J.W. asks from Amity, OR on February 19, 2008
My 4 Yr Old Can't Go to Kindergarten!
I am having a really hard time with the Oregon school district right now. We recently moved to Amity from Pa. The cut off date for school there is Dec 31st. My 4 yr old daughter is very excited to start school this year especially since her cousin (who is 4 months older and looks almost identical) will also be starting kindergarten at the same school. We found out recently that Oregons "cut-off" date is Aug 31st for school. My daughter is 19 days shy. She is very upset (we all are) and doesn't understand why she can't go to school and why someone decided that she isn't as smart as her cousin (since she gets to go to school) We could get her tested but that costs $500 that we don't have. My daughter can already do most of what is required in kindergarten, write her name, count to 20 in english and spanish, she is learning to tie her shoes, she is even starting to read. We thought about putting her in pre-k but she is upset that the school thinks that she isn't smart. I checked the cut off dates for other schools in the US and most of them are after the middle of September but usually the end of December. I know that by waiting another year it should help her excel but it doesn't help that she will get teased and put down by her cousin who lives right down the street. As I said we are all upset about this and the fact that in Pa (where we moved from)she is old enough to go to school, as well as in California (where my mothers family lives)yet here they say she can't, its a bit upsetting and is actually making me think of home schooling her just so she can go to school at a later date with her cousin
M.D. answers from Portland on February 20, 2008
Why does your daughter think the reason she can't start kindergarten is because she isn't smart enough? Have you told her that it's because she's not old enough? The cut off date may be arbitrary, but it is fair. Children must have turned 5 by August 31 to begin kindergarten. Everyone who is 5 by the cut off date can begin kindergarten, and "smartness" does not come into the picture. For next year, a good pre-K program will provide her with additional school readiness skills. Although education is about academics, kindergarten focuses more on the other skills needed for school success. They include: the ability to listen, follow directions, work independently, share, interact well with a large group of others, wait one's turn, line up and walk quietly through the halls. She'll be well prepared by the time she starts kindergarten. (There are 3 year olds who can read and do addition and subtraction, but that doesn't make them ready for kindergarten.)
C.S. answers from Portland on February 20, 2008
J., we have been through much discussion regarding this. What I will tell you won't help how she feels right now, however, it may give you some comfort for the future. I have a son who started school in another state at 4 yrs. for his first 3 1/2 years before moving to Oregon. He would have only missed the cut-off here by 28 days. However, now that he is getting into middle school, it is getting more difficult for him. Beacause he is so young compared to all other 8th graders he is small (which may not be the case for all younger students), but he gets grief about it. He is now starting to think about high school where all of the kids will be getting their driving permit in 9th grade, and their license in 10th, but for him that will come a year later. In our family our children won't be dating until 16, which will happen for his brother in the 10th grade, but not until 11th for him. These didn't use to seem big years ago, but are becoming a reality now.
Another point of view is from my sister whose daughter's b-day is the end of Oct. She started school at 4, and at middle school my sister started to realize how young her daughter was having to deal with the drama and information that she was young to be learning (with other kids ealtionships and such). At that point she was regretting the fact that she didn't have her girl start one year later even thoguh she made the cutoff by a month.
My daughter is a Dec. birhtday, so she started at almost six years old. Pretty much all of her friends started school a year before her. It was difficult at the time, but school goes so great for her, and of course she has many good friends now in her grade. My other daughter would have started a year earlier if we were in Ca. still, but is now in 1st grade at 7 and I am pleased with how it is for her.
My advice, of course you can do what you want with it, is to let her start school when it is time, and for the time being just try to have a good attitude about it for her sake. And when the time comes enjoy the fact that she will be one of the oldest in her class, and will have many advantages because of it.
Good luck from a mom who has seen both sides of the school cut-off issue.
A.D. answers from Portland on February 20, 2008
My nose was a little out of joint last year when my daughter couldn't be in kindergarten. She wast 28 days after the cutoff and as big as some of the first graders. She also knew a lot of things that most kindergarteners know. However this year I realize that she would not have been ready. I am so glad she is in this year instead of last year. It is not that she isn't smart, because she is really smart, but she is also very shy and was more shy last year. emotionally she just would not have been ready to learn more in a regular class setting. One mistake I made was putting her in pre k that was too you for her it had a lot of 3 year olds in it. So get her into a preschool with more 5 year olds if I had put her in the MWF one there would have been. She is 6 yrs old now and so is at least half the class. It will be fine. If her cousin in teasing her, then it is her aunt and uncle to blame for raising someone who would raise her to tease someone for such a silly reason.
M.N. answers from Portland on February 20, 2008
First of all I want to say that I am sorry your daughter is so upset about not being able to start kindergarten with her cousin. That's tough to deal with for kids so close in age. With that being said, I am a kindergarten teacher here in Oregon and wanted a chance to stand up for Oregon education.
The main reason Oregon has set their entry date so early is because school starts in September and we want to make sure that all children entering kindergarten are ready. Not ready in an academic sense, ready in an emotional/social sense. Most 4 year olds are not developmentally ready, let alone socially ready to be in kindergarten.
It is wonderful that your child is already able to do so many things- that tells me you are a parent who cares and works with her. Kudos to you! Put her in pre-school/pre-k and let her develop those skills even more. Enroll her in some classes through the local Y or other places. I know in Amity they don't have a lot of choices but I'm sure McMinnville has a Y and if not, it might be worth it to take her into Salem. The Gilbert House in Salem is a wonderful place and has many classes you can sign her up for, as does Mission Mill Museum. I could keep going but...
