Worries about Starting Kindergarten

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Kindergarten options for bright son with social-emotional deficits

July 2015

We are struggling somewhat with preschool and preparing to look at kindergarten options for our almost-five-year old. He is academically advanced but has social-emotional deficits, has been tested for Aspergers/ASD and gone through the IEP process and seems to fall just outside the diagnosable, serve-eligible range. (Perversely, a disappointment.) Our preschool has been patient, but seems under-prepared for a child who has many needs, including a lot of the teacher's attention. I'm starting to fear a school future in which his emotional and social problems are ''tolerated'' or just treated punitively, when I hope he might actually thrive in the right environment that knows what to do with a kid like this, who is smart but can at times be overly emotional, a little aggressive and inattentive, or alternately very engaged and sweet.

OUSD is our school district. Willing to consider private school also, if a good match. I'd really love to hear about a real experience if you have a child like mine; all the schools claim to attend to kids' holistic development, etc, but I want to know what this is like in real life. I feel overwhelmed and worried at the possibility that he falls through the cracks.

Thanks BPNers

I can't speak to OUSD, but in Berkeley, students like yours can still get extra help even if they don't have an IEP. Kindergarten teachers listen to and take guidance from the parents, and work with the parents to manage behaviors at school and at home. There are behavioral specialists who work for the district who can also assist in coming up with creative ways to manage and correct behaviors. Many, if not all, schools have extra support people and space for kids who need a ''cool-down'' time to take one. I think in any school district it's important to communicate with the school, and give them as much information as you can about the child, so they can be prepared and properly teach your child. I think the public school system might offer more of this kind of services than a private school would, but I'm curious to hear what others will say about that... Best of luck. Think positive! BUSD Mom of 3

It sounds like it is possible your son is 2e, or twice exceptional. For a list of 2e traits, see the description on the Big Minds Unschool website. It is the best I have seen so far. 2e means highly gifted with one or more learning challenges. (In today's world, that can include needing to move while thinking, but also includes challenges such as ADHD and dyslexia, among others.) I went through this with my son, and didn't figure it all out until he was in 2nd grade. Full disclosure, I am an MFT (psychotherapist) who now specializes in helping parents with 2e gifted children.

If you are still unsure if your son is 2e, or want to know more specifically how to help him (and keep him challenged and excited about learning,) you can have him tested through a gifted specialist. Most of the neuropsych testing that is offered tops out at a certain score, and can be inaccurate in testing 2e children because it averages their strengths and weaknesses rather than teasing them out - so I would recommend someone who specializes in testing for these extremes.

Regarding the classroom, often these children can have sensory integration issues, and getting support for that is also very helpful in aiding them to be able to get along more successfully in group situations and the classroom. When choosing a school, smaller classes where there is more individualized learning and less sensory overload is always a good thing. Many parents of 2e kids end up homeschooling, and have great success with that. There are very few schools around for 2e children, but hopefully more will start cropping up soon. Good luck! Teresa

Hi, We are two years ahead of you with a similar sounding, complexly challenged, twice exceptional boy. I would be happy to share our journey, but here are a few of the things we've learned:

1. Private schools are wonderful for a nurturing learning environment, but they are not prepared to manage challenges that need a significant amount of the teacher's time. If you want to go this route, be prepared to pay for the cost of a full time aide as well as tuition - or be asked to leave.

2. Public school, while not as good in some ways for challenged kids (harder to make friends, larger size,etc), has to accept your son. If he is having difficulty and they see the need, they will not let him fall through the cracks - it is in their best interest to help early on and not let it get worse.

3. Kindergarten is the right time to have a private neuropsychological evaluation done, not sooner. By kindergarten, the challenges will be clearer (or recede). You've gone through the IEP testing, but that is nothing compared to a neuropsych evaluation to figure out what is going on. Our son had preschool and kindergarten IEP testing and still didn't qualify for help - the testing didn't even really identify what the issues were. Once the neuropsych testing was complete and reviewed, help was provided by the school - and we were able to target our support outside of school. The IEP testing doesn't go that into depth and isn't geared toward complex profiles so be prepared to pay at least $5K for a neuropsych evaluation (which in our case was worth every penny).

4. Find your village - your professional village that is. A support system of people who help us with the daily/weekly/seasonal challenges that our child faces has meant so much to us. In our case, our first support came on the recommendation of our pediatrician and grew from there.

Lastly, realize that every kid has challenges, with some more obvious and demanding than others, and don't despair. Your attention to his needs that have surfaced now will make all the difference for him later. You are on the right path in being concerned and asking questions now.

Good luck and feel free to ask the moderator for my contact information. On a similar journey

Regardless of label, it sounds like you are looking for 2 types of support for your son, for behavior skills and academic skills. I agree with previous posters who said that public school may be a better fit for your child. Private schools vary, but public is funded and organized to handle all children, though it takes work on the part of each parent, to make sure your child's needs are met.

