How do you judge kindergarten readiness?
Judging kindergarten readiness is an important parenting issue that is more complex than chronological age or simply being able to recite letters, numbers, shapes and colors. Kindergarten readiness is a combination of a number of factors. Rarely will a child be completely ready or unready by the time they’re the age the school district will allow them to enroll. In fact, most kids will fall somewhere in between.
I chatted with Janet Jenness, a preschool teacher and parent educator at the South Seattle Community College Parent Cooperative Preschool Program, to explore this issue further and get her professional advice.
Janet encourages parents to learn about all the readiness factors (not just academic) and work alongside their children to help them learn what they need to know for kindergarten. However, she also cautions parents to understand that it isn’t right or wrong if their children don’t start early or need to start later than others their age. Everyone is individual and the end goal should always be to put your child in a position to succeed.
When it comes to readiness skills, however, Janet encourages parents to look beyond the academic.
“There are a number of academic requirements for kindergarten, and your school district will share those with you, but you really want to make sure you look at social skills,” she said. “These are so important for success in kindergarten and life, really. These social skills have to be learned. They don’t come naturally. So working with your child, including enrolling in preschool, will provide the best preparation for kindergarten.”
Janet will sometimes encounter a parent with a child born early in the school year (September or October) who wonders if the child should test into kindergarten early. The Seattle School District requires children to be 5 by August 31 to start kindergarten in September, but does allow for children with birthdays in September and October to test early. Kids that test in early will turn 5 shortly after starting kindergarten, rather than just before their 6th birthday, the time they’d start if they followed the requirements.
“I really encourage parents in these situations to look closely at the social and emotional readiness for kindergarten,” Janet said. “To me that really is the biggest part of being successful beyond preschool. Can your child handle disappointment, take turns, negotiate, solve problems with peers, work and play well in a group, wait patiently for their turn, raise their hand to speak, wait for others to finish speaking, handle transitions well, be separate from their parents, work independently with a level of autonomy, follow directions and cooperate? It takes time and practice to learn these skills. Preschool is an excellent environment to learn and practice these skills, and sometimes testing out of preschool early isn’t always best for the child.”
There are several resources out there for information on kindergarten readiness. Here are two that I’ve found considerably helpful because they not only give you some measurable skills, but they also share how you can take action to help your child learn and develop these skills.
First is an incredible resource I discovered a couple of years ago and refer to every six months or so just to observe how my kids are developing their school readiness skills. It’s a website called Getting School Ready and it’s chock full of insight and advice. This website includes a downloadable PDF that points out the skills a child needs to be ready to succeed in kindergarten and how we can help them learn these skills. But I must emphasize it’s important to use these guides as a way to help your child naturally build these skills, rather than to push your child to get in earlier than he or she would otherwise be ready.
If you’re a list person, you’ll like this second resource. I received this from one of the parent educators at my preschool. This is more general, but it gives you some ideas.
Photo Credit: wworks.
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