Starting Kindergarten Early

Editor Note: in California, children must be 5 years old on or before September 1 to start kindergarten.

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Ready for kindergarten at four

Sept 2014


Our child will be attending kindergarten at 4 (turning 5 in November). Since California has changed its birthdate cutoff dates for kinder, public school is not an option. We will do private school for a few years and will try enrolling in the local public school in grade two or so when age is not such a defining issue.

Our child is three right now and starting to read, knows the alphabet and sounds, can count to one hundred, is learning to write name, etc, basically ''academically'' ready for kinder, has good focus and can sit still for lessons, is socially on par with peers, has been attending preschool since age two and I don't think another year will provide too much benefit so we're pretty much set on this decision.

Anyone else consider taking this route, or have experience? Which private school did/will your child attend and how did they fare? Looking for tales of joy or woe from parents of other ''young'' kindergartners who did a short track at private school... Young kindergartner mama

Hi there,

I just wanted to throw in my experience as a person with a November birthday who started kindergarten in public school as a 4 year old way back when, and also offer you what I've experienced as a private school parent to two kids, (though they both have spring birthdays).

First off, it does sound like your child is academically ready for kindergarten. I was too, which is why my parents wanted me to start at 4 (and the cut off was Dec 1 then). I did well in school until I reached 5-6th grade, when the social aspects grew in importance and I felt as though my friends had moved on without me. I simply wasn't ready to grow up as quickly as they were (I wanted time on the monkey bars and I certainly didn't care about how I looked or if boys were paying attention to me). I had friends who were nearly a year older than I was, and at 10-11, that is a pretty big range developmentally. My insecurity over the social scene spilled over into my academic life and somehow, school got harder, too. Perhaps it would have happened anyway, but being young is something I never noticed until I hit 5-6th grade. I would actually argue that it is easier to be younger when in K-4 than as a preteen and teenager.

I have seen this theory in action as a parent of two kids, a girl, 10 and in 5th grade and a boy, 6 and in 1st grade. We have been in both private and public schools. My observation is that parents of the younger kids notice the differences more as their child grows than they did when the kids were all in K together. I have seen parents make tough decisions like changing schools or holding younger kids back a grade.

These days, most private school cut offs are in September, so you will need to find a school that will make an exception for your child. Our school has done that occasionally. My son's K class last year had 1-2 younger children with fall birthdays. This is the exception, rather than the rule, and there were children in his class who were 12-14 months older than the young ones.

So, all of this to say that, based on these experiences and observations, I would advise you to think twice about jumping into kindergarten. These early years have children all over the map in terms of their academic abilities and teachers are accustomed to dealing with that. Later down the road, it's nice not to be behind socially and developmentally. Of course, every kid is different, and at the end of the day, you know your kid best and no decision is irreversible in this situation. It's not so bad to wait

Hi Young Kindergartner Mama,

I'd be interested in hearing other people's experiences with this as well. We're in a similar situation: My daughter is just a month shy of the requirement to enroll in kindergarten at BUSD (she's 4 now). Right now she's in the transitional kindergarten (TK) program, but prior to this she had been enrolled in private montessori pre-school for two years. We fretted about sending her into the TK program, but we simply could not afford another year of private school tuition rates. Here's what we've learned from her first two weeks:

During the open house the teacher gave her view of TK and kindergarten as a former kindergarten teacher in the BUSD system. She stated that a lot of teachers are burnt out on trying to get kids ready for 1st grade reading and writing; it sounds like many of the kids simply don't have the small muscle skills necessary for writing cleanly and aren't fully prepped for 1st grade as a result. As such a lot of teachers are excited about TK in prepping kids for the rigors of the public school format. Additionally, the TK program is more open format (i.e. montessori-like) in that it blends a scheduled day (math, reading, writing at certain times), but also allows for some personal exploration (also scheduled). The curriculum is wide open, thematically, and the teachers love that they get to craft what they do during the year around the student's interests as a whole. They use this overarching theme to deliver topical lessons in math, writing, etc. So there's a lot to be excited about there.

That said, they're taking a while to ramp up into the school year. I understand the necessity of this, particularly in getting everyone comfortable with the school and learning system, particularly for the kids who haven't been able to receive a pre-school education; From an informal survey I'd say about half of the kids in TK haven't been to pre-school. The result, however, has been a pretty light two weeks academically. Math currently consists of understanding one-to-one correspondence (i.e. counting objects). Writing won't really start until the beginning of October. My daughter is way beyond that already, being able to add and subtract, and writing and reading a bit. My hope is that she'll be able to move forward in her capabilities within the open class structure, but maybe she'd benefit from the kindergarten class?

Finally, I'd like to add to your questions and ask specifically if anyone has experience with having your child evaluated by the BUSD teachers to see if moving up a grade is appropriate (academically and socially)? Someone back in 2012 wrote on BPN that their child's TK teacher had taken the initiative to do just that on their own, but I'm not sure what the circumstances were. I'd love more information. Feel free to email me directly if you do. Thanks. - Greg

Dear Kinder mom,

I have daughter with an October birthday who started at four. She is now in third grade and the youngest in her class. Overall, I think we made the right decision. She was definitely ready for kindergarten when we started her. She spoke in full sentences at age two. She could skip at two and a half. She could pump herself on a swing at three. She could hold a pencil, write her letters, sit still and focus. She is also the second tallest girl in her class, which for us was another consideration. She is doing fine in third grade and every year when her birthday rolls around, her classmates are shocked to find out that she's just turning...fill in the blank age.

