My Son Started Kindergarten A Year Early. AMA.

Before I had kids, I never thought that I would have to make decisions about when they started school. You start Kindergarten when you're 5, right? Easy peasy. I would never have anticipated what a complicated decision it would be or how many parents struggle with trying to determine when their children will begin Kindergarten.

From what I've gathered, it seems like a lot of parents debate whether their children should start Kindergarten the year that they are eligible or wait an extra year. We had the opposite problem. Judah, as an early November baby, missed the cutoff for public Kindergarten by about 6 weeks but we were fairly certain that another year in Pre-K was the last thing he needed. 

This wasn't actually the first time that we had to make a decision like this. When Judah was in Pre-K 3, we made the choice to have him moved to Pre-K 4 which, at his school, is less of a daycare program and more of a kindergarten readiness program. He was getting into trouble for goofing around in his Pre-K 3 classroom and it was clear to us that it was because he was bored. In fact, when, after a few half day visits to Pre-K 4, we asked him if he wanted to change classes, he said,"I don't like Pre-K 3. All they do in there is play." He was craving a more structured academic program and he was definitely ready for it. 

There is no doubt that Judah is of above-average intelligence. He also benefits from being the child of an English teacher and a Math teacher. We have always been very proactive about his education and work with him a great deal at home. (Check out what we have planned to keep him on track this summer!) We knew that he would be able to keep up academically in Kindergarten. That wasn't the issue.

Judah is terribly bright but he also struggles significantly with with anxiety, which is not uncommon for a gifted child. As his pediatrician explained it to me, he has the intellectual capacity to understand things that he is not emotionally mature enough to process. He is also a perfectionist, which is another common trait among gifted children. If he is unhappy with how he writes one letter on his homework, for example, he wants to erase the whole thing and do it again. Honestly, it can be exhausting for all of us.

Academically, nobody doubted his kindergarten readiness. Our concern was that, because of his anxiety and because he was, you know, 4 years old, he may not be emotionally or socially ready for Kindergarten.

What it ultimately came down to, for us, was the fact that he was already reading fluently at 4 years old. We figured that we could cross those social and emotional bridges if we came to them but we were certainly setting him up for behavioral issues if we put him in a classroom where they were going over letters and their sounds. He would be bored and he would get silly, distracting his classmates and getting himself in trouble. I was really afraid that he would come to equate school with punitive discipline and shut down on it altogether.

And so, about 6 weeks before his 5th birthday, Judah started Kindergarten.

kindergarten readiness kindergarten hangman reading bring your child to work day
Judah, crushing one of my high school students at Hangman on Bring Your Child To Work Day

It's May now and we recently found ourselves in a similar situation as we prepared to withdraw Judah from his private school and enroll him in public school for the fall. Looking back on his year, was he ready for 1st grade or would he benefit from a second year in Kindergarten? Did we make the right choice a year ago?

I've only been at this parenting thing for 5 and a half years, but I'm pretty sure that there are going to be very few decisions that we feel certain were the right ones. Was putting Judah in Kindergarten early the right choice? I don't know. We did it and it turned out fine. Not perfect. But fine.

Just as we expected, he is excelling in all academic areas. He is reading chapter books and multiplying in his head. He has an insatiable curiosity about science (especially space) and wants to be a rockstar who designs video games when he grows up.

His biggest struggle is with staying in his seat and following directions, which may have to do with his age and may also be indicative of his need for more of a challenge. At a recent parent-teacher conference, his teacher told us that he is sometimes so off the wall, she is afraid that he isn't learning what he needs to be learning but when she assesses him, she sees that he is comprehending and retaining everything she teaches.

Socially, everything turned out just fine. He has actually come a long way in terms of his social anxiety and, although he is still reluctant to talk to new adults, he plays with kids he doesn't know at the playground and participates in his flag football league, something we never would have even attempted a year ago.

kindergarten flag football nfl flag

So, in September, he is going to start 1st grade. We are doing play therapy to help him learn how to manage his anxiety. We've already been in touch with the Gifted & Talented teacher at the school he will attend to discuss the ways that we can help keep him engaged, challenged and focused. We are optimistic. But we are never really sure that we're doing the right thing.

Are you thinking about putting your kids in school early or holding them back a year? Go ahead and ask me anything, in the comments or an email. I'm happy to share more about our experience and offer what insight I can.


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