In terms of behavior, without knowing the challenges you are facing and at the risk of saying something you already consider, I wanted to at least say that your son is still very young so some current challenges may subside within the next year or two. Sarah

I *know* my kid is going to have problems

Aug 2009

I know that anxiety around starting school for the first time is normal-but I *know* my kid is going to have problems. He screams and can't handle even the smallest frustration, seems unable to draw a distinction between ''the DVD skipped'' and ''I am falling off a cliff''-the scream is the same: ear splitting,scary and loud. Seeing a therapist after school starts (their scheduling). We have tried charts, talking, time outs, which work for other things, but when I feel like saying, ''oh, get a grip, it's just a DVD, we'll rewind it'' it also seems like he can truly not help it, that all frustrations are equal. He has said he can't and if he tries to hold it in, eventually he sobs and screams anyway. It has been suggested by some(non professionals)that he is a ''highly sensitive child'' might have ''mild asperger's'' or have ''sensory issues'' (he's sensitive to tags, smells, etc) I just plain want to help my kid whether it's getting an evaluation from the school district which I hear can take until next year or giving the teachers as much helpful info as possible, but fear I will stigmatize him if I say too much and then they won't expect him to behave well, expectations will self fulfill and stress him more, causing more frustration. If any parents/teachers have gone through this, or know resources I can use NOW, I'd be grateful. Please no ''bad parent'' comments- already feeling crappy as it is-really need support! -Please stop screaming!

I can definitely relate to where you're coming from - (and yes, it's incredibly humbling and frustrating!). My son has some mild sensory issues as the ones you mentioned it is largely this emotional response that is the problem. My son's frustration level has lessened somewhat, in part because I have paid more attention to the triggers and also I changed my expectations a bit too (i.e. he is just not really that flexible, easy-going kid where things roll off his back). I think my son fed off of my frustration and ''c'mon! It's not that big a deal'' response. I have really tried to disengage from these freak-outs (I have yet to master it of course because it requires the constant patience of a saint which I don't have!) and instead respond with ''Oh man, I know that is so frustrating. Let's take a deep breath and see what we can do''...(and not in the patronizing way that this sounds!) Changing my response has definitely helped ME cope with having a kid that just has a really sensitive personality and has helped him modulate his emotional responses better by example. My son does require plans, anticipation of possible outcomes on my part (yes, such a relaxing life!LOL), and again paying attention to the situations that illicit the worse reactions. You didn't say if your son has always been this way but I assume so? For concrete resources that you can use now, I would HIGHLY recommend the book ''Sensational Kids'' by Lucy Jane Miller. I just finished it and felt like it had very clear ideas to work with. I did have an OT evaluation too (through health plan not school) and thought it was helpful in getting an understanding of what was going on inside...something that is more ambiguous than the cases in these books that I read. It sounds like what you're doing (therapist) is definitely the right way to go (and possibly OT eval?). My son is also starting school so I share the anxiety! but I plan to wait to see how things go (but pay close attention and stay in close contact with the teacher-definitely let her know of any triggers ) before doing any formal intervention - i too share your concern about stigmatizing but yet wanting some help.I'm hoping that maturity will help too. I don't know if that helps but... same boat

Why don't you look at it this way: school teachers have quite a lot of experience with kids and probably have a lot of great advice for you!. I would suggest you give them a heads up, but very briefly: he frustrates easily, or we're working on his tantrums, or something like that. Then I strongly recommend starting an open dialogue with them. You may be pleasantly surprised at your child's progress in a school environment, not only because of the teachers' influence, but also with the influence of the other children. And, the teachers will probably know what would be the next appropriate step for an evaluation if that is necessary. Let's see what the teachers say

First off, I want to promise you that any kind of ''bad parent comment'' is the furthest thing from my mind (or any sane person's mind) right now.

I've taught kindergarten for several years; my background is in special education. Your concern is absolutely natural and, honestly, could well be warranted: starting ''big school'' is a HUGE transition and it does play on a lot of the things (especially frustration tolerance) that you identify as challenging for your child. I think we as a society are way quicker than we need to be at pouncing on Asperger's as a diagnosis for quirky--but sometimes, issues like that can be a piece of the puzzle, and the pieces do start sliding into place during the early school years. Some kids have a very hard adjustment to kindergarten, and then things settle down in later grades; other kids slide right into kindergarten but have trouble down the line. But it's common, for better or for worse, that the first school experiences do bring out a lot of a child's gifts AND challenges.

Should you tell school staff, ''Hey, people have said that my kid might have this?'' Your call--personally, I wouldn't lead with it. But I WOULD want to clearly let them know what challenges he has, and what works to help him manage them. Just so they don't go into it thinking that the best way to handle an upset over a broken crayon is to rationalize with him that it's not a big deal.

