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We are trying to figure out when to start our child in regards to kindergarten and would like feedback.

Our concerns:

  • he is a couple weeks ahead of cutoff so if we start him as normal he will probably be the youngest kid in his class

  • in our area it is normal for parents to keep their children back even when meeting the cut-off be a couple months. So not only could he be the youngest but several kids will be over a year older.

  • per Obama's leave no child behind mandate, no matter what we as parent's think or how our child performs, he will assuredly be passed to 1st grade by the school. He would be in a good school district that basically won't hold anyone back (even if wanted). So we fear that it is a long-term decision.

  • he will be learning another language which will not be supported by the school.

  • he will be active in sports and other activities.

I have concerns about him being the youngest in his class and my wife has concerns that he will be though of as "dumb" if he is one of the oldest. Also I have read that there are issues through 3-4th grade with kids learning two languages when one is not supported by the school.

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4  
Umm...No Child Left Behind was George Bush's mandate--not that I'm entirely sure that NCLB has anything to do with your question. –  DA01 Mar 10 at 22:55
2  
And what a horrible mandate it was in which we are just beginning to reap the "reward" of all that wonderful mediocrity. –  ChristopherW Mar 10 at 23:08

4 Answers 4

It depends on the kid. And, frustratingly, it depends on the kid 5 years from now. :)

We put ours in early. He's one of the youngest in his class. At the time, he needed it. As a pre-teenager, though, we do see why some hold kids back. It's tough at puberty when everyone else is maturing slightly ahead of you. It can be awkward.

Have we damaged him for life? No. I don't think so. But in hindsight...

In the end, though...we can't say. It really does come down to your own take on the child. Worse case, you can always hold him back a year if he's not excelling through kindergarten. Better to hold back now than later.

As for being multi-lingual, I wouldn't worry too much about that at all. The fact that he is multi-lingual at this age means he's figured it out. The young brain is surprisingly open to languages at this age (hence why language emersion programs start at this age).

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One thing to consider, in addition to the other points of view here, is that children do perform better if they're older relative to other children in their grade, on average.

The UK for example did a study on students' attainment of key goals by birth month, and found that at age 5, there was a 2.6% gap between fall-born children and summer-born children (ie, fall born = after the cutoff so the eldest children, summer born = the youngest). That narrows as they age, but is still not insignificant (~1.3% by age 14). That is the percent of students who reached key goals, so it's not intended to show magnitude of intelligence, just whether they hit a goal or not. The basic ideas behind this is that an older child will have an easier time understanding material as his/her brain is more developed and he/she has learned how to learn better by that point.

Further, in athletics and other physical activities, there is a significant difference as well; this is fairly obvious, children who are nearly a year older will perform physical activities better than children nearly a year younger. This is a mild concern because, while it does not necessarily drive academic achievement, it does drive how a child fits into his/her peer group.

Finally, in your specific case, I'd be concerned that the 5yo gap is significant, since the child will be dealing with multiple languages and having to learn more than other 5yo children.

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My daughter was born on the school year cusp, but I started her when she was just about the age for kindergarten. At 14 now, she's doing just fine, though most everyone is older than her.

When I was a kid, they offered skipping a grade to me. I refused b/c I did not want to be the smallest, nerdiest kid in class. I got through it all, earned my BA and was teased all along the way.

No matter what you do, kids will have issues during schooling. We all have "issues", tbh, no matter our age. That we have them is not as relevant as how we handle them.

Your child will not be prepared for what is to come. That, too, is irrelevant. Why? Because they are your child and you are as prepared as can be to help them in viewing and handling things in a constructive manner.

From the time I was a child, I did not respect age. I respected intelligence and wisdom. If you feel your child is ready for kindergarten based on all you know about your child, then your child is ready, with you at the stead to help, guide, and strengthen.

Also, Bush's NCLB act doesn't make kids get passed on to the next grade. Its performance penalty for well-performing schools to pass them on, sends on those who aren't ready. Its performance bonus for non-performing schools also sends those on who aren't ready. But, with your guidance neither of these two scenarios need be the case... it's like I've told all of my daugther's teachers: I'm her penultimate teacher and you help me out along the way.

Finally, whether he speaks one language or 100 languages does not matter in the choice of beginning kindergarten (though will be quite helpful later on.) And, knowing more than one language generally makes it easier to acquire other languages.

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Kids adapt very fast to their surroundings, so the most common thing would be that your kid has some trouble the first one or two month, but then will be on about the same level. Just make sure you're there for him during that time and keep an extra open ear out for any issues so you can support him properly.

Kids also learn languages at that age very well, and it would be a surprise if your child has troubles learning two languages at the same time. You might have to do some training with him so he gets the differences right (not confusing vocabulary), but in general this shouldn't be an issue at all.

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