Wednesday, March 19, 2008

K Files Council: to be in kindergarten or not to be

Here's our dilemma:

Our family resides in the Richmond district and went 0 for 7 in Round 1. Our daughter has a November birthday, which makes her eligible for kindergarten in the fall for public school, but not for privates. She is presently in a preschool program that we are very happy with. We'll do Round 2, but should we go for the gusto, and wait list our 1st choice (highly popular) school, with the chance of getting nada? If we get nothing on our amended list or our wait list we can keep her in preschool for the year and try again next year and then she would be one of the older K's in the class (Fall 2009). She is definitely ready for K this year, so would waiting another year, if we had to, build her confidence or bore her to death? Or should we wait list at a less sought after school, not our favorite school, and place her in K this year (Fall 2008)?

Thanks for the help!


  1. I'm not sure what you mean, vis a vis, the birthday. My child had a November birthday, she's starting kindergarten next Fall, and I don't know of a private school that turns down kids at that age. Am I missing something?

  2. Private schools have a more aggressive (read: earlier) cut-off for kindergarten. For public schools, the cut-off is the child must be five years old by Dec. 2; for some privates, the cutoff is usually September.

  3. We're in exactly the same situation. Our daughter's birthday is also in the fall, and we too feel she is ready for kindergarten. Luckily, we got a spot in a great T-K program for her. We are waitlisting our top choice public school. If we don't get it, we'll wait a year and try again. Yes, she'll be old in kindergarten. But since she's leaving her preschool to "move on" to a T-K program, hopefully that will be enough to keep her interested for a year. Also, there's a private school we absolutely love, so we feel that by putting her in T-K, we'll have a better chance at that school than if we put her in public kindergarten. It's such a hard decision. Emotionally, I find myself grieving to think of her friends all moving on to kindergarten (some whose birthdays are a month or so after hers), leaving her behind. But I'd rather wait a year and try for our dream private school, or try again for a great public school, than "settle" now. Hope that helps.

  4. i think you should wait list her for your favorite school and if you get in then go for it! If not and your totally happy with where she is at why not let her stay another year. Then your options will be more open for private and a second shot at public to. She will feel so confident for next year or she'll get into an awesome pubic this year. Hope this helps a bit

  5. If you're likely to end up in public school, I would start her this year so long as you can get a school that is acceptable to you. If she is ready now and you wait, she may be bored. Plus your chances of getting your dream school for K next year won't be any better than this year. But if you start her now you will have a good chance of moving to your dream school by grade one.

  6. There was a discussion thread here a while back on "red shirting" (I believe that is the term, whereby parents of young 5 year olds keep them back a year so they are the oldest in the grade when they start school. There was also a NY Times article regarding this topic, which I believe is linked to in someone's prior post. If I recall correctly, the gist of the article was that if you keep them back a year and they are the oldest in the class, they have a better chance at academic success. I'm not in that position, so I haven't had to make that decision.

    Good luck!

  7. I've heard of private schools with shifting K birthday cutoffs, depending on the applicants that year -- a parent told me that about St. Brendan. And parents have told me that some are MUCH earlier than September. Also, private schools often tell certain applicants that the child isn't ready for K and to try again next year (no guarantee).

  8. Personally, I would keep her where she is if you DON'T get your 'gusto' school. If you now get a so-so school and try again for next year and do get your top public choice, that would be yet another transition for her (good or bad, depending on her tolerance for change,and yours too!

  9. Another option:
    If she is in a strong pre-K program next year and seems to have received and mastered the skills that are covered in Kindergarten (Check State standards for this). You might consider entering her at first grade. It is possible and might increase chances of getting the (public) school of your choice.

  10. Well... our son with a November birthday will be going into K this year at age 5 3/4. In retrospect, he probably would have been ready for K this year, but we couldn't tell that during application time so we waited. He's gotten a lot out of this last year in preschool and in no way been bored with the play-based program!

    Every child is different, though, and you have to listen to your gut on this!

  11. I am in a similar situation, and we've decided to "red shirt" our son and keep him in his preschool's excellent TK program. Our intention is to send him to public school first grade the following year (NOT kindergarten). I'm curious if people have thoughts/heard rumors/have a general sense of whether it would be harder or easier to get him into a desirable public school as a first grader (as opposed to juming into the K pool again and trying to move him ahead later)? I assume all the top schools fill up, but I've heard people say that slots do become available.

  12. My daughter has an August birthday. We felt that she was absolutely ready for Kindergarten last fall (07), and this was reinforced by her preschool teacher. We applied to both private and public schools. We got one of our choices (5th out of 7) though not our top by far. We got wait listed at 3 privates and got one too young letter. We got nothing in round 2 nor thru the wait pool. We did get in to one of our privates in June, but decided it was too far and we wanted to go with the public school.

    We have had a pretty good year at public. However, I have been completely blown away by how intensely academic K is. There is a huge emphasis on reading, writing sentences, PUNCTUATION, copying letters, and simple addition and subtraction. The kids are required to sit still, in a circle, and at attention A LOT. There is a lot of homework that reinforces all of the skills I wrote above (IE not a lot of creative learning). Overall it has been such a huge departure from preschool, and I feel like my daughter's teacher is pretty overwhelmed, and really is not able to attend to the emotional or social needs of the children in a really substantial way. Maybe this is just this particular school and this particular teacher - regardless I do think the academic standards have really changed from when I was in grade school.

    I say all of this b/c if I had to do it again, knowing what I know now, I would have waited. What is the RUSH? I know that my kid will learn all of those things eventually - she would have been better served by another year at preK - but there is no way I could have been convinced of that last year - no way.