However, this is not something to consider lightly. There are a couple of other kids who are only a few weeks older than she is, but there are a lot more who are a full year or more older. She is socially fine, but there are some older girls who are just way more savvy about manipulating others to do their bidding. My sweet girl HAS struggled with this. She just wasn't able to see through the manipulation and stand up to this behavior. First grade was hard because of this and it was a big deal. These experiences opened up a lot of conversation about what it means to be a true friend, but they also shook her confidence and she continues to struggle with that even now. With the cut off date moving (it was Dec. 2nd when she started), I would expect even more older children in kindergarten and I would be surprised if your young child did not have some sort of similar experience. Exclusion is a developmental stage that hits around first grade and it is tough for the younger ones to navigate.

In short, I think you probably know if your child is ready. BUT, you can't control what other parents will do and this will affect your child. The reality is that it is hard to be the youngest. anon

I could have written your post nine years ago. I have a daughter who was not reading at four but had ''number friends'' that liked to hang out together 2, 3, 5, 7 not 9 (not friendly with the others), 11, 13, 17, 19, 23, 29 and so on. Then of course there were the numbers who liked to hang out in the fancy square shape 4, 9, 16, 25, 36, 49 and so on. Anyway, you get the idea - primes were friends and square roots / square numbers were fancy.

She had a December birthday. She didn't make the cut-off. There were a couple of private schools that would take her, but they were not my first, second or third choice schools.

So, I left her in another year of her play-based preschool, where her group of ''cut-off ineligible kindergardeners'' developed a plan to build a fort on school property. They had to think about what they could build and what they could afford with their meager fund-raising. Then they worked on how long and how wide it would be, practiced using nails and hammers. Decided on a fabric roof so they could roll it back when the sun came out. They had a walking field trip to Ashby Lumber and bought their materials. Learned to use a level and so on.

My daughter went on to a public kindergarten. She was a little older and taller than most. By third grade most heights and student skills evened out. She was always a leader in her class. She still loves math, science and engineering. As a high school freshman she is captain of her multiple sports teams, in student government, given one of two awards for outstanding middle school student and has been able to learn three languages in addition to her native English.

If you ask her, she will tell you that she learned how to join a group already in play, how to be kind, how to negotiate, learned to LOVE not just like science, and found out that there are many other students who could navigate education as well as she and many who could not - she mentored those.

I am forever grateful for ''missing the cut-off''. It gave my daughter a gift of a year of play and exploration that she could have never been given at any date in the future, because once you start school you are in the thirteen year run, without ever being able to stop and play. Give the Gift of a Year While You Can

Do you know about TK? It is the public school program for fall birthday kids. I plan to enroll my VERY bright Nov. 2010 birthday girl for next year. I do think I may need to end up accelerating her at some point (perhaps midyear during TK or maybe skipping K entirely), but it will be much easier once she's already ''in the system'' and can have a teacher vouch for her readiness. I don't know that any school district will let you transfer in an accelerated student from out-of-district; you'd definitely want to ask about that before you make a plan for private school.

We were here a few years ago, with our ''too young'' kiddo. We could not find a private that we liked that would accept our young K. We ended up doing a mid-year enrollment (not all districts will) after our kid turned 5. We also ended up deciding to homeschool as grade advancement did not cover the depth and breadth of learning that our kid needed. The class pace will still be slow, just a year ahead, when your child might need a wholly different curriculum. Good luck!! parent to PG

The plan you outline has some disadvantages for your child that will last for years. Your child will be eight months younger than the average child in his or her class, with some kids as much as fourteen months older. Eight months is a whole school year. Keep in mind that lots of those kids who are hitting kindergarten at five (or nearly six) were ready to read as young as your child, and will have a whole year of growth beyond that. This will last through college, since nearly every state has a Sept 1 (or August 15) cut-off. In moving its cut-off date to September, California is conforming to a nationwide standard.

The advice I got from a mom of four kids when I was thinking about similar things was that being bored in first grade is a little problem, being socially too young for the grade in middle school is a big problem. The pain of not fitting in in middle school is much greater than anything you could consider now as you look at your four year old child.

Elementary school is easy for many kids. That a child can handle the work is a poor reason to have them skip a grade -- the work is not difficult. My impression is that it is impossible to ensure that your child is always adequately challenged. Skipping a grade seems like taking a hatchet to the problem. As a mom of an eighth grader and a third grader at two of the best private schools here I can tell you that whether the kids are adequately challenged in the early grades is something nearly every mom worries about. You could send your kid to school a year early and they would still be bored -- if they are smart they will just adjust to the expectations of the higher grade.

