Not In Jersey: Simon And School Simon And School - Not In Jersey

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Simon And School

Simon was born in August of 2010. That makes him just three and a half years old currently. In our school, the cut off for starting kindergarten is the end of August. Therefore, any child born between September 2009 and August 2010 can start kindergarten in 2015. So we can see that Simon will be one of the youngest, if not the youngest overall child in his kindergarten class if he starts kindergarten on time. It has always been my plan to have him start kindergarten in 2015, rather than having him complete another full year of preschool, as long as his development remains on track and he appears “ready” to start kindergarten at five years old.


Right now, Simon is the youngest child in his preschool class. The oldest child is a full year older than him, having already turned four before Simon even turned three. This particular child could have been in pre-K this year and kindergarten next year, but his parents chose otherwise and that is fine. However, when I had a meeting with Simon’s teacher last week, she was very quick to point out that Simon is the youngest in the class and is a year younger than some of the other children. This of course is true, but there is always going to be someone who is the youngest in a class of children. It’s not like every other child in the class turned four in the beginning of the school year. Rather, they turn four throughout the year, with many children being six months older than Simon and a few more being 3-4 months older than Simon. If Simon was in the class made up of children younger than those in his current class, someone else would be the youngest in this class. If, for example, all parents of children born in the summer decide their children should not start kindergarten at age five and rather wait until they are six, wouldn’t it seem that the school system should have their cut off date be in May? Rather, the school system believes that most children turning five before August 31st will be ready for kindergarten that year.


Simon’s current teacher seems to be extremely biased towards holding back children on the young end of their classes. She did so for her own daughter, and she told me that she prefers to call it “giving the gift of time.” When discussing Simon’s current abilities, she classified nearly everything with the fact that he is still young. Personally, I feel that if the class is meant for children born from September-August of their birth year, then the class should be appropriate for all children in that age range.  Simon is either performing on target along with his class, or he isn’t. He shouldn’t be treated differently because he is younger. If he is, than shouldn’t the children on the older end of the class be expected to be able to do more? When I remarked that Simon seems much older than the children in the younger class, his teacher replied that she does not compare children. Well, then why is she comparing Simon to those that are a year or almost a year older than him?


I know this is a subject that people tend to have strong feelings about. I do respect those who decide to let their children start kindergarten at six instead of five. I also know that when the school has a cut off date of the end of August, a child born in September is able to start kindergarten at the age of four if their parent and the school agree that this is acceptable for said child. But in my opinion, when the school says that children born between September 1, 2009 and August 31, 2010 will be ready for kindergarten in 2015, and my child falls in that range, I want him to start when he is supposed to start. He will be moving up to pre-K next year with his current class of friends. If by this time next year he is still not on target with his peers, then I will reconsider. But I will not believe that because my 3.5 year old is not ready for pre-K right now, he will still not be ready six months from now. (His teacher did not tell me that he would not be able to move up, but she did tell me that if he was to repeat her class it would not be exactly the same next year.)


While in conference with Simon’s teacher, she shared his current school work with me. It is obvious that he cannot write his name or draw a picture of himself. She did mention that only half of the kids can write their names right now, which sounds appropriate to me.


We also received the number book that Simon has been working on in class. These pages were done one on one with one of his teachers, and his teacher made sure to inform me that he did the pages with help.

DSCN8150  DSCN8151DSCN8152  DSCN8153DSCN8154  DSCN8155DSCN8156  DSCN8157DSCN8158  DSCN8159

What are your feelings on this issue? If you had a younger child, would you automatically decide to hold him or her back or would you wait and decide later on? Do you agree with me that each child is different and while some may start late, some may start early, and others may start on time even if they are on the younger side?


Janine Huldie said...

Here the cut off for kindergarten is November 30th and Emma being July is well before the cutoff and will be going to Kindergarten in the fall, but Lily is like Simon and born in November 23rd at the end right before the cutoff. I have always felt strongly that I wanted her in her proper grade and didn't want to hold her back. When I was pregnant a big reason behind my feelings was that she and Emma would only be a school year apart rather then two. As Lily has grown now, she has always been ahead of the curve trying to do all Emma is doing, so even if it wanted to keep her back, I am not sure I really could. But I get both points of view on this, but for us, Lily will be going to Kindergarten in fall 2015 too and don't see that changing.

tamarsb said...