    Anyway, that was just our experience. I do think it is a really personal decision. I will just say that it is a very big transition for most families; your kid has the rest of his life to be in school and be in a grind. What's the rush?

    p.s. I also do not believe kids at this age are bored if they are in a nurturing, interactive environment. If anything my daughter is bored by the rote drills she has to perform in K.

  13. To 8:14 pm: Wow! You're helpin me feel better about our decision to put our Sept birthday daugher in a T-K (transitional kindergarten) program. Do you mind telling us what public school you are describing?

    For everyone: When I toured public schools, several principals recommended we wait to send our daughter to public kindergarten -- particularly the principals at West Portal and Rooftop. In fact, the West Portal principal even passed out some research material recommending that kids with fall birthdays wait before starting kindergarten.

  14. 8:14 thank you so much for your comments.

    I think you've really tapped into something - kindergarten has become what 1st grade used to be. Kids are pushed into performing at a much younger age and they are missing that chance to run around and get dirty and pretend and socialize - without the pressures of "performing" and "achieving."

    I know a learning specialist with 20 years of experience who convinced me that waiting is always better for those "between" age kids. In some cases they can be almost 2 years younger than their classmates - that has implications later, socially and academically.

    I also agree with kids not being bored. As long as they are in a caring, comfortable environment they will find their place. At four or five, kids can have fun talking to their breakfast! I think we just push our own ideas of "boredom" on them.

    As the previous poster said, "what's the rush?"

  15. I think this decision depends very much on the child and the teacher. As I pointed out in another thread, my child's school has 2 kindergarten teacher, one of whom is more laid-back and includes fun games and hands-on activities, lots of walking around to activity centers, etc whereas the other teacher stresses handwriting and worksheets. We specifically requested the laid-back teacher for our fall B-Day son, and he had a smooth transition to kindergarten and a successful year. (Other parents specifically requested the other K teacher who they felt was stronger on academics.)

  16. What if you have no option, no pre-school, no T-K option, and a fall birthday child? We have a great Public school allocation that we were very happy with, but a son who we now fear (after being pretty sure) may not be ready for K in the fall.
    Do any T-K places come up over the summer? Should we go with sending him to K and "see how it goes"? I find it difficult to believe that it is ALWAYS right to hold kids back, this thread has just served to make me feel worse.
    Are there any "worked out fine" stories of kids with late birthday's who may have been not quite ready but a supportive teacher/school made it all okay? Please!

  17. I am the poster who wrote about the intense academics in my daughter's K class. I still think she is FINE, 10:24! I mean, we did think she was ready and I think probably most people would have said objectively that she was (IE she is very cooperative, able to sit quietly, obedient, knew her letters, is very curious, pays attention, etc). So don't freak out! One thing that helped us, was that her teacher did tell us early on not to stress about the homework, so we just don't. I bet you could find a TK class if you look hard enough, but what a pain, esp after all the work you did looking for schools.

    I also will say that at higher performing public schools (IE better test scores) I have been told there is more flexibility in the curriculum. My daughter is at an "up and coming school" (sorry can't say which) and I do think part of the drill is so that kids who are from less enriched home environments will "get" this stuff and thus perform better on testing.

  18. Based on your description of your family's situation, it seems like your daughter will do fine either way. Although I am personally troubled by this current cultural shift towards delaying kindergarten (gap between rich and poor, youngest and oldest increases as a result), I do recognize that for some families, waiting is the right decision, especially if the child is not able to sit still and receive instruction in a cooperative way. But it appears this is not your situation and your daughter seems very ready.

    So, if you are truly comfortable with possibly staying at the preschool another year, the question is about odds. I'd say shoot for the moon this year. Next year, you can try again and play a safer waitlist strategy then.

  19. Has anyone thought about how it much it could SUCK for the older kids in a public k class because the saying goes that "in public, they teach to the lowest common denominator?" which I believe to be true because I've seen it happen in many classrooms. The age span is easily a year within a grade and that is what worries me.

  20. I have two kids who are Fall babies, and old for their class. They are in good company. They have not been bored. I kept both of them out for different developmental reasons, and have never regretted the decision.

  21. What are some of the transitional K programs that people have been happy with? I am not as in tune with the differences between "preschool" and "transitional K" Any help is appreciated!

  22. I've known kids with Fall b-days who started public K when they were on the young side and then repeated K on the advice of their teachers. It was no big deal for the kids, they just had a different teacher so it wasn't like doing the same thing again.

  23. Public kindergartens are often more academic than private ones.

  24. My child was born in Nov., near Thanksgiving. My best friend's son was born in Nov. also (2 weeks earlier). Both kids were pretty equal in all aspects. I chose to wait the extra year and start school at 5 (meaning my child turned six that fall). My child has NEVER been bored or felt out of place, and it was the right decision for our family.

    My girl friend chose to enroll her son at 4, believing that he was ready. Well guess what? Three years and many hours (I mean $$$) of tutoring later, she admits that if she had it to do over, she would wait the extra year.

    Moral of the story: many kids can start Kindergarten at 4 and do fine, but if you have the slightest doubt or if you are equivocal, then I highly recommend that you wait out the extra year. Kindergarten isn’t required in CA, so if you made a mistake, then you can always go directly into first grade (it might even be easier to enroll directly into a first grade in your favorite school too).

  25. I teach kindergarten and I have to say that none of my children who started kindergarten at age 4 were ready. They all have trouble adapting to what has become in K a very academic curriculum. Most children are not bored by being the most accomplished and articulate students in their classes. If I were you, I would wait. Or if you still feel she needs more challenge next year you could enroll her in 1st grade as kindergarten is not manditory.

