By Gabrielle D’Addario
Our five year old was reciting the ABC’s before hitting two, and can count pretty high, so when I considered waiting another year in preschool versus starting kindergarten, I originally opted for kindergarten.
Most of our core group of friends in our preschool class were advancing to kindergarten. For us that meant we would have to make a new group of friends and that could be challenging for our little one. It also meant another year of preschool tuition, which everyone is well aware can be expensive! But when we spoke with our preschool director, we realized we were looking at the wrong indicators.
It turns out that it’s not as much about how old you are as it is about how emotionally and socially ready you are to start kindergarten – for both your child and you. Some of the things she told us to pay attention to were how well our child sat and listened to instructions, i.e. morning meeting. Since we didn’t make it on time to school hardly ever, our child missed that routine and structure that the advancing friends were able to consistently learn from. If we pushed her to kindergarten despite our inability to make it to school on time, by 8:45 a.m., then we would likely be late to the much earlier start time of 8:05. To be honest I feel guilty about us always being late and it seemed like our tardiness started to be associated with a negative feeling towards going to school, which is not what I want to have happen.
Another key detail she advised us to pay attention to was how our child interacted with peers. At first I thought, “Oh, she’s just like me and can talk to anyone.” Which is true, she can talk to anyone but that’s not the only thing that matters. What I began to notice was that she was following the leaders versus being a leader, probably because she was among the youngest in her class. When we mixed the kids up in her circle and she spent time with younger kids, we noticed her leadership skills start to shine. We realized it wouldn’t be a bad thing to allow her more time to build her confidence before advancing.
Something else that she told us to think about, was the length of experience we’ve actually had with a school setting. We waited to start preschool, mostly because I knew we would have a hard time getting there on time. At that point, there were no preschools in Playa Vista, so that meant me having to drive somewhere else, which meant needing to get out the door even earlier. I’m really a terrible morning person. I’m more of a nightowl when I try to muster the energy to work through my giant list of to-dos. Because of that, we didn’t start at two or three-years-old like most kids, we started at four, and then spent the year showing up late every day.
We thought a little more about if we were actually ready for kindergarten, and what we decided was that we weren’t ready. We would benefit from spending another year in preschool. Another year for all of us to grow a little more, because at the end of the day, we want our child to feel like she’s set up for success as she begins her journey of education.