As a teacher - who has taught/lived in states with a variety of cut-offs I have two thoughts. 1 - it's all about the child and what they can do. 2 - sometimes being the oldest is a good thing. But you know your child and his abilities. I will say, at 3.5 the focus of K readiness shouldn't be the focus, but can he perform academically (loosly put, since he's 3) as a 3.5 year old. At 3.5 he shouldn't be writing his name, if he can, GREAT, but not being able to isn't a red flag. I am happy to talk more with you if you want - the cut off issue is a touchy one, but again, it's about the child!

Holly Higgins said...

Ooh! I'm upset for you! Is there any way to put him in another class? That teacher sounds awful - like she'd do anything to impose her views on others. If he's ready, then send him! My high school valedictorian didn't turn 18 until the October after we graduated.

Dara said...

yay, Simon and Lily will be in kindergarten at the same time! :)
part of my thought process is like yours - Simon is 3 years younger than Zachary, so I don't want him to be 4 grades below Zachary!

Dara said...

thanks Tamar. I definitely agree that it's about the child, but I do wonder why have a cut off date if boys in particular are told they shouldn't be ready by that same cut off date? I think Simon will write his name soon enough...he definitely can recognize his name and he knows what letters his friends names start with, which I think is a good thing!

Dara said...

nah, there's only 3 months of school left, so he'll stay in her class (there's only one class for his age), and the pre-K teacher is awesome, so I trust her for next year! I was far from valedictorian, but I turned 18 the November after graduation! I think our cut off date was Sept or Oct, but I started early!

Mark said...

I failed scissor cutting and have an August birthday and I think I turned out ok! - uncle Mark

Janine Huldie said...

Yay to both Lily and Simon starting kindergarten at the same time :) :)

Sara said...

I have so much to say on this. I think the guidelines are there to be used as a loose target. Just because someone is in the cutoff it doesn't mean they are ready for kindergarten and on the flipside just because they are out of the cutoff doesn't mean they can't be ready. I think it's based on the individual child.

Here in NYC if you are born in 2009 up until 12/31/09 you are going to kindergarten in the fall. Collin is an Oct baby and I struggle with him going to kindergarten. I don't think he is mature enough yet and I certainly don't think he is ready as far as handwriting, cutting etc. We are working hard on these things with OT, but I worry he won't be up to standards in Sept. In this case a year of grace for him to work on his motor skills, maturity and readiness to be in school full day would be ideal. I would want to hold him back the year not so that he is the oldest in his class, but that he would be confident in his abilities. However holding him back isn't really a choice so I am just advocating we get him as much help as possible so he won't be behind.

As far as Simon not being able to write his name I think it's age appropriate. When we had Collin tested for speech and OT he was 3.5 years old and I was so upset that they were saying things like he can't write properly or cut things. I felt like he is young and has so much time to work on these things. They set these standards that just push these kids at such a young age.

In the end you are the parent. The teacher can give you her professional opinion and tell you things he needs to work on but only you will know if he is ready. Oh, and in a year and a half he can grow leaps and bounds and totally be ready so the teacher suggesting you hold him back now is crazy.

Dara said...

I just think that if in NYC the kids are expected to start kindergarten any age they might be throughout that year, than the teachers should be able to work with them at all the skill levels brought along for that year. however, Collin is already getting help for issues he has, so it should be up to you if he should can't make that choice in nyc? it is good that you are working with him to get caught up, of course!

Myrna said...

I do believe that it's all about the child and not the chronological birthday. And I agree that the dates are for guidance. A child should be ready academically and socially. Simon is outgoing in social situations. If his friends are going to kindergarten and he is kept in preschool, how would he feel? He also is physically on track or ahead. His teacher is being far too biased and judging too early. He seems to be on track with his peers. Why wouldn't he still be on track in a year or more? And he possibly might pull way ahead of his peers in that time. I know two kids who started school earlier than might be judged ok by some people, but both did extremely well in all levels of school including graduating from college with honors. Do you know someone who was 'young' for their grade and suffered academically or socially? Probably not. A mother generally knows her children. Do what you think is right after examining all the data.

