I remember when this question became front and center in my mind. When my daughter was 3 years old, I began thinking about school and when to start. Since her birthday is in late August, I knew we had a choice to make. She would either be the oldest in her class or the youngest. Since we chose to homeschool, we had some leniency in our decision. When she turned 5, we enrolled her in a homeschool support school. We did school at home 4 days a week and only attended this school once per week. And it was a disaster. She was not ready at all. The first day of school, we met with a frustrated teacher. And we continued to meet with her almost every week. What drove us nuts is that she was on the verge of acquiring all the right skills for kindergarten, but she wasn’t quite there yet. I learned a few valuable insights during this journey, and I hope they are helpful for you as you navigate this beautiful milestone called kindergarten.
There are two main areas of readiness that I focused on when my child was 5. Emotional readiness and academic readiness. Both are essential to a successful year in kindergarten. Here are some questions you should be asking yourself in those two areas. Keep in mind that this is coming from a mom’s perspective who is also a teacher and therapist, but I am not an expert on kindergarten readiness, just a momma who is passionate about helping others.
Many parents tend to focus heavily on academic skills, but as a music therapist, I lean toward behavioral/emotional readiness. Our daughter was academically ready for kindergarten, but emotionally she wasn’t. So instead of continuing onto 1st grade after our homeschool support year, we started kindergarten again when she turned 6, and she did so well. She just needed a little more time. She is now in 1st grade at a university model school, where I get to homeschool her part-time, and wow is she flourishing! We are so proud of her and very glad we gave her some time to mature before tossing her into kindergarten.
Consider these questions as you think about kindergarten readiness. Don’t feel like your child needs to meet every single one. This is just a guide. The most important advice I can give you is to do your research, and if you have any doubts, let them wait another year.
1. How does my child play with others? Are there a lot of behavioral issues that I am intervening on or does she easily play with her friends?
2. Does she respect others’ space for the most part? Do others respond by stepping back because she is invading their space?
3. When playing a game, can he take turns without too much protest?
4. Is he/she able to verbalize their emotions when upset or do they throw a fit, kick, scream, throw?
5. How is her focus? Is she darting all over the place or can she focus on something that interests her for at least 10-15 minutes?
the necessary entry skills for kindergarten will vary depending on your choice of schooling whether it be home schooling, private school, public school, etc.
1. Can she count to 10-20? 50? 100? At least shoot for 10-20.
2. Can he follow one or two-step directions like “put your plate in the dishwasher” or “rinse your plate AND put it in the dishwasher”?
3. Does he recognize some letters and numbers visually? What about shapes and colors?
4. Does he know some letters sounds?
5. Does she recognize her written name? Can she write it? That’s a bonus!
1. Can he cut with scissors?
2. How is her crayon or pencil grasp?
3. Can she bounce a ball?
4. Can he use the restroom and get dressed independently?
Some children will have all of these skills mastered before entering kindergarten, and others will not. And that’s ok! You will find a wide range of skills in the younger grades. This will level out as they get older. I believe strongly in emotional readiness before kindergarten because no matter how intelligent a child is, their emotional readiness or un-readiness can influence their success in kindergarten. This one factor can affect their ability to learn. Give your child the best chance at kindergarten by strongly considering their emotional readiness. That one extra year could make a big difference in their schooling.