You do a great job simply and eloquently explaining your child and your concerns in your post: perhaps you could put some thought into composing something similar for your child's teachers. Leading with ''My son is...'', and describing some of the wonderful traits you see in him--his sense of humor, his curiosity, whatever. Then saying, ''As you get to know him better, you might discover that he sometimes struggles with''-- telling them what it sometimes can look like when he's overwhelmed or very frustrated. Honoring the teacher's perspective by saying something like, ''I'm sure that you'll have systems and strategies in place to deal with these challenges if they happen'', and then adding something to the effect of, ''however, I wanted to share with you some of the things we've found are most helpful (or not helpful) at home.''

As a teacher of many kids (with and without special needs) who are new to ''big school'', I can tell you we see it all, and we expect it won't always be smooth sailing. I've a kid who melted down for an hour because his samurai sword couldn't come to kindergarten with him: I've had parents who needed, five days later, to be shown the door so their kid could finally be at ''big school'' by himself. Parents sometimes tell us, before the first day, that their kid is going to be AWFUL (''I'm afraid he's going to bite everybody...''): sometimes, we see a bit of that, and other times, we honestly never come across the kid they were describing. Often, in fact, kids act VERY different in school than they do at home--usually, for what it's worth, it seems like they're better behaved at school.

A good teacher will listen to what you have to say, but also be able to see the school as its own environment--she won't still be throwing out those ''self-fulfilling prophecies'' if your child genuinely has no frustration tolerance issues at school.

An evaluation, should that be warranted, cannot legally take all year. But the process by which folks figure out whether your son needs one may take awhile--as it should. The first step is to give it a go in the regular class, with you sharing the relevant information (again, specific challenges, not general diagnoses) with the classroom teacher. You may all find that he slides right into the existing classroom structure. You may find that the teacher finds he needs a little something extra--a cool-down corner to go to if he's becoming overwhelmed, a sticker chart for handling frustration without tantrums, what have you. You might meet with her a couple times to go over how things are going. If a significant amount of time goes by with problems still occuring at a level which is well beyond what's ''typical'' for kindergarten (and that, for the record, is a VERY broad brush to paint with), it may move in the direction of an evaluation. Once that decision is made, and that paper is signed, the school has sixty days to do the whole thing and have a meeting to discuss it.

Sometimes, parents may think this takes too long--they may, understandably, want to get the assessment done sooner rather than later. It's been my experience, though, that this isn't always the best idea (unless you run into the rare VERY OBVIOUS situation where a child is very seriously emotionally disturbed or has a severe developmental disability): if you test too early, before the child has had a chance to acclimatize to the school setting and before enough curriculum has been taught to see if he's mastered it, you end out spending many hours putting together something that doesn't show enough of how school actually IS for the child. I guess what I'm saying is that the first year of school, with or without an evaluation in the mix, is something that unfolds over time--give the teacher, right now, what she needs to know to understand your child's gifts and challenges, and together, you'll both learn a lot more as time passes.

My absolute best wishes to you: your child is blessed to have such a caring parent. a_teacher

it sounds like your child needs constant one-on-one attention. in a class of 15 students or more, this is impossible for one teacher to do. have you thought of home schooling your child? it's an option... best of luck to you and your child

You may want to think about homeschooling. Your anxiety is not unfounded--you know that your child will have issues and he may need a much smaller environment than what schools (public, private or otherwise) can offer. working & homeschooling

I have a daughter that has special needs. If you would like to get your son's school to test him. You would need to go in to the school office and request in writing that you would like to have your son tested by a psychologist and speech therapist(make sure you make a copy of your request with date and time given to school and who received it). They may ask why, give the reasons that you list and anything else you can think of.

The school is REQUIRED to respond in a certain amount of time and required to test in a certain amount of time. After they have received your request in writing. Please make copies of everything you forward to the school and EVERYTHING should be in writing. It would be helpful to you to record meetings that you attend concerning your son. Please look for advocates in your area, they will be a great support. Advocates know the terminology, the regulations and rules to follow. I was a parent lost in the system trying to help my child. Do a google search for ''Autistic Advocates'' or ''Asberger's Advocates'' maybe ''speech and language advocates''..in Berkeley. I'm new to the area and don't know of anyone. But I'm certain there are many in your area. Good luck

First of all I want to reassure you that kindergarten teachers have pretty much seen it all, and a good teacher can often easily deal with kid issues that we parents cannot. So don't give up there. Second, I want to tell you that we recently had a very good experience with a developmental pediatrician finding out what the issues are with our 8-year-old. If you don't want to wait for the school district to evaluate your child, or you just want a second opinion, and you can afford to pay out of pocket, you might consider that. The cost to us was about $1200 for two 2-hour appointments with us and one 2-hour appt with our child. It is not as extensive an evaluation as you would get with a pediatric neuropsych, which is another option for you, where the evaluation takes much more time (and so the cost is greater). And the developmental pedi may well end up referring you to a neuropsych for a more detailed testing if she has any questions about the initial evaluation. But in our case, the doc was able to identify our kid's issues immediately and set us on a course that is working for us. And it didn't take a long time or cost a huge amount of money. We went to Marianna Eraklis in Orinda, who is just great. All the best to you - Mom of 3

