Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Is my daughter ready for kindergarten?

Another dilemma from an SF K Files visitor:

We got into a transitional K program about a week ago. Several kids from my daughter's preschool are going there, and I know she'd be happy there and probably thrive, grow in confidence, etc. She's a little on the young side, but not too much (September). We've put the deposit down. Our waitpool school is a nice neighborhood school that could turn into a great neighborhood school -- it seems to have a new influx of parent energy and a great proactive principal. I ironically went to EPC today to withdraw our name from the waitpool, when they told me there is a spot available. I told them I needed 24 hours to think it over and would come back tomorrow if we decided yes (and see if it's still available ...)

I'm not sure what to do. Financially, swinging TK will be so hard for us. And while I think my daughter is a little immature for kindergarten, i don't think she's outrageously unready for it. But at her school they have all been talking about their new TK school and are excited to be going. She's very happy about it. When I tried testing the waters and said, oh, well you know, i heard about this other school, which sounds nice too and we could go look at it, she gets really upset and says she doesn't want to go to kindergarten; she wants to go to the TK with all her friends. Is this a normal reaction to the uncertainty I'm now throwing at her? Other people who switched kids during the 10-day count, how did your children react? I guess I just feel sad too because I read about all these confident happy kids going off to kindergarten -- kids who've had time to get used to the idea of where they're going to school, and have met other kids through picnics, etc -- and then I see my child and how anxious she seems. But maybe that will dissipate once she makes the switch?


  1. I would go with your heart about whether your daughter is ready for K. If she is, and you like the school, make the switch. I wouldn't ask your daughter though -- an almost 5 year old is just too young to be consulted on a decision like this. If you decide to move, talk it up so she comes around. If you decide to wait a year, at least you know you have a choice she'll like.

  2. thank you. and thank you, kate, for posting. we're not planning to say anything else until we decide. i probably shouldn't have even mentioned it, but it's so hard to know what to do (how do you talk a place up in 24-48 hours, which is what we'd need to do at this point?). but thank you again.

  3. thank you. and thank you, kate, for posting. we're not planning to say anything else until we decide. i probably shouldn't have even mentioned it, but it's so hard to know what to do (how do you talk a place up in 24-48 hours, which is what we'd need to do at this point?). but thank you again.

  4. I would make the decision independently of what your daughter feels she wants at this point. If you do decide to put her in K, I agree that talking it up is best, but it may have to be one of those things that you're relentlessly positive about (while acknowledging the losses for her of her friends being in her class and the loss of the picture she has in her mind for her next year) in the face of her disappointment. Sometimes we make the best plans for things and our kids get their hopes up for something and then we realize we just can't do that thing (or its not best for them) and there is disappointment or maybe a tantrum. You just have to stick to what you feel is right.

    You may have a few stormy weeks, but it should be fine after that.

    My son has a November birthday and is almost 6 starting K and, while I'm glad in some ways we waited, he has been ready and aching for a Kindergarten-like situation for months. I would say he was way ready last January! So you may want to factor that in. But waiting has many advantages, too, and one of them is that it is so nice when they're just dying to start kindergarten!

    I do know some great families going to Sunnyside (if that's the school you're talking about)!

    Good luck!

  5. I would go with the kindergarten. You can't guarantee you will get a school you like next year. If she really isn't ready you could hold her back for a second year of kindergarten. Kids adjust. I changed my son's school in 2nd grade and he was mad for about a month, but then he made friends and has been happy ever since. My daugter has an OCtober birthday and has always been the youngest in her class. It has made school a bit more challenging for her, but she loves being the youngest.

  6. In another thread, we addressed this dilemma, and I think the conclusion was to go ahead and start the kid in kindergarten, and if she's too behind, she can always repeat it.

    And therefore, there wouldn't be much difference between that and paying for a "transitional K", the reality of which to me is a little silly. Transitional? An urban legend.

    My two cents...