  26. To 11:25 am: Here are some of the T-K programs I looked into or am aware of:

    The Little School
    Eureka Learning Center
    Peter's Place
    St. Philip's (in Noe Valley)
    JCC (all 3 locations)
    Lone Mountain

    We just accepted a spot for our fall b-day girl at The Little School. We're going to give her the extra year and re-apply to our dream private school next year. And if she ends up going to public school as an older kid, the last poster is helping me to feel better about that.

    Does anyone know of any other programs? I'd say there's a glaring business opportunity for some preschools to expand to offer T-K programs. The biggest problem I had with many of the programs I found was that they were only part-time (1 to 4 or 12:30 to 4:30 daily), which is hard to manage, especially if you have younger kids in preschool as we do. Plus, my daughter is definitely ready for more hours. The Eureka Learning Center's program runs 9 to 3, which is great. But they are all full -- all their first round offers were accepted and they didn't even go to their waitlist to fill the program this year.

  27. i think Playmates (co-op in the Sunset) has a TK program; Synergy has a 'young kindergarten'.

  28. How can we really assess readiness? I also received the handouts from West Portal, and have read them. My daughter "meets" most of the "measures", yet struggles with concentration, sitting still for long periods, writing, and visual perception (puzzles and the like). As her birthday is in the Spring, she would start at 5 1/2. We are actively working on these areas with her. And..when I think of the increasing numbers of kids who will be 6 upon starting school, I wonder if we should rethink our ingrained approach of "you're 5 now so of course you'll start kindergarten".

    Perhaps if it is really that "easy" (ie for the child) to repeat kindergarten as suggested in this thread, then we can just see how the school year turns out.

    Thoughts on Spring birthdays?

  29. Did you know that in many, if not most, states children must be 5 on the first day of school in order to start kindergarten? If your daughter starts at 4.9 months and, at some point in the future, you move out of state she will be over one year younger than many children in her class. This could have a significant impact on her social comfort level.
    What is the hurry?

  30. To the poster March 19 at 10:24, I wanted to suggest Little Bear School for Pre-K. It's at 65 Ocean (that sounds far away but from North Bernal it was 8 minutes through that little San Jose underpass right after you get on 280 at San Jose/Randall.) Anyway, they usually have space because they are a pretty big and flexible place. The preschool itself (for me) was way too chaotic and we turned it down when my son was preschool age, but it proved a great option for us for Pre-K (we didn't get into Eureka LC and we passed on St Phillips). My son has a late October birthday.

    There is lots of free play which I felt was good for my son - one last year before the more academic Kindergarten, but they also do lots of pre-math stuff, art, and weekly dance, yoga and tumbling. They have a big outdoor space too. They have theme months (Dinosaurs, Bugs, Music, International Month, etc) and my son both loved the themes and learned a great deal.

    It's kind of a kooky place in some ways, and I personally felt discomfort at their lack of organization (like they put out a calendar but don't really stick to it) my son really thrived there. And though I was uncomfortable with the lack of structure, they do have a rhyme and reason to it.

    Anyway it's an option if you really think your child would benfit from another year. Their number is 239-2220.

  31. I'd like to make a suggestion to anyone who applied to a private school and got waitlisted or didn't get an acceptance at all - call the school and ask about your child's assessment. There are definitely space restrictions, but there are also other factors that could have influenced your child's acceptance to the school. Your son or daughter might have learning differences that you don't know about, but that the school factored in. Unless you ask, you might not get the full story.

  32. To the poster who asked about holding back a child with a spring birthday - in private schools you see a lot of kids with early summer or late spring birthdays held back. Many of them do seem to have trouble settling comfortably into their class, and seem to me like the ones who are not finding the work interesting enough and having more trouble fitting in socially. Also, they often have to "play up" on sports teams because they don't make the age cutoff to be on their class team (not a major issue but one to know about).

    It seems like when some spring b-days are held back it's done as a way to address underlying learning differences, but in those situations the kids still need to have some extra support. The additional year can held, but it's not the answer completely.

  33. To 10:55 PM. Our son has a spring birthday. He was not ready to enter K at 5-1/2 (difficulty with fine motor skills and speech), so we placed him in a transitional K program. He entered K at 6-1/2 and turned 7 in the spring. In some areas he was advanced (reading, math, attention span, behavior) at the start of the school year, but in some areas he was still below his peers (pencil gripe, forming letters, writing, anything related to art & crafts--you know, the fine motor skills--and language). The school (public) provided special help in those areas, and he graduated K absolutely ready for first grade. There were several children in his class who would have benefitted from enrollment at a later age, and they seem to be still playing "catch up" at the end of first grade.

    So anyone considering enrollment for their 4 year old, remember two things:
    1) they can be in a classroom with 6-1/2 and 7 year olds, and
    2) "catch up" is hard on the child (frustration, self-esteem issues, etc) and sometimes costly (tutors, special classes, etc)

  34. Phoebe Hearst Preschool, across from St. Mary's Cathedral and near Japantown, has a great transitional kindergarten program.

  35. Wow - What a discussion. I was pretty certain that my daughter would go to K next year even though she won't be 5 until November. I thought that being young would keep her challenged. Now I am second-guessing this decision. Our next child will have the same predicament but he will be a boy (which for some reason I think will make it harder for him). Ugh

  36. We're also on the fence about this, our daughter is currently in a great program that would be happy to have her stay next year. And she got a school that we'd like, in our neighbourhood. But her bday is late Nov, and academically I think she'd do fine -- but socially, oh my! And I'm also worried about later, its one thing to be the youngest by 18 mths or so in elementary, but what about middle school and high school. I was always the smallest kid in my class (with a summer birthday) and have horrid memories of middle school - preteen girls are so much fun.
    Any one with older kids who waited, or didn't, have any feedback?

