To Go or Not To Go…to Kindergarten?

My kids have a fall birthday – late September to be exact. If you adjust for the fact that they were 5 weeks premature, they are technically late October babies. This means that by the time they are eligible to enter Kindergarten in the State of Connecticut,* they will actually be 4 years old; younger than many of their potential classmates.

Until recently, it had never really been a question as to whether I should enroll my kids in public school as soon as they become eligible. As an October baby myself, I was in the same boat as they may ultimately find themselves. I was one of the youngest in my class and while it sucked to: be the smallest, get my period later than most, get my drivers license later than most, enter college as a minor, I never really thought that it was a detriment to my social or academic development.  My children have been in daycare since I returned to work, and have thrived more than they would have had they been at home either with a nanny or with me. By the time they complete their second year of preschool, I KNOW they will be bored and ready for a change of scenery.

I wouldn’t even be writing this except that I have recently come to the realization that I am in the minority in my intentions to push my kids through when they’re still 4. Moms that I have run into have casually said things like, “I don’t want my kids to be the smallest in class…” or “I feel like if I push him/her through, s/he will trail his/her classmates socially.” Some moms have even used competitive sports as a reason for wanting to hold their kids back (“…he won’t be developed enough by the time we want to put him into soccer/lacrosse/whatever sport…”).

Childhood is tough. Any little thing can be cause for teasing or may trigger esteem issues – already my kids are small (after all, we do not have genetics running in our favor) and if I push them through, they will be T-I-N-Y compared with their classmates. Raising a child in this era of cyber bullying and free access to information just terrifies me, and I just worry that by letting them go too early simply because I feel like they’re ready at this point in time, I could be making one of the worst decisions I would ever have to make as a mom. Add that to the fact that for the first time in their lives, my kids will be separated (our school district separates twins in kindergarten), and I’m a freaking basket case, totally second guessing my initial intentions.

The good news is that I still have a year to decide, but time is running out. My husband thinks it’s ridiculous to pay for another year of preschool when they are, in fact, socially and academically advanced relative to some of their peers. I can’t help but wonder if I would be making a drastic mistake by doing the “practical” thing.

So, I am asking for the advice of many wise and experienced moms out there to help guide me in my decision of what to do. I’m hoping that someone will comment and provide some insight that will resonate with me and make my decision clear.

* Connecticut allows children to enter Kindergarten if they will be 5 years old by January of that academic year. Incidentally, CT is the state with the latest cutoff date, with the exception with states that allow local districts to decide. Cutoff month (day of cutoff may vary) by state – date by which your child must be 5:

  • JANUARY (1st) – Connecticut
  • JULY – Hawaii (effective 2014/15), Nebraska,
  • AUGUST – Arkansas, Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota, Delaware, Kansas, North Carolina, Tennessee (effective 2014/15), Washington,
  • SEPTEMBER – Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California (effective 2014-15), District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa,  Louisiana (excl Orleans Parish), Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin,Wyoming
  • OCTOBER – Colorado, Kentucky (note: various sources indicate August as cutoff), Maine, Michigan (effective 2014/15)
  • DECEMBER – Orleans Parish (LA)
  • Local districts decide – Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Vermont

ADDENDUM: After writing this post, I saw the following article that printed in this Sunday’s local paper. Connecticut is looking to move their cutoff date to October 1st to be more in line with other states. A plan is anticipated to be in place by fall of 2015 and while it does not change my dilemma of whether to send my kids or not, it is interesting to note that they are moving in this direction:

36 thoughts on “To Go or Not To Go…to Kindergarten?

  1. We struggled early with this issue as well, as my Jack has a late November birthday. Then I saw the 60 minutes segment on Kindergarten Red Shirting and I was even more thrown. More people than I realized were/are holding their children out a year. So not only does CT allow children to start younger than the rest of the country, many people are delaying their kids a year, creating a two year gap for “ber-babies”. After all of my agonizing we ended up living in Florida when Jack would have been eligible to start Kindergarten in CT, then moving back to CT for him to actual start Kindergarten and now his file is marked “held” because he turned 6 in the first three months of Kindergarten. Ultimate we don’t regret that Jack is among the oldest in his class and he happily has classmate friends that are a full year younger than him. I don’t think kids focus on the age differences nearly as much as we adults do. For smart children regardless of size I don’t think there really is a wrong decision. However because Jack was held is at least at a national level compared more accurately with his peers. If you are worried about boredom at a pre-school level, and I was too, perhaps you might switch schools for pre-K — it allows the kids to practice the transition to another school, it allows for different teachers to interact and evaluate your children, and it’s most likely a different lesson plan of activities eliminating the boredom worries.

