When to start school? A loaded question for the ‘ber babies!
When Nate was a toddler, I was at a play group with some friends when the topic of fall babies and kindergarten starting ages came up. I had no idea this was such a loaded topic. My older son has a fall birthday, making him one of the kids affectionately called the ‘ber babies (as in children born in September, October, November and December) by many elementary school teachers. As my husband and I are both ‘ber babies, I have been weighing the pros and cons of starting him in kindergarten the first year he is eligible, when he’s 4 going on 5, and waiting a year until he is 5 going on 6. I mentioned this to my friend, and I was met with an unexpected “It’s parents like you, parents who can’t follow the rules and insist on making your own, that cause problems in schools”. What? She continued to tell me how unfair it is that her son started at the “correct” age, 4 going on 5, and he’s forced to learn with kids who are almost a full year older than he is simply because their parents can’t follow the policy and adhere to the birthday cut-off rule.
Let’s take a step back.
First, what is the “correct” age for starting school? While in grad school, I researched the kindergarten birthday cut-offs nationally, and found that the “correct” age really varies quite a lot depending on where you live. In Indiana, for example, children must turn 5 by July 1st to start school. Here in Connecticut, they must turn 5 by January 1st. Our cut-off is the latest in the country, and many states with November and December cut-offs are slowly moving them to the summer to ensure all students are at least 5 before starting school. Connecticut tried to move the cut-off to October 1st, but it is unclear if or when this will happen. If you ask me, our cut-off is insane. With full-day kindergarten becoming the norm, I think it’s imperative that we move our cut-off to September 1st to give the ‘ber babies enough time to be socially ready for a full day of school.
Secondly, who’s to say that all kids are magically ready for school at the exact same age? I feel there really must be some latitude on when kids start, within reason of course. I was a young kindergartener with a late November birthday. I remember feeling like the day would never end in my (half-day!) kindergarten classroom. I was tired. In high school, I was the last to drive. In college, I couldn’t even go to 18-and-over nights at the bar until the last week of my first semester…I was 17! Academically, I was fine. Does that mean starting at 4 was the correct decision for me? Who knows.
Then there’s the whole issue of “what if you move”? With our super-duper late cut-off, my ‘ber baby could end up repeating a grade based on his birthday if we were to move to a state with a much earlier cut-off. Just one more reason for me to never leave CT…unless it’s for a really nice beach house in Cali. Or maybe Florida. But I digress.
Anyway, what are your thoughts on CT’s late birthday cut-off? Parents of the ‘ber babies, are you at all concerned about how full-day kindergarten, with all it’s heavy academics, will affect your child? To hold them back…or not to hold them back: That is the question.