Lastly, I enjoyed the time before my kids could read -- once they were reading, there was less music, less art, less outdoor play -- by second grade they were zoned out for hours reading novels, which was not so different from losing them to the t.v.. I'm a professor of literature at Berkeley, so I am not against reading -- I just think that although reading independently will probably be the greatest pleasure of your young child's life it is a pretty sedentary and isolating activity, and the time with your child before he or she can read is precious. There is no need to rush. another mom

We decided to send our daughter with a mid-November birthday to kindergarten last year and we could not be happier with the decision. It is a big transition from preschool to elementary and we wanted to make sure we found a school that did not feel overwhelming to a four/five year old, but at the same time would be the next step academically. We chose to send her to Aurora and our experience has been wonderful. When we visited, I was really impressed with how calm and organized everything felt and continue to be impressed with how every teacher really takes the time to meet the kids on their level. The teachers talk to the children with respect and enthusiasm and it creates a classroom where children feel comfortable learning and working together no matter what the age range. Academically, our daughter was at a similar level as your child and finished the year as a strong reader, writer and scientist but most importantly, a secure and enthusiastic learner. Jessica

I didn't see the original posting, but after reading this week's responses, had to chime in. I think the other parents have it about right in terms of where the difficulties will be. If you start your child early, s/he will probably do just fine with the school work and MAY struggle socially in middle school. That was true for me (October birthday) - I was usually the youngest kid in my class, and also academically at the top. This lasted all the way through K-12 schooling, though in high school, I had a lot of peers with late fall birthdays.

This is just anecdotal evidence from my experience (as is everyone's advice), but I'd say go for it. By the time I was in high school, my AP classes were FILLED with folks on the young side. I saw about the same 30 kids all day, every day (in my graduating class of 550) and not a one of us turned 18 before the spring of senior year. So, only some kids were in the ''right'' grade for their age, but all of us were in the right grade for our academic ability. The social issues of middle school were long behind us, and I don't think that's a reason to hold a kid back who is ready for school. Life is a lot, lot longer than the social anxieties of middle school.

My kid has an August birthday, so she'll be starting kinder right after she turns 5. But if we're one day blessed with #2, we'll start him or her in school at the time they're academically ready, even if they're 4 at the start of the year. Jessica

HI- Sorry to chime in late! My daughter went to kindergarten at four. Super smart kid! Fast forward 11 years. She is now in 10th grade and HATES school. Oh, how I wish I had given her the opportunity to be the oldest in her class instead of the youngest. It was okay in kindergarten, even though she still had her baby teeth and more than half of her classmates were already 6 and had huge teeth and big bodies.... But in middle school when most of her peers were into texting, boys, social media....she wanted to play with dolls. She had no one to play with, and felt embarrassed that they were so far ahead of her socially.

In high school, a lot of math concepts are dependent on a certain amount of maturity in the brain. Her brain is just not there yet, and I really see a difference between her (at 14) and many of her classmates (many of whom have already turned 16).

I cannot go back in time, but if I could, I would not have put her in kindergarten at age 4, especially knowing that she would spend the next 15-20 years in school! My God, what's the rush?? Regret that decision!

My son entered kindergarten having just turned four in the summer. He is a very atypical child, who had pretty much mastered the kindergarten standards by the age of 18 mos and started reading at 20 mos. I called every school in town until I found the only one willing to evaluate him for (extra-)early entrance. That was Archway School, which has since closed. I can tell you that my son had an extremely positive experience as a 4 yr old for the full year that he was a kindergartner, and he was in a mixed-age class with first graders, where he was able to access the 1st grade curriculum. Archway was a godsend for us, and we were devastated when it closed. Now we are dealing with the hell that is public school with no gifted program in OUSD, for a 99.9th percentile child. His grade skip was at least honored by the district, and he goes up yet another grade for math. But, as others have mentioned, there is no extra depth or complexity to keep him engaged, and the teachers have their hands full trying to meet the needs of the other students in the class, many of whom test below grade level. I don't at all regret starting my son early. It would have been even more obscenely inappropriate for him to be stuck in his age-based class in public school than what we are dealing with now, having skipped a grade.

I can tell you, also, that I skipped a grade as a child and experienced no negative social-emotional consequences. My parents were offered the opportunity to skip me a 2nd time, but were afraid of potential social-emotional consequences. In hindsight, I think they should have gone for it. I spent nearly all of my school years bored out of my mind, and learned the hard-to-unlearn skill of shutting up and making myself small so as not to be noticed or picked on for my braininess. Had I been in a class of intellectual peers and/or actually challenged, I might have learned it was ok to be my full self. There is a good body of research which validates the appropriateness of early entrance and grade-skipping for gifted kids, esp where no gifted program is offered by the schools. Early entrance just right for some

Every child is unique, if your child is ready to begin at 4-go for it! I also started at age four and have a fall birthday, as did most of my friends. It used to be, and still is in many states, the oldest children are born in January, the youngest in December (although cut-off dates are changing). Kids born in the summer were about in the middle age wise-now some parents are inclined to hold their summer children back one year to give them what they perceive to be an advantage. As a former teacher, I can tell you that school is not harder academically than it was 20 years ago, the difference is that classroom management (another can of worms) is more difficult, so teachers may prefer to have kids redshirted. But experience as a teacher has taught me that being the oldest does not always equate with more maturity and readiness, in fact, the opposite has been true in most cases.

I was really surprised to learn that there is an age difference of 20 months (the age difference between my two children that are two years apart in school) between the oldest and the youngest in my children's classes.

My sister, a pediatrician, sent me this: anon


Advice on how to explore starting K early?

April 2014


Does anyone have any advice on how the process works to request kindergarten enrollment for a kid that just misses the cut off? Our daughter misses it by only a few weeks, and we've been told by a few former teachers that she's ready. So, I'm trying to validate that we think she's ready, while simultaneously figuring out how to request ''early enrollment'' at our neighborhood elementary (Thornhill). If anyone has been in this situation, I'd love to hear your thoughts. Thanks!

