Is my 4.9-Year-Old Ready for Kindergarten?


When my daughter was not yet three, her big brother told her she couldn't follow him to kindergarten because she couldn't write her name. She stomped off to her art table, returning a few minutes later and thrust a scrap of paper at him. There it was, spidery but legible: RUBY, her ticket to kindergarten. "Now I can go," she declared.

She's always been a determined child, but with a mid-November birthday, just two weeks shy of California's Dec. 2 kindergarten cut-off, she'd be young when her turn for kindergarten came around. Other parents asked whether we planned to send her "early" or give her the "gift of time." The snarkier term is red-shirting, after the practice of sidelining freshman college athletes so they're bigger and buffer when they start competing, and it's become almost de rigueur among affluent, highly educated parents.

At my town's public school, most parents enrolled their kids in kindergarten when they were eligible and although a bit young, Ruby was dying to go, and so we sent her.

Triumphantly skipping off to her first day of school, Ruby was younger than more than 98 percent of her peers nationwide. She has since learned to write on the lines, read simple books, and has made lots of friends. But it's become increasingly clear that a full-day academic pace is wearing her down. Though she's at grade level or even a bit above, her teacher has concerns about whether she'll be able to handle first grade.

All this makes me wish I had put Ruby on the slow plan. I recently took her back to spend the day at her old preschool, and she fit right back in. Afterwards, she told me she wanted to stay there and go back to kindergarten when she's six and not so little.

Am I reading too much into it? Possibly. But I no longer see the "gift of time" as the precious creation of over-anxious parents. I cringe at the idea that her self-image is being influenced by something as accidental as her birth date. And as I ponder the slog that lies ahead of her, I can't help but want her to have a bit more time to be immature.

What do you think of "red-shirting." At what age did you send your kid to kindergarten?

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