To Kindergarten or Not to Kindergarten: 6 Steps to Follow to Determine if your Child is Ready

I know this is a bit of a departure from my usual posts, but I feel like this is an important topic and one very germane for me right now.  My son is 4 and will turn 5 in the middle of the summer.  He’s in Pre-K now and I need to decide if he is ready to go on to kindergarten.  Retaining children with summer birthdays is actually a thing also known as “redshirting,” and it is fairly controversial.  Welcome to my stress!

Ever since I was pregnant and knew I was having a boy, with a due date of July 31 I was often asked if I would hold him back from kindergarten.  This seemed an odd question to me since at that time I was focused on taking my breastfeeding class and trying to make sure I had a clue about how to take care of an infant.  I remember thinking, “Is that a thing?”  I personally have a summer birthday and went to kindergarten shortly after turning 5.  Had that changed?

After my son was born and other friends of mine with older sons talked about holding them back, the questions came up again.  This still seemed premature and I figured I’d cross that bridge when we came to it.  Some of my friends made the decision to hold back so that their sons would have a competitive edge in sports.  That seemed to me a bit extreme to base a decision solely on that.  Also, the fear that your child will be the youngest in the class is another reason I think is extreme to base a decision on.

I would recommend following the checklist below (which is exactly what I did) to really assess your child’s situation and arrive at a decision that is best for your child and family.

Know your child – As mothers, we intrinsically know our kids.  I call this the “gut factor.”  If you feel like your child might not be ready for kindergarten then you need to trust that instinct.  That is how I started.  If you asked me 6 months ago what I thought, I’d say “He’s definitely ready for kindergarten.”  However, now I have a different opinion after observing him in various social situations with his peers.

Is you child ready academically? – Do you think your child is ready academically?  The preschool teachers can definitely help providing you feedback with this, and if your school system is like mine, there is a test given to determine each child’s readiness academically.  There my son was good, but I was still not feeling confident.

Social skills/maturity – How does your child interact with his/her peers?  Does he/she seem a bit immature for their age?  On both of these counts, in my situation, I felt that my son could benefit from another year to mature and improve his social/playing skills with his peers.

Talk to your pediatrician – I think it’s a good idea to consult with all the “experts” before making a final decision.  I did discuss this situation with my pediatrician and, in my case, he suggested I hold my son back.  Again, this will vary in each child’s situation and I believe that your pediatrician is one piece of the puzzle and don’t think you should listen to your pediatrician alone without weighing in all the other factors.

Does your child have any special needs? – Does your child have any developmental delays or any type of special needs?  If so, it is a factor that should be weighed into this decision.  My son does have special needs and works with a speech and occupational therapist.  I felt that an extra year in Pre-K would help to further develop his communication skills.

Be your child’s advocate – As I mentioned earlier, our “mom” instincts are strong and it is for that reason that it’s our job to be an advocate for our kids.  When I first presented my concerns about moving my son up to kindergarten, I surprisingly received some pushback from his school.  However, that did not deter me from succinctly presenting my arguments and why I felt it was in his  best interest to be retained.  In the end, they came on board with my arguments.

No Right or Wrong

Remember, there’s no right or wrong decision here;  just what is best for your child.  If you’ve carefully weighed out the pros and cons, spoken to your child’s teachers and pediatrician, and went with your gut mother instincts, you really can’t go wrong.  For me, the right call was to hold my son back another year – that might not be the right call for you, but I feel relieved in our family’s decision and how that will help my son moving forward.