    We're getting a lot of persistant pushing from family who put other Nov birthdays in, but I'm leaning towards waiting.

  37. Hi MCL and all -- Sorry to repeat for those who have been reading this blog for a long time.

    My son is a high school junior with an Oct. 30 birthday. We kept him out an extra year -- the term "redshirting" was unknown back then (this was 1995), and so really was the notion that it would give him an academic advantage. He was very clearly smart, but very clearly not ready for several reasons -- social etc.

    His age difference with his classmates is not an issue -- just never has been. He does well academically when he wants (the short story is that in HS he "forgets" to do any homework he thinks is busywork; his GPA is not great for that reason, but his grades when he DOES the work are top, and so are his test scores). I honestly doubt that his academic performance would be different if he were in the class of '08 instead of the class of '09 right now.

    I can't say what it would have been like if we had pushed him into K at 4 1/2. Everyone agreed he wasn't ready -- preschool teachers, we the parents, his grandparents (and they are from a generation when this really wasn't done). But aside from the cavalier attitude about "busywork," all has been well.

    In general this is more commonly done with boys, who often mature more slowly. There was a girl in my son's K-5 classes in the same situation, though -- a September birthday, so even older than he is.

  38. HI 7:11 am

    Your post really resonates with me as those are many of the same skills my daughter is struggling with. We are talking to the OT therapist on Monday about our concerns. Especially since we agree with an earlier poster that the waiting period may or may not help/resolve the underlying issues. Of course, we didn't puruse a T-K option (yet). Her current preschool offers one, and it may not be different enough from the 2 prior years she has spent there to really push her in a new direction. of course, conversations are occuring with them as well. I'd hate to move her in the fall this year, and then have a second transition in fall 09.

    Anyone know of educators who specialize in helping parents through this decision process? Someone with a really good handle on TODAY'S expectations in K. I find that reading the literature is informing..but not really leading to a conclustion.

  39. Most middle-class kids will do fine if they enter K at either 4 and 10 months or 5 and 10 months. They may have a somewhat easier time socially if they enter early, but any advantages fall off by 3rd grade. Your decision should take into account your particular child's needs as well as your family's financial situation. Also keep in mind that things will likely work out either way and that no decision is irreversible.

  40. 2:04-

    You might want to get in touch with Pat Henery. She was very helpful working out some issues around my son's academic skills.

  41. I might also add that many developmental issues, especially in relation to speech and language disorders, are more easily dealt with if caught earlier rather than later. I would advice parents to seek assistance with the school district as soon as possible if you feel your child is possibly at risk. After an assessment (free of charge from SFUSD), the therapist may be able to provide advice as to whether it's best to delay or not. Assessments and therapies are available from age 3 and up.

  42. Thanks for a recommendation regarding a resource, Pat Henry. Where can she be located? Thanks.

  43. Her office is on Webster Street but I don't have her phone number on hand. Her last name is spelled "Henery"

  44. It's interesting to me that private schools, which supposedly focus less on academics in K, typically have an earlier birthday cut off date than public schools. I understand that some kids may not be ready socially for K before they're 5, but I don't really understand how the transitional K programs are so different from private K classes. Can anyone explain?

  45. There is no difference between Transitional K and private K, it is a money making scam IMHO!
    Why would private schools tell parents anything other than "little Katie needs an additional year to prepare for K"? It's a no brainer one more year of fees. We fell for it because it played on our insecurity and fear of doing the wrong thing but looking back a couple of years on it is very clear what the motive was.

  46. And remember, when your daughter is 14-1/2 in 10th grade, some boys will be 16 (or older) and driving! That is a tremendous age difference for a sexually-immature little girl.

  47. one of my concerns about redshirting is that it is a middle-class luxury that disadvantaged kids' families can't really afford. it will only aggravate already existing disparities in preparedness between low-income and middle-income kids, right? if enough of us redshirt kids, will it make it almost impossible for people to consider sending their young 5s (as per the state mandate)? will the practice become ubiquitous? (maybe it has already and i'm hopelessly out of touch.) the other consequence (which the previous poster alluded to): at-grade-age girls classed with 1.5-years-older boys (and MUCH older boys across the high school ranks). bad idea, i think. i'm wondering if we really need to splice individual differences to this extent. was it really so bad back in the day when everybody just went if they were the intended age? i know the academic curriculum has been pushed onto younger and younger kids, but still...i thought we were trying to equalize the playing field in the publics. it just seems like this undermines that effort. my two cents....

  48. Kim, I totally agree, this is ridiculous US middle class parent pampering. If they are not old enough at the cut-off date then make the date earlier in the year and make everyone stick to it. Caroline asked what is the rush - its simple, I can not AFFORD for my son not to start kindergarten this fall , he meets the cut off and everyone who knows him thinks he is ready. I don't understand why there is an option to hold back? Now I have to fear much older kids and aggressive academic teaching but I am far from clear as to what came first the older kids or the more academic kindergarten? Someone posted earlier that kids could be 6 or even approaching 7 in Kindergarten!!! Show me any other developed country that would have almost 7 year olds starting school. Where does it end?

  49. Kim,
    As the state mandates or per the state mandate, but not "as per"!!! Sorry to pick on you, but you are a writer. I couldn't help myself. It's a sickness. :-( Btw, I enjoy your comments, twisted humor and all.

  50. For what it is worth, many countries have preschool until SIX years old, and often it is play-based. This includes countries like Germany, Netherlands and Japan.

