Lily will turn 5 just a few weeks before the school year begins. She is eligible according to her age, but only by a few weeks. After doing a lot of research, and speaking with many friends and educators, we have decided to send her to Kindergarten in the Fall.
What this means is that she will be one of the youngest kids in her class. Most of her classmates already turned 5 and she will be starting Kindergarten with quite a few kids who are already 6. Some of her preschool classmates, who also have summer birthdays, will be attending another year of preschool.
When we tell people what we decided, it is usually met with surprise. Our decision goes completely against what is popular in our area.
I definitely understand why some parents choose to do it. Some children just aren't ready to start Kindergarten, even if they are age eligible. But I feel like it's becoming more of a trend to automatically hold a child back if they have a summer birthday, instead of considering the child in question.
I spoke to people who chose to redshirt their child and people who chose to send their young child. I spoke to educators that believed in redshirting and educators who didn't notice much of a difference in many cases. Even after speaking with people regarding their decisions and experiences, we still had to consider WHO Lily was and factor her into the equation.
Kids of all ages and abilities have their own set of strengths and weaknesses. A child who will be one of the youngest in the grade can quite possibly be more prepared for Kindergarten than a child who is older. I witnessed that during Lily's Kindergarten preview.
We truly believe Lily is ready. She has fantastic social skills and she's very independent. She listens well, respects those in charge, follows directions, and aims to please. Lily has two older siblings to learn from, and I think that does make a difference. She is also a big sister to a sibling who has special needs, and with that comes more responsibility early on.
Lily turned 2 just days before Liam was born. She was still practically a baby herself. With Liam's birth diagnosis, we were immediately thrown into multiple medical appointments with specialists, a hospital stay, and the start of welcoming therapists into our home each week. My husband and I work so hard and spend so much time making sure each of our kids gets an abundance of love and attention. Even so, Lily had to learn at a very young age that she had to share her mom with her baby brother.
The most surprising part was that she never showed an ounce of jealousy toward Liam. She was patient and loving from the moment she met him. It was almost as if she instinctively knew that she had to protect him. (That being said, nobody is perfect. The Toddler Tornado now loves to steal her toys, run into her room, and pull her hair. Her reaction is exactly how you would expect a 4 year old to react!)
Liam's therapists have always been so wonderful at including Lily in Liam's therapy sessions and making her feel important. When Liam walks on a balance beam, Lily walks on a balance beam. After Liam finishes a peg board or a puzzle or flash cards, Lily gets to use them. She always sits at Liam's Speech Therapist's side, and basic signing is now part of her lifestyle. Although those sessions benefit Liam the most, they have also been an incredible learning experience for Lily.
What Lily also learned from the experience of having therapists in our home three times a week, was how to play independently and learn how to problem solve when I couldn't immediately help her. It encouraged her to try to do things by herself, which only spurred her independence. Her favorite phrase at age 2 was "Lily do it!"
The result of that is a 4 1/2 year old who is more independent than many kids who are much older than her. She is able to meet all of her basic needs, and recently, we started to notice a big change in her maturity level. She cleans up her room without being asked. She even cleans up Liam's toys, which are always scattered through our house, just to be helpful. A few weeks ago, she pulled a stool up to the kitchen counter, dried all the dishes, and put away all the utensils. It was completely on her own, and ever since, she took it upon herself to do that each night. She is always asking if we need help!
Socially, she's ready, too. Lily is the kind of kid who can walk up to any child and immediately become their friend. She's disappointed if we go to the park or the library and nobody else is there. She's not afraid to be away from me. She is very empathetic, loving and mature for her age. She thrives in a social environment, and she loves to be around her friends. There are absolutely no worries when it comes to her social skills or her independence. She loves going to school and all she talks about is starting Kindergarten.
The only (slight) concern I ever had was would she be ready academically? Would she fall behind? Lily will only have 1 year of preschool under her belt when she starts Kindergarten, compared to some kids coming in with 2-4 years of preschool.
When I saw her progress report halfway through the school year, she was progressing very well. There really wasn't any cause for concern academically, which pushed me to seriously consider sending her to Kindergarten as planned. That being said, we are going to focus on a lot of flashcards and math games over the next few months to give her an edge over her classmates who will be quite a bit older than her.
In the end, what it all came down to was this: Nothing is permanent. We can always give it a shot and reassess at the end of the year. Whether she's in a preschool classroom or a Kindergarten classroom, she will still be learning. We will assess her strengths and weaknesses and brainstorm ways that we could help her strengthen those weaknesses.
It's always important to reassess at the end of the year for ANY child. It's what we do for Dylan and Lexie, and it's what we will do for Lily and Liam. Parenting really is a full time job, and one of those responsibilities is staying actively involved in our child's education and making decisions that we feel are right for our child.
We did our research, we weighed the pros and cons, we considered the what-if's, and we made our decision.
Going to Kindergarten, even as a very young five year old, is the right choice for Lily. I have no doubt she will thrive!
Did you "redshirt" any of your children or are you planning on holding them back? Or did you do the opposite and send your child even if they were younger than most of their classmates?
We already completed Step One in the Kindergarten process! On St. Patrick's Day, we headed to the primary center for Kindergarten preview. Lily was so excited to go to Kindergarten!
She was even more excited when she saw her best friend walking toward her. They were conveniently placed in the same preview group!
First up, was the most exciting part: a bus ride!
Next, she made a craft, then toured the school on a scavenger hunt while I listened to the same Kindergarten introduction speech that I heard two times before.
The preview wrapped up with a storytime session in the library with the school librarian. Each child got to introduce themselves and their siblings. Lily had no trouble mentioning Dylan and Lexie, but forgot all about poor Liam!
While she listened to the story, I signed her up for her Kindergarten assessment and picked up her registration packet! It's getting real!
Lily loved spending time at her future school. After we left, she asked if she could come back the next day! She's all ready to go!