Don't know if this will help, but one of my friends had such a child back when our kids started Kindergarten (they are now entering 3rd). He was extraordinarily sensitive, high-strung, and difficult. He had a terrible time making transitions of any sort. She spent every single day of the first month of school with him in class because he couldn't separate from her. Now that they are 8, he is one of the brightest, highest-achieving, most independent kids there is. He is doing absolutely great. I can't guarantee that the same will happen for your son -- but sometimes it does happen. anonymous


Transitioning from home to kindergarten

June 2009

My kid who has very little experience in ''away from home'' care (ie: preschool,day care, babysitting by non family for more than 2 or 3 hours) is about to go to kindergarten (which is all day now, not half days) in Oakland, and I want to hear from people who have been in this situation and how they and their child coped, what problems arose, if any, and also what positive things you have to say or advice you have to help us through the imminent transition. We are already planning on meeting with the families for play at the park in the last couple of weeks of summer, and have gone to the school's fundraiser a couple of months ago, and we're familiar with the campus though our kid is not familiar with the classrooms, and have visited the after school program. My concern is about the very long day for a kid who is used to spending lots of time at home in our care going to a place they don't really know which is unfamiliar and having to stay there from 8-ish to 3-ish relying on strangers to meet their needs, deal with their quirks. Naturally, it won't always be unfamiliar, but until then...I want to hear it all, but please no dumping on us about the group inexperience, and no ''just suck it up'' comments. This post is to help us prepare. Thanks! -Like to be prepared

You are doing all the right things! I can't tell you not to worry, but please try not to. I actually don't think having a lot of experience being away from home helps much. My son had to be in day care since 5 months old, and was crying EVERY morning and had to be literally torn away from me until he was almost 4. At that point, he became a different kid. He wanted to go to preschool, and he loved his school the first day he went to kindergarten.

It helped that several kids from his preschool went there, to, so your playdates with chidren that will go with you child to the same school are a great idea. He also liked talking about the school as ''his'' school. You can also play ''school'' - maybe there are older school age kids that would do that with your child.

Kids are ready to be on their own at a certain age, and somewhere around 5 years they can spend a long time in a school setting. You may be more anxious than your child is/will be. My son had to go to the after care program after the school day was over, and he loved that, too. By the way, we are at Kaiser Elementary, and love it.

That said, some kids may be just too young to start school. I've seen two that went back to preschool. Again, that's a developmental thing...

Another issue can be that the school simply doesn't fit your family needs and values. For example, a more ''relaxed'' teaching style may work better for your child than a strict academic approach. When Oakland started the long day program, my son's school figured out very quickly that kindergarteners had to have longer breaks, otherwise they just couldn't stay focused.

Like with almost anything in life, the worst that can happen is that you can try this out, and then see if it works for your family. If not, you can either wait another year or find another school that fits your needs and values better. Oakland school parent

You have a responsibility to prepare your child. Perhaps you should wait a year for kindergarten and have a preschool experience at least three days per week. The reason I mention this is those children who struggle to cope with all day kindergarten, and who have not had strong preschool experiences may actually do fine in kindergarten, but by third grade you will see a significant difference in academic ability, executive function (ability to manage month-long projects- usually assigned beginning in third grade), social skills, ability to join groups of students who are already engaged with one another and the ability to identify and articulate their learning style.

These skills are expected in Oakland Public Schools by third grade. I can walk through a classroom and identify with great accuracy those children who have not had preschool preparation for kindergarten. The same children also tend to be those in public school who are picked on (bullied is too strong) and excluded because they do not have the social skills necessary to recognize who has the ?power? in a group, how to wait for an appropriate entry point in the group conversation / dynamics and when to identify that you are not welcome in the group. You Gotta Be Tough to Be an OUSD Student

Hi,I understand your concern about a long day at Kindergarten for your child,and can totally relate to what you are saying, I was in your shoes too last year. First, I think you and your family are doing a good thing be exposing your child to the school prior to your child attending the school,and hopefully these exposures have been a positive experience for not only your child but for your family as well. Now,in regards to the long day,it's really not that bad. My daughter adapted and made the transition very smoothly,(I have been the main caregiver or other close family members too). The Kinder teachers are wonderful at my daughter's school, they are trained to deal with children from all backgrounds, such as those who have come from a structured preschool setting to staying at home with or without any real knowledge of the''basics''(ie.alphabet,numbers,writing their name etc.), their days are busy yet not overwhelming,involving art,basic academics,physical activity,down time after lunch, dance/music, essentially a lot of fun things for your child to do...after the first week or so of school, I asked my daughter how she liked going to school all day, she stated,''I like it, because I have more time to play!''-And to this day, she hasn't missed one day of school!Yes, I'm one proud Mama- I wouldn't worry about a thing, your child should be fine. Hope this helps! Denise

