Is My 4 Year Old Son Where He Should Be? (Academically)

Updated on November 04, 2012
T.L. asks from McKinney, TX
23 answers

I have a very sweet son who just turned 4 in September. Technically, because of his birthday he is supposed to be in the 3 year old class, but because he just missed the cutoff by just 2 weeks, the school allowed him to be in the 4 year old class. With that said, the teacher informed me that he seems "slower" to do things than his counterparts. My son is able to recognize about 85% of his letters (both uppercase and lowercase), knows letter sounds for about 65% of letters. However, he still struggles recognizing numbers 6, 9 and 10. But he is able to count up to 30 items. He is not "reading" as it seems many children these days are reading at 4 years old. His communication skills are great but he seems to have issues with his listening skills. It seems the other children just get quick basic instructions for their lesson and then complete the lessons...while my son needs constant guidance through his work/lesson. So I wonder if this is normal for his age or are their some learning/listening issues that I need to address? Perhaps the teachers style is too advanced? Maybe I should move him back to the 3 year old class? I hate to change him now that he is so fond of his class setting and friends. However, I don't want to damage his confidence by leaving him in a class where he is behind. I'm not sure what to do.

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answers from Boston on

The skills you mentioned are quite age-appropriate. I think you need to know why the teacher shared the info she did.

1. Could she be reporting skills relative to a report card? That would imply no judgement, simply facts.
2. Is she giving you the impression that he belongs in another class this year?
3. Is she giving you the heads-up that she may recommend at second year at this level next year?

I would have another chat with his teacher to find out her impression of these skills relative to the pace of her class and her ability to work with children at different levels, and relative to how he will enjoy this year.

There is nothing wrong about being in a class with children of different ages and skills levels if the child is enjoying himself and learning well at his own pace. Then if he would benefit from another year at this level, as the older child, then so be it. However, if this teacher/class and he are not a fit, I think you might consider another option. All my best.

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answers from St. Louis on

OMG HE IS 4 years old!!!!!!! Relax, some kids learn to read at 4 some others later, but still is NORMAL. He is NOT slower than others, he is fine.

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answers from Columbus on

I hate to say this, but it could be a case of the teacher knowing he is supposed to be in the three year old class and kind of rolling her eyes that mom pushed to get him into the older class and she is trying to show you he really isn't ready and you should have followed the rules and not asked for an exception. (I have seen this happen multiple times in preschools.) I'm an early childhood specialist and he sounds absolutely normal and delightful to me - even a bit advanced. Don't worry about it. The only thing I would consider is moving him to a more play based preschool, as it seems, from your description, that this one is more academically focused than it should be.

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answers from New York on

"Academically," your son sounds 100% fine. Really, he sounds quite advanced for his age. The one thing that might, maybe, be happening is that he may have a shortish attention span, relative to the other kids in his class. That's one of the key capacities that kids develop between 4 and 5, and it's a measure of maturity and physical brain development, not intelligence. Makes perfect sense that your son would be on the young side of attention, if he's on the young side for his class.

My advice, really, is to keep him where he is for the year but to think about giving him an extra year of preschool and letting him start kindergarten on the old side rather than the young side of 5. I'm not always a fan of redshirting, but your son does sound like he's right on the cutoff, age-wise, so why not give him a year to get ahead of the game?

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answers from Kansas City on

To me, "academically" and "age 4" should never be in the same sentence. He's four! Newly four! At this point, school isn't essentially about what you learn, but how you adapt and yes, to some extent, HOW you learn. Preschool/Pre-K foster a love of learning, a quest for knowledge on all sorts of topics, not just ones that can be memorized. Those are not exactly a sign of intelligence or readiness, but the ability to learn and critical thinking skills are more important, I think. So a list or comparison about what your son does or doesn't know isn't a big deal for me.

Is his teacher worried about his social interactions? Ability to follow directions (as a new 4 year old, not compared to an older 4)? Is he slower to do things because he is distracted? Unwilling? Uninterested? Not sure of why he should do it? Do you have a clear understanding of the teaching methods and expectations for this class?

My son is an older 4. He is in Pre-K. The curriculum is Letter People and there is teaching going on, but it is also play-based. His report cards indicate things like how he interacts with peers, how long he can behave during circle time, whether or not he is kind, if he shares information with teachers and others. Sure, he knows some stuff and doesn't know other things and kindergarten will help fill in the blanks.

Speaking of kindergarten, if your teacher is measuring knowledge readiness in this class, it might be because some of the kids are going to kindergarten next year and it is easier to transition if the beginning of the year - letters, numbers, shapes - is more of a review than something brand new to a kiddo. If that is the case, and your child is not going to kindergarten, you may want to move him back to the 3's.

He sounds like a great little guy!