  7. For what it is worth, we decided to drop our TK spot and put our November birthday boy into the Kinder we were allocated (and with which we were and are very happy). Turns out he is one of four kids in his class with birthdays the very same week in the middle of November so he is in no way the stand-out youngest, which was my fear. He also (v early days I know) is loving his new school. He has told me all about his friends, teacher, what they all did at recess and lunch etc. I was worried he would not be ready for all the new stuff, the big kid stuff, but looking at him now I am so glad he is there. Surprisingly to me the kids who stand our in the class line up are the older (obviously red-shirted) kids (in our class two boys) who are heads and shoulders above the others and seem a little "been there done that" about the routine that the others are so excited about. If you think your daughter is ready and you are happy with the school I would send her. The early days will be tough but perhaps not as tough as you imagine. She will make friends within a few days. In my son’s class there has been a new kid each morning (Tues and Wednesday and another we are told coming tomorrow). I think it will be like that for a few weeks if not longer, some movement, kids coming and going. She will not be the new girl for long and the staff appears much practiced in welcoming the little newcomers. Congratulations on having places at two good options and best of luck with whatever you decide.

  8. 12:40 - Nice post. Thank you. My daughter is a November birthday too and although I plan to send her next year to K, sometimes I have lingering doubts. It helps to hear the other side and the positive experiences of parents/kids joining K on the young side.

  9. My daughter too has a late birthday Oct, and i chose to send her last year to K after fore go the TK. Right now i wish we had done the TK as now we have to do K over as she really wasn't ready. The probelm is she wants to say with her friends now and really doesn't want to repeat K as none of her friends are. In a TK program everyone would move on together next year. Just something to think about, it's a tough call and really you should go with your gut feeling, regardless.

  10. How have you explained the repeating K to your daughter? A boy who was in my son's class last year is repeating K (and he is not a late birthday child). My 1st grader noticed that he hasn't moved on. I explained that sometimes it helps some kids to stay in a grade for two years in a row and it's not silly (his word) and that he could still be friends with his former classmate. But just wondering if there's something else I should add.

  11. ...good luck. and please let us know what schools you are referring to when you're ready.

  12. My 4th grade daughter is a November birthday - and about 5 of her best friends have birthdays within 4 weeks either way of hers.

    Academically they are all quite superstars - performing at the 99% nationally (according to our public school stats.)

    She was emotionally ready for school and is our second child, which helps. But our older son was an August birthday and he, too, was never the youngest and has done great academically and emotionally.

    If you think she's ready, to ahead (especially if you don't feel you can afford TK and if you think she's ready.)

    While you may mourn the little fantasies of getting ready for kinder for months prior, this like the pain of childbirth, this will quickly fade.

    Good luck and keep us posted.

  13. Not ALL the kindergartners are immediately confident and happy.

    In our child's case the teacher and other school staff are doing a wonderful job of increasing the confidence and happiness.

    I also remember that back when I was 5 I cried a lot about having to go to kindergarten but eventually loved it.

  14. I agree that a five-year-old is not competent to make this decision. If the cost of the preK program causes too much strain, that will come out negatively in your family dynamic. If you got a good public school now, why risk going through all this hell again next year--the strain of which will also come out negatively in your family dynamic. Unless you really think she can't handle kindergarten (and among our friends with late birthdays, all have handled it fine), go for kindergarten.

  15. To the original poster -- what did you decide to do? We are in the exact same situation (also with a Sept. birthday girl). We got a spot at our top choice public (Miraloma) just last Friday. After much soul-searching, we took the spot and (taking a deep breath) sent her to school on Monday. She's been doing just fine. In fact, she already has made a few friends and is speaking up in class, which quite frankly surprises us. We still need to call the TK program and give up our spot (I'm doing it tomorrow - gulp). We decided to give it a few days and see how things felt. But so far, smooth sailing. I'm curious to know what you decided and how it's going.