While I'm not a parent of a kinder-aged child, I teach kindergarten in oakland and can offer some questions you might ask your child's teacher/principal. Does your school offer a ''gentle start'' at the beginning of the year? 7 hours is indeed a long day; my school staggers the school day for kinder. for example, the 1st week is 8:30-12pm; 2nd week 8:30- 1pm; 3rd week 8:30-2pm; and 4th week 8:30-3:30. also, is there any sort of orientation time where your child can spend time in the classroom before school starts, see the playground, and become familiar with the space and some of the supplies, manipulatives, and toys? it'd also be another opportunity to meet some new friends before the 1st day of school. hope this was a little helpful. anon

I recommend that you sign your child up for some half-day summer camps (without you tagging along) so that they can experieince being away from you, away from home, with other caring adults, and other kids on a regular basis. They will get used to following slightly different sets of rules with a group of kids learning to do the same. They will likely learn to be more independent. This will also help you learn to be more independent of them, will assure you deep down (not just intellectually) that they CAN operate independently; and will help you make the transition to being a parent of a STUDENT. Find a basic and good summer camp situation like this, and it will be well worth the tuition fee for your peace of mind (and give you a little bit of free time, too. Mom

First of all, our son did fine with the all-day kindy, though he was tired the first couple of weeks. Second, regarding the message from 'You Gotta Be Tough to Be an OUSD Student', please don't buy into the fear that many parents perpetuate about Oakland public schools. Our son has spent the last two years at a flatlands Oakland public school and we love it as much as we love our expensive, private Montessori preschool in North Berkeley. Our son is not 'tough'. He's normal and thriving in his OUSD school and we can't wait to send our daughter there in the fall. Every parent has anxiety about sending their child to kindy (especially the first one), but to suggest that a five-year-old has to be tough to survive in public school is counterproductive to all our kids, both those in public and those in private. Stop the Fearmongering about Public Schools!

It's good that you're thinking ahead, and it's also important to know that the full day is probably going to be 100% fine for your child. I'd make sure not to schedule stuff in the afternoons for the first few months (yes-- your child will likely be tired after being exposed to new things), be ready to provide a yummy snack and an attentive ear to hear about the happenings of the day, be open to informal playdates on the playground after school to get to know other kids/parents/caregivers, and enjoy!

We're an OUSD family (who tried a well-known and highly reputable private for two years and left because the academics weren't so great, among other things- a big surprise to us) with a 3rd grader and incoming kindergartener and can't say enough good things about the school, the other families, the teachers and principal, and the fabulous academic and enricment programs. I agree with the person who signed themselves as ''Stop the Fearmongering about Public Schools''. Unfortunately, the district doesn't seem to know how to do PR about all the good stuff-- but there is PLENTY of it, and that's coming from a parent who's also an educator. Get to know the other families, do some volunteering, and feel good about your decision to send your child to an Oakland public school-- you likely won't regret it, and your child will likely love all that happens in the ''full day''. fellow OUSD mom

I just want to thank everyone for their informative and thoughtful replies about my long kindergarten day post. We are increasingly becoming more comfortable with the idea, and are definitely up for giving our time and energy to support the school and teachers-I've just gotten my TB test done so I can be a classroom volunteer, and I do like our school and principal. I still have reservations about how the long day will feel to my son for various reasons, and I'm annoyed that kindergarten is the new first grade (a quote from our principal and heard everywhere these days it seems) but I wanted to let you all know your posts have been helpful. Good old BPN! Hoping for a smooth transition


Ready for Public Kindergarten? How to judge?

Nov 2007

My daughter will be 5 next September, and although it seems soon, both public and private open houses start now, and we need to decide in a few months where our daughter should be next year. My daughter wants to go to the public k where one of her old friends is likely to be. Our concern is that she is perhaps too 'emotionally sensitive'. She thrives on things being very orderly and predictable and becomes upset if things are not as she expects. Like, she is the one who opens the garage door in the morning - if somone else inadvertently does it, she is likely to melt into tears. With other kids, if they insist something is true, that she knows is not (whatever, dragons are real, the sun is blue, ...) she again is liable to melt into tears. So, she seems easily upset by things that don't bother most kids. Not all the time; sometimes her mood is more easygoing. She's smart as a whip, relatively outgoing, and very loving. Oh, and she also is quite strong-willed. My question is, is this typical 4yr old behavior, and she will grow out of it? Is this something that might make public kindergarten harder for her (we are in an Oaklnad district for a highly rated school in the hills)? Should we instead try to keep her in her small orderly Montessori school? Anybody have a similarly sensitive child? Concerned Mama

Does your daughter go to preschool? If so, has she been coping there? Does your preschool teacher have suggestions, advice? I've known lots of kids (including my now 8 yr old son) fitting the same description as your daughter, so yes, I would say it's ''typical'' and yes, kids evolve, grow, adapt.

But as for public vs. private based on her personality... How small is the Montessori you're considering? All public schools are no more than 20 in a classroom (private can go larger). And it depends on how you want to help your daughter adjust to ''being in the world'' and your personal preferences. Have you had a chance to tour the classrooms of both schools you're considering?

