Mama Says: Are They Ready for Kindergarten?

Dear Nancy,
I have boy/girl twins that were born in August. What are your thoughts on starting Kindergarten as a young 5 year old versus a young 6 year old? I hate to hold one or both of them back if they are ready, but I certainly don’t want to regret sending them in too early. They are 3 1/2 now so we have time to decide, but I’d love to hear your thoughts!

A good question! There are many thoughts and much research  out there on this, that can be conflicting and confusing, but your best guide will be your intuition. When our daughter was 3 she was in a morning class nursery school. They wanted to move her to afternoons, but she needed her naps and she enjoyed playing with her brothers afterwards. It was a wonderful school but they pressured me to move her on, and I decided to pull her from school altogether.

Two years later Kindergarten rolled around and there she was—the youngest in her class with a late August birthday (19th), and no nursery school behind her, but she did just fine, more than fine. In those 2 years she taught herself to read and write, got her naps in, and played with her brothers. My instinct told me she needed time to doodle and hum and engage with the family, that she was bright enough, an extrovert who loved to connect with people, and curious about all new things. Those instincts played out throughout her school years (she ended up at Oxford).

Our son, born in the spring, went to nursery school. When he was 4, at the pre-kindergarten conference, the teachers encouraged me to give him an extra year. He was not interested in art or making numbers or letters, and was desultory about putting noses or eyes on faces (one of the signs of kindergarten readiness). The boy could clearly use a year of maturity, but I am nearly 6 feet tall. I remembered being the tallest in the class growing up and how that felt, and all I could think of was him as a 6 foot sixth grader and all the advantages of academic maturity would be out the window. Human beings when challenged tend to rise up, and I hoped that would be the case with our son. In the end the boy went through puberty early, was exceptionally mature, ready to fly out into the world early, and in his 18th year I could not IMAGINE another year of living under the same roof with this independent young man.

Both cases–one who was clearly ready for kindergarten and one who was not–drew down to who I was as a mother and how much I trusted that sixth sense that ran against logic, professionals, and cultural pressure. Trust your intuition!

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