  16. i'd be curious to know as well. we have a sept. girl and got in off our waitpool choice, after having secured a spot at a preK. we put her in, and now i'm having second doubts. (though i realize it's only a week, so maybe things will get better). she doesn't have a very strong knowledge of the alphabet -- she can write her name and knows quite a few numbers, but says the other kids in her class all know their letters better and she feels embarrassed when the teacher calls on her. she's also having trouble with all the rule-setting, which i realize the teachers need to do in the beginning of school, but it's hard coming from our very play-based preschool. i'm thinking now that a year in a more relaxed environment with some structure might be better for her. she still has such a need to move around and play. her teacher is lovely, and the school community is lovely too. i'm just wishing now i'd given her another year of play.

  17. 8:28 I would definitely talk with your daughter's teacher. My kids have been notoriously unreliable reporters about what "everyone else" is doing. Her teacher will know whether she is in the norm, slightly behind, or even ahead. My kids also came from a play-based nursery school, and while they didn't know a lot of letters and letter sounds at the beginning, they had no trouble learning.

    Her teacher can also tell you whether she is just having the usual adjustment to the rules of kindergarten, or if she really is struggling compared with the other kids.

    Good luck.

  18. i'm reading this thread with interest, because our daughter will turn 5 in september 09, so i assume we very well might have similar concerns.

    almost all the other states have pushed their K deadlines up to Sept. 1. Is California's curriculum less rigorous (Or less test-score-based?) than other states? I'm just wondering about the reasoning for pushing up the deadlines elsewhere.

    And while I know K is more academic these days, do most teachers still seem to get these are active 5-year-olds and have the moving around a lot, whether it be station work or free play?

    thanks. curious parent.

  19. I believe a lot of private schools also set 9/1 as the cutoff date.

    Given California's abysmal rankings in test scores and high dropout rates, I would suggest they move the cutoff date up too! What happens is when kids are not ready, unless they are held back at K, they get pushed through and sometimes become disruptive because they cannot keep up (and definitely not a joyful learner, its a struggle and totally unfair for them). And also the teacher has to devote more time and resources to these kids.

    I'm not saying that is your daughter. In fact, girls actually seem a year ahead of boys developmentally/academically at that age, so your daughter may actually be fine.

    As for your question in class - though I found the K teachers were gentle and recognized the short attention spans, it was definitely hard on them and the class to have kids in there who were not ready for K. A transitional K would have been a better option for them, but alas, how many parents can afford that.

    One reason for the argument to not move the cutoff date is the impact it has on families who need childcare. We all know how expensive that is.

    My 2 cents. Remember, the girls, generally speaking, do seem much more advance at that age, to be able to sit still and listen and be part of a social group etc etc.

  20. The benefits of moving the Kindergarten cut date would be problematic unless there is a provision for universal Pre-K. The children affected by the cut off whose parents cannot afford/access preschool will probably come to school with better gross and fine motor skills since they're older. They will also be bigger - which can cause problems when kids haven't had the opportunity to spend time in a class with their peers before. (There's a reason why Kindergarten social studies standards include good citizenship, turn-taking, and conflict resolution.)

    English Language Learners could also experience some trouble with this model - if they live in fairly monolingual families/enclaves, they will be older with less experience of English. Second language acquisition does generally appear to be easier the younger one starts.

    To the original poster, it sounds like your daughter is ready for Kindergarten. If you have any specific concerns about areas in which you think she might struggle (fine motor skills, speaking in front of the class, etc.), it might be good to talk to her teacher about these early in the year if you choose to send her to Kindergarten. But it's likely there are several children in the class younger than your daughter and that her teacher has many, many strategies for working with different modalities.

  21. i really wish they would do universal pre-K.

  22. Private schools cut off as early as June (for boys). If you don't plan on doing private school, or don't mind that your 20-year-old college student will need a fake id to keep up with her friends, she'll probably be ok.