We started this process with our district. What they would allow is a mid year start as soon as our child turned 5. Our child would be placed into TK and evaluated at year end for K or 1st enrollment. We ended up not doing the mid year enrollment. By then it was even more clear that we needed a more enriching environment than the classroom could provide homeschooling now

Have you looked in to the pre-K programs (Transitional kindergarten) at the public schools? Contact the school district offices - check this map for locations:


Early admission to kindergarten case by case?

March 2012


I'm looking for advice on early admission to kindergarten - that is, admission to kindergarten on a ''case-by-case basis'' for a child that misses the cutoff date. Does anyone have experience with this? I've also been told that a child admitted via the early admission to kindergarten route would be required to repeat kindergarten the following year because he or she would not be age-eligible for first grade. Is that really true? That sounds absolutely crazy to me.

You didn't say whether you were trying to get into K early in the public schools or in privates schools. I can speak only to private. I called almost every private school in town to find out whether any would at least evaluate an extremely advanced child whose birthday did not meet the cutoff. Only a few were willing to let my son go thru the evaluation process. Out of those, the only school which offered us early entrance to K was Archway School. They are a very small school, and seem to be more flexible than most. I felt that the teacher who evaluated my son was able to see him as he actually is, rather than only for his birthday. We don't yet have the experience of attending there, but at least I can tell you that they were the most flexible w/the birthday issue. Another early K parent


Starting Kindergarten early: How to find a school?

Nov 2011


Hello, my question is about how to find a school that will entertain the thought of having my daughter starting kindergarden early. I keep reading about people that have done it by going to private schools, but all the ones I have contacted are not willing to even test my daughter, saying that they go by the CA guidelines about admissions. Note: This question is not about the merit or demerit of accelerating a child, it is about how to do it practically. I understand this is a very controversial issue, and am not trying to get opinions whether I should do it or not. I am very much open to the idea of testing the kid and having her appropriately assessed before making any decision, but so far I've only found closed doors... Any schools you recommend? We are in Castro Valley, but I would be very interested in at least talking to someone that is open to the possibility. Thank you very much for any lead you might have to offer. Jenny

You haven't defined ''early''. Our daughter went to Bentley, where the firm cutoff date for entry to Kindergarten was that you had to have turned 5 by September 1 of the fall you started Kindergarten, not 4, and not 6. Test and interview were held about a year in advance, so since our daughter was born on 8/15,she applied/tested/interviewed for kindergarten shortly after her 4th birthday. That seems young to me, but that was the school's rule.

Even though there was a strict interest in having the children in a class fall within one year of the same age, by the time they were in middle school enough exceptions had been made that there were kids in her class close to 2 years older than she was. I don't know if having a large range of ages in the same grade is a good or a bad thing! She was also the smallest child which can lead to injury when kids get rough.

Many people consider starting Kindergarten at age 5 to be ''too young'' but in this case it was the only year she could start. I started Kindergarten 5 months younger than my daughter did, and I was also very small - not even 25 lbs when I started Kindergarten. I don't think that starting that young was an advantage, but of course I don't have anything to compare it with.

The un-aknowleged fact is that girls and boys develop differently. I had a long talk with a high school teacher driving to a field trip recently, and he said he thinks the ''maturity gap'' between girls and boys continues through high school, in general. Maybe some day in the future, boys will be in the same grade as girls a year or two younger than they are. mother of a girl

Been there, tried that. We did have our local public school saying they would accept our DD as soon as she turned 5, the DOE allows districts to accept kids midyear if 5, but the school would only place her in the JrK program and the principal was not really supportive, just following the district directive. It was a very negative experience. We did find a couple private schools willing to take her, but ended up going another way - language immersion at the PreK level which offered some distraction from K=readiness. I expect that as the CA K cutoff date is moving earlier, more private schools will be stricter about their acceptance dates too. We were looking in Fall of 2010 and even schools with published Dec 31 cutoff dates were singing a different song once we talked to administrators. You might check out or After language immersion success we ended up homeschooling - a misnomer, the kids are in classes during the day and learning OUT of the home; I'm a facilitator and busdriver, not a teacher. Individualized education would be more appropriate than homeschooling! surprised but happy here

My son is very academically advanced but he missed the school cut off by 12 days. I contacted every private school in the area and the Oakland School District to find out how to get him an exception to start kindergarten ''early''. All the private schools but one told me no. Beacon Day said they could assess him and then determine if he could do kindergarten or preK. We also found a gifted school (Baywood Learning Center) that would have taken him as well after an assessment. Oakland said there were no exceptions to this rule because funding is based on the age. If the kid isn't old enough, no state funding. They did say we could transfer him into a school that had room once he turned 5. In the end, we put him in a preK program which turned out to be great for him socially. Within 3 weeks of kindergarten in Oakland public school, they wanted to move him to 1st grade. Good luck! Not everyone wants to hold their kid back.

Not sure how early you want to start you child, but the age cut-off for Redwood Day School in Oakland is 5 by Dec 1 (or 4 years, 9 months by Sept 1)

We have 2 children at Redwood Day with ''late'' birthdays (both in the late summer) and both are doing just fine. Good luck with finding the school of your dreams

I'm facing the same dilemma. I have a child who is cognitively ahead of some kids twice his age and does better socially with kids at least a year or two older. I've also been asking around at many schools about starting K early. It seems they all read from the same script about ''valuing the whole child'' (as if I don't), and ''prioritizing social/emotional development'' (which, I agree, is equally important, and in the case of some kids, does not equate to limiting them to their chronological peers).