    1. Thank you for your very helpful comment – what does “held” mean when it’s on the record? My kids would be in that exact situation. Is it a bad thing?

      If I do make the transition and hold them back, I would likely move them this fall to a school that has a 5s program so that they can do two years in the same school. I’d hate to make too many changes in a one year period.


      1. I don’t think “held” means anything but our school did check that box on all our Kindergarten registration paperwork. It took me a pause to breath through watching them check the box but as far as I can tell it means nothing.

  2. As a mom of three fall babies and a fifth grade teacher, I have done a lot of thinking about this. I made the choice to send both of my girls, one pre- common core and one after, and have no regrets. I share your genetic traits and so their small size wasn’t a factor because they would be small no matter what. I have a strong group of supportive moms and they have wonderful friends. There are some much older but it has not been a factor in friendships or in academics. Teachers are highly trained to differentiate instruction and meet a wide variety of needs. If there was any glitch in Common core instruction it was related to the learning curve, but I find the focus on depth of knowledge vs. breadth helpful ad long as teachers in your district have the training and materials they need. I was a December baby and graduated at 20 years old and my girls are happy and enjoy school. I did rely on preschool teachers advice and will do the same with my son who isn’t ready for preschool yet. It will also depend on state laws. Moving forward, it is often hard to tell fall babies from older kids in the fifth grade and beyond years, especially with girls. No matter what the age, though, there is always a range of social and emotional as well as academic needs. Good luck with your decision, I wish your children the best.

    1. Thank you. Do you find that as a fifth grade teacher, there is a wide range of physical differences between the kids? I’m pretty sure my kids can handle the academic aspect of it but it’s the more social and physical that worry me.

  3. I have a December birthday, and was sent at 4 years old to K.
    Based on my personal experience, there was no doubt that sending my son with a mid November birthday to K at 4 would be a good decision for him.

    My son is petite… But chances are he’s always going to be a small guy. Immaturity – I’ve been in his classroom multiple times… They all seemed immature to me. 🙂

    Good luck! Know whatever decision you make will be okay… 🙂

  4. My son was due in January but arrived two weeks early in late December and I sent him to Kindergarten when he was 4 years, 8 months old – he was bored in preschool and was definitely ready for Kindergarten. Five years later he is still one of the smallest boys in his class (10th % for height and weight) and the youngest in his grade – many of his classmates are 10 to 18 months older – but the kids don’t notice or seem to care. I remember well all the parents who made similar comments to us 6 years ago and it definitely had me worried but the school psychologists and administrators we discussed the issue with all told us that he should go to Kindergarten if he was ready and in the case of our son, they were right – he has thrived socially, emotionally, and academically over the past five years and I’m glad we made the decision that we did. A number of friends held their children back and while they don’t regret it per se, they do often complain that their children are not challenged academically and that the teachers don’t give them extra work above grade level. The NYT had an interesting article on this issue a few years back –

    There are clearly some children who meet the cut-off that are not ready for school, late birthday or not, but as a teacher I would say the vast majority of children I know personally or see on a daily basis in the classroom are ready for school and should not be held back solely due to the fact that they are on the younger end of the spectrum, or they are not good athletes, or they are shy and not social butterflies, etc. – every child is different and we shouldn’t view those differences as liabilities vis-a-vis other children but instead it’s those differences that makes each child unique.

    You have a while until you need to make this decision so wait and see how the next school year progresses. Then, next sometime next March/April/May, go visit your elementary school and meet with the teachers and principal there – that was one of the things that we found most helpful in making our decision. Interestingly, it was a friend of mine who had late-October twins and did not hold them back that encouraged me to do this and it was so helpful. And by the way – her late-October twins are now in middle school and they’ve been doing great all along!

