Are They Ready?
As we sink into our summer, with the end of the school year completed, final grades have been recorded, celebrations have been done, and the graduates are moving on to the next phase. The opportunities and experiences ahead of the high school graduates are endless. For many of them, graduation is an achievement of a goal that began 13 years ago. As the high school chapter comes to a close for the graduates, there is another chapter awaiting a whole new class of students: kindergartners.
Despite the contrast between those who are completing high school and those about to begin, the similarities lie in the debate about ‘readiness.’ Currently, a child is eligible for kindergarten if he/she is age five years on or before October 15th. However, Nebraska’s LB 1006, which takes effect in 2012, seeks to change the makeup of future kindergarten classes and thus, graduating classes. This bill considered the changes over the years in the expectations of a kindergartner and responded to the complaints of problems associated with the wide age range of kindergarten students. The bill will require a child to be five years old on or before July 31st. Schools will continue to accept a child age five years on or before October 15th as long as they meet the standards of an assessment tool provided by their district, that indicates their ‘readiness’.
While all parents have the right to choose whether to ‘academically redshirt’ or send their child to kindergarten within the age requirements stipulated by the state, many parents feel undue pressures in this decision. For instance, families experiencing financial challenges must consider their ability to pay for an additional year of preschool or daycare for the child. Federal and state agencies that serve low income families require eligible children to begin kindergarten due to financial constraints of the programs. Furthermore, some private preschool programs are not willing to provide curriculum for a child returning for an additional year and/or are not equipped to serve the additional numbers of children due to new students moving into their programs.
The decision whether to send a child to school due to his chronological age or participate in ‘academic redshirting’ can be difficult for other reasons. Parents may have concerns due to the child’s age, maturity, size, gender, and/or how old the child will be upon high school graduation. According to the Nebraska Department of Education’s Kindergarten Position Statement, “Social and emotional development and behaviors that facilitate participation in peer relations and classroom communities are critical for all children and are often the reason children are deemed ‘not ready’ for kindergarten” (2010).
As a result of different rates of development, it is essential to consider the child’s social, emotional, cognitive, and physical development in addition to the age to maximize your child’s kindergarten experience. For instance, some of the necessary social and emotional developmental skills are an ability
To share with others and understand taking turns
To comply with rules, limits, and routines
To respect the rights, property, and feelings of others
To initiate and sustain appropriate play with other children
To ask for help when necessary
To interact appropriately with adults
Equally important are motor skills such as running, holding a pencil properly, and riding a tricycle; language skills such as telling or retelling stories and asking questions; and academic skills such as counting to ten, identifying his/her own first name, and identifying some alphabet letters.
According to Gesell Institute of Human Development, the parents’ attitude about their child’s readiness is most important. “If you have undue concerns or feel uneasy about when or where your child starts school, these feelings will be sensed by your child and may cause concern. If you understand and feel good about your child’s school placement, your child will probably feel good too” (2010). Understanding developmental requirements and communicating with the child’s teacher about the school’s program and expectations are a great way to prepare for kindergarten success.
Whether a child is preparing for learning beyond the formal public school setting, just beginning his venture in kindergarten, or strengthening his skills in other settings, learning begins at birth and is a lifelong process. As a parent, teacher, school, or community, we all play a key role.
Hicks, N. (2010, February 19) Bill would narrow kindergarten age ranges in Nebraska. Lincoln Journal Star. Retrieved from http://journalstar.com
Nebraska Department of Education Office of Early Childhood. (2010, May). A Kindergarten for the 21st Century. Kindergarten Position Statement. Retrieved from http://www.education.net.gov/OEC/pubs/Kstatement.pdf
Gesell Institute of Human Development. (2010). What Can I Do to Help My Child Feel Good About When She Starts School? Retrieved from http://www.education.com/reference/article/what-can-i-do-help-my-child-feel-good/
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker
Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner
- Jody Johnson, LICSW, LIMHP, began working at Wholeness Healing Center as a therapist in 2007. Jody graduated from the University of Nebraska at Omaha with her Masters in Social Work. She received her bachelor degree in Social Work from the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
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