Putting 3 to 4 Year Olds in Preschool Room of 4, Mainly 5 Year Olds

Updated on February 03, 2008
B.K. asks from Fairfax, IA
21 answers

I have a question for you teachers out there, and anyone who has experience with preschools. My 2nd child is in a church preschool and is in the 4 to 5 year old room. He will be turning 5 this month and most the kids in his class are already 5. There are 12 kids altogether in their class right now. There is 2 teachers and I beleive only one of them has credentials. We were informed on Jan. 29th that 4 of the 3 to 4 year old kids in the afternoon class will be joining our kids' class. They informed us that they will come on M-W and F the 4 to 5 year old kids will not have them in class with them. They bring home a letter book to do at home every weekend and then they bring them to class on M. They are on the letter O right now. The staff informed us that they will do the letter book now on F, but still introduce the letter of the week on Monday. Now how ready is the 3 to 4 year olds going to be to start at the middle of the alphabet and concentrate on words that start with that letter? The parents of the 3 to 4 year olds were talked to ahead of time before this decision was final, but we heard 2 school days before the decision has already been made. Remember this is a church and we want to do what is best in God's eyes. My question is, is this a good decision? How will they be able to concentrate on training these older kids for kindergarten, without the other kids feeling left out? Sorry so long.

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answers from Omaha on

I am a pre-k teacher. I teach 3 to 4 year olds in the AM and 4 to 5 year olds in the PM. As my morning class fills up, I often get a 3 year old in the PM class. In my opinion age is just a number. The real question would be, where are all the students developmentally? Often there are 3 to 4 year olds that are developmentally equal to some 4 to 5 year olds and some 4 to 5 year olds that are developmentally equal to 3 to 4 year olds. In your child's class there is likely an array of abilities. I may do a group activity on a letter but then break up into smaller groups to do more developmentally appropriate activities. As far as the 3 to 4's coming in at the letter O, I don't see that as a problem at all. There is no research saying a child must learn the ABC's in exact order. In fact, if you are teaching how to write them along with identifying them, it is best not to go in exact order. Instead you should start with letters that are easiest to write with all straight lines like I, T, L, and E. Then move on to lines that are slanted (M, N, W) and curved (C, J). So I guess what I'm trying to say is that as long as the teacher differentiates the children's teaching appropriately, age shouldn't be a huge issue. Hope that helps!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Omaha on


I have been a preschool teacher for 11 years and an elementary school teacher before that. I have mixed feelings about your situation.

I have taught 3,4 and 5 year olds in the past. Those precious 3 year olds should not be in a structured school setting. They are too young! I know that people will argue with me and say that their child is brilliant and needs the stimulation. But, studies have shown that even if your "brilliant" child can read at age 3 or 4 and is doing addition & subtraction problems in preschool; he/she will slow down and be equivalent to his/her peers by the third grade.

I guess I don't see the hurry to push education down our children's throats. Let them be children!

By age four or five, most children are ready to sit and pay attention for a while. I do so much with my four and five year olds that a three would be lost in my room.

Hope I haven't offended anyone, just the way I feel. I love my job!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Wausau on

Is that what you paid for when you signed your child up for preschool? You had expectations when the class started. I guess I would talk with the Director and voice your concerns and issues. Can they restructure the other class of younger kids? Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Milwaukee on

Hi B.,

I have worked as a preschool/kindergarten assistant for a few years (until I got married and had a child myself) and I am watching the church I go to start up a preschool program. My mother is a preschool teacher along with being the director for the before/after school program at school where she teaches (her school is associated with a church).

Every child learns at a different pace and has a different attention span. Maybe the kids joining the class are ready for the older preschool learning pace. I see preschool as getting the child ready for the school structure (we are going to do this now ex:learn, snack, learn, play and so on). That way it is an easier transition into kindergarten where they are expected to follow the school structure without too much prodding/asking the kids to do something. The school I was a teacher aide for had the 3/4 pre-k and 4/5 pre-k split in the morning and in the afternoon together (if they stayed all day). They mainly had snack and played in the afternoon, because it was treated more as a day care environment because they did the school structure in the morning.

