When it comes time to walk your little one into kindergarten, the struggle is real. The mere sight of them toddling beneath their oversized book bag can reduce you to a puddle of tears. But before you even get to that point — and probably because you realize it’s coming — you may wonder when kids should start school. You’re not alone in that one, not only are standards different per state, it also depends on where your child’s birthday falls on the school calendar. In fact, according to the latest search data available, when do kids start kindergarten is searched for over 2,400 times per month.
So before you break out the kindergarten readiness checklist, you need to ask yourself if your little bubela is ready? You may not be sure, so to help put your mind at ease, we’ve answered the most frequently asked questions about starting school.
What is kindergarten age?
If you’re curious how old kindergartners are, they range from 4 to 6 years old in the U.S. depending on numerous factors. As a baseline, you should know your state’s kindergarten age. You can click here to learn more about each state’s rules regarding kindergarten start ages.
When is the kindergarten cut-off date?
Per Superpages, an online source of information for nationwide locations, 32 states require a child to be 5 years old on or before September 1 in the year they start kindergarten. Eleven states have a cut-off date between September 1 and October 15. And seven states offer local schools the option to set their own required dates for when they should start school.
But if your child will be attending a private school, it’s also worth giving the school a call to discuss. Some private schools will let the parent pick whether their child starts kindergarten the year they turn five but their birthday falls after the typical September-October cut-off.
What is “redshirting”?
A seemingly growing trend, “redshirting” is the term used to describe delaying a child’s entrance into kindergarten by a year. An example of when this might be apt would be if your child’s birthday is close to the cut-off date, so they’d be among the youngest in their grade — and you feel they could use more time to prepare and adapt.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, academic redshirting occurs in nearly 9 percent of children of kindergarten-age.
What are the pros and cons of academic redshirting?
As with many things, there are benefits and negatives of redshirting ahead of kindergarten.
According to VeryWellFamily, the pros of redshirting include increased math and reading skills than younger peers, higher level of self-confidence, and less special education needs than kids who went into kindergarten. The cons are difficulty making and retaining friendships with peers, especially as tweens and teens, and a loss of a year of special education if a student has disabilities.
What are the disadvantages of starting school at an early age?
According to Shakopee Public Schools, the question of whether it’s beneficial for students to start school early has been debated for centuries. In the Middle Ages, children were presented with an apple and a coin. When they had developed enough delayed gratification and abstract reasoning to reach for the money instead of the fruit, they were deemed mature enough to start school. To this day, you’ll hear arguments in favor of starting kindergarten early and arguments against it.
As for widely discussed disadvantages go, Kelly Bedard and Elizabeth Dhuey explain in “The Persistence of Early Childhood Maturity: International Evidence of Long-Run Age Effects” that younger children may perform at a slightly lower rate than their older peers. After analyzing test scores for nearly a quarter-million students across 19 countries, the educators concluded, “In particular, the youngest members of each cohort score 4-12 percentiles lower than the oldest members in grade four and 2-9 percentiles lower in grade eight.”
Other critics contend that a four-year-old may need more time to develop physically, socially, emotionally, and more in order to have optimal academic readiness.
How do I know if my child is ready for kindergarten?
Obviously, the guiding factor in what age your child starts kindergarten will be your state’s regulations. But since there are extenuating factors that could allow for your child to be “redshirted,” if necessary, you’ll have to be honest with yourself about where your child’s social-emotional growth currently is before you make any determination.
Can your child handle separation from you without melting down? If their teacher asks them to put down a toy and pay attention to the lesson, will they throw a hissy fit? To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with your child if the answer to these questions is no — kids go through all kinds of tricky developmental phases. It just might mean your little one needs a bit more time before diving into academia.
It’s never a bad idea to gauge your child’s readiness on an ongoing basis. You can do this with Scary Mommy’s kindergarten readiness checklist.
Some of the items on the checklist are:
Speaks using complete sentences most of the time
Uses sentences that include two or more ideas
Understands and follows directions with at least two steps
Matches two like pictures in a set of five pictures
Plays simple memory matching games
Classifies objects by physical features, such as colors, shape, and size
Groups objects that go together
Grasps concepts related to position, directions, size and comparison (of in/out, front/back, on/off, big/little, up/down)
Identifies some letters of the alphabet
Recognizes their name in print
Attempts to write the letters of their own name
Writes first name using upper and lower case letters
Counts numbers of objects in small groups (up to five)
Matches a number (up to five) to a group with that number of objects
Understands the concept of “adding to” or “taking away” using objects (up to five)
Arranges numbers in order 1 to 5
Builds using blocks
Attempts to tie own shoes
Buttons, zips, laces and buckles
Pours liquids without spilling
Gets dressed on their own or demonstrates the ability to
Knows first and last name
Knows parents’ first and last names
Listens to a story without interrupting
Expresses basic needs
Interacts with other kids
What does a kindergartner’s schedule look like?
When preparing your child for the big transition up to the big boy and girl classroom, it’s important to keep in mind how much more rigid their daily schedule will be now that they’re in kindergarten, an aspect you can start practicing for now.
According to The Kindergarten Connection, this new phase in your child’s education is all about routine, routine, routine. Which is good since the rest of their educational careers will be centered around schedules and routine.
Here is their example for a day in the life of a kindergartner:
8:35-9:00 – arrival, breakfast, morning work
9:15-9:30 – number corner, calendar
9:30 – 11:00 – literacy (science/ss integration)
11:00-11:45 – lunch/recess
11:50-12:10 – rest/story (no naps)
12:15-1:00 – classroom play/centers (kitchen, sensory, blocks, etc.)
1:00-1:50 – math
1:50-2:05 – recess
2:05-2:20 – snack
2:30 – dismissal
What do kids learn in kindergarten?
In addition to the social interaction of the classroom setting, children will learn basic reading skills, practice in print writing, as well as an introduction to math like counting, math fundamentals, science, early social studies, and the concept of time, among many other topics and necessary skills.