Help! My Child Misses the Kindergarten Cut-Off
Starting Kindergarten has always been a major milestone for both parents and children. It can cause many emotions to surface. And if your child misses the cut-off date for public Kindergarten in your town, you might be feeling extra stress as you try to figure out what to do.
We asked one of our long-time advisers, licensed social worker and consultant to private schools, Nina Johnston, for some tips on navigating the Kindergarten process. For the last 20+ years, Nina has been a trusted resource for the Tobin Schools – for the children, parents, teachers and administration.
First of all, Nina says that if you are reading this, you are probably a very involved, caring parent, who has been helping your child grow and who wants to make the best decision for them. The first thing to do is recognize the facts that are beyond your control:
- For public school, you are bound by the school cut-off dates in your town.
- In general, when a child is 5 years old, they are ready to start public Kindergarten.
- Recognize that if your child misses the cut-off date for a calendar year, that’s all it means. The public school doesn’t know anything about your child except their age.
Let’s say your child misses the cut-off for public Kindergarten (say that the cut-off is September 1, and your child’s birthday is on September 20). Focus on the fact that you still have choices about how you want to move forward with this information.
What You Can Do Right Now:
- Acknowledge that your child is a bright, curious learner
- Look for some kind of program for your child to further develop and get ready for school in the future
- Keep your child in their current program for an additional year (home daycare, childcare center, etc.)
- Try to fast-forward in a way that only an adult can:
- Remember the goals you have for your child: most of us want our child to become a thoughtful, intelligent contributing member of society
- Put this in perspective: when your child goes to Kindergarten will have no bearing on where they go to college
- Your job as a parent is to help your child develop at their own pace
- Provide your child with strong tactile, rich opportunities to learn and grow.
If you decide to look for a program as an alternative to public Kindergarten, consider your child and their particular needs:
- How does your child learn best? Children do better in different environments (large vs. small)
- How independent is your child?
- How much help do they need to complete tasks?
- Are they ready to ride a school bus to and from school?
- How important is it to you as a parent to develop a relationship with your child’s teacher? If your answer is “very”, you might want to consider a private option.
- Is your child academically confident? Socially engaged?
- What makes you think your child is ready for Kindergarten?
- What makes you think that your child should wait to start Kindergarten?
These are individual questions – there isn’t one right answer. But it helps for you to think about where you and your family are. Take the time to look at your child – not at what you think your child should be doing.
Private Kindergarten programs are not bound by the public school cut-off dates. They use other criteria and can focus on where your particular child is developmentally and what their individual needs are.
Faced with a really big decision, small programs have the resources to help you come up with a plan. One of their big benefits is that they can serve as advisers and early educational resources for your family.
Benefits of a Small Early Elementary Program for Your Child:
- More individualized and small-group opportunities
- A feeling that “your child is known” and valued as a member of the school community: to the other children, the teacher, and the administration
- Better, more frequent communication with the school: a private setting allows for more interaction with your child’s teacher
- A more fluid transition to being away from home: you have a chance to let the teacher know when your child is not feeling well, or when there is a transition at home to be aware of – every child has days when a little extra attention makes all the difference
- Every child can get what they need socially and academically
- Perhaps most important of all, a small setting has the flexibility to meet your child where they are: allowing them to catch up socially as they grow and explore their academic strengths at their own pace. This leads to less anxiety, greater confidence, and a comfort for the child to be themselves: building a framework for your child to love learning and develop the skills to be a successful student in school.
A Few Last Words of Advice to Recap:
- Rather than being pressured by things and people around you, allow your child to develop at their own pace. This will allow your child to develop a strong base and love for learning.
- You are your child’s advocate and your child’s early voice. Your primary job is to parent and provide the educational opportunities to your child as an individual.
- Looking at the long haul will allow you to stay true to yourself, and stay true to your child.