, and social skills.

We also recommend that parents reach out to their Preschool teachers for their input, as well. Teachers spend so much time with our littles, and they see sides of them that we don’t – they will have very strong opinions about whether or not they are ready for Kindergarten.

And, age ramifications (for boys especially) extend well beyond Kindergarten: how old will your kiddo be when he enters Junior High?  Will he be a full year younger than everyone else in Health class? Will he be a year younger than most others when they start dating? Driving? Will he be ready to go to college at 17? These are just a few things to think about before you make the decision for our little ones.

[bctt tweet=” When and where you start Kindergarten does NOT determine the rest of your kiddos life (we promise).” username=”GetMomBalanced”]

To combat late birthdays, some private schools have created Junior Kindergarten classrooms specifically for summer or late birthday kiddos who need another year to prepare for Kindergarten, but are not necessarily another year in the same Preschool/class. This allows kiddos who are not ready to take an extra year to prepare specially for Kindergarten: academically, emotionally, behaviorally, and socially. This tends to be particularly helpful for kiddos who do not attend Preschool.

Another tactic for kiddos that may not be ready, is to try private Kindergarten, and then switch to public Kindergarten the following year.  What should be avoided is repeating Kindergarten at the same school, so that a kiddo would not have to watch his/her friends graduate to 1st Grade, while he/she repeats Kindergarten. We see most often in Montessori, as their model strongly recommends staying through Kindergarten. Then, parents can either attend public for 1st Grade (or Kindergarten again).

Best Practices for Deciding on When to Start Kindergarten

When should my child start kindergarten? This can be a stressful time for parents. Knowing when to start kindergarten can be tough, especially if your child has a summer birthday. Read points from a professional about making the decision.
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  • There are no wrong answers for your kiddo
  • Listen to your gut, no one knows your little one(s) like you do
  • Talk to your Preschool Teachers – they will have an opinion
  • Talk to other parents with kiddos of the same gender and age
  • Find out if your Preschool has a Kinder option
  • Find out if your Preschool has a Junior Kinder option
  • If you have a boy with an August/Sept/Oct birthday, sit down with your partner and have a serious discussion about whether to start Kinder when 5 or 6
  • The majority of girls are ready, regardless of birth month
  • Enroll your kiddo in Preschool at least 2-3 times per week the year before Kinder
  • It’s always better to start later or get tutoring early, than to redshirt after Kindergarten.

How did you know your child was ready to go to Kindergarten?

Keely BuchKeely Buchanan is a Denver-based mama of two boys under 6, with a passion for connecting parents with resources and best practices for navigating the Preschool and Kindergarten search, with a particular enthusiasm for public education.anan is a Denver-based mama of two boys under 6, with a passion for connecting parents with resources and best practices for navigating the Preschool and Kindergarten search, with a particular enthusiasm for public education.  She has done hundreds of hours of research and dozens of tours so that her clients don’t have to.

An alumnus of the University of Denver, Keely earned her BA in Digital
Media Studies, graduating Magna Cum Laude in 2001.  She is currently working towards her Master’s Degree in Organizational & Professional Communication, with a focus on Organizational Development and Training from her Alma Mater.Preparing for Denver Kindergarten

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