    1. Very interesting and thank you for the article link! It’s helpful to hear stories of moms who have been through it and especially helpful to see the reactions in hindsight. It is comforting to know that if I do choose to push them through, the developmental changes physically might not be as big of an issue as I think they might be. thank you!

  5. I love AnnQ’s suggestions. My son’s birthday is in January, so I probably won’t have the same dilemma as some of those people with late summer/fall babies. However, I remember my mom having the same dilemma with my brother. He’s an August baby. He was definitely old enough to go to 1st grade, but was not emotionally/socially ready. She sent him to an interim program between kindergarten and 1st grade instead. Had the tables been turned and it was me with the August birthday, I have a feeling my mom would have sent me to 1st grade – I was ready and more socially mature. As everyone has said, each kid is different and you know your kid best. With regards to your son’s size, it sounds like this will always be an issue given his family heritage. I’m guessing that delaying won’t change that situation much. I’d focus more on the intellectual and social development to determine your childrens’ appropriate placement….. that’s what I’d try to do anyway (yeah, easier said than done, right?).

    1. Interesting perspective – thank you! You might be right that even holding them back, they’ll both still be small and maybe it won’t make a difference. Our preschool teacher is really pushing to have them go through – she thinks there should be no question.

  6. My son has an October birthday and we are in NH, so he misses the cutoff anyways so I don’t have a choice in the matter, but if I did I would hold him back and send him when he’s 5, almost 6 vs almost 5. For a few reasons, while my son is extremely social and seems to be doing quite well academically in preschool, he still struggles with sitting still for extended periods of time and having that educational focus! I also think about further down the road, when teenagers are getting their drivers license do I want my son as the passenger in the car with these kids or the one with the license, for me, I want him to be the older one! Just some of my personal thoughts on the subject!

    We will be transitioning him to a different pre-k program (he’s in a preschool program right now at his current daycare) for this fall as he’s turning 5 and I think a change of program will be good for him in this last year before he does start kindergarten. We are also thinking of keeping him in this new program for kindergarten vs sending him to the public school. And would love others thoughts on that. The reason being, is the private kindergarten has a 1:5 ratio of (teachers/students) with only 20 students in the class. Kindergarten seems to be the new first grade, and seems to be the most important year nowadays. My one concern with keeping him in a private kindergarten is that transition to public for first grade – the other kids have already been together for a year, and he’s now the new kid in a new school. Anyone that has been through that dilemma and want to shed some light would be great!

    1. My friend was recommending doing K in a private school which would allow us either to push them through at first grade or hold them back and repeat K in the public school (our public school doesn’t favor retaining kids in K unless there’s an academic reason), but I hesitate to do that for exactly the reason you state – the kids going to first will have been together for a year already and I think this could make a pretty big difference socially. I’m looking at specifically 5s programs now but they are really hard to find around here. I wish the decision would be made for me (i.e. cutoff earlier) because then I wouldn’t be doing this crazy “what if” dance.

  7. Both of our daughters are November bdays. We have decided to send our older daughter to K at 4. We think she’s ready, as does her school! The decision to hold back might be made for us with our second daughter, which might be ok. She has a very different personality than her older sis. It’s just all about the individual child.

    1. I definitely would push my daughter through if it were just her. I really do believe girls are a little different than boys. But since I don’t want to split them up grade wise, I have to do what’s best for my son in the long run. Still torn.

  8. One more thing that I thought was worth mentioning. When you’re evaluating your child’s readiness, take into account their capacity for self-control and self-regulation. This is so important because there will be times when your child’s teacher is working with other kids and your child will have to work independently and may be tempted to start fooling around and this can be perceived as a behavior issue or boredom. Now I’ll just shut my pie hole!

    1. Yes– I second this. Parents should know that just like when your child sits up or gets teeth doesn’t determine intelligence, the maturity and self-control necessary for school success comes at different times in different kids, and doesn’t really reflect intelligence. A child can know ALL his letters, numbers, and sight words, but still need time to mature before he’s ready for a full day. You can’t rush that development. I was not at all offended when my son’s preschool teacher recommended he do a year of 5 day preschool when he was 4 (as a fall birthday boy) and enter K at 5 going on 6.