    It does make one wonder what we might be robbing our kids of here in US.

    This article from the NY Times on this very subject was referenced above but here is the link ...

  51. I am a veteran Kindergarten teacher, which influences my comments below:

    1. Kindergarten is exceptionally academic in California public schools - check the state standards.

    2. That said, challenging academic standards can be met without drills, busywork, enforced silence, and the destruction of a child's creativity, confidence and innate desire to learn. In fact, I'd say that if you actually want children to learn the content deeply, you MUST avoid all of the above.

    3. In a full-day K scenario, all K students should have plenty of time for free play, social/emotional development, gross/fine motor development, inquiry, art and music, etc. in addition to "strictly" academic content. This is less true in first grade, and it's my opinion that skipping Kindergarten entirely should be considered very carefully.

    4. In my experience, very young 4 year olds do fine - even the boys, who seem to have greater difficulties with fine motor. Your child's K teacher should spend a good deal of time observing the children in his/her class at the beginning of the year and planning in-class modifications for each child that will help all students learn.

    5. In addition to being an equity issue, I think "red-shirting" leads to some problems in terms of size/socialization differential. I would recommend against it unless it is the advice of a wide-range of professionals. For instance, some public Ks offer individual pre-screenings for children and their families. Preschool teachers (if applicable) may have ideas. There are also developmental scales available that will make recommendations based on academics, social/emotional development, language, and motor skills.

  52. Just for the record, I didn't ask that at all:

    "Caroline asked what is the rush - its simple, I can not AFFORD for my son not to start kindergarten this fall , he meets the cut off and everyone who knows him thinks he is ready."

    ... I completely understand the economic issue, and the disparity between the two groups: those who can afford it AND are savvy enough to know they can choose to wait, and those who can't afford it and.or aren't aware that they have the choice.

    I just described our own experience.

    Since I'm using my name and my son is now 17, I am not going to go into details about why it seemed so clear that he wasn't ready.

  53. I thought this article about Finnish schools (kids don't start until they're 70) might be of interest to this post as well.

  54. oops. that should've been kids don't start until they're 7 (70 ... now that would really be redshirting!)

  55. Thank you Kindergarten teacher at 9:41. I appreciate your input. As we were coming to a decision whether or not to redshirt our August birthday girl, it was interesting to find a difference of opinion coming from various professionals who knew or assessed our daughter. Our preschool indicated it might be best to wait a year however I felt they were influenced by the fact that most families from our school went on to private schools where redshirting is now expected. However, her pediatrician and a speech pathologist indicated it would be appropriate for her to move onto kindergarten. Friends and family had varying opinions but the general feeling seemed like it'd be better to wait (such is the current cultural trend). Sometimes I feel as though the teachers seem to have a preference to teach older kids in general since it'll be likely that older kids will be more receptive to instruction. This has become an unexpectedly tough and complicated issue.

  56. Sorry Caroline, my mistake - it was "Carolyn" and she asked what the hurry was...I'm sort of glad it wasn't you as I am a fan and I thought the question was a little smug (at least for those of us with no option). My answer would be the same.

  57. We are facing this too but, after weeks of soul searching, we have made peace with our decision to send our daughter (November birthday) to K in the fall this year. Everyone who knows her is sure she is ready. We do not have a T-K program for her and staying at her pre-school is not an option. We "won" the lottery getting assigned to our Number 1 choice (and local) school and doubt that we would be so lucky if we tried again next year. Our peace has been reached by agreeing that repeating K (with a different teacher) will be something we push very hard for if we feel at the end of that year that she is not ready for 1st grade for any reason. I hope that as parents we could work with the teachers and school to make that work. That way her first K year would be transitional and she would be in the wonderful school that we believe would fit her and our family the best. Does anyone have any experience of this scenario?

  58. A fall b-day girl in my daughter's grade repeated first (that is, she started in my daughter's grade), basically because the parents and teacher agreed she had been started too early. For whatever reason this didn't come up till first grade.

    These parents were caring but, I'm sorry to say, a bit out to lunch -- they really thought she was too young all along but didn't know they had the option. (Their older is in my son's grade. The mom told me they would have pushed for an immersion school for the older but hadn't done enough research to know they existed. They're not disadvantaged, so you definitely had to bite your tongue to ask how they missed all this information. Sorry, I digress...)

    Anyway, the child WAS actually struggling academically in first grade, and the view was that this was not cognitive but just that she wasn't mature enough. And apparently repeating first grade, and winding up with a class more at her developmental level, was successful.

    I understand that families often change schools for the repeated grade, to avoid damage to the child's self-esteem, but this one didn't, and as far as I know that wasn't a problem.

  59. When I asked EPC last year, I don't think SFUSD will allow a child to repeat K, just for the sake of it or to afford the young fall child a free transitional K year. If the child doesn't do well in K (K kids get report cards assessing how they are doing compared to the K standards), I assume they might let the kid repeat, but I don't think a parent advocating for a second K year is necessarily going to get it, if the child doesn't do poorly in K.
    You might want to talk to the school's principal or the Educational Placement Center, before making a decision based on the assumption that you will have this "repeat" option.

  60. I understood from my discussions with EPC that if the child was finding K a struggle academically or having particular difficulty socially then the option to repeat K was absolutely an option. This happens rarely but is often not discovered until well into the K year (or even later) and parents can sometimes be opposed, mostly for the self esteem issues that Caroline mentioned. If everyone involved considers that the child is not ready for first grade then they most definitely can repeat K.

