Why I Am Not Sending My 5-Year-Old to Kindergarten This Year: A Teacher’s Perspective


Deciding whether your child is ready for kindergarten isn’t always easy, but it’s a decision that demands thoughtful consideration.

My youngest son could start kindergarten this school-year (he turned five in July), but based on his development — social, emotional, academic, and physical — we made the decision to delay his entry into kindergarten until he’s six.

That means we’ll be paying weekly child-care expenses and tuition at a part-time private preschool for another school year.  But it’s a decision I know is in his best interest — and I know there’s a good chance it could boost his academic confidence throughout his entire educational career.

Conflicting Opinions:

Deciding whether your child is ready for kindergarten isn’t always easy, but it’s a decision that — from my perspective as a kindergarten teacher and mother of four — demands thoughtful consideration. It’s important to reflect on your individual child’s needs and development, not just how many birthdays your child has had. Just as every child isn’t ready to walk on his or her first birthday, not every child is ready for kindergarten at age 5.

I’m aware of books, articles, research, reports and studies that share conflicting opinions either criticizing or advocating a delayed entry to kindergarten in various situations. In my own classroom, I’ve seen some young 5-year-olds experience success. Others struggle.

Delaying is Not Always Possible

I understand that delayed entry to kindergarten isn’t always the best answer. Some young 5-year-olds are just ready, similar to those toddlers who start walking at 9 months. But for those who simply aren’t, there are other factors to consider that can make delaying difficult.

  • The cost of childcare or preschool can be prohibitive for families.
  • Though there are some excellent programs designed to fill a gap year for young 5-year-olds, not all families have access to those options.
  • Not all preschools offer programming for children who meet kindergarten age eligibility.
  • Children who need extra support may qualify for school-based early-intervention services, such as: speech, occupational therapy, or targeted academic support.

Academic & Social Demands

Parents who send their 5-year-olds to kindergarten can rest assured knowing that schools and teachers are expected to differentiate instruction to meet the needs of each individual learner in their classrooms. Every fall, I start the school year with a kindergarten classroom full of kids with unique needs, strengths and abilities. I’m committed to do my best to help every child learn and grow, both socially and academically.

But the reality is that some kids struggle with the intensity that full-day kindergarten and, as a result, these children have to work extra hard to keep up with academic and social demands. These little ones end up expending a lot of energy working to stay on task.  This can cause some children to become tired and frustrated — and they may act out with negative behaviors and/or emotions, which can affect the child’s own learning and the learning of others.

Taking More Time

Delayed entry to kindergarten can be the best choice for some children. Some kids, like my 5-year-old son, just need more time, and will benefit from an additional year to grow and develop before their little bodies and minds are ready for the pace, standards and objectives that accompany all-day, every-day kindergarten. Waiting a year to start school can be a good decision — especially if the child’s alternative will be immersion in an enriching environment that promotes school readiness, independence and positive social skills, whether that’s at home, in a preschool setting, at a transitional kindergarten or as part of early-5 programming.

Originally published in Minnesota Parent Magazine

Photo Credit: kindergarten

8 thoughts on “Why I Am Not Sending My 5-Year-Old to Kindergarten This Year: A Teacher’s Perspective”

  1. I couldn’t agree more! My child will be 4.5 in April and Kindergarten in Canada is any child that turns 4 by December…so 3 year olds are going if their birthdays fit the criteria. I am also a teacher, and I have opted to have my child go to Montessori this Fall. She has been home with both my husband and I since birth as we both decided to return part time so either I was going to work in the morning and he in the afternoon or vice versa. This is all she has known. She is a sensitive little soul so I chose not to put her in a room with 30 other kids and chose a place that will nurture her individuality and gently ease her into a school setting. The program is mornings only, so again, easing my child in is what is best for our family.

    1. 3 year olds do not go to Kindergarten in Canada. If a child turns 5 before December 31 then they can start Kindergarten in September. My child has a December birthday and he started in September. We were concerned he wasn’t ready but he has done amazingly well! I really don’t think that you can guess how they will do beforehand. He couldn’t read a word and is now reading way above grade level and sits and does all his work quietly. I never could have predicted that:)

      1. In Ontario, Canada, the Education Act states that a child can enter Junior Kindergarten if they turn 4 by December 31 of that year. So, yes, a child can start JK when they are only 3 years and 8 months old. My son was born on December 27 and could have started at that age. I am a teacher and I truly believed he would not benefit from starting so young. He started JK the following year at the age of 4 years and 8 months and we haven’t regretted it for one minute.

  2. I had to jump through hoops to have my December baby boy start kindergarten late. In NYC and many large cities, children are placed in a grade based on birth year. Holding my son back required a sympathetic assistant principal who knew how to work the system. It was the best decision I ever made. As an educator of middle school children, I never hear parents say “I’m so glad I didn’t hold him/her back.” Do it if you can – you know what is right for your child!

  3. This makes me sad, because kindergarten has become completely inappropriate for young children. Keeping the youngest out exacerbates the problem by making kindergarten full of 6 year olds. Teachers then think true 5 year olds are immature. The reality is, our primary grades do not serve young children well.

    1. Exactly!! Kindergarten is for 5 year olds. Continually pulling our summer babies out just moves behavior expectations that much further from reality. My twins were born in June. One was more ready than the other, but ironically, the less-ready one *had* to be enrolled in kindergarten to continue to receive speech and OT services. Had we kept him in pre-k, he would have lost access to those much needed therapies, even though socially, pre-k may have been better.

      And I felt a lot of pressure not to “rush” them into kindergarten, but I eventually realized that *school* has the problem, not my kid. My kid is exactly, precisely where he “should” be, age-wise (which is within a wide developmental spectrum), and kindergarten is for 5 year olds, which includes kids who turn 6 right after the school year starts AND kids who turned 5 right before school starts.

      1. True, but most parents are thinking of their child and what is best for him/her. So rather than making a point with their young 5 year old that this is what a “true” kindergartner should act like developmentally, they don’t want to put their child through the stress of high expectations that Kindergarten has become. I don’t blame them one bit. But you are right. School is the problem. It’s one of the many reasons we have chosen homeschooling and love it. 🙂

  4. I completely agree that kiddos are ready for kindergarten at different times. Some are later than others, some are ready earlier than others. In our area of Minnesota, it is very much the norm to wait to enter kindergarten for summer birthdays. The law here is age 5 by September 1. Our daughter has a birthday of Sept 14, and she was INCREDIBLY ready to start kindergarten when she was not yet 5. We had to fight tooth and nail for that to be allowed (it is permitted under law), and wound up sending her to a private school. She just started ninth grade and is SO happy we fought so hard for her. Different kids are different – it’s too bad we put them in a rigid box based on a calendar.

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