Thus far, the only truly receptive folks I've encountered have been some in the Montessori world. There are a few Montessori schools with ''bridge-K'' programs, where kids in the multi-age classrooms range in age from 4-6, and materials as advanced as your child needs can be brought in.

There are schools for gifted kids in the South Bay and Marin which start at age 4, and there is a co-op in Alameda.

I agree: It would be wonderful if schools would assess the individual child for readiness, based on where they actually are in all areas of development, as opposed to strictly based on birth date. also interested in early k admissions

There is a California early start law, not mentioned very often. A child can start once they turn 5, in the middle of a school year, if it will not cause a disruption, and you can show good cause for this. At the end of the year, the child may be tested/evaluated to see if they do an additional full year of K or move on to first grade. I used this law, and my daughter started in January, and could show that she met the state guidelines for those finished with K by the end of the year. She was able to move on to first grade. It has never been a problem since. You may want to contact a gifted organization if you can't find the law. It's somewhere in the state laws, so you can search for it. Hopefully, they haven't gotten rid of it since we used it. This is for kids who are clearly ready, and not for people who need it for child care. mom with accelerated kids

None of the schools in our Berkeley public school system would consider a child out of the designated age range, to my knowledge. Nor would any of the private schools that we looked into last year for my current kindergartener. Frankly, I am grateful for this. While she may have been ''ready'' for K early in many ways with her academic interests and abilities, seeing what K is like now makes it clear that it's so much about the social and emotional experience. You will do your child a disservice, in my opinion, if you overlook the importance of the peer social component of her education. That is my unsolicited opinion. Sorry but it's impossible not to give it with this question, having just gone through a very smooth transition to K with a child whom last fall we were really wanting a new environment for as she just seemed so ready for a more advanced ''academic'' experience. At that point, however, K is theoretical (unless you have older children and know what is ahead in K), so it's easy to think that this might be good for your child. I have many friends who have kept their kids back after starting them on the early end of the acceptable age range, after their kids really struggled as they weren't socially/emotionally ready. And as advanced as your kid is, I'm sure they're still just a kid and hitting those milestones in line with others. most educators do know something

To the parent who is wondering about starting their child in K early. First off, let's define what you mean by early. Most private school have a cut off of September 1 and some up to December 1. Public schools are changing their cut off dates from Dec 2 to September 2 by 2013. More important than cut off age is your child's overall developmental age. Does his/her developmental age match their chronological age in language, gross and fine motor, cognitive and social skills? if so, then they are ready for K. Should you need assistance in determining your child's school readiness let me know. I am an educational consultant trained with the Gesell Institute of Human Development at Yale. They have developed a very specific assessment for school readiness which I've used hundreds of times for the purpose of supporting parents to decide whether or not their child was ready for K. Best to you.


How to have my child get into OUSD kindergarten early

Sept 2007


I live in Oakland with my 3-year-old daughter. She is exceptionally smart and tall, and her birthday is in December. Normally she would start kindergarten in Fall 2009, after 3 years of pre-school, and would be one of the smartest and tallest kids in her class. I'd like to explore the possibility of having her start kindergarten a year earlier.

I don't want to push her into something she's not emotionally ready for, so I would only want to do this is after a psychologist has assessed her ability to handle this.

Can anyone recommend a psychologist (who is an expert on kindergarten-age children) who could help me evaluate if this would be appropriate for my daughter?

Do the Oakland public schools (or CA public schools in general) have a process for early enrollment?

How would this affect our participation in the lottery system? (Would we need to get clearance for early enrollment before being able to enter the lottery? Or do we enter the lottery to choose a school, and then get clearance from the specific school?)

If anyone has done this before, I'd love to hear about what you did and how it worked out.

This is a very personal decision. I only wanted to point out that with a December birthday your child would likely not be the oldest child in her class (can't speak to the tallness or smartness issue). Many parents with Fall birthday children are waiting a year for them to enter kindergarten. Recently a parent told me that her child with a June birthday was the youngest in her class ( this was a private school). So if your December child entered in 08 she would likely be the youngest by a long shot.... Best of luck with your decision. decided to wait

I don't have the specific information you were wondering about, but I thought I'd offer our situation.

I don't know how smart is smart for your daughter, but I know that starting K early in the public schools wouldn't have helped my son at all. His birthday is in November, so we could have started him last year. However, he had a firm grasp of all the academic material presented in K the year before that, when he was 3 turning 4 (including the fact he was reading well), so starting K would have still been a poor match for him.

We decided to go with a private school we feel is a much better match for him, and he just started K this year. He will turn 6 in November, and he's doing 5th grade level work in many areas (including math and reading). It remains clear that K a year earlier wouldn't have benefited him at all, and socially this is exactly the right thing for him.

Best of luck as you make the right choice for your family. So glad we waited

We went through this last year with our son, whose birthday is in December as well. Our experience was in Berkeley, not Oakland, so unfortunately I don't have specific advice about who to talk to or what to do there. In our district there was a very specific procedure to follow to apply early to kindergarten. There was a simple test our child had to take, and we had to wait for three weeks after school started to find out if there was room at our chosen school. Needless to say, this was terribly nerve-wracking for us (not for my son, actually, he was oblivious).

