Originally posted June 8, 2008
I responded to the following query posted in one of our
discussion forums, but wanted to highlight it here as I think
a lot of parents wrestle with the same conundrum:
"I'm the mom of an exceptionally bright 4 year old who just
completed Preschool. He enjoyed the socializing aspect of
preschool but had to be challenged daily because he is so
bright. He has been reading for a year now and currently
reads and comprehends on a 1st grade level. He knows all the
letters, letter sounds and can write all the letters. He
sounds out words and has quite the vocabulary. He can write
several words. He can count and is grasping addition.
He is probably more computer savvy than me. I can't take any
credit for any of this. It has all come naturally.
The issue in our household is whether to send him onto Pre K
next year (he will not turn 5 until November) or to have him tested
for Kindergarten. My husband thinks his little brainiac
should go to Kindergarten but I, on the other hand, realize that my
little Einstein is a bit immature and may benefit from another year
with peers his own age."
As a family therapist and school counselor I often get this
question. My bias is generally to keep kids with their
same-aged peers, as academic development is not the only focus of
the school experience. Kids also need to develop as emotional
and social creatures, and this can be challenging if
they regularly attend school with older kids. Consider
that many parents in our area already have their kids begin K a
year late for various reasons, chief among them an apparent desire
to make their kids more competitive as they age (sports, academic
scholarships, etc.) -- though some have valid concerns about their
child's maturity or readiness for school.
Whatever the reason for their choices, consider too that girls
generally mature more quickly physically and sometimes
emotionally -- so a boy leaping ahead of his age-mates could have
classmates a couple of years advanced in areas besides the
academic. This isn't wholly negative, but it means that
you'll have to contend with certain issues earlier. Your
child's friends may be driving cars, considering sexuality, or
experimenting with substances earlier than you may be
As for your child's academic needs, there are wonderful programs
already in place in many Illinois public schools that
challenge kids who need or want additional challenges. Nobody
wants your child to be bored, which can net a number of
results: you might get a fidgity kid who ends up acting-out,
causing observers (teachers and parents) to misname
the problem, or even find that a child who is underwhelmed
and understimulated ironically
performs below typical grade-level expectations.
These are interesting possibilities worth thoughtful
No matter your decision, remember that you are the expert on
your child (though the final decision about grade
assignment must be made in collaboration with your school
district, based on a number of variables, including resources).
For me, while there are endless whiny days when I just
wanna drop kick my offspring to the moon (or to college a little
early...), I'm occasionally jealous of those parents who thought to
keep their kids back a year before beginning kindergarten.
Oh, you know, they get to enjoy their sidekicks at home
another year, and can revel in the cozy illusion a tad
longer that they can actually insulate their babies from
the harsher realities of 'real life' beyond the nest.
So I'll put the question to all of you veteran parents out
there, who've perhaps already faced this concern and have some
kernels of wisdom to pass along. How do we capitalize on
the school experience as an opportunity to best meet the
academic, social and emotional needs of our children?
Jennifer DuBose, M.S., C.A.S., is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in Batavia.
See more of Jennifer's stories here.
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