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answers from Norfolk on

This is just the difference between being the youngest in the class or being the oldest in the class.
My son's birthday is end of Oct and the cut off for starting kindergarten where we live is - you have to be 5 yrs old on or before Sept 30.
So - he's almost always the oldest/tallest in his class - he turned 6 one month into kindergarten.
Only kids who have earlier Oct birthdays are older than him (there are not many).
He's happy, well adjusted and has straight A's for every grade so far.
His reading really took off for him the 2nd half of 2nd grade (about 8 yrs old) and he quickly bypassed most of his classmates to go on to read at a level that was always several grades older than the grade he was in.
But for his subjects and maturity level - he's perfect in the grade he's in.
I would never dream of pushing him to read at 4 - but I read to him all the time.
It's not a contest.

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answers from Alexandria on

Sounds fine and actually a little ahead of the curb. His teacher sounds like a meany. Look up the Pre K standards and curriculum for your area.

Don't move him back. Some of the other kids in his class may SEEM more advanced, but I have noticed that the difference between just turning 4 and 4 years 4 months is quite drastic. If you were to pull him back then you could possibly deny him the knowledge that he is seeking.

From what you have mentioned, he is doing GREAT!! I think her expectations are just a little too high and she may possibly thing this way of him knowing that he didn't make the cut off by 2 weeks.

Example: My son is 4, has been since June. He is in Pre K. On average an average of really awesome days and of ones where he wants to play more than pay attention, 5 being the average 4 year old on a scale of 1 -10, his teacher said that he is either a 6 or a 7. I promise she wasn't being nice :) Mine can recognize all of his uppercase and only a few (like 10) of his lower case, since I never focused on those. He knows the sounds... well most of them about the same as yours. He can count like yours... however whenever it comes to picking the number out in isolation (as the teachers call it) he hasn't mastered many of them yet. Like for instance, if the teacher writes 12 28 17 on a paper and he has to pick the number 28, sometimes he cannot do it since he has them MEMORIZED in order. Supposedly there is a huge difference in being able to recognize Letters and Numbers in isolation rather than knowing all of them in order since that is just a memory trick.

Don't worry about it. I would discuss it with his teacher that you do not want her to make him feel slower than his classmates because it really doesn't sound like he is at all.

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answers from Philadelphia on

you described half of the kids in my daughters k class last year. he sounds fine

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answers from Pittsburgh on

He should be having fun, learning by playing and learning that books contain stories which are fun to listen to. Anything more is gravy. Academic and four year old do not belong in the same paragraph.

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answers from Chicago on

And this is why I don't send my kids to school ;-)

Your son sounds fine. Just tell the teacher that he isn't slower, he is right on track for HIMSELF. Kids put their energy into different things, and thus we get different rates of development. Around 7 it all equals out.

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answers from Austin on

He just turned 4, he is doing great.. Ignore the teacher, or remind her....he JUST turned 4

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answers from New York on

Thank you Debi S. I thought the same thing immediately

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answers from Dallas on

It sounds like you have some great answers here. My son's birthday is August 30 and I decided to keep him back a year, so he is the oldest in his class. He is smart, loves to learn, but his attention span for "work" was limited. His listening skills needed developing. He is now excelling and I am sure I made the right decision. You have to go with your gut when it comes to your child. Children at this age are all over the place academically and he sounds like he is doing fine. As an aside...I thought my daughter would never learn to read. She was challenged and behind many of her friends. When she hit first grade, she bloomed. She is now in the 3rd grade and reading at a 6th grade level. Good luck. I know this is hard.

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answers from Wichita Falls on

He seems to be where most kinders are at this time of year academically (abc's 1,2,3 etc). But the other skills are just as important, if not more so at this age. Boys mature slower so pushing him up a year may have been a mistake. You need to talk to the teacher and make sure he is gaining something out of being in her class. If not, they may have older 3 yr old class that he would be more productive in.

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answers from Tyler on

I think you have gotten some great answers here. Honestly, he sounds fine to me. My daughter is currently 4, almost 5 (in December) and she is in a "PreK" class because she is going to Kindergarten next year. They are really focusing on each letter each week and have a "curriculum" they cover. Part of the education plan will be to teach them to start to read in the Spring. Because of where my daughter's birthday falls, she was in a "4 year old class" last year where she was 3 for the Fall semester and then turned 4 in December.

However, my son went through this same program, but he never attended the "4 year old class". His birthday is in May, so by the time school started, instead of doing the "4 year old class", he did PreK. He did start reading in the Spring (as the program tries to teach them). He was reading quite well by summer time. So, when he started Kindergarten in the Fall, he was very prepared and he and another girl were put into the 1st grade reading program. But, the 8 other kids that were in Kindergarten with him and had also gone through the same PreK program were NOT reading by the time Kindergarten started.

Before I decided to enroll him in the private Kindergarten that followed this particulary PreK class, I went and reviewed the public Kindergarten. I felt like my son was over prepared for public Kindergarten and that is why I left him at the private PreK. Now, my daughter is in the same PreK program and I "think" (but I am not really sure), that she is not processing and retaining information as quickly as he did. Further, she complains about school non-stop - how tired she is, how hard it is. However, she is learning and she honestly does have a lot of fun. But, I think she will be fine entering a public Kindergarten (and not bored like I think my son would have been).

