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Column: Deciding if child is ready for school can be difficult

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My wife and I had an important decision to make recently: Send our son to kindergarten next school year or hold him back.

Aug. 1 is the cutoff date for children to meet the age requirement of 5 for Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. Our son’s birthday is June 30, so he just squeaks in.

We were concerned that because he’d be one of the youngest children in his class, and possibly among the smallest, that he’d be overwhelmed and intimidated by his new surroundings: larger school, unfamiliar faces and older, bigger kids from the upper grades.

Having him regress after two years of preschool is the last thing we would want to happen.

Our concerns are quite common for BCSC administrators and teachers, said Teresa Heiny, director of elementary education. She said that each year around this time, parents pose questions about whether it would be wise to hold back their child or if they can

send their child to kindergarten early.

Heiny noted that while starting a child a year later in kindergarten is a personal decision, parents who want to send their child early must contact her office (812-376-4234) and gain approval. The process involves an application that will be reviewed

by a committee and possibly an assessment of the child’s abilities.

In both cases, teachers and administrators will ask questions about whether the child has been in a pre-kindergarten program, and if so how that has been going, she said. They’ll also ask questions such as whether the child can sit and pay attention or if he or she can share.

Our son’s ability to share toys and craft items with his older sister, a first-grader, seems to shift by the hour. Timeouts for him have resulted from their arguments.

That emotional component was a concern of ours, too. We wondered: Is he mature enough to handle kindergarten? We have seen how he sometimes likes to intentionally irritate his sister. Maybe that’s typical with brothers and sisters, but we feared trips to the principal’s office for this type of behavior.

Heiny said some boys mature a little slower than girls at this age, but that isn’t always the case. Decisions to hold back a child are personal, she said, and should involve discussions with teachers.

We talked to our son’s preschool teacher during two parent-teacher conferences. My wife spoke with our daughter’s former kindergarten teacher. They said that behavior parents see at home typically doesn’t occur at school. The preschool teacher said the behavior that gets our son in trouble at home isn’t exhibited at school and that he’s attentive and active in class.

We wondered: Do we have two different sons? The one at home seems to suffer from selective hearing quite often.

What we learned from the talks with the teachers, though, is to really consider the ability of our child and not worry so much about the age. Our son knows his numbers, letters, colors and shapes. He likes to draw and paint. On that basis, he seems ready for kindergarten.

So after a lot of discussion, my wife and I decided that our son was ready for kindergarten and registered him during kindergarten signups March 10 to 14. However, kindergarten registration is ongoing and will continue right up to the start of school, Heiny said. The signup event is used to get an early idea of staffing levels that will be needed for the upcoming school year, she said.

Parents who have questions about whether to send their children early or hold them back have additional time to get information from teachers or administrators in order to make a decision.

Thankfully, our decision to send our son to kindergarten was greeted with enthusiasm. When we told the little guy that we were going to register him for kindergarten, he pumped his fist and said, “Sweet!”

Now, if he’d just act that way all the time with his sister ...

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