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Kindergarten can wait

By Erin Barrette Goodman

Last spring, as kindergarten registration loomed and I watched as my daughter’s friends’ parents made plans for their children, I did nothing.

“She’s just not ready,” I told my mother one day, when she asked what we would be doing for school the following fall.

You’re not ready,” she responded.

I don’t remember what I said in response (it was basically the 35-year-old equivalent of “Whatever Mom”) but in the weeks that followed her words stayed with me.

Was I really denying my daughter the age-appropriate kindergarten experience just because I’m not ready for her to go to school?

I spent most of the summer second-guessing our decision.

Our daughter is extremely bright. She’s an eager and motivated learner who frequently amazes my husband and me (as well as complete strangers at the grocery store) with her ability to remember tiny details she has picked up from books we’ve read to her, nature videos she has watched, or places we have visited.

By the fall, she was showing a clear interest in learning to read and write and was asking me to give her “homework” (reading and math workbooks) to do when she came home from preschool.

All academic signs pointed to her being ready for kindergarten. And yet, as a family (spearheaded by Mama) we had decided not to send her.

Why?

There are (at least) a dozen reasons why I wanted to have an “extra year” before we started school.

Many are personal and unique to the circumstances of our family in the months leading up to what would have / could have been our daughter’s first year of school. Others are more universal — like the growing concern that as a society we are putting too much academic pressure on our children at too young an age. But when all was said and done, what it really came down to was that sending her to kindergarten shortly after her fifth birthday did not feel right in my gut.

She was not ready. I was not ready. We were not ready.

And as we wrap up her “extra” year at her play-based preschool, and I look at how she has blossomed and matured in this year and how ready and excited she is to begin kindergarten this coming fall, I am sure, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that we made the right decision for our family.

How about you? What works for YOUR family?

Erin Barrette Goodman is a writer, yoga teacher, and mother of two. She is the founder of the RI Birth Network, which promotes empowered decision-making during the childbearing years, and the creator of Mamasté Mothers’ Circles, which are held monthly at All That Matters in Wakefield.

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27 comments
  • Is kindergarten required in RI? There are contradictory laws on the books — on the one hand, it seems that kids need to complete kindergarten to get into first grade, but on the other, kids don’t have to be in school until age 6….

    Maybe it means you can delay but you can’t skip kindergarten?

  • My guys are almost three but I have already been “worrying” about this. They have been going to a half day daycare program which they love, but will be “too old” to attend anymore by the end of the summer. There is GREAT pressure here in Spain to put your kids in all day school starting at three years old so that you can “secure” their spot in a decent public school. Although we have dutifully applied, I think I will be keeping them out of school until they start kindergarten….when they are 6…

  • i put my son in kindergarden and was relucant… although he was smart was it kindergarden ready smart. with in about 2 months i got my answers. he was always such a great kid and the reports i was getting from his teacher was opposite. we decided after much pray that it was not the right thing for him. i pulled him out of kindergarden and into a play focus preschool. as soon as we took him out he did a total turn around and was flourishing again. he is now in 4th grade, he is on the honor roll and the star of his school play. i could not be more proud. i know i made the right decision by taking him out. now he is the great student and all around kid i knew he could be. i know if i would have keep him in he would not be at this same place now.

  • I think we will be the same way. They are little for such a short time and soon enough they will begin that school ‘career’.

    It’s good to be brave and do what feels right for your family even when it is different than what others do!!

  • I think following your instincts about your child is the best guide. For a long time, I didn’t think a preschool had much to offer my son. Then he reached a point, when he was about 3 and a half, and just seemed so *ready*. I can’t really explain it – something just turned.

    So we enrolled him two half days (3 hours), just increased to 3 half day a week in a play-based preschool. I was worried about the separation, which has always been an issue, but he had no anxiety at all. He literally jumped into the middle of an exercise class of 20 kids he didn’t know, stretching his arms this way and that, waving to me while I left to register him.

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Written by Erin Barrette Goodman