Kindergarten: Now or Later?

My third child is midway through her second year of preschool. Since I'm the mother of two preschool grads, you'd think I'd know what I'm doing by now. But when I went to my four-year old daughter's parent-teacher conference last week, I was thrown for a loop.

In Michigan, where I live, there is a kindergarten cut-off date of December 1. What that means is that children must be 5 years old by December 1 to begin kindergarten that year. Being that my daughter has a September 11 birthday, I never thought twice about sending her off to the Big House this fall. In fact, I've already registered her for kindergarten. However, when I sat down to discuss my child's preschool progress with her teachers, a monkey wrench was thrown into my plans. They expressed that they are uncertain whether she will be ready for this academic milestone this year.

The main basis for their opinion seems to be based on the fact that my daughter has a September birthday. You see, they explained to me, at least 80-90% of parents in this area who have children with fall birthdays opt to hold off on kindergarten for a year. It seems that people in this community are so caught up with wanting their children to be head of the class, not to mention super star athletes, that they are purposely ignoring state guidelines and waiting to send their children to kindergarten.

When I asked what they suggested I do with her for a year, they noted that many parents choose a Young 5's program, which is a class meant to help bridge the gap between preschool and kindergarten for children with late birthdays. The problem with this idea is that few public schools in my area offer such programs, so that could mean spending thousands on private school tuition. Another suggestion they had for me was to send her to kindergarten for one year at a different school, and then have her repeat kindergarten at her home school. This idea seems ludicrous to me. I can't imagine setting out with the intention of my child repeating a grade.

The preschool my daughter attends is located in a neighboring city, and I don't think the same expectations of over achievement necessarily apply in our home school district. I know for certain my older children have friends with fall birthdays who are the youngest in the class and not the oldest. Nonetheless, these teachers have given me something to worry about that I hadn't really even considered. Of course my husband and I want to do what's best for our daughter. Even if that means simply keeping her home for a year, we will do it if we decide that's what is in her best interest. I have a toddler at home and had enrolled my four-year old in half day kindergarten instead of full day, so it's not like I was engaged in a countdown to freedom. We will be weighing our options while taking into account the opinions of her preschool teachers, her speech teacher, and the kindergarten teachers at our home school. And hopefully we will make the right choice.

Have you been in this predicament? What did you do?


Alysia blogs about family life, parenting and other stuff at Michigal.