  23. Is anyone interested in a fantastic TK program? We have just dropped our daughter's spot at The Little School, and they are looking to fill the spot.

    Ideally, they are looking for a girl with a 5-year-old birthday between June 08 and February 09.  If they do not find a girl, but do find a boy they will fill it quickly.  If you're interested, call 567-0430 or email asap. 

    I can say nothing but glowing things for the Little School. Our daughter attended the TK summer school in July, and they worked wonders with her in only one month. The teachers are wonderful, as is the director, Leslie Roffman. Their TK program is unique in that it has an arts focus -- the kids explore all sorts of disciplines like photography, capoeira dance, ballet, drama, literature, even Chinese brush painting! It was with a very heavy heart that we gave up our daughter's spot, but we couldn't turn down our #1 public school (Miraloma).

  24. I really hope they DON'T change the cutoff to Sept 1!
    My son's birthday is 9/2 and I know he will bored silly if he's almost 6 when he starts K rather than a few days short of age 5.
    Funny about the stereotype that seems to exist as far as girls being more mature or able to sit still longer. I am finding the exact opposite to be true! Most of the boys I know with fall birthdays started at age 4, are very bright with high degrees of attention and did extremely well. The girls I know born in fall (mine included) seem a little less ready for K and did wait an extra year. The issues for all the girls that I know had to do with emotional maturity and social readiness.

  25. ...almost all the other states have pushed their K deadlines up to Sept. 1...

    Does anyone have a source for this? I'd be interested in blogging about it.

    My understanding is that private schools all have their own dates, which may shift year by year depending on the applicant pool -- in fact, some friends tell me depending on the individual applicant.

    8:38, kindergarten was originally designed to be Pre-First-Grade, so you can see the shifting standards .

    12:13, I don't think it's an unfounded stereotype that girls tend to be ready earlier. It's really overwhelming, and borne out by girls' higher achievement in early grades. That doesn't mean the pattern holds true for every girl or every boy, as your son demonstrates.

  26. hi caroline,

    this source is slightly outdated, but it's something:

    also, i have family in maryland, so i know they pushed theirs up to September 1.

    i too am wary of the girls are more ready to go than boys stereotype. seems to me it comes down to the individual child and his or her temperament.

  27. ^ I wonder if birth order might be a correlation as well. I'm sure this isn't always true, but in our case our second born child seems more mature and has done everything much earlier than his older sister did at the same age.

  28. I wonder if the perceived greater maturity and achievement of girls is also seen in classes lead by male teachers. IMO many female teachers lead their classes in a way that is more appropriate for girls than boys. Boys typically have more energy than girls and excel in hands-on learning activities rather than situations where they must sit still and listen quietly.

  29. ^ I totally agree with this. A really great book on the topic of raising boys is called "The Wonder of Boys" by Michael Gurian. This book has given me great insight into boys (and also men)! It's fascinating and enlightening.

  30. Another list of Kindergarten cut-offs can be found here:

    California is one of very few states with a December cut-off. It probably has a negative impact on our test scores, though that is not a particular concern of mine, it might be one for the California Dept. of Education. If your kid has a fall birthday and you start them at school when they are first eligible, they are likely to be one of the very youngest in their freshmen cohort in college, especially if they go out of state.(Should they go to college.)

  31. By that age, I don't think it matters much that they might be a few months younger than their peers. I'm sure others will disagree with me though.

  32. i'm sorry...are the parents running the household or is the daughter?

    get a grip, your kid is FIVE-YEARS OLD! she may be consulted on little things like which flavor ice cream she wants, but something this big should be left up to the parents.

  33. I'm still curious how this turned out. Original poster -- what did you decide to do, and how's it going?

  34. original poster here. thank you again for all the comments (even the self-righteous, snarky one). we decided to send her to the TK.

    And no, we did not include our 5-year-old in the decision-making. Next time I'll choose my words more carefully, because some people seem to have come to this conclusion from what i wrote. We were never planning to make any decisions based on what our daughter thought she wanted."