What I can tell you about this decision is that in discussing it with most other people, the response to this idea was overwhelmingly negative. Besides our preschool teacher, who knows our son and who really encouraged us, other adults (a kindergarten teacher, a pediatrician) were extremely discouraging to the point of hostility. Many other parents had the same reaction. It is hard to take that kind of negativity.

If you are willing to buck the trend of having older children in school, be prepared for a lot of opposition. Our son is doing very well in school, now in first grade, plays soccer, is very happy and has lots of friends.

Good luck. Not an easy road

I hate to say it, but I would have been one of the detractors a couple of years ago about early admission to Kindergarten. My son also has a December birthday. He was ready for kindergarten, his preschool said to wait - Oakland Unified kept putting us off until it was too late. Ultimately, he did not go until he was 5 year 9 months. And all seemed fine in K. He sat quietly, he could read (it warmed the cockles of the school's heart), he followed instructions on queue. He was the tallest kid in the class.

He's now in second grade, he's reading at 5th grade level and is bored to tears. He's still the tallest kid in the class, his friends are 10 year olds and I can't get Oakland Unified to help with an assessment to move him up to the next grade. I REALLY wish I had forced the issue 3 years ago.

So, I'm sorry you're not getting the support you need. Keep moving the process forward. To those parents who say an extra year in preschool is fine, sometimes it is not. Should have Listened to My Son's Needs


Early entrance to kindergarten in the BUSD

June 2004


I am wondering if anyone has had any luck with early entrance to kindergarten in the Berkeley school district, or perhaps advice for me on what to do with a child who DEMANDS to be taught academic subjects at age 4. I checked the website, and it was all about deciding whether to hold children back an extra year. My son will turn 5 in January, so he just barely misses the December cutoff. He has been reading for a while, loves to count into the hundreds, demands math ''homework'' like his older sister, insists on practicing addition and subtraction facts. He also has a long attention span and can sit quietly. Now, if he were happy in preschool I'd have no problem keeping him there... I'm a believer in the ''let the child enjoy his childhood'' type of thinking. But recently he has started screaming and refusing to get ready in the morning, complaining that he hates his school, and the teachers have said that he is starting to act out (whereas before they always commented on how well he sat in circle, etc.). If he's unhappy, he's not enjoying his childhood. The problem is I can understand all too well what he might be going through because I was in a similar situation as a child, so I feel I'm too emotional about schooling and can't make an objective decision.

I remember my own miserable years of elementary school spent counting the tiles on the floor while pretending to listen to the teacher explain the same things over and over again. Every morning I would dread going to school and count the days until Saturday, when I could read my library books all day (I wasn't allowed to read books in school). And I remember thinking that it was all my fault, that I was somehow bad for not liking school. Eventually when I got into high school I was allowed to take college classes, and it felt like I had been set free. I finally made some close friends, with kids five years older, and finally had challenging and interesting work to do. But the dead years of my childhood had their effect on my self esteem... I never finished my education and have been an underachiever all my life. I don't want my child's life to be ruined too! I think all children deserve an appropriately challenging education. However, when I called the Berkeley school district they said they don't allow early entrance to kindergarten. I understand private schools feel the same way, and in any event, I don't think we can afford them.

I can't homeschool because I have to work. In the meantime, my gentle, joyous little boy has stopped smiling and telling jokes, and has started hitting his sister. This is a university town; there has to be someone else who has gone through this! On the web I read about many children who have been ''radically accelerated'' (skipped multiple grades) and are happy; I know that would be been the right solution for me as a child. Is it possible in the Berkeley school district? What can I do for my child? Is homeschooling the only answer? Or do we have to leave Berkeley and move to Colorado? Please help! anon for the sake of my child My son will be 5 in October. He is reading at a 2nd grade level and is eager to do school level math. However, I will NOT put him in school until 2005. The academics are secondary to the emotional. A young 5 year old will be ''competing'' with boys who are 6. Give your child stimulating activities to develop judgment and compassion when you are at home. When he is older, and as an adult, those abilities will surpass how ''smart'' he is. In reference to his actions about going to preschool: Start looking for a different preschool. I had a similar situation and was ready to pull my son but the school changed the teacher and he was then happy every morning. In September I will be sending him to a preschool that will offer more stimulating activities and has computers. Mother of 4 year old

When I read the beginning of your post my first thought was, Kindergarten will never do! Your child has already mastered the core Kindergarten material. Reading and very basic addition (by counting manipulatives) are about it: time telling to the hour, the names and values of coins, printing his name with initial caps and lowercase for the rest of the letters. That is about it. I took my daughter (who could read) in to visit Kindergarten and after an hour she started tearing at her hair and saying ''When wi! ll we be done with the alphabet!'' Radical acceleration could work for him, but he is a little guy. Is he ready to be behind a desk all day in first grade? I think it might be tough for any 4-year-old. I think radical acceleration will be a good option for your little boy, but maybe next year, not this year. If you radically accelerate you have to set the teacher up with the right expectations. Radically accelerated kids are intellectually ready for the material, but not physically (or emotionally) capable of the large amounts of writing required in 2nd, 3rd, 4th grade. The teacher will have to realize that he may need curtailed homework and writing assignments. It's that whole asynchronous development thing. Teachers have to get it and be willing to accomodate. We decided on homeschooling, because i don't work and it seemed easier than trying to make something else work. If the school won't let you accelerate him what about a Montessori preK program? They ought to provide him with challenging materials. If you get IQ tests done and an assessment you can sometimes get a district to accept and early Kindergartener. Or you could chose a homeschool curriculum that you think would suit him and see if his preschool would help him do it, or give them worksheets for him to do at preschool. A basket of them that he can chose from, say.