My point is, even though she can't go to school yet there is no reason why you can't put her in "school settings." Putting her in her own classes will make her feel important. The fact that she would understand that her cousin is doing something different and that her cousin would tease her sounds like something you need to fix as a parent. That, personally, is not okay. Have you told her that the school won't take her because she's "not smart enough" or is that something she deduced herself? You need to change that thought. That's your responsibility to make sure your daughter feels good about school and understands that you can't just start school whenever you feel you're ready.
Take Disneyland for example. They have limits on what height a child can be to ride a ride. It's not because that child isn't good enough to ride the ride but it's a safety precaution for the child. In a round-about way it's the same with school. A 4 year old, even if they are almost 5 isn't usually ready and then you're putting them into a mix of kids that are 5 and almost 6. You're putting her at a serious disadvantage down the road.
Here's a thought that might set your blood to boiling and I apologize if it does- that's not my intent. As a kindergarten teacher I see a wide range of abilities walk through my door on the first day of school. This year I have a child who came in never having held a pencil before in his life (and that is not an exaggeration) and a child who is reading at an almost 3rd grade level. Tough to teach at the two ends of things, but it's my job. This isn't the first time I have had children like this. I track those children as they go through school and 9 times out of 10 that child who came in as low as can be and the child really high will be almost parallel by the time they reach third grade. Children who have many experiences in life and a good solid background generally come in higher than others, but they plateau out by about 3rd grade. This is because once a child is developmentally ready to learn the stuff they take off. Sometimes kids just need a nudge. Am I saying your child is not smarter than others- NO! Am I saying your child has had a great first 4 1/2 years of her life- YES! But putting her in school before she's age appropriate may cause there to be a bigger gap by the time she's in 3rd grade than you really want. It might not happen, but why take the chance? Why not let her be the top student in her class?
It also sounds like separating your daughter and the cousin might be something that needs to happen. They need to find out who they are without having each other to lean on. When I have "best friends" enter my classroom I work all year to try to get them to branch out but most of the time they stick to what they know. They don't generally learn the basics of what kindergarten is all about- meeting and learning about being with new people. They stick together and, though they'll have made new acquaintances, they still rely heavily on each other. Then they go to first grade and usually get put in different classes and they've got to make up a whole year of learning that basic skill of meeting and learning to be with new people.
Does any of this make sense? I am not saying that Oregon education has all the right answers. Believe me, as a teacher I have had my fill of Oregon education and it's "right" answers at times. But, as a kindergarten teacher I do stand by that date they set. I have a child this year who's birthday is one day after the cut-off so they squeaked in. That child is struggling. Yes, she knew how to write her name and could identify a pretty good portion of her letters but socially she's not as adept at the kindergarten thing as others in the class are. This may not be the situation with your child, but you need to work on changing her thoughts about why she can't start school yet and focus on the good parts of it. Enroll her in some of her own classes. Get her into her own thing. And please, don't ever say Oregon school's won't accept her because she's not smart enough.
I hope I haven't offended you and I hope some of what I've said makes sense. If not, I'm sorry.
J.G. answers from Portland on February 25, 2008
My daughter,now 22 years old, was born on Sept.3 and was in a similar situation when she was 4. We live in Dallas and she had been in a communication development class at the age of 3 based on the fact that she had difficulty with her speech. She was technically not eligible for the class because of her birthday but since it was so close to the cut-off date and there were several spaces available and a need for girls in the class she was allowed in that year. What we found out was that she had unusually large tonsils and adnoids that made it physically impossible for her to make the correct sounds for proper speech. That problem was corrected with surgery and within a couple of months of her being in the class she was soon on track and even advanced in her speech for her age. I had also been working with her on her alphabet etc.. so she knew every letter uppercase and lower by the age of 2 1/2 and knew her colors, basic shapes and could count to 100 by age 4.
The challenge came when, after being in the preschool and having her love school so much that every day she would ask "what day is it today? Do I have school today?", she no longer had a need and her space in that preschool was needed and we couldn't afford regular preschool and we were just over the income limit for Headstart and yet she was 3 days too young to start kindergarten. It was was quite a dilemna for us then. At that time, we were able to test her for early entry and she passed the exam with flying colors so was able to start kindergarten and not miss a year of school. She would be the first to tell you now that she wishes she would have been in the next year in school. As a result, she was always been the youngest in her class and struggled with the fact that she wasn't as emotionally mature as her peers and she was aware of it. It has been an ongoing issue that stayed with her even after graduation. She attended Chemeketa Community College which she felt she wasn't quite ready for and didn't do well even though she achieved well academically in high school. It has had a residual effect on her adult life.
My point is that having been through it, I'd make a different decission if I had it to do again. Home schooling with social activities with other kids etc... would have been an adjustment but I think she'd have handled that better than the long term outcome that she has had.
I hope this helps a little.
K.K. answers from Portland on February 20, 2008
It is possible to challenge this. You have to be able to prove that she is ready for kindergarten academicly and socially. If she's only 19 days past the cut off, that shouldn't be a big deal. I'm not sure how Amity does it (although I'm sure there has to be a state guideline), but we live in Dallas (not far from Amity... my husband used to work for the city of Amity) and we able to do it for our daughter when she started school. Our reason was that our girls are 10 months apart and because of their deadline... which my daughter missed buy just a few days... they should be in the same grade, and we didn't want that. We had to spend the summer preparing her for school... making sure she had a good concept of the structured environment, alphabet, etc. And then the first few weeks of school were kind of a trail basis. But... it worked.