    2. ANN! Please don’t stop talking about this – I need the perspective of moms who have been through it all before. The emotional and social development is not so much a concern for me as the physical development, though. I think that my boy could benefit from being held back a year when it comes to physical growth, especially once they’re in middle school. I can totally picture in my minds’ eye, my baby faced son on the fields with boys in his class who look almost like grown men. That freaks me out!

      1. It’s not the boys in middle school, it’s the girls – by the time they reach 6th and 7th grade they look (and act) like women, while the boys are still in that very awkward stage! It’s never easy, but I know that you’ll make the right decision. You may also consider a Montessori program (I know there’s a great one in Wilton) where three “grades” are in one class room – primary, lower elementary, upper elementary, and middle school. This way both of your children could move at their own pace. We considered that for our son, but felt that he needed a more structured environment, but I loved the idea of the Montessori program and the philosophy.

      2. AACK! Please don’t tell me that girls look / act like women by 7th grade!!! I think I am going to crawl into a dark hole until my kids turn 21!! I will be dealing with a womanly 7th grade grade girl and an awkward 7th grade boy at THE SAME TIME – this is going to be torture!!!

  9. I am facing this dilemma as I have a son with a late August birthday. He will be ready to go to K but that is not what worries me, it is middle school. As a middle school teacher, we can pick out most kids with a late birthday without even looking. They are immature, struggle to keep up with their peers and many could have used that extra year of preschool. I have talked to many parents who have held a child back and never once have I heard them regret their decision, something I cannot say for people who debated and then sent their child.

    1. Interesting perspective re: the middle school teacher and being able to pick out the later birthdays. This is EXACTLY what I worry about and it’s definitely pushing me in the direction of holding them back. THANK YOU.

  10. Thanks, everyone, for your insight. What is becoming clear, both here and via a conversation we have going on my FB page, is that the Common Core is throwing a giant wrench into the works. Kids who were once thought to be socially ready are not ready to handle the immense workload that K brings. A friend of mine who held her son back was telling me that in her school district (next town over), K level children are expected to know how to spell words and by now (June) be able to write short stories with character plots…REALLY? My bigger worry stems from the fact that my boy (who is more than socially ready) is small for his age (and always will be, as hubby and I are both very small). My friend was telling me that there are many kids in her son’s class who are either almost 7 or are already 7 – that would put an almost 1.5 year age difference between my kids and the oldest, which is ENORMOUS.

    We have some transitional kindergartens here, too. It never entered my mind to think about it but now that this discussion has arisen, it’s something I’m really considering. My kids would be BORED with a third year where they are, but perhaps a change of scenery might be helpful.

  11. I was also one of the youngest in my grade. My birthday is September 25th and when I was going into kindergarten North Dakota’s cut-off was September 1st. They actually had me take a test so I could start early. The purpose of the test was really just to see if the child could sit still for an extended amount of time. I had already been in Pre-school for like 2 or 3 years and could write my name and knew the whole alphabet. My parents felt I would be bored if they kept me out for another year. I never felt like I was any younger than the rest of the kids and actually had a tendency to hang out more with either the kids in my grade or older. Obviously, not every kid is the same and you are probably the best one to make the decision of whether you feel they can keep up.

    1. Thank you for your insight! Your birthday is about the same time as my kids. I’m worried about the boredom factor, too, for my girl specifically. She’s pretty advanced compared with her peers and compared with my son, so I just worry that another year at her current school would do more harm than good. I would most definitely have to find the right place to move them if I kept them out another year.

  12. I am in CA and while I am not in this situation as a mom, I know a few people who have brought the subject up for discussion recently. It is quite controversial. CA has introduced Transitional Kindergarten, which is a public school option for kids who turn 5 before December 1st (but usually after the new September 1st Kindergarten cut off). TK just started here this current school year and is a work in progress. Some moms I know didn’t even know about it and thought their child would be starting Kindergarten this year. I think AnnQ’s suggestions are awesome. Every kid is different and every school is, as well. Making the best decision for your child’s education shouldn’t really come down to whether you want to pay for another year of pre-school or not. I am a November baby and was always the youngest around. But I didn’t realize until we were adults and everyone was reunited on FB that many of my classmates were nearly a year older than me. I never really felt it at the time since I was taller and didn’t seem to fall behind in classwork or social activities. Like Sharlene said, you won’t know what is down the other path, so just doing your research and knowing your own children’s abilities are the best ways to gauge what the best option is. Good luck!