Sorry for the distracted note, kids are shouting for dinner. I hope there was something helpful in there. susan

I don't know about whether you can get Berkeley to let your son enter kindergarten early, but I would consider checking out a Montessori preschool. They have mixed ages together in a classroom, so your four-year-old son would be in a class with three- and five-year-olds, each doing activities appropriate to his/her level of development, so a three-year-old who was ready to read would be helped to do so, whereas a five-year-old who was still learning the colors would be directed to appropriate activities. I bet your son would find more academic fulfillment at a Montessori preschool (though you didn't say much about his current preschool). Berkeley Montessori School is great and may still have openings for next fall. I was bored in public school until they let me! skip a grade

The primary reason for NOT starting a child in kindergarten before they're 5 is not for academic development, but social and emotional development. From what you said about your son's behavior at pre-school, it doesn't sound like he's mature enough for kindergarten. This maturity issue will continue throughout his school career... especially in dealing with girls during the adolescent years and in competitive sports in high school. I think the first thing you need to do is try to talk to your son about what's going on with him -- if he's he kind of kid who will talk or is in tune with his emotions. You also need to have a long talk with your preschool teachers about what they think the issues are and what they can do to rectify it. (Has your child recently given up naps? Has a favorite teacher or friend left the school?) Or perhaps you need to find a preschool that's better suited to your child's needs. There are lots of different pre-schools and philosophies out there, and they're not right for every child.

I would also start researching schools now. Do the Berkeley schools offer gifted or accelerated programs? Many private schools offer financial aid... perhaps you should do some research on private schools that offer what you and your son need and talk to them about financial aid. I also want to add my! personal experience with skipping grades. My brother spent a good deal of 4th grade disrupting the class until the teacher sent him up to the 5th grade for math class. He went on to skip 5th grade. While it was a quick academic fix, he had a very difficult time socially and in sports, especially in high school. He now has an extremely gifted 12 year old girl. She is in gifted programs and gets all As and A pluses and often complains of being bored. I've asked him if he'd consider having her skip a grade. His answer is ''NO. Absolutely not.''

Per California state standards, public schools can not admit before December 1, 2004 (or whatever the date is this year, but it's usually the first week in December). So, your child has an option of going to a private school for Kindergarten and First Grade that does not adopt the California state standa! rd or get academic stimulation from their current preschool. BUSD does not bend on that rule and no other public school in California can legally bend on it either. Anonymous

From your post, you say that your son is not happy in his current preschool...but I don't think sending him to a Berkeley public kindergarten early as a four-year-old is a good solution. The kindergarten experience is not just an academic experience, but a social one as well. Even if your son is academically advanced, you also need to consider his maturity level and determine if he is physically, emotionally, and socially mature enough to be in a class of 5- and 6-year olds when he will be 4 years old for almost half of the school year. (You should also note that most of the 6-year olds entering kindergarten are boys.)

For example, at least in my experience throughout my son's kindergarten year (last year), a lot of the kindergarten and first-grade boys and some of the girls on the playground liked to play good-guys-battling-bad-guys games, ''army'' or quasi- martial arts games or the ''chase game'', and even if they rarely got into real fights, the games even at a non-contact level get pretty physical (My impression was that a lot of non- contact physical play got overlooked by playground supervision, even if their official policy was otherwise). Plus, there's in- jest name-calling (esp. among boys), not always with a teacher or adult around to say, ''Hey, that's not nice to call someone X...'' Also, it's a sad fact that some kids even at the k-level have a lot of stuff going on in their homes and come to school with bad attitudes and bad language--your son will be exposed to that. It's up to you to determine whether yo! ur four-year old can handle this kind of environment without the constant supervision or adult guidance typical in a preschool environment.

Since you aren't considering homeschooling or private school, the next best alternative, instead of preschool, might be to find an English-speaking nanny or tutor who is willing to spend the day taking your son to places like Lawrence Hall of Science, any of the local libraries, museums, etc., where they can explore things that interest him, one-on-one, at his pace, in an engaging, interactive way. That way, he will be getting his needs met on an individual level, rather than be thrown in with a group of older kids with a range of skills and needs, which is likely to happen in a BPS kindergarten class. CC

A couple of thoughts for you. I believe the cut-off age for *first grade* may actually be in January, although the cut-off for Kindergarten is early December (check with the district). If your son is a very good reader, will a formal (public school) Kindergarten be satisfying for him? It might actually be more stimulating for him to go to a private K that is NOT ''academic,'' do reading and math at home for fun, and then go into public school as a young first-grader. One of my kids did this, and it worked well for her. Her public school taught the children ''how to read'' in Kindergarten, and we were relieved that she was able to avoid those lessons, which would have been dull for her -- besides, private K had longer hours (good for us) and more art and singing (good for her)! By the way, I was unhappy in elementary school, too, and found myself fretting far too much about my daughter's experience in school. As it turns out, however, my daughter is a much happier kid than I ever was -- just due to a luckier throw of the temperament dice. So I sympathize with you in your worries, but want to encourage you to hope that your son's childhood will not merely mirror your own. Anne