Do you see public as being too overwhelming and private as small and comforting? It's not always the reality, and it's not always the right thing for your child. You can have a warm, nurturing teacher in a public and a burnt out, strict teacher in a private. I do know that some children even a year older than your eldest can seem disproportionaly ''big and noisy'' - but yes, your child will join those ranks too. And there are no guarantees about anything being easier and better. But that's life!

Kindergarten wasn't necessarily easy for my son, but even at age 8 he can look back on it and even gave his younger sister advice along the lines of ''You know, I hated kindergarten the first day - but then I got to like it! I bet you'll love it!'' Mom of Two

Your daughter sounds much like mine at that age, and mine is now doing just fine as a kindergartner who's a little on the young side. In the public schools the age range is a little wider than the private schools (many of the private schools have a cutoff of Sep 1 for turning 5). MUCH can change over the next year. If I were you, and were lucky enough to already be in a good school district, I'd register her for my local school, then see how she does over the summer, and talk to some other parents if you are lucky enough to also be in one of the good schools that manages to encourage parents of kindergartners to get together before school starts. I suspect that your daughter will be fine next year, but if you think she's not ready, you can always let the school know before school starts that your daughter won't be attending, and no doubt another family will happily occupy the slot at that time.

My daughter is very sensitive, and I've observed in her kindergarten class that she's not the only one. Most of the sensitive ones are on the youngish side, and are generally either older siblings or single children, but not the younger sibling. I will say that the transition to kindergarten is much, much bigger for them than you can probably conceive, and I would urge you to really work at getting to know a couple other kids in the school--and preferably in her assigned class, when you find out what it is--make playdates, attend school functions this spring & summer, and plan to spend more time with your child than you would ordinarily think necessary: we went from happy full-time preschooler, to taking a lot of time to get used to the afterschool program (which is filled with big kids too, and can be a little overwhelming. In fact, lunch and recess around all those big kids--and so many of them--can initially be trying for kids who are used to a controlled, non-chaotic preschool environment! But they do get used to it). You're lucky you've got some choices! I didn't much care for my neighborhood school, and the preschool told me she was definitely too old for preschool, and the private schools told me she was definitely too young! And really, she's doing just fine, just like her friends who are a little younger than her, and the ones who were born before Sept 1. are also doing just fine... she's still roughly on par with them, and learning like mad!

That is pretty typical behavior for her age and gender. My daughter was also like that. It was very important to me that she go to a public school -- I did not want her to be coddled and be somewhere that the basically self-centered behavior would be allowed to continue. I wanted her to see herself as part of a larger, diverse community where it was not all about her, but in which she can use her skills to contribute to the group. Now at age 8, she is getting there, and I'm really glad I choose public school. -- a mom


Mom's anxiety about daughter starting kindergarten

Aug 2003


I know I'm nuts, but could any experienced parents please help me deal with my anxiety over letting my one and only child out to the brave new world of kindergarten? My daughter has been in daycare and preschool and has been adjusting well. She's healthy and generally happy. I know I should get myself together and be positive, but I have a hard time doing it. I'm worried about her making new friends, taking care of herself at lunch, speaking up in class, letting the teacher know when she needs help, etc. Two more weeks before school starts and already I feel like crying. I don't get it -- I'm sending my daughter to kindergarten, not to a jungle! Why am I soooo worried? My husband told me that I should have more faith in our daughter's ability to take care of herself. I do, but I'm just going to pieces because... Oh, because I'm just losing my mind, I guess. Does anyone have any advice for me? Thank you in advance

set up playdates with some of the other kids and parents. our school sent out a list of phone #s so we can contact each other before school starts. hillcrest kindergarten mom

Well, for what it's worth. I took the morning off of work for my son's first day of kindergarten, just to ease him into the situation. Less than half an hour after we'd arrived he'd settled in with some new friends to play and seemed a little annoyed that I was still hanging around, cramping his style. So I just left.

Starting school is a big step, but if your daughter has never had any difficulty making friends, if she has been in daycare and preschool for a while, why should it be a problem? Good luck. Dianna

I'm going to be probably the lone voice in this argument, but perhaps you _are_ sending your daughter, not to the wolves, but to a non-nurturant place. Ususally I stay completely silent on this topic, as this group is very pro-school. However, if you have doubts as you say, perhaps listening to your real self is not a bad idea.

Schools have different agendas, student-teacher ratios, and social climates than good daycare or preschool. John Taylor Gatto has written quite convincingly about the ''hidden curriculum'' in schools. Perhaps it's worth asking what you want most for your child with regard to learning. What, really, do you want her to think about how to learn, where and when to learn, what her place in the world is. Now, ask yourself, and read lots of people who have thought about these questions too. Personally, I think that most schools want students to learn that learning is what happens at school; that what is important is what they say is important (forget science if we're learning about missions now); that it's normal to hang out with people only of the same age; that ''authority'' is the end point for answers; and that fitting in is really the very most important lesson one can learn.