My mom has only old 4/5 year olds, and I know that a few young 3/4 have tried to talk there way into the class but my mom does not want to mix the ages. Even if the child seems ready you say yes to one parent with a young 3/4 you have to say us to others. It is different when in the afternoon, after they went to school in the morning, then the time is more like a day care (playing and such).

A few preschools are putting together 3/4 and 4/5 because of small class sizes and they can't afford to have them split. I have seen a lot of 3 year olds not ready for as much as a young 5 year old, and the teach has to pay more attention to the younger kids. I would say that if your child is still doing well and learning on the combined days then it is fine. If it seems that not much is getting done/learned on the combined days you might want to speak up (especially if your child mentioned that the structure of the class has changed, ex; we don't read any more, the teacher spends all their time with the new classmate(s), we play all day). If the structure of the class is not suppose to change then there should be no change to your child's learning ability, but sometimes adding your children who are not ready for that structure can cause the "learning" level to go down. That is when you want to speak up... but if the younger kids are ready for it then things will go on unchanged (just more in the class). Give it a shot!

Regarding about starting in the middle of the alphabet... that should not be a problem. What I gather is that they learn what starts with that letter. So really it is more about the words and not the order of the alphabet.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boise on

I have no real expierience, but maybe an outsiders view, first no child needs pre-school before kindergarten, second I have a 3 year old who could hold her own with most kids older then her, it is possible that these children are cabale of doing the work which is why the school had allowed them in.

I have a different story, when my know 15 year old was 4 they were starting a new pilot program for head start, my dd didn't quailify for head start programs as a norm and I hadn't even thought about it ( we lived in Los Angeles at the time) anyways a friend of thier nana worked for the program and thought I might be interested, here is the program it 6 "regular" kids and 6 severly challenged kids, some had emotional issues, autism and physical disabilities and what they were looking for was....did it hinder the regular kids? Did it help the kids with disabilities. It was a really scary thought, even knowing that there would be 3 teachers in the class, finally I decided to go ahead and try it, I could always pull her out. It was the best expierience for her she loved it, she was able to stay on task with her work but was also motavated to help the other children, It in no way hindered the regular kids but the benefit to the other kids was amazing, us parents of the regular ones (I hate using that word) could even see the difference in the other children.

I know that is different then what you are asking....sorda. But I do think the "theroy" is the same, give it a try, and if it isn't working then bring it up to the school, some 3-4 year olds are very bright for there ages.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Appleton on

This isn't necessarily a response to your question, but rather a concern of mine: Why are we training children for kindergarten? Wasn't the whole reason kindergarten was invented was to prepare children for 1st grade. Now it's a whole grade itself and parent's feel the pressure to have their children know everything before they enter.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Milwaukee on

Hi B.,
Guess what-the move your pre-school is doing is actually great. Over the past few years montessori learning has become really popular and one of the reasons for this is with the mixed ages, the older kids actually will get a cahnce to teach mentor and correct as children do between themselves socially anyway. Think about how your younger children grow and learn from their older siblings,they can even be more receptive. Not only that but the younger kids at some point, I'm sure will catch up-without holding the kids back,maybe they gave the younger kids parents more notice so they could get them ready.BUT I DO NOT AGREE WITH DECISION ALL PARTIES SHOULD HAVE BEEN INCLUDED AT THE SAME TIME, at least I think so. I can definately see why this caught you off guard so sorry that happened.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Davenport on

When I was in school, we had two grades in each class through the fifth grade. When in kindergarten I observed the older children's behavior which taught proper manners to the other children and the teacher. Back then if we misbehaved, the ruler across the knuckles was punishment; I never had the harsh ruler wack. I was bright and eager to learn; with the first grade blackboard lessons, I was able to learn as much as the older children.