  61. I am the original "repeat" poster, thank you for the input. I was no way suggesting that we should be allowed to repeat out of convenience. More that while we are sure our daughter is ready for K, I worry that the gap will get bigger as she gets older, and there is no way to know that now. I hope that by the time we get through K her teachers will be able to reassure us that she is on track, and if she is off track and falling behind then repeating is something that is done, if all agree it is in her best interest. I guess I'm comforted by the fact that I am not writing her academic life in stone and that all decisions can be adjusted and corrected if necessary as things become clearer over time.

  62. It's interesting, a year ago I was very anti-red shirting for my summer-born child for all the reasons people have talked about -- fairness/problems with having an older kid in upper grades/etc. But after having been told by many people that my child is not ready socially, I have signed up for our preschool's excellent TK program. Since my child is otherwise ready academically, I am hoping to sign up for 1st grade in 2009-2010. Does anyone have any insight as to whether that would be easier? Harder? (Having gone 0/7 in round #1, I can't imagine it could be harder...) Does anyone have any experiece w/ kids starting school as first graders w/ a class of kids who mostly know each other? Any insight would be greatly appreciated!!

  63. 6:20's situation brings up an interesting question: can a single child enter both the K and the 1st grade SFUSD lottery? I'm guessing no.

  64. 6:20 here -- no, I don't think you can enter the lottery for K and 1st. My understanding is that we'll be able to choose either for our child. Obviously, we'll do what we feel is best based on development, teacher feedback, etc., but I'm just curious what our odds are in the lottery if we decide (as I'm hoping will be the case) our child is ready for 1st grade after a year of TK. They obviously aren't great at many schools for K, but do they get even worse for 1st??

  65. For the NY Times article on this subject (redshirting), the link I posted last night does not seem to work. This one does:

  66. Sorry I don't have answers on the ins and outs, even though we did it ourselves. But just in response to this line:

    "...problems with having an older kid in upper grades..."

    As noted, my once-"redshirted" son is now a high school junior; with an Oct. 30 birthday, he'll turn 18 right after he starts his senior year. (He gets to vote -- he is so jazzed!) His age is not even the tiniest blip of an issue at school in any way -- socially, academically, anything.

  67. Whether your child is "ready" for kindergarten is only one piece of the puzzle. Being young for his/her grade can catch up to a child at other times, especially as a preadolescent and/or teen. Your daughter might be fine in early elementary school as one of the younger children but might struggle later on (for example, if she is late to go through puberty and is already young for her class). The social pressures really ratchet up in middle and high school, and it is harder for some children to be younger than their classmates, either emotionally, chronologically or physically. No black and white directive here, just something else for you to consider.

  68. Someone's always going to be the youngest....

  69. THEME - not fitting in socially because of being older than others in the class

    Opinions on this thread express that over time being the "oldest" has not caused problems. Could we return to a focus the early years, please? As a parent of a child with fine/gross motor challenges, I'm trying to better understand how to consider the "social skill set" as part of the decision to go or not to go.

    I'm wondering what posters specifically mean that kids who are 6 and older might "struggle to fit in socially" in the K classroom. Could you describe that more fully, please? My child's playmates cover such a wide age/developmental span that I'm not sure what exactly I could/should be looking for. Thanks.

  70. Well, we kept our son out of K for an extra year because we felt he was behind in his social development (and related functions). So he had no problem with being more mature than the rest of the class. He also wasn't an early reader, even though he has always been academically advanced -- it's just not that simple. (For example, when he did start reading he leaped ahead of grade level.)

    The fact that he was older than most of the kids truly was not an issue -- to paraphrase what someone else said, someone has to be the oldest.

  71. FYI my son (late August B-Day) was in the middle of the pack age-wise at his SFUSD kindergarten. The idea of redshirting is just not on the radar screen of most parents who send their kids to public school in SF.

  72. I am a November baby. I was ALWAYS the youngest in my class. I didn't turn 18 till my first year in college.

    Socially, I think everything turned out fine. There is such a natural range of social skills in any group of kids that everyone will find his or her place, and some kids will naturally have better social skills than others regardless of age.

    Academically, I can say that I have always felt a bit insecure about my knowledge base and academic skills but I cannot say whether that could be traced to starting Kindergarten at 4. There are so many other factors that may come into play; for example, in my case, my parents worked full time and did not participate in my school life at all. I am now a lawyer so, whatever their origin, my insecurities don't seem to have held me back too much.

    All that said, my son's b-day is August 1 and after reading this thread and going 0/7 in round I, I am wondering if perhaps waiting a year would be the right choice.

    So funny how this lottery process and this blog have altered/affected a variety of basic ideas and beliefs I had about sending my son to school.

  73. My last comment was very wordy and I think this one will be worse. Oops. This is from my experience teaching Kindergarten:

    1. Retention is possible but generally should be avoided. Children are aware that they have not been moved on and that their friends have - even in Kindergarten.

    If retention is truly needed and appropriate in all (academic, social, physical, emotional) areas, a new teacher is a really good idea.

    I've also had retained students who were socially ready for promotion to first grade who were academically behind. That can cause problems, too. A careful transition with a lot of pre-planning is advised.

    2. I don't consider August-born students young. I don't know any public school teachers who would (although I imagine they exist). In my experience, children with November birthdays sometimes (not always) struggle a bit more at the beginning of the year. Typically, if a child is going to experience age-related difficulty, the areas of weakness are around fine motor control and visual discrimination.

    Those struggles can be ameliorated easily! In my experience, a kinesthetic and open classroom helps students adjust quickly. Observation of a child working/playing independently and with peers, talking to parents - finding the accomodations to ease a child's transition is part of my job for all of my students, not just the ones who are having a hard time of it.