I'd like to recommend works by John Holt also, and I'm sure you could find other interesting work out there.

I just wouldn't do it, and I know lots of people who won't and don't. Even if you simply delay a while, why go to kindergarten at all? It's not state mandated, and there is some good evidence that delaying ''school'' until later is of real benefit for children.

So now I'll pick up my staff and wander back to crying in the wilderness. stefani

I have no experience with this, but I will add my two cents here anyway. My eldest is starting Kindergarten this Wednesday in the Berkeley Public Schools. I am anxious too so I asked my mother, who has been a elementary school special ed. teacher for 30 years, what is usually done on the first day of Kindergarten at her school.

She said that the usual routine is that there is an orientation for students, while parents listen, concerning cubbies and how they mark down that they are present, about bringing a healthy snack/lunch, and about inside voices vs. outside voices, etc. She said that Kindergarten teachers are specifically instructed to tell their parents not to cry. I am not sure how they do that and if it is done in front of the kids, but, obviously, it is a common occurance (i.e., you are not alone!).

Perhaps it would help you to know, with specificity, what is going to happen in your child's class on the first day. If possible, I would get permission to telephone the teacher and ask how ''day one'' will unfold and your role in helping with the transition. Good luck. Lynn

go ahead and cry now (in private) and do not let your daughter know about your anxieties. although she will be fine, it can be a little scary at first for all children so it is important for her not to sense your fears for her. on the day you drop her off, go ahead a cry again if necessary. it's totally normal (I cried after dropping each of my two kids - six years apart- at their first time at preschool and kindergarten -- in my car of course). some schools have coffee, tea, etc. on the first day and i'm sure there will be other parents who feel as you do there to connect with. good luck and after you've cried it out, think about how lucky you are to have this great child who has a great school and is starting to grow up... jill


Worried about 4-y-o son's difficulty with kindergarten

Sept 2003


my son is nearly five,,, in november and has just started kingdergarten,, i know he is on the young side i am somewhat concerned about him,, the teacher has already spoken to me more than once about how he gets easily distracted,,, is brillant when he can focus,,, is very very energetic and gets overly excited,, silly in class to the point of bumping into,, or pushing other children he says he is sad alot,,, and that he does not like it,,, i know part of that is transition, and wanting to be at home with mother,,, but i worry he will be the trouble kid,,, the one that wont make the grade,, be able to say his numbers,,etc any opinions, concerned mother

Perhaps you should think about transferring your son to a preschool that goes till age 5 or 6 (sometimes called the third year of preschool). After another year in ''preschool'' either your son could go to kindergarten again OR go to first grade if he's ready. My son was born at the very end of October and was very much like your son - academically advanced but with ongoing behavior issues that really were all about immaturity. Even now, although he's not a behavior problem anymore, I can see how he's ''younger'' than many of his middle school peers (though being ''younger'' isn't necessarily bad now that he's going into his teen years!!!! Alot of kids are 13 going on 25!!). If I had to do it all over again, I would have delayed him a year in school (he actually did do the third year of preschool, but we then put him in first grade while he was still 5). We spent ALOT of time up at school, dealing with his immaturity issues (didn't excuse his behavior, just tried to make sure that it was handled in a way that realized that it was a developmental issue rather than being labeled him as ''bad''). Karen H.

My son's birthday is Oct. 29, so he was 4 when he started Kindergarten. He tested fine according to the readiness test, but as the school year went on, we found that he did enough to pass to first grade, but he was struggling to catch up to the rest of his classmates who were 5/6 years old at the start of the school year. We chose to hold him back and have him go through kindergarten again and it has made a HUGE difference. He is more outgoing, confident and is not afraid to volunteer or speak up in class -- plus he does not struggle to keep up with the rest of his classmates who are intellectually, socially and emotionally mature than him.

I made him repeat kindergarten because I did not want to set him up to struggle for the rest of his school years; and kindergarten would be the best year to hold him back before he developed an attachment to his classmates. His teacher told us that most parents would rather have their child pass to the next grade and struggle, than repeat, but mainly because parents associate their child's ''failure'' as a reflection on themselves instead of the child's academic well being. My son is in first grade now and is sailing through his lessons -- so I know I made the right decision.

