Monday, November 16, 2009

Kindergarten Competition

As many of you know, Bambina is now in kindergarten. (Sweet Bambina of babyhood, just 4 1/2 years does it happen? Where does the time go?) I recognize we are having a non-traditional transition to kindergarten due to Bambina's now-anxiety about my then-transplant. However, one of the things I realized while talking with her teacher and school psychologist is that Bambina is among the youngest in her class. They mentioned this fact, not as a hint that she should not be in kindergarten because she is clearly ready for kindergarten, but to emphasize that comparing her to other kids in the class is unfair and unwarranted. Why? Because she is not yet 5 1/2 and a good 80% of her class is already 6. Folks who don't really make it their business to know about kids (=me about 6 years ago) may not know that the developmental difference between 5.4 and 6.2 is HUGE. The grasp of fantasy vs. reality, the ability to communicate in groups, to navigate school hallways confidently, to grasp math and reading concepts: the delta between what a 5 year-old and a 6 year-old can bring to these concepts is simply enormous.

So why this giant age gap? Well, in some cases the kids legitimately missed the age cutoff for our town. So, for example, if the cutoff is September 1st, and your kid turned 5 last September 3rd, guess what? Your 6 year old is now in my 5 year-old's kindergarten class. Fair enough. In other cases, the kids were held back because they really were not kindergarten-ready, socially or academically, and truly benefited from a year of Transitional Kindergarten at a preschool. However--in some cases, parents held their kids back, even if they met the age cutoff, in order to give their kids an edge in school and sports. Yes. You heard me right. Some parents, even knowing that their kids are ready for kindergarten, are holding them back so they will be smarter and physically bigger than their peers. What's the big deal, you ask? Well, as my teacher friends tell me, it pushes academic learning down into kindergarten, kindergarten learning down into preschool, and creates social issues like the ones faced by Bambina in her class, where the teacher is trying to manage the learning and behaviors of both just-5-year-olds and truly "mature" 6 1/2 year olds.

The difference was obvious at Halloween. The 5 year-olds were dressed as princesses, fairies, dragons, (Bambina = Wonder Woman). The 6 and ups were dressed as Hannah Montana, soldiers, Darth Vader, the creepy-faced mask from Scream. That little costume parade at school was a visual representation of where these kids are, and how they are all across the board. I help out in the class sometimes, and the social differences are staggering. The six-plusses tend to clique more, and they are definitely on the leading edge of making fun of others and knowing what is on TV after 6pm, ie Hannah Montana, ICarly. The fives are still very much, "Hey! That's not nice! You are not being a good friend!" and liking SuperWhy.

So what's my point? My usual: I don't like that. And I think if your kid is eligible and ready for kindergarten, his booty should be sent to kindergarten where he belongs, hockey or soccer scholarships to college be damned.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As my daughter's kindergarten teacher once said about the unwholesome social influence of older kids: "It takes only one teenage sibling to ruin an entire kindergarten class". So true.