    We decided this after much talking it over between my husband and myself, her preschool director and the principal at the school. The general consensus seemed to be that she would benefit from another year to develop her confidence more. And to be honest, despite all my back and forth, in my gut I knew it would be the best thing for her. Financially, yes, it will be a little tricky for us these first couple of months, but our economic situation should improve soon, and my husband and i decided it was worth it. We also recognize that we are blessed to have this choice available to us.

    School just started yesterday, but so far so good. We also decided to move back to the East Coast sometime in the late spring/early summer to be closer to family and live somewhere slightly more affordable.

    We came out here for a job for my husband, which he is no longer at. And I have been telecommuting for my job back in the DC area. We'll most likely land in the Maryland suburbs somewhere, which have good schools. The kindergarten cutoff date is Sept. 1, so our daughter will be right on time for K next year.

  35. Sounds like you really thought it through based on your family's circumstances, got some competent outside opinions, trusted your own judgment and made the right decision for your child. Congratulations, good luck on your move back east, and thanks for sharing.

  36. Hi original poster:

    My brother's kids go to school in Bethesda, Md which has some of the best public schools in the country. They love it.

  37. I'm looking for Transitional Ks for my son. Recommendations? Thx.

  38. Any recs for transitional K? Thanks.

  39. Generally transitional kindergarten (TK) programs are targeted to children with later birthdays (roughly in July - December), and so are "old 4's/young 5's". But your child's general readiness and overall development also play a big part in deciding on a TK program versus kindergarten. Here's a list of the transitional kindergarten programs I know of. I toured only the first 3, so I provided a little more detail on those:

    The Little School
    Director: Leslie Roffman
    - TK program is M-F 12:30 - 4:30 pm
    - unique and engaging arts-focused curriculum tailored to the developmental/learning needs of old 4/young 5-year-olds
    - very individualized approach -- they develop a specific learning plan for each child
    - excellent parental support and help with kindergarten admissions process (TLS is a "feeder" school into mostly privates - few families there go public, it seems - although the director told me this has been changing recently and they are seeing growing interest in public schools)

    Eureka Learning Center
    Director: Leslie Banta
    821-3422 or 648-0380
    - TK program is M-F 9 am - 3 pm
    - excellent focus on learning needs of TK kids
    - make sure you tour here early. Admissions are done by priority list in order of your tour date
    - also lots of help with private school admissions process
    - Eureka Learning Center is a licensed kindergarten, which means that after a year in their TK program, your child could continue on either to kindergarten or to first grade, depending on their development and readiness.

    Peter's Place
    - TK program is M-F 12:45 - 3:40
    - very nurturing play-based/experiential approach
    - also lots of help with private school admissions process

    JCC @ Brotherhood Way

    Lone Mountain

    Little Bear School
    65 Ocean Avenue
    San Francisco, CA 94112
    Tel: (415) 239-2220
    Director: Patricia Finnegan

    Phoebe Hearst

    St. Philips Preschool & Pre-K
    725 Diamond Street
    San Francisco, CA 94114
    Tel: (415)-282-0141 ext. 230
    Fax: (415) 282-8962
    Director: Mrs Hope Peterson
    Admissions Director:

    I think you should consider transitional kindergarten if:
    - You don't think your child will be ready for kindergarten, for any reason. Or you think they have one or more developmental areas where spending an extra year working on them will make a big difference. Or, if you'd just like your child to be older rather than younger entering kindergarten. Your preschool teachers/director should be able to provide lots of guidance on this.
    - You really want your child to go to private school. Several of the TK programs are well known by all the private schools and give you a lot of support in the admissions process.
    - Your child isn't eligible for private school due to age, and you want a reasonable backup plan in case you don't get a public kindergarten of your liking.

  40. Oh - one more.

    Nueva School actually starts as early as pre-k/TK:

  41. ^^Thanks!!