When my son was in nursery school he was allowed to attend the classes of older children and learned to read at age three. When the older children came out to play, he was watched over by them. His teachers were taking masters in education classes at local colleges. The amazing children who came away with more knowledge at early ages. Please be assured your children will be better adults with these classes



answers from Madison on

My daughters attend a Montessori preschool where in one room are up to 20 children between the ages of 2 1/2 and 6. When my girls started, they weren't quite 2 1/2, and so an older child was assigned to each of them to help them learn how to behave in the classroom and work with the materials. I have found that the mixed-age classroom is a really great experience for children, and I'm sad that when they start kindergarten in the fall (in a different city) they won't have that multi-age environment. The older children are able to take on a leadership role in the classroom while the younger children have role models to look up to. It's an enriching environment for all the children concerned, and nothing has been taken away from my daughters' learning experience. The school has two teachers, one of whom is Montessori certified and the other has taken workshops and performs as the assistant teacher. The children are expected to select work each day, and the older children (4 & 5 yr olds and the kindergarten students) need to select 2 "challenging" works before they can do the fun stuff, like painting. While the children work on their own, the teachers will present lessons to individual students or groups of students - that way no one's "left out" and no one's learning is ignored.
If you're really concerned about your child being "ready" for kindergarten, talk to the teachers and ask how they are going to continue the older students' learning. Maybe they have a system worked out that is similar to what I've seen in my children's classroom. Certainly the kids don't need to be drilled or lectured at the entire time they are at the preschool, so the older kids could play or work on their letter sounds while the younger children get a separate lesson.



answers from Duluth on

Honestly, if you're truly looking for God's guidance, don't you think that God planned this to happen? If things are truly left up to God, then this will turn out how He planned it as long as you have faith that He knows what is best for you, your children and other children. Hmm...



answers from Sioux Falls on

we have done this before in our regular headstart programs and it worked out well. The teacher had a table of children she worked with on activities, etc. The aide she worked with the younger in reviews and getting them ready for the older class. Being consistent and dependable is what counts and finding the childrens interest and needs working from there helps alot.



answers from Des Moines on

Couple of things to keep in mind. First - only 1 teacher does need to be certified (the Head Teacher), the other is an assistant. Althought it does go state by state, the majority of states require 1 teacher per 10 students. Next - don't worry about starting in the middle.Kids pick up things so fast! Anything those staring in the middle miss, they will quickly learn next time around. Kids are like sponges,they learn quickly if they are ready to learn. As a formal Pre-School teacher, I'll tell you - teachers are to treat each child in the group the same and then work one on one with those who need extra coaching. No one should feel left out - if they need any special time they shoudl get it



answers from Grand Forks on

I am an elementary & preschool teacher and I think that they are probably moving those kids to the higher class because they feel that they are ready to handle what the 4 & 5 year olds are doing. My 2 year olds do what my 4 year olds do and they do fine. It doesn't matter if they start in the middle of the letter book because as soon as they get to Z they will start over and they will get the beginning of the alphabet there, not only that but the teacher should be teaching all the letters all the time anyway. Let the teachers try it and they will move the children back if they need to.



answers from Grand Rapids on

I was a pre-school teacher for 25 years. Also an educational co-ordinator. I taught children 6 weeks -12 years. At one point I taught 3-5 year olds all in one classroom. I found that the 3 year olds did quite well. Even though we separated them for group time many of them picked up on what the older children were doing. later I had an advanced pre-k class of some of these same children and they advanced into an opportunity when they started kindergarten to have the priveledge to advance into first grade with the okder children they were in class with in the beginning.



answers from Dubuque on

Being in the childcare/preschool field for the past 15 years I can say this sounds to me like they are trying to meet the staff/child ratio by putting more kids into this class. I guess if it was my child I would ask the preschool director/manager wat steps they are planning to take to make this a easier for the kids. Also, what they plan to do to make it fun for all and not stressful. This is a BIG step for those little ones and int he middle of the year makes it even harder!! Try to pull more information before it goes to far!!