    I have yet to meet any K student who is fond of sitting and completing drill activities for hours on end - come to think of it, I don't know any adults who like that either. That's not an age-related problem: that's an inappropriate model of instruction for most/all learners.

    While the K standards are very high, they're not necessarily prerequisite. For instance, a student might struggle at the beginning of the year with fine motor skills. That's fine, providing they have a safe environment to try and feel confident that they are authors/illustrators/etc. Legible writing is not prerequisite to writing narratives. Students don't need to master a sight word the first time it's introduced: they will see it again many times. The trick is that the child feels successful and sees progress.

    FWIW, the state doesn't consider August-born children young, either - there are proposals to change the public school entry cutoff to September 1.

    3. K students at the higher end of the age range - I have had students turn eight in Kindergarten, but for the purposes of this comment will stick to the kids who enter at/near 6 - sometimes experience age-related difficulties.

    For children who did not go to preschool (or attended a very nonacademic preschool, I suppose), I may notice learning difficulties that benefit from classroom modifications/extra services/possibly outside support. (I'm thinking of processing issues/mild speech problems, not behavior stuff.) In my opinion, the earlier such differences are found, the better: parents and teachers can more quickly make the right adjustments.

    Some older students are much bigger than their peers. This can complicate things! Most schools have separate K playlots for a reason. If a large student and a small student collide it can be disastrous. Of course age does not equal size - but older students tend to be bigger.

    Older students who have age-appropriate fine motor skills will also finish some activities faster than younger students. This isn't a problem if the teacher is prepared with sparklers and whatnot (or differentiated the activity to begin with), but not all teachers do that.

  74. Thank you Kindergarten Teacher. The information you provide is extremely useful!

  75. i have to admit i'm more confused than ever as to whether my fall '03 daughter should be going to kindergarten next year. in a lot of ways, i think she'll be fine. but i've noticed she's gotten more reticent lately in new situations (is shy when she first gets to school) and is sometimes nervous about going to the teachers for help, or worries they'll be mad if she does something wrong. is this typical 4.5-year old stuff? i mean, how much time do the public K teachers nowadays spend on helping kids work through this kind of stuff (or maybe it's just a personality/introvert thing and she'll always have this issue? or maybe i should be talking to a child psychologist ...)? Or by K are they expected to "fend on their own," so to speak, and focus on learning their ABCs and 123s? In schools with children who come from lower-socioeconomic backgrounds who haven't attended preschool, do the K teachers tend to spend more time on developing their socializing skills? hell, maybe she'd be better off in that setting, at least to begin with.

    i was talking with my cousin, who lives out in Orinda, and her 8-year-old son is enduring a lot of bullying at his school right now. It's "a good school," but she feels very frustrated by the teacher and administration's lack of action about what's happening. I noticed when touring that at places that have student populations from poorer backgrounds, like Flynn, J. Serra (and Miraloma, to be fair) that there was a lot of emphasis put on conflict resolution (Tribes, etc.). At places like Clarendon, not so much. Perhaps because they think it's not a problem? (though I imagine it is.)

    speaking of which, and i'm getting off topic, but parents of older kids who went through preschool -- do you think it helped, in terms of socializing and teaching kids to use their words, etc.? In terms of teaching them to wait in line, I imagine it does. But what about in terms of treating each fairly and working through conflicts? in a lot of ways, kids seem meaner than ever these days ... (and yes, i probably should work through some of those bad lunchtime on the blacktop memories with my therapist next time i see her)

  76. Clarendon does use the Tribes system of conflict resolution, as well as 4th/5th grade student 'Conflict Managers' at lunch and recess.

  77. my bad. it was probably just wishful thinking on the part of my bitter 0/7 self. though i have heard, albeit through the rumor mill, that bullying isn't always handled that well at clarendon.

    i'll shush up now.

  78. @8:29

    To respond to your concerns based on my experience:

    1. If you think your daughter will be ready, send her to Kindergarten! Reticence/shyness are normal. On the first day of school, I am a new (therefore scary!) adult for all of my students. I expect some to be shy.

    2. If you have specific concerns - like your daughter not wanting to approach the teacher - PLEASE discuss these with your child's teacher. A good time to do this is anytime except the morning of the first day of school.

    Sometimes I have a child who is too shy to ask for something he or she needs. If I know this is an issue, I can a. Anticipate the child's needs and proactively solve the problem and b. come up with safe ways for the child to start taking conversational risks. But if I don't know, it's more difficult for me AND your child.

    3. Building independence is really important in my classroom so I do a lot of individual/classwide reflection and processing (debriefing activities, talking about feelings, etc.). I also do a lot of conflict resolution (Tribes and Caring School Communities are widely used in SFUSD), community-building, and learning around "situational appropriateness". I imagine most teachers do this - the Kindergarten state standards in Social Studies cover issues of citizenship and getting along, so it's "standards-based" even!

    4. In terms of conflict resolution programs and school populations, it would not entirely surprise me if poorer schools with more children of color either teach more conflict-resolution programs OR that these programs are more obvious to outsiders.

    I mean, most teachers (me included!) are white. We expect white cultural norms and conflict resolution strategies. These sometimes differ from those used by our students of color. That can be a mismatch (it's probably part of the reason African American boys have very high suspension rates and why many of those suspensions are for somewhat vague things like "defiance").

    So I think the teachers of these students might be more inclined to teach them, and people visiting the school may be more aware of them because it's not what they expected.

    As I said above, I think these are absolutely critical skills for all children to learn. All children will be negotiating with a society that privileges white norms, and I need to help my students be ready to succeed in that environment. (Students for whom these strategies are their own also benefit from explicit teaching about them.)

