Sunday, February 16, 2014
Preschool Update: Getting Ready for Kindergarten
There is a gazillion experts out there on early childhood development. There's even more research written on getting our children ready for the first big year of school - kindergarten. More specifically, deciding whether or not to send a child with a late summer birthday off to kindergarten in the fall.
Some research suggests that holding kids back a year before kindergarten because of late summer birthdays is the right thing to do. Matter of fact, there are some staunch supporters of this theory who argue that a child needs as much time at home or in preschool learning the "basics" before they begin school. But there are equally as many experts out there who argue academic achievement is only part of the school entrance age issue. The child's physical, social, and emotional development are also important. To be perfectly honest, it would seem most wise to consider the whole child in all of his or her aspects when making this decision... and what the parents' gut & heart are telling them about their own child. A careful look at the research also indicates that there is no magic date at which children are more or less ready for kindergarten. More importantly, no study has definitely proved, long-term, a downside to sending younger children to kindergarten, nor a benefit in holding them back.
I say all of this because we have a wanna-be-kindergartner on our hands. Abby is super-duper excited about heading off to school next year... riding the same bus as Thomas or even walking to school with him, a lunchbox and new backpack, and being at school all day long... she knows that being in kindergarten means she's "big time!" We have been equally excited for her over the last few months. But I have to tell you that I was thrown off guard by several people who have made unsolicited comments in the last month or two suggesting that maybe Brian & I should consider waiting another year before sending Abby to kindergarten. Their ideas centered both around her late summer birthday as well as her speech delay.
Although I knew how Brian & I both felt about Abby, I knew there was one person's thoughts that I would appreciate hearing from on Abby's kindergarten readiness - Ms. Tiffany... her preschool teacher for the last two years. If there is anyone who knows Abby better than us about her emotional, social and physical development, it would be her.
"My stance on kindergarten for all students no matter what their disability is (if any) is that if they are 5 before the September 1st deadline they are kindergarten ready. Children between the ages of 4 and 7 have such a wide range of abilities that I feel like it can be incredibly hindering to hold children back. I have some students that don't even know color words, but I still feel like since they are so early in their development they should go on to kindergarten. Children at this age are able to make big gains kind of randomly and you never know when the light bulb is going to go off and things will start to fall into place for them. It would not be beneficial for them if the light bulb went off and they were stuck in an environment that wasn't challenging them."
"As far as Abby starting kindergarten I think she is more than ready. She is pretty far ahead of her peers in almost every area. She knows almost of all of her capital and lowercase letters, her colors, she has a broad vocabulary, she understand the concept of rhyming, she can count to 20 (and beyond), she knows how to do simple patterns, and she is starting to segment words. She is even starting to hear sounds at the beginning and ending of words and name them. For example we were talking about the letter G last week and when I said the word frog she told me that frog ended with a /g/ sound and that G was in the word frog. Most of these skills are skills that children in kindergarten will master by Christmas. So in other words she is pretty ahead of the curve. She also picks up information easily and retains it. She has good social skills and is a good friend. Her intelligibility is now great and she is able to communicate to adult and peers with out any interference. Abby is a smart kid and in my opinion I feel like it would be a detriment to her if she were to not move on to kindergarten with her peers. I don't know what the future hold, but given her knowledge and how easily she picks up and retains information I would assume that she will be one of those kids who actually might get bored with kindergarten and need to be challenged a little bit more than the other students. She already has such a great foundation in literacy that she will most likely pick up on reading pretty easily once they start in kindergarten."
After visiting with Ms. Tiffany & Ms. Linda (her school speech pathologist ) last week during parent conferences, they both confirmed with us that Abby has done tremendously over the last two years and is more than kindergarten-ready. In fact, based on the last round of speech tests last month where she scored an incredible low 14 (zero is best), Abby will no longer have a speech IEP (Individual Education Plan) after May and will no longer qualify for Special Education Services (speech) in kindergarten next school year. This is incredible. We have seen first hand the gains she has made thanks to her team of teachers & speech specialists who have not only helped her catch up to her peers but also have helped prepare her in all aspects to be as successful as possible next year in her first "real" year of school.