Monday, July 31, 2017

Should My Child Start Kindergarten Early?

So, I thought I might be done with posts on this blog, but an acquaintance asked a question recently that got me going, so I thought I'd share here as well. The question was, "My child will be 4 years and 9 months at the time Kindergarten starts, should I start Kindergarten 'early' or wait another year?" I, of course, had some thoughts. Here was my response:

My wife wrote a long email the other day in response [to the question]. She lays out some of the pros and cons of the different options. We pretty much agree but, not surprisingly, I will state my opinion a little bit more forcefully.

Short Answer: Wait

Longer Answer:
  1. It totally depends on the kid. For a student to start Kindergarten early, they need to not only be intellectually ready, but also socially and emotionally. Somewhere north of 99.7% of kids are not ready in all 3 areas. (That’s a totally made up number, but one I feel confident is roughly accurate.)
  2. For the three out of a thousand kids who are ready in all three areas, the answer is not necessarily to start them early, but to ask yourself the question, “What would the different outcomes be in starting them early versus waiting a year.” There are three possible answers: Starting them a year later would be worse for them, about the same for them, or better for them. I know of no research that really answers this question, mainly because it would be very difficult to do good research on this topic. So, assuming an equal split among those three possible outcomes, we’re now down to one in a thousand kids who should start early. The question to ask, “Is your kid that one in a thousand?”
  3. From a “risk management” perspective, it also makes sense to wait. There is little or no downside to waiting (perhaps better for one in a thousand), and lots and lots of possible upsides. There is little upside to starting early (perhaps one in a thousand), and lots and lots of possible downsides. Statistically, it’s a no brainer.
  4. This one falls under philosophical or, if you prefer, my pinko commie liberal bias. What are we “accelerating” them toward? They start Kindergarten a year younger, so what? That means they start first grade a year younger. Then second grade. They graduate a year younger from high school and, if they go to college, perhaps a year younger from college. Which means they start a full time job a year younger. Which means they conceivably retire a year earlier sometime after 2090… What’s the effin point? The Hurried Child by Elkind is an oldie but a goodie, and I think even more relevant today given the rapid pace of change today and going forward. Let kids be kids, there’s plenty of time for them to have a good life.
So, like I said, a little bit more forcefully than my wife :-). Here’s what she wrote the other day:



Okay, my personal opinion (and I know that Karl feels even stronger about this than I do and he agrees) is that I would wait. My experience has been that it has been better for those kids who do wait than for those who go early but again every child is different. I am also heavily influenced by the research coming out of Finland that shows great results in holding off on school until later and then even when they do start, not beginning reading instruction until age 7. However, there are many people who disagree with that.

Here is a list of things to consider that might be more personal to you:

1. the emotional, social and academic maturity of the child
2. your local school's thoughts on this issue
3. what the child will do instead of going to Kindergarten for that year
4. your reasons for going either way - some parents hold boys out a year so that they are bigger for sports, some parents start earlier because they feel like their child is gifted and would be bored if they waited a year, etc.
5. how your child fits into the neighborhood social group if he will be going to a neighborhood school
6. how interested your child is in school
7. your child's size - will they be very small in their class or if they wait will they be very large
8. how does it impact your family - other siblings, cost of daycare, convenience of drop off and pick up, length of day (either in school or daycare), financial benefit of not going to daycare, mature enough to feel comfortable on a daycare bus to and from school

Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book called Outliers and he had a section on "redshirting" kids for Kindergarten. He did lots of research and feels like it is always better to wait but there are plenty of people who disagree with him. Here is a link to my search for his thoughts, research and the research of those who disagree with him - good place to start.

Hope this helps! Let me know if I can answer more questions or explain my thinking better.


  1. Answer: No.
    Always no.
    No matter how mature or advanced you think your child may be, take that extra year. Cherish the time. Relax and encourage. Love. Appreciate and grow together.

    I've never understood why it's called "holding them back." It should be called "giving them advantage." Perhaps an advantage year?
    What kid doesn't deserve the gift of time and advantage?

    1. I know, maybe if we called it a "gap year" people might go for it? :-)

  2. is so much better for your child to be "first" than to be last. First to drive, etc. They also seem much more ready to handle school work and other responsibilities if you give them that extra time to grow! I had 2 children (one in December, one in October) and both benefited enormously from the extra year as both did not make the October 1 deadline for birthday before enrollment.