    However, I also recognize that some strategies may not be the same for all children, and therefore I think it's important to talk about "situational appropriateness", and reflecting on my own practice to make sure I do not denigrate other ways of speaking and being.

    I am sure that Clarendon et al. ALSO teach these skills, of course!

    In re. ABCs vs. getting along with others: these need to be concurrently taught. I do a lot of team/peer teaching activities in my class (yes, K students can do it and do it well!), for instance. I think parent and educators really need to stand against drill and kill methodologies and this false dichotomy of academic vs. social learning. I want my students to master the standards and be valued members of our school community.

    One last thing: if your child reports a problem with a student, please let the teacher know right away. He or she may not see every incident or misread what happened, and if your child is shy please help bridge that communication gap.

    Good luck to you and your daughter! Whatever you decide, I hope that it works wonderfully. And sorry for the length, again.

  79. thank you so much for your thoughtful, detailed response. i really appreciate it.

  80. For the March 20 poster looking for more TK programs. Lakeside Presbyterian has both a kindergarten and a transitional kindergarten. Some kindergarten kids will go directly to first grade and some will repeat kindergarten at their next school.

  81. I was always the youngest and it was not a problem until everyone else hit puberty and I didn't. The women in my family usually don't menstruate until 14 or 15 and breast development is delayed, too. Had I been an early bloomer, it might not have been as much of a problem for me socially in middle school ;-)

  82. When *we* were in kindergarten, it was mostly play-based. So 4 year olds could definitely handle it. Now that kindergarten is more academic and more like 1st grade, my heart goes out to those younger kids who miss out on an extra year of play. There are reams of research on the importance of play in early childhood education. It is a pity so many kindergartens choose to ignore the research and plunge into academics too early.

  83. It is a pity so many kindergartens choose to ignore the research and plunge into academics too early.

    This is a false dichotomy. It is very possible to have an academic Kindergarten program that also values a child's individual growth, puts a premium on free play and exploration, and gives ever child a chance to develop him- or herself through play.

    A Kindergarten where children sit down, shut up, and do what they're told isn't compatible with academic learning. A six-hour Kindergarten day (standard in SFUSD) of free play alone will leave Kindergarten students well below standard (and probably bored senseless).

    And I know this to be true because I teach an academic, play-based Kindergarten and have for years.

  84. I have a son who is 5 with a February 28, 2003 Bday. He has been in private preschool for 2 years and according to his teacher and an outside assessment, he is ready for kindergarten next year. We applied to 8 private schools in Los Angeles (sorry...I know you're all in SF but this blog is very insightful! Thanks) and got into NONE. We are wait listed at 6 of the 8 and as of last Tuesday, April 8th, all schools had to have their wait-list acceptances returned AND their first-round acceptance and deposit checks in. We have yet to hear from any of the schools. A friend who was also wait-listed at all got a call from her top-choice school last Wednesday (the day after checks were due) saying their daughter was accepted. All the families with boys have not gotten any calls.
    I'm curious what everyone's thoughts are on this wait-list process. Do you think that since their cutoff's for acceptance of round 1 was April 8th that most schools are taking a week to regroup and will THEN call this coming week? I'm so stressed and so nervous B/C:
    1. We live in LA and the LAUSD situation (our local public) is truly dismal.
    2. We have thought about finding a TK for this coming year and then reapllying "red-shirting" into K next year at privates (like many, many kids did this year) but I truly believe with his bday right in the middle it is just wrong...he will be too old and...he really is ready to move forward.
    3. Do you think there's a chance that we would get calls in the summer from schools?
    4. I just don't know what to do and how to handle this whole process.
    We have written hand-written notes, emailed, and called our top 4 schools letting them know if a spot comes open we will happily take it immediately. I think that is just all we can do at this point?
    Any thoughts or imput is greatly appreciated!

  85. Well, we did not get a public school assignment in either Round 1 or Round 2. We did get a spot at a wonderful T-K program, so we are going to stick with that. It's great that our child will get an extra year to play and develop. But I'm really not looking forward to doing this process again next year! Next year we plan to apply to everthing -- public, private, even parochial (which we never considered this year). It just seems too risky a process otherwise. Maybe we should get a real estate agent too? In any case, the extra year is good for our child, but also gives us another year to try in this crazy process.

  86. Re: Kim Green's "was it really so bad back in the day when everybody just went if they were the intended age?"

    We sent our May b-day, "always 6 months behind at each developmental milestone" boy to private school this past fall (5 years, 3 months old). We didn't want to hold him back and were given the go ahead by his preschool teachers(even though earlier in the year they intimated he might not be ready). During the course of this year we have discovered that he has mild sensory processing issues. This, coupled with the fact that many kids are chronologically older than him and most are developmentally older than him has resulted in everyone involved (teachers, OT, head of school) recommending that he be retained in kindergarten. Believe me, my goal is not to give my kid an unfair "advantage," but rather to address his individual needs. It pains me that his friends will be moving on and he will not, however I am praying that by giving him a chance to develop the skills that he needs for first grade (at a time when K is more like 1st used to be and 1st is more like 2nd used to be), his confidence will grow and he will truly enter 1st grade READY, not just hanging on.

  87. For private school, it's no longer a choice. 6 is the new 5. This is a cultural shift and everyone must follow, willing or not. And it's only a matter of time before redshirting is the rule for public as well. Personally I don't think it's right but I've come to accept it's inevitability.

    For summer birthdays, I'd recommend prospective private school parents save their money (not to mention a lot of time, stress and agony) and just apply the following year. It's become so that spring boys are borderline now.