Listen to what the BUSD folks told you: they do not admit kids early for kindergarten. If I were you, I would start now to look for space in a preschool with a good K or K-like program that will challenge your child. Perhaps one of the Montessori schools would have an opening for an older child, especially if some of their older children have moved on recently. For our child, we knew he was reading very well when he hit K at a Berkeley elementary school, so we stayed in close touch with the teacher and made sure he got more advanced work to do. This past year he is still doing very well and enoying school AND more of his classmates have caught up. We have found that good communication with the teacher and principle, and helping the teacher out when poss! ible, really helps. This way, the teacher, the principle and we can all work together to see if he needs to skip. So far, he doesn't. We also work with him to make sure he learns to challenge himself, and with the teacher to make sure he has room to challenge himself. It is difficult to not transfer our own eductional experiences to our children, but we must remember that his(?) school is different from yours, and that he - with all his similarities- is yet somewhat different from you, too. So don't assume the worst yet! He may have a great time at Berkeley schools. smart mom and dad of smart public school kid

Treasure your gifted child and do whatever it takes to keep him involved and interested in the things that trigger his creativity and is intellectual pursuits. But don't push him into kindergarten until he is old enough. I volunteer ! in the classroom and I can tell you by the second week which child is the youngest in the class. And it has nothing to do with their proficiency in the subject.

Keep in mind that school is a marathon, not a sprint. No matter how early a child catches on, there is no guarantee that he will have the maturity to keep it up as he gets older. Your child will have plenty of peer company at his ability in a year or two at most. The smart kids blossom and find their way around as they go through the first few grades. But the young ones can find it quite difficult to keep pace with the rigors and social demands of their older peers. It is a lot to ask of a 4-year- old that they function well in an environment designed for children that are older, particularly as the child goes through the rest of the lower grades. Ask anyone who skipped grades or started younger. It doesn't get any easier.

Fortunately, most schools do have differentiated learning programs that allow your child to accelerate through the subjects where they excel, so your child will likely not be as bored as we were ''back in the day.'' Go to the school and meet with the principal to find out what programs they have to accomodate your gifted son. A good school can always find ways to challenge and treasure a gifted child. Thankfully, though, they cannot find ways to make your child ''grow up.'' And while your son might be reading Harry Potter at age five and Proust at nine, the lovely immaturity and innocence of a four-year-old is a wonderful part of childhood that you can never recapture. Best of luck. No longer sprinting

You are not alone. There are different levels of giftedness and most ''GATE'' children, fall into the mild or moderately gifted category and do fine in a normal classroom. However, the traditional classroom setting and standard curriculum may pose difficulties for a highly or profoundly gifted child, who is 2-3 standard deviations above the norm. It will be helpfulfor you to know the level of your child's giftedness. My child entered kinder at Jefferson fully reading and deeply resented sitting through material that she had long mastered, like ABCs. By 3rd grade, she could read at an adult level, though still an 8yo. I wish I had learned about the extent of her giftedness sooner, which was confirmed by a private IQ test. We have found that few public school teachers/admin, including those at BUSD, have any training (or interest) in giftedness and even fewer support acceleration, even in circumstances such as yours. Check out: Talk to Anne Marie Roeper,PhD a reknown gifted specialist in El Cerrito. Do consider getting your child tested. Yours will not always be an easy road, but of all the *problems* a parent must endure, this is a *good* kind of problem. Parent of Two [Very Demanding] HG Children


Petitioning to get into school early

March 2003


Our child was born on 12/17, just missing the cut off to get into public school this fall. Does anyone have experience with petitioning Lafayette Public Schools (or any public school) to accept the child anyway? Can you? How does it work? Any tricks I should know about? I am not looking for advice on whether to send the child, because this listserv has already very kindly helped me with that decision, but I just need advice now on the petitioning process (if indeed there is one.) Thank you in advance. Maryanne M

Your post brought back a flood of memories from more than 25 years ago when I was a kindergarten student at Lafayette school. I also have a December birthday, and when my mother learned I was too young to attend the first grade that year she began a drive to get me in anyways. She insisted I was way too ''bright'' to be ''held back'' and arranged to have me tested to prove it. I remember a lot of pressure being put upon me the day of the test, and I remember specific parts of the test. One segment involved being shown a series of numbers which were quickly covered up. I was expected to relay those numbers backwards. Aiming to please as I was I thought I was expected to name all of the numbers, not just what I remembered. So I said nothing. FAILED! I ended up repeating kindergarten anyways. Normally I probably wouldn't have noticed the difference, but the pressure and subsequent failure made me feel really bad about it. If the policies in lafayette are the same today, the answer to your question is yes, it is possible and testing your child is the way to do it. I'm not trying to talk you out of it, in fact I'm rooting for you. My advice is to avoid any pressure on your child, as a matter of fact don't even tell your child what you're up to. If you are unsuccessful I'm sure your child won't notice or care. Mary

I have no idea if your petition will work or not, but if it doesn't, you could always try a private school for a year. My birthday is 12/16 and when I missed the deadline for public kindergarten by one day, my parents put me in a religious school. Once you're in the system, they can't kick you out! VM