I would take your son's stress, and the teacher's feedback seriously and take him out of kindergarten if possible. Enroll him in a pre-K program or a good preschool with a 5's class. Another choice, the one I had to use (when I couldn't get into a pre-K),was to plan on a 2nd year of K, then let both your son and the teacher know that, so some of the academic pressure is off. It also helps to talk with the teacher, and work together to make your son as comfortable as possible in this challenging setting if he has to stay there. He sounds too young for K, and in my experience, with twin sons who turned 5 last November, kindergarten was really stressful for the whole household. It slowly got a bit better as the year progressed, but ony now, as my sons are starting the 2nd year of K (which we insisted upon rather than going on to first), and they are moving up on 6 years old, does the K curriculum really ''fit'' their development. It has nothing to do with intelligence or language ability,or good manners etc. but much to do with social and emotional development, which comes naturally as they mature. My kids in fact were very well-behaved in class all year, but really blew off steam when they came home each day, where it was safe to do so. I recommend reading the '''Your Five Year Old'' and ''Your Six Year Old'' books on development, by Frances Ilg and Louise Bates Ames, they have good input on this. Consider if you think your son will ''catch up'' with the older kids he's in class with at some point, or if this is going to be a pattern throughout his school career, as he moves along being among the youngest. Retaining a child in a grade when they are older can be very difficult. Good luck! Carrie

My younger daughter has a November birthday & started Kindergarten at 4. She was also easily distracted, very energetic, excitable, etc. It was not a success. She had a lovely teacher who never made her feel bad about herself, and she wasn't unhappy, but at the end of the year her teacher and the principal met with me and told me she wasn't ready for first grade. I already knew that and was changing her to another school anyway, so it wasn't a big shock. She did kindergarten a second time & this time was ready. She's now in 3rd grade & may not be the best behaved kid in her class, but she's not the worst either. Does you son need to be in Kindergarten now or could he wait a year? If he does stay, it's important that his teacher *not* make him feel like a failure. If he has to repeat Kindergarten, it's not a disaster. What would be a disaster (IMHO) would be for him to be forever struggling to keep up with kids who are more mature and therefore able to handle the school environment more successfully. I feel my daughter is now with the age group that suits her. Melinda

While what you are describing as your child's stress in kindergarten could be normal, it also could be a sign that he wasn't quite ready for kindergarten. Only you can decide that. Why don't you have a frank conversation with his teacher? She can tell you how he appears compared to other children in her class. Your son is likely the youngest child in his class. My son just started kindergarten and is about to turn six. The boys especially seem to benefit from being a bit older. Also, kindergarten is much much more academic than in the past and so the trend to start kindergarteners later makes sense on that level too.

I noticed just above your question was a link for past discussions about kindergarten readiness. You might find that useful to read. It would not be the end of the world to pull him out now and wait until next year. You could check into some of the pre-k programs and see if they have any openings before making a decision. I think you could explain it to him in a way that wouldn't make him feel bad (i.e. ''Dad and I made a mistake and started you in kindergarten too early, it'd be better for you to be a year older. We want you to take your time growing up so we decided another year of playing would be best. Next year you'll be really ready and it will be just right.'') If you found a pre-k program you could make the pitch that it wasn't preschool. The teacher is your best resource. If you are really having a difficult time deciding you could try consulting Meg Zweiback. She does short term consults on issues like this all the time. Her number is (510) 836-1450. Whatever you decide I wish you luck! SW

Your son not wanting to go to Kindergarden is perfectly normal. I'll bet that at the very minimum five other kids in his class are telling their parents the same thing. As for his classroom behavior it sounds like a Kindergardener, not a child with any sort of big problem. It's up to the teacher to explain to him and the other children how to stay calm, how to use an ''inside voice'' etc. As long as he isn't struggling behind the others this is just a thing that the teacher should have no problem doing. I was always kind of shy and quiet but a lot of others in grade school were wilder and by third or second grade they were very well behaved. So DON'T WORRY! He sound just fine. Anonymas

Easing the Transition to Kindergarten

I was more worried about adjusting to the physical environment and my son missing me than anything else. To help get used to the physical aspects of the school, we went to the playground several times over the summer. The last couple of days before school we went again, and got lucky that the teachers were there setting up. They both came out and introduced themselves and met my son. It was great. He felt so ready, and comfortable on the first day - not what I expected at all. And he barely noticed that I was gone. I wasn't so worried about adjusting to a rigorous academic schedule or anything, because they really start slow in many Kindergartens...letting the kids get used to a more structured schedule, and adding responsibilities gradually.

From: Dianna

On transitioning into Kindergarten. My son did this just great, so I have no specific personal advice to give, other than visiting the school a few times before the start and playing in the playground. However, I was just reading Real Boys, by Wm. Pollack in which he discusses the stresses and strains our culture puts on boys to be little men, suck it in, stiff upper lip and all that. He specifically addresses this problem and how boys are given a lot less slack than girls in beginning kindergarten. So if you can find a copy of this book (worthwhile in many ways) at a local library or the bookstore and lookup kindergarten, this might be of some help to you. Good luck.

From: Deborah

I was surprised by how tired my son was the first couple months of kindergarten. Even though he had been in preschool all day and was no longer napping, he seemed exhausted by 2 o'clock when he got out of kindergarten. I think the increased structure is tiring as well as the stress of a new setting. If your child will not be in after school child care, I would recommend NOT planning any after-school activities (sports/music, etc). If you have started these things, maybe take a break or move them to a weekend time slot. Then after the transition you can always fill up after school time with occasional playdates. Also, don't plan any social events on weekday nights for a while.