Kindergarten Information Night
By Rinna Sanchez-Baluyut, Teacher
“Is my child ready?” Parents often ask this question as their children near kindergarten age. Many worry not only about their child’s readiness, but also about their choice of school. Bing Nursery School annually hosts a Kindergarten Information Night for parents. Last January, a panel of experts helped ease parents’ anxieties and answered questions regarding readiness. The panelists were Dr. Rick Lloyd, a pediatrician at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation; Susan Charles, principal of Ohlone Elementary, an alternative public school in Palo Alto; Beth Wise, Bing head teacher, music specialist and former kindergarten teacher; Karen Robinette, teacher and former elementary school teacher; and Peckie Peters, head teacher and former kindergarten teacher.
Is my child mature enough to start kindergarten, or should we wait a year?
A number of parents whose children are officially kindergarten-eligible decide to hold off for a year, especially if the child won’t turn 5 until fall. Those “held back” are more often boys than girls, Dr. Rick Lloyd observed. He and Susan Charles cautioned that parents who consider putting off kindergarten think carefully about their reasons for doing so. There should be multiple issues to hold a kindergarten-eligible child back from kindergarten, said Charles. One disadvantage of waiting, she noted, is that children who start later will be among the oldest in their classes and may reach puberty earlier than their peers, leading to some social awkwardness. On the other hand, some children simply aren’t kindergarten-ready. A preschool-age child who truly needs another year of development will display a consistent pattern that is of concern, said Charles. Examples might include a child who has difficulty sitting in a group for a sustained period of time, or one who has made no progress in interacting or communicating with other children for the past year and is constantly seen “playing parallel” with his/her peers instead of associating with them directly.
Which school is right for my child—and for me?
Charles advised parents to shop around, if possible, for a school that reflects their ideals, values and principles. It is important to visit prospective schools and talk to the teachers and the administration. School selection is usually the parents’ personal decision, Charles noted. Children are amazingly adaptive, she said; it’s usually the parents who most need to be comfortable about their choice. Questions such as “What would work for you and your family?” are asked, and parents need to trust their own instincts, because they know their child best. When parents are happy with a school, their children are likely to feel the same. Just remember that each child is different and has his/her own abilities and interests.
Which is better: full-day or half-day?
Peckie Peters cited research suggesting that children in full-day kindergarten do not do any better than those attending half-days. Parents who choose full-day kindergarten might just want to make sure that their children have more play activities than academics in the afternoons. Those choosing half-days might want to ask, “How will my child spend the rest of the day?” In either case, it is important to remember to enjoy your child. Bonnie Chandler, a longtime Bing teacher, cautioned families not to overprogram kindergartners with too many activities. As parents, we need to kick back, relax and be with our children, she said. They need plenty of free time outside of school, asserted Charles, or they’ll be robbed of their childhood. Let them come home and play, she advised. Have fun with them! And, most important, believe in them. Have confidence in your child!
How can I soothe my child’s anxieties about kindergarten?
It’s not unusual for preschool-age children to feel anxious about going off to kindergarten. It’s best, therefore, to put off major discussions of kindergarten with your child until the start date nears, and not bring it up when the change is still a long way off, said Karen Robinette. Let the children enjoy their time at Bing School; let them enjoy the moment. When it’s time to talk about kindergarten, focus on the positive and emphasize that school will be fun. Be attentive also to your own emotions: the better you feel about your child going to school, the better he or she will feel about it, too. Beth Wise suggested encouraging children to look forward to kindergarten by pointing out the similarities to preschool, such as easels and blocks, and emphasizing new opportunities, such as making more friends, having their own bookbag, and enjoying recess. By September, said Peters, most will be ready for the change. The tremendous inner growth they experience at this age will have prepared them for the next step forward in their lives.