Welcome to Educated, Common Sense Parenting! This is my parenting education/commentary blog. Start here and read About This Blog.

I believe too many parents today have let their children rule their households. Their children dictate their daily lives, demand every ounce of their attention and do not show any respect for their parents. This needs to change. The only way to do this is if parents start letting good old common sense start dictating their parenting practices and stop letting their children run the show. You're the parent. Act like one.

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Kindergarten...Ready or Not!

It was a six month process deciding whether or not to send my oldest, Brooke to Kindergarten. She was not blessed with a "normal" birthday that happen in the months of January-June. If you child's birthday falls within those months, consider yourself lucky. No decisions need to be made. The August after your child turns 5, he/she is off to Kindergarten! In most states the official cut-off date is October 1st. As your child's birthday gets closer to that date, you are faced with more of a "decision" situation. To send your child when he or she is a young 5, or wait until they are an older, 6.

If we lived in "most states," we would not have been faced with any decision whatsoever. Brooke's birthday is November 28th--she would not be going to Kindergarten this year. But in California, we like to do things differently. Our cutoff date (for now, at least) is December 2. For many parents, this would be an easy decision. Since the current "trend" is that all kids need to get a head start and have the upper hand in life (yes, beginning in Kindergarten!!!), the vast majority of parents would wait to send their child with a November 28th birthday.

As cliche as this sounds--and I speak from experience--it really IS a very individual, very personal decision. How many times have we heard "every child is different??" Well, it's true. Every parent is different, too. Some parents can't wait to get their kids the he*& out of the house and off to school, where other parents just try to hold on to their baby as long as they can. And then there are some of us who are in between. I want to do what is best for my child. Not what's necessarily what's best for me.

There are several factors that will determine if your child is ready for kindergarten. There is no real "litmus" test of Kindergarten readiness, but there are certain skills and considerations that should come into play when making your decision. I will outline those below.

Before I do, my personal opinion about whether to send your child to Kindergarten is this: if they have the skills listed below and you have considered the items listed below in making your decision, then I say SEND THEM. Research has shown that kids who enter Kindergarten older, do in fact, outperform their peers....until 3rd/4th grade and everything evens out again. So if you're dead-set on having a Kindergarten or 1st grade honor student, by all means, wait. Just don't think that Harvard will be knocking on their door because of this decision. :-)

The following are skills your child should have before going to Kindergarten. I compiled this list from various state's education department "Kindergarten Readiness" lists as well as Brooke's Kindergarten entrance assessment. Note that MANY, MANY students do not come to school with all of these skills. But chances are, if you are reading this blog, you want your kid to come to Kindergarten and hit the ground running! Just don't worry if they haven't mastered every single one of these skills by Day 1. I would say 90% mastery is fine:

1. Write first name, legibly
2. Recognizes letters of the alphabet (upper or lowercase)
3. Knows some letter sounds
4. Can name items that start with a certain letter
5. Interested in books
6. Can sit and listen to a story for at least 15 minutes
7. Recognizes name by sight

1. Counts to at least 10
2. Counts objects to 5
3. Knows bigger/smaller, shorter/taller
4. Knows colors
5. Sorts by color
6. Knows basic shapes
7. Can put together a 10-30 piece puzzle

Language & Communication
1. Speaks clearly and in complete sentences.
2. Uses pronouns correctly: I, you, they, them
3. States name, names of parents, age, birthday and other basic questions when asked
4. Asks questions
5. Can sing simple songs and poems
6. Can effectively express emotions

Motor Skills
1. Cuts (semi) straight lines
2. Can roughly cut a large object (i.e. circle, square)
3. Draws simple lines, shapes, stick figures
4. Copies/traces letters, shapes
5. Can hop on one foot
6. Kicks and throws a ball
7. Holds pencils/crayons with correct grip

Social Skills
1. Plays cooperatively with others
2. Understands how to share and take turns
3. Tries new things
4. Can separate from parents with a huge scene
5. Can sit and listen attentively for up to 20-30 minutes
6. Can focus on a single task for 10 minutes (i.e. coloring a picture, doing a project)
7. Follows directions
8. Can work on or do activities independently
9. Can use the bathroom independently

Important questions to ask yourself
- Is our decision child-centered or parent-centered? Can't stand your kid and dying to send them to school?! That would be a parent-centered reason to send them to Kindergarten. Chances are, if you can't stand your kid, they're not ready for Kindergarten anyway.

- In general, can my child get along with different kinds of children? For instance, they just don't get along with their best friend--they share and cooperate with most other children, too.

- How much time are you willing to spend devoted to your child's schoolwork? Being a teacher, I know I'll be right on top of Brooke's schoolwork. If there is a skill I feel she is lacking, I will definitely put in the time to work with her on this. I feel confident I'll be able to work with her on any skills she might be lacking since she's starting school "early." Some parents don't feel confident with that role. In that case, it might be better to wait.

- What does my child's preschool teacher say about his/her kindergarten readiness? This could be one of the most important things you can do to assess your child's readiness. I was 100% ready to send Brooke to another year of preschool until I spoke with her teacher about her readiness for Kindergarten. You will find most preschool teachers are quite candid when talking about this. They don't want to see kids set up to fail. If they think you child is not ready, chances are, they will tell you. Additionally, often kids behave differently in the classroom than they do at home. They might not sit and listen to you read a story for 20 minutes, but when they're in a big group, they will listen to the teacher. Be sure to get the preschool teacher's input on how they behave in the classroom.

- Am I over-thinking things? Many of us do that. We fast-forward 10 years and start thinking things like, "She'll be the LAST to drive in her class!" or "He'll be the oldest and most mature in his class and date younger girls!" Please. We're talking the difference of roughly a year--not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. I can name "the old-ests" and "young-ests" in high school and they all turned out fine. No permanant damage done.

At the end of the day, know that if you have taken the all of the above into consideration, I really don't see how you (or your child) can lose.

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