Dara said...

he would definitely notice if he was no longer with his current friends. And I do plan to see how he's doing in a year! Which I'm sure will be fine.

Tamara Bowman said...

I don't really have to think much about it because my kids have June and July birthdays. My sister is September 20th and my brother is October 4th. Our school had a STRICT October 1st deadline so my sister got in and my brother didn't. They're only two weeks apart! (blended family in case you're wondering how kids can be two weeks apart in the same family)
I do see this happening a lot. Our district has a September 1st deadline and it is STRICT. I think they feel if they let one in, they have to let them all.

"giving the gift of time" is no gift here. Preschool is private only and expensive. Kindergarten is free!

Dara said...

that is interesting that your sister was able to start and your brother wasn't, even two weeks of age apart! I think here not many people ask to start early, but my kids go to private school and they are more flexible than the public school system. so we pay for both preschool and elementary!

tamarsb said...

I know girls who have been given more time and boys as well. My mom was a pre-school director for years, in states with 2 very different cutoffs (Sept 1 and then Dec 31). She always would gently state her observations and let the parents make the choice. Simon seems to be totally on target from what you share!!

Joan said...

Hi Dara,

I hope you do not mind me commenting.
As an early childhood teacher, with a bazillion years of experience, this topic could be discussed forever. Having said that, since no 2 children are alike there is no right or wrong way to think. I respect your son's teacher and know of her dedication and commitment to kids.
If you would ever like to sit down and brainstorm educational options, please let me know, I'd be happy to talk with you over coffee.
In a small preschool the kids naturally "flow" through the classes and sequenced curriculum. Kid's do progress at the speed that is right for them.
One option is to have Simon move to the next class with his peers. I am sure he will have a good school experience. Having said that, he may or may not be ready for kindergarten at HBHA. at the end of his Pre-K year. If he is not, the following year you can send him to a different Pre-K which will provide lateral enrichment and an opportunity for personal growth and development.
As parents, it is hard to not compare our kids or think in terms of "the class" or "the friends" - just keep in mind that there are lots of wonderful kids and families for your son to go to school with.

Best Wishes, Joan

Dara said...

of course I don't mind and I appreciate it!
I am definitely planning for Simon to move on to pre-K and look at how he's doing next year as far as if he's ready for kindergarten. the issue in my mind is that we would never question whether a child born in february would be ready for kindergarten. so why isn't the cut off date the end of february then? it's not. it's the end of august. so why are we automatically concerned that the august kids may not be ready to move up? we will hold on and see how he does with the awesome pre-K teacher at his school!!

joan said...

Free advice is worth what you pay for it!

One more thought. You can consider providing Simon with a “gap” year—like the kids who graduate high school and put off college for a year so they can study in Israel.

Chabad does have wonderful programs, but the choices are very few. SImon could go to CDC, or Montessori, or Beth Shalom, for an “old 4 yr. old class” or “Young Pre-K class” and then return to Chabad for Pre-K. (or not)  and skip off to Kindergarten.
If you decide that you want to meet with me do you have my contact info? I'm happy to sit down with you.
Have a nice Shabbat --

Dara said...

I started kindergarten at 4 too and I guess I did struggle socially, but I think I would have in any case!!

Shoshanah G said...

I have an October birthday, and was one of the youngest in my class. Although then the cut-off was December, so I wasn't the youngest. I never had issues academically, although at times, especially in high school, did wonder if it would have been better if I had been held back a year. There were a few boys from my Pre-K class that didn't go onto K and I always remember who they were. And my mom actually had to repeat K because she moved cross-country and there was a cutoff change, and as an adult she still remember hating it. And just because I think it's amusing, my freshmen roommate who was the same year as me, was also 364 days older than me, so it's definitely something that comes into play throughout college.

Dara said...

it's interesting that when they get to college, kids from all over with different cut off dates will all be together! I was also one of the youngest in my class growing up, so I can relate to your experience!