Our son is a December baby, and most schools have a pretty early cut off for birth months to go into Kindergarten. Some schools have cut off at the end of December, others January, some still March. Most children going into Kindergarten are five, or about to turn six. Few are four, about to turn five. Mostly, in the cases of holding children back, there are many reasons on the parents side that are one hundred percent logical and understandable. Some of those reasons are: being an older age helps them to be a leader in their class, further establishing a strong bond with younger siblings, wanting childhood to last longer, to be more emotionally mature, and maybe mama and daddy aren't ready to send their little one off to formal schooling yet.
He will be going to school at the age of four. Last year, we had sent him to a preschool program for a few months where he thrived. It was a very hard and personal decision to pull him from his program at the time, but we felt that he needed a little more time at home, and a little more fostering creatively and one on one. Since he has been home, we have had a no pressure and learn at your pace educational home. When he had left preschool, he was struggling to learn his alphabet recognition. Just by leaving it alone, and casually pointing out a letter here and there (as well as the great momstown alphabet programs), Z was able to learn his alphabet recognition in his own time without any emotional struggling. Since he has left preschool, he has had the time to grow into himself more, learn to zip/button his clothing, discovered all the letters of the alphabet, thrived in science and maths, and had PLENTY of time in the outdoors where he found a creative outlet for himself. I have discovered in him a great memory, and that he has quick recollection of things he has learned over the past year. He has found himself to be a lover of a spider encyclopedia (not my choice!), and has an interest in photography and science. He loves his baby sister, and he loves to play Lego.
As a four year old heading into kindergarten, let me be truthful by saying I did have concerns and wasn't quite sure whether or not he was ready to go. I am not by any means a teacher, but I am a parent who loves and knows him. And while I felt he was quite possibly ready, I wanted to get a professional opinion. We met with the vice-principal at his school to discuss Kinder options, as well as whether or not he would be ready and what we could do if he started and we discovered he was not ready to continue. They put every uncertainty to rest that we had, which I am so thankful for. While he is four, he is seeming to be ready. While he may not be as emotionally ready as the peers that are older, he will still thrive. She saw that he had the want to go to school, the excitement to learn, the basics of understanding. And while we had heard that many kindergartners are going into school already writing (and sometimes reading) we were assured that this was not necessary. In all ways they could see, he is ready. But, just in case we felt that he wasn't ready fully at the end of the school year, we have been given the option to hold him back for a second year of kindergarten… Which they doubt he will need.
Well, here we are with just a few weeks left until school starts for him. Z starts in the middle of September, a staggered start which will get them ready for the two full days they will be doing by the end of the month. And I must admit that during these last weeks I have been second guessing my decision. Z has had a few bouts of anxiety and worry about school, causing myself to worry as well. I need to remind myself that these moments are normal when a big change comes about. His biggest worry right now isn't getting lost, or having an accident – it's that he can't hold and write with a pencil. At first I made a big deal about this. I tried every way to help him hold the pencil and form his letters in his name. It was ME that was putting the pressure on, leading him to feel insecure. He was perfectly fine with his lightly scribbled name, but I wanted him to be excellent in my own standards. Not his. He saw his name written there with pride, and I had cast a worry and doubt into his head about it's worth and quality. Eventually the pencil ordeal turned into a screaming fight from him, which led to some room time until he could calm down. Z came out in an emotional ball telling me how he was angry at HIMSELF for not being able to hold the pencil. Shame came over me for leading him to feel that way. He told me how he can write with crayons and markers, and how he didn't want to go to kindergarten where people would laugh at his writing… In the end, we hugged and talked about how it won't be that way, and how no one is ever good at everything. I reassured him that it was okay that he couldn't write all of his letters and numbers. I remembered that that is what kindergarten is all about, learning the basics and having fun learning! So in the end, I don't care that he is going into kindergarten not knowing how to write fully, or read. I just want him to know he can do it, that we are here for him to encourage him and build him up, just as his teacher will be. And while he has anxiety about the not knowing many things about kindergarten (teacher, friends, this, that…), it is my job to listen and to be there to answer him as best I can. Until then, I am not going to overwhelm him with so much information about kindergarten, or bombard him with things he needs to do when he gets there. For now, I will be content with him writing his name on his work, and taking the joy of each moment when he learns something new. And if that means he repeats kinder, then we will just have to cross that bridge when we get there. He is ready, and willing to learn. And who am I to shut him down from that? If he is ready, I will have to be ready as well.
Here are some great reasons I came up with about starting Z at a younger age:
-Being the youngest of the class doesn't mean anything academically. You can still graduate at the top of your class.
-He socializes better with children who are older than him
-It is good for him to see that not everyone is good at everything, and to turn a feeling of defeat into a feeling of triumph.
-He meets and beats the cut off date for starting Kinder
-He is learning at a much faster rate than I can teach him at home
-He thrives when someone else teaches, as we are similar personalities and our home has many distractions.
-He loves the school he will be going to, and is excited they have a music room and art room.
-The school will be supportive of the students creatively, and not criticize for scribbling etc.
-He is strong willed, and compassionate. We have talked many times about bullying, and how to deal with it.
In the end, I am having anxiety because it is getting so close to a BIG BIG moment for him. This is a huge change for him and our family. It is a huge step towards independence. And maybe I am having some mama worry and doubt… My baby is going to be going to school! But above all, I trust in our decision. I trust we have made the right choice. And I trust that he won't be doing it alone.