So, all I am saying is that each child progresses at a different pace. If your child just turned 4 and is in class with kids that have been 4 for a while, he will appear to be behind them. But, that will all even out.

Good luck,

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answers from Kansas City on

I think he sounds pretty on track, but I guess the question is how old are the kids in the 4 y/o class? Maybe they are all on the older end of the spectrum and they are past this point, even it is within the developmental range.

Also, remember that although he may have the knowledge, he does not have the experience in terms of the routine, expectations, etc of preschool. he's only been there a month, where as the other kids have been there a whole year before and then a month. Even those who did not participate in 3 y/o preschool are at least 6-12 months older and can adapt faster.

Also, what is your plan with him for his remaining time in Preschool? If he misses the K cut off the schools will not admit him just b/c he's already taken preschool. At least around here, they are pretty strict about birth dates, etc. He probably will qualify for a pre-k (that's what we call our program between preschool and K) program but they will want him to have had two years of preschool by then I'm is he going to be in the same 4 y/o preschool next year with the same curriculum? If so, then I'd move him back to the 3 y/o preschool class.

My daughter's birthday is in September also and also misses the cut off by 2 weeks so I really do understand where you are coming from, trust me! But, in the end, I'm really glad that I kept her on track and did 3 y/o and 4 y/o preschool (she's in 4 right now) and yes she is the absolute oldest in her class, but that's okay. The teachers say it makes her a leader and she loves it too.

I don't know what the right thing is in your situation, but before you decide you really need to think about your future plan. Good luck!

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answers from Dallas on

It's PRE school. If it's a little difficult it would be better to give him the extra time to master the skills now. There are many things that come in to play. Part of it is age, part is that boys learn differently than girls and at different rates. He will adapt much easier than you think Mom. Don't compare him to others and don't worry as much as we are all inclined to do. :) Change is usually good and listen to your instincts. We all feel better with peers instead of people who seem to know everything right?


answers from Fayetteville on


It sounds like he find. You know your child better than anyone else and you as a mother keep encouraging him. You build his self esteem up. Once you give him an instruction ask if he understand. Then watch to see what he's doing and take it from there. Get some flash card and make it fun for him. Play games with him with numbers. Lots of kids find these number difficult. Give it some time and ask before you move him back. I think you will make the different by just encourage him and doing some extra teaching on your own. Please go and watch the teacher teach because that can help give you some idea as to if she's giving him a fighting chance. Be encourage!



answers from Dallas on

The difference in the age between your son and his classmates is huge. Lets say he's 6 months to 1 year younger than the others. At his age, that's 1/6 to 1/3 of his entire life! So, its completely understandable that he is going to need more help than the other kids. I don't know that you need to move him, though. Is he happy in that class? Does the teacher think he needs to be moved? If needing a bit more help is the only issue, I wouldn't think you'd need to move him down.



answers from Detroit on

he is fine.

kids in my sons kindergarten class donot know their letters. I was helping int eh class and the kids can not all recognize their numberrs. 20 out of 24 kids can not read. this is kindergarten.. they are all 5.

do not worry.. and he gets to do this class again next year..

I would suggest it is agreat website.



answers from Cleveland on

my opinion would be to keep him in this class this year,

work with the teacher if she has any suggestions. she might have you start giving him 2part directions, put the plate on the table and get the pepper.

work at home on letting him be independent, teach him to get his own coat, zip it etc

consider keeping him in this class or a similar 4 yo class next year. boys tend to need a little more time to mature over all, so even though he is great with his acedemics he might need some more time to mature to handle the social/ following directions part.



answers from Dallas on

I agree with Deb. K's response. He's 4! My daughter is in Kindergarten and her teacher said that the students are all over the map as far as their "academic" level, and this is normal. There are students who are still learning the basic (letter recognition and phonetics, etc.) and others who are functioning at higher levels (reading, etc.). For me, when my daughter was in preschool and PreK, I was primarily focused on her social skills, listening skills, etc. and wasn't too concerned from an academics standpoint (unless something really troubling was apparent). Sounds to me like your son is just fine . . . I don't understand was his teacher is talking about!



answers from Dallas on

He is totally fine! He is a boy and boys develop slower than girls. And besides, he is perfect for his age. My 6 y/o is in Kindergarten and he is learning the sounds and so are the majority of his friends. They are on track. Your son is really doing great! I would seriously consider switching him schools later and having him be the oldest rather than the youngest in Kindergarten and beyond. I have 6 boys (and 2 girls) and 3 of the boys have summer birthdays. The first one we let him go and be the youngest... he was fine academically but the maturity just wasn't there, specially when he went off to college... Not to mention he didn't grow until much later than his "peers". The next two we kept back even though they actually met the deadline, they have done much better!! Your concerns are valid. I would consider the impact on his confidence if the teacher thinks he is slower than his counterparts and I would probably switch preschools and put him in the class where he really belongs (without feeling awkward because he got "moved" back in his present school). Best wishes and God bless!

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