Early entry to kindergarten: the good, the bad, the ugly

In North Carolina, we have a handful of parents who are stressed, frustrated, upset and confused.  They are frantically trying to research their options, get a straight answer, and make decisions that seem life-changing at the time.  What has these poor parents so riled up?  The August 31st deadline for kindergarten entry.  If your child is born on August 31st or before, you can breathe a sigh of relief and know your 5 year old will bounce into a kindergarten class this fall.  Your child may not know his alphabet or numbers or maybe she won’t know her shapes yet.  But because she’s five, the red carpet will be rolled out for her.

Now, if your child was born on September 1st or later, it’s a whole different ball game.  In North Carolina, parents must go through an intensive process including IQ and achievement testing to determine if their child is eligible for early entry.  And let’s be honest, the school system does NOT make this easy on parents.  The process is almost like completing a small dissertation by the time it’s all over with.  Parents have to collect work samples that prove their child’s genius (“See that, that’s his interpretation of the Impressionistic era.  And see, that’s his drawing of the Eiffel Tower.”)  They have to garner letters of recommendation (really?  for a four year old?  “Susie’s use of macaroni noodles in her art project was truly inspirational”).  In NC, the school system does not hide the fact that it’s bias is that kids should NOT enroll early.  In fact, their website says, “Most children, including most gifted children, will not benefit from early entrance to kindergarten.”  It’s important to consider why the school might discourage early entry: financial, class size, and having to provide gifted services for these kids which enroll early.

Then of course there’s the testing…which is where I come in.  I’m a child psychologist who administers the IQ and achievement tests required by the school.  Each year I empathize with the stressed parents who have bright, eager kids who are ready for kindergarten but missed the cutoff – by a day, by a few weeks, or by a few months.  I LOVE this testing – it’s a joy to work with little adorable bright kids.

Although it’s a current trend to hold your child back so they’ll start kindergarten as one of the oldest and biggest, I disagree with this as a general rule.  I think many kids who are a “fresh five” or about to turn five are completely ready for kindergarten.  In fact, there’s a window where a child is eager to learn and ready for the next developmental leap.  The kids who have passed the tests at my office and go on to early entry to kindergarten THRIVE!  Here is an excerpt from an email sent to me from a parent of a child I tested last spring (who had  November birthday, passed the tests, and went on to early entry in kindergarten): “J. is THRIVING in kindergarten and is happy to get on that bus every single day!  His first report card was almost all 4’s and O’s (outstanding), and he received the ‘Outstanding Eagle’ award (similar to Student of the Month)!!!!  And he’s not even five until next week!   We are so happy for him!  A million heartfelt thank you’s!!!  I really struggled with this decision and it has been a blessing, we will be forever grateful!!”

Although this is a personal decision and parents have to look at their individual child, I encourage parents not to get discouraged by “the system” and assume it’s a dead end.  Yes it takes a little time and money to go through this process.  But if you consider the time and money of another year of preschool or daycare, it’s a great deal if you can go ahead and send your child early.  On a final note, I have a daughter with an August 20th birthday.  She was a “fresh five” when she started kindergarten.  She has excelled in school and is now a “gifted” second grader.  If she had been born 12 days later, there’s no doubt we would have attempted early entry.  She would have been bored to tears doing one more year in preschool learning the letter of the week.  The bottom line is you know your child best.  Follow your parental instinct and don’t get overwhelmed or discouraged by the process.  At the very least, you’ll have great documentation of how wonderful your child is at this age!

For more information on Wynns Family Psychology, visit http://wynnsfamilypsychology.com/EarlyEntryKindergartenTestingNC/tabid/1166/language/en-US/Default.aspx

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2 Responses to “Early entry to kindergarten: the good, the bad, the ugly”

  1. Tweets that mention Early entry to kindergarten: the good, the bad, the ugly « Marriage and Parenting 101 -- Topsy.com Says:

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