answers from Pocatello on

I have had 3 of my six kids do preschool thru the school district this is a mixed preschool for ages 3-5 they have been wonderful programs for my kids to be in. They are only two teachers with 12- 15 kids. They do the same things with all the kids but at diffrent levels for the diffrent ages. I have never seen my kids as they have gotten older miss any learning opprutnities. In fact I really think it helps with social skills sharing skills, they older kids get chances to help younger kids. They do have 1 to 2 parent volunteers everyday. The program my kids did their teacher even earned the state of Idaho teacher of the year award. It was a wonderful class and my 3 kids loved being in it and I never saw them be at a disadvantage by being in a mixed class. And they only went 3 days a week 4 hours a day. Hope this helps you! M.



answers from Green Bay on

Hello there! Have you had a chance to meet the little ones coming into your child's class? So many little pumpkins really are able to handle the "work" load :) but may have a challenge emotionally. It's interesting to notice where the young ones land in their birth order - I'm sure you notice that even with your Hunter and Graci - they move along so much faster with the big siblings forging the way. So these 3-4 yr olds could also be completely ready for the challenge and perhaps even need it to keep engaged. Have you had a chance to do a class observation? It might help to actually see how competent they are (or are not)...



answers from Lansing on

I'm a teacher and mother of a daughter who has been the younger child in her preschool room of older children. First, letters of the alphabet are often taught out of sequence. There are some letter sounds that are easier, such as b, and some that are more difficult (the vowels and x, for example), so some educational programs teach them in an order that produces the best learning results instead of in alphabetical sequence. Second, what I worry about for my daughter is that she is developmentally ready to be with older kids. Physically, is she big enough to be safe on the playground with older kids? Can she sit still long enough to accomplish what might be required in a room with 4 or 5 year olds? Is there another teacher in the room that can split the children into two learning groups when it is time for academics?



answers from Milwaukee on

When my daughter was in preschool, she was much farther advanced than the children in her class at her age level and only after she had been in there for a few months did they allow her to move up because she was obviously ready to. I don't think your preschool would move up children they didn't feel were ready, but if you are concerned that it is going to hinder your child's learning development, you should talk to the teachers or administrators to raise your concerns. And you can always spend that little extra time with your child at home, too.



answers from Janesville-Beloit on

Honestly I suppose it was up to the school and the parents of the 3-4yr olds, I'm sure they decided to do this in the best interest of the children in the 3-4yr class. It has been proven that most children in the 3-5yr range can learn at or around the same level as long as they are learning in an individualized manner(i.e. personalizing the learning experience to suit each indidviduals learning pace and or style) I am preparing my 3yr old for preschool this year as she will be going into the older childrens class because she is advanced, and I have found that she is learning the kindergarten level just great if I take a Montessori approach to the teaching and also use positive encouragement. I don't think it should be a problem for these kids usually the older kids get to help out w/the younger children which teaches the older children how to enteract w/a diverse age range and develop people skills. If you do think it is an issue as far as how the teachers will be able to handle the situation bring it up to the school board and ask what type of method they plan on using throughout the school year to keep all of these children learning at their own pace.



answers from Pocatello on

Hi B.,
I have been a preschool teacher for 24 years and love every minute of it! My classes have 3,4 and 5 year olds all in one class. I have found that the older ones love to help the younger ones and is a great self confidence builder for them. The younger children want to do everything the older children do so they try harder helping them use their full potential.
Children will learn what they are ready for and will adapt easily. It doesn't matter where they start in the alphabet as long as they learn something. At this age review will come and anything they grasp is just a better head start for them.
I have a program that lets each child progress at their own speed. Some of the children are still working on writing numbers 1 and 2 while others can write to 40 and beyond. Ask the teachers if they will make sure your child has the opportunity to go farther if they are ready and work with her in letting her know your concerns. You might offer to be a helper for ones that are ready to move faster in writing their names, numbers or other programs she is working on.
I find that usually preschool teachers are there because they love the children and want to do what is best for them.
I hope this will help you feel more at ease.

D. Blakely
Lots O' Love Preschool

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