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Sarah (a parent) asks: My child won’t be five years old until right after September 1, but is very smart and mature. What are your thoughts? Can she go to kindergarten instead of prekindergarten so she doesn’t have to wait another year?

Kindergarten Pic

Dr. Marion Blank, Reading Kingdom founder, answers:

I am often asked this question and each time, it brings me back to my own childhood and to the practice, at the time, of having two periods for entering kindergarten. The “older” five year olds entered one class in September and the “younger” fives entered a different class in January. Later on, when I was living in England, I found that they had three entry periods—not just two. These were wise arrangements since they offered greater leeway in dealing with the significant developmental differences that exist between a 5.0 year old and a 5.11 year old. Why was the system changed? Unfortunately, it was for bureaucratic reasons—not developmental ones.

That bit of history shows that things could be different and it would be nice if they were. Nevertheless, it does not settle your problem—which is one that so many parents face. If a child has the maturity that you have outlined, it’s fine to place her in kindergarten. The advantage is not so much for the present—since she is likely to do well in either setting. Rather, it is for the future. Formal education is a long process, often extending 12 years and more. The earlier entrance into kindergarten allows “easier” freedom of choice when a student nears adulthood; for example, feeling less pressured about taking a year off between high school and college for internships, travel, etc. Fortunately, you are in a situation where either choice is likely to work out in a satisfactory manner. So the best of luck in whatever you decide to do.
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