    1. There are some transitional kindergartens here, too. I looked at a few and about fainted at the tuition amounts. I could repeat another year of preschool but that would guarantee frustration on the part of my daughter who is further along than her twin brother. Unfortunately for us, we don’t have height working to our advantage in the long run (I’m 5 ft 0, and hubs is 5 ft 4 – MIL is 4 ft 10, so I’m hoping that my kids AT LEAST break 5 feet!)!!

  13. My kids were among the youngest in their class. I found it ridiculous that some kids were as much 17 months older than both – because parents held them back or did not send them until later. In my area, it seems parents will do anything to give their kids a leg up on the competition. My kids were ready and we sent them. Only a parent can know if their kids are ready – but do it for the right reasons (maturity issues, learning issues) and not for the competitive edge. I have made a point of raising my kids like my parents raised me – no travel teams in sports, no organized sports until age 10, just letting kids be kids…and they are well adjusted and adore us.

    1. Thanks, Chris.That’s what a lot of parents are doing here – holding them back to give them a competitive advantage. But that puts me at a disadvantage when it means my kids will be 1.5 years younger than some of their classmates. How crazy. That spread is completely ridiculous!

  14. Vivian, I’ll be in a similar situation, and I look forward to hearing what everyone has to say about this. I also wonder if it makes a difference if the child is a boy or a girl, as to whether or not they will have the maturity level to be entering “earlier” or “later.

    1. TOTALLY. If it were just my girl, I would have no question in my mind of sending her through. She will always be tiny no matter what, so I don’t think sending her through would even make too much of an impact.

  15. This was a hard decision for us with our daughter, a last August birthday. She also has special needs. We sent her, because congnitively she was performing. We were worried about the social/life skills side, where she’s most impaired. In our case, she also had two years of preschool, so holding her back academically would have likely resulted in more frustration, boredom, and behavior problems. Of course, we’ll never know what would have been down the other road, but she has kept up and even excelled academically. Her life skills are still behind, but for her that will be her challenge. We’re happy with our choice. Good luck!

    1. I’m doing a little research and am having a hard time finding a third year of preschool that will provide a challenge to my kids. If it was just my daughter, there’s no question I would push her through. Since I have to consider my son, it adds a wrench to the works. I definitely do not want to separate them, grade-wise, though. That would be unfair to both of them! I wish I had come to this realization earlier!

  16. This is a tough decision, but ultimately, it really depends on your child and what you feel their readiness is. We didn’t send our son, who has a late December birthday, because socially he just wasn’t ready and his preschool teacher recommended another year. That was the right decision for our son.

    Part of the reason that CT is considering changing the cutoff is that the standards have changed – kindergarten is no longer the place where you learn your colors, numbers, etc… – it is much more academically challenging and to be able to process that information and meet expectations, you must be emotionally able to handle the rigor. That’s not so easy for a four year old.

    I would encourage you to do four things – starting in January of the year they would be attending Kindergarten, meet with your preschool teachers to get their opinion, go to the elementary school and meet with the principal – if you can, check out the classrooms and see what the kids are doing – can you see your children there? Go online and check out the curriculum, often you can also Google the math and reading programs to get an idea of what the expectations are. Finally, talk to other kindergarten parents – how have their kids dealt with kindergarten? What challenges have their kids faced? Ultimately, it should be about what’s best for YOUR kids and meeting their needs – not a date on a calendar!

    1. Thanks, Ann – I hadn’t really thought about the fact that the new curriculum is what’s driving a lot of this. It has a funny trickle down effect. My kids are absolutely ready academically but if all other parents are holding their kids back, that means that we will be youngest by a LARGE stretch. I don’t want my boy to be the tiniest middle schooler when he’s in 7th grade because it really matters at that age. Girls, not so much, but boys definitely!

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