by Tara, Contributing Writer
As spring finally (hopefully) takes hold for us here in the Midwest, questions have already started popping up to make decisions for next fall. Good grief, can I just enjoy the beautiful flowers beginning to bloom outside?
Not so much.
Our little boy just turned five years old … something I’m still having a hard time comprehending.
The school district where he goes to preschool three days a week (and receives free speech and OT services that he qualifies for) has been asking us if we are sending him to kindergarten. They need an answer.
I immediately said NO! Besides the services through the district, he’s also continuing private speech and OT three times a week. Although he’s made incredible progress the past year, we still have a long journey ahead. The words “he’s ready to graduate from speech” haven’t even remotely been uttered by his speech therapist.
Once I said no to kindergarten, the district really pushed hard for us to change our minds. Their official stance is that research shows waiting a year to send a child doesn’t make any long term difference.
Now, in the interest of full disclosure I have not done any official research myself on the topic. I don’t need to or want to. I’m listening to my “Mommy Gut.”
My “Mommy Gut” says he’s not ready. Period. He has a horrendous neurological speech disorder that he won’t just outgrow. One more year of concentrated speech and occupational therapy will do wonders for him. I want his confidence to be strong. I want him to be able to stand up and say a full sentence with pride and be able to be understood by his classmates and teachers.
Everything I’ve witnessed firsthand about apraxia is that it takes time, patience, hard work, practice, more practice and more hard work. I don’t want to set up my little boy for failure right out of the gate. He needs more time.
I’ve talked to many other moms (some with special needs kids, others without) who said the best decision they ever made was waiting a year before sending their children to kindergarten. I talked with a teacher friend who said, “I’ve never ever heard a parent say they wish they would have sent their child early to kindergarten. I always hear parents say they are so grateful they waited.”
For about a week, the district was really making us feel guilty.
He’ll have support at school.
He’ll be fine.
The research. The research. The research.
Even my husband started to waffle a little bit …. “Maybe we should send him. He’s already taller than his other classmates. He’ll turn seven years old towards the end of kindergarten when other kids will only be turning six.”
But, I’m sticking firm on this one. In my world, there’s no rush to start him in kindergarten. I was the oldest in my class. I actually used to think that was cool.
Plus, he’s a boy. That is one fact I think most everyone can agree on: Boys are usually slower to mature than girls.
Another day. Another decision. It seems like there’s always something isn’t there? How many times a week for speech? Do I increase his number of sessions this summer when he doesn’t have preschool? What about the speech therapist? Is he or she still ‘clicking’ with our son? Is he getting exactly the help he needs? Any new apraxia treatments out there? Should we be trying anything else?
The wheels keep spinning in my head, but at least I know this specific decision is right for our son. Just one more year before I send my “baby” off to kindergarten. So now, can we please go outside and enjoy the spring flowers at least for a few minutes?!?
Bio: Tara is the extremely proud mom of two kids who could both put the Energizer Bunny to shame. She spends her days chasing, running, chauffeuring, refereeing, counseling, scheduling, coaching, doting, teaching, cooking, playing and loving. Her little boy and girl are diagnosed with apraxia. She lives in Minneapolis and is “temporarily retired” from her days as a TV/Radio journalist until her kids are a bit older.
8 thoughts on “The Great Kindergarten Debate”
I am going through the same thing a little bit with with my sons school. In Illinois the start preschool at 3 . My son has his 3rd birthday in mid August , and the school is firmly saying he needs to attend preschool 5 days a week. He was recently diagnosed with apraxia. Sees a speech therapist 2 times a week . A developmental 1 time and week and an occupational therapist once a week .I felt and still feel tremendous pressure from them to enroll him full time.
But you need to stick to your gut, and do what you think is right for your child. Schools are so eager to group your child into a category and tell you what is right and wrong for them. I went to kindergarden half days when I was five. And that was still optional.
Schools get money for each student they have, and extra money for each student that has to have special services, ie speech, occupational therapy . Don’t let them sway your beliefs, stand firm on what you feel best fits the need of your child .
Exactly how we feel! And we are postponing it too.
We, as parents, are always making choices and hoping for the best. So go ahead and enjoy spring.
I SOOO get this!! The decisions that must be made now about something that doesn’t happen for another 4-5 months is driving me nuts!! My son changes and matures every summer. Sometimes it’s helpful to just say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and realize that NOTHING is set in stone. Changes are made daily and dealing with schools, IEP’s, therapies, etc should be accepting of this. I was actually told that my son wouldn’t need to follow the exact schedule as the other Kindergarten students if that is what it takes to accommodate ‘his’ needs; meaning coming late, leaving early, less days, etc. So that shows me that change is and/or should be allowed to meet the needs of each student (speech, OT, fidgets, sensory breaks, etc). Hang in there momma and as always, follow your gut! You know what’s best and just remember anything is possible and changing with your child’s changes make all the difference. Now go enjoy those spring flowers!!! 🙂
I totally agree with you. What is the rush? Let’s put the push for academics in high school where it belongs, and let these little ones mature more. We also gave an extra year before officially starting K-garten. During that extra year I have helped her learn to identify almost all of her upper and lowercase letters, began Handwriting without tears, to learn numbers up to 10 and how to write letters, as her fine motor skills are behind, and just gave all that extra time to do more intense speech practice. I agree you are on the right track by waiting. It can only build confidence.
My daughter has a June birthday, so I’ll be dealing with this decision next year, but I’m already obsessing over it! I was totally set on waiting another year, but when I had a recent meeting with her Priority Preschool teacher, she got me rethinking it. She told me that it’s best to send them because their services/IEP follow right into Kindergarten, and if we wait, the IEP expires. She then said that we can do a new IEP the following year, but that there’s a high chance of regression if they go a whole year without services, and don’t stay consistent with their goals. The whole conversation was very convincing, and now I’m just confused. This was a very helpful post, and I truly believe the mommy gut should be the deciding factor. I hope my gut is telling me something this time next year 🙂
I do not believe this is correct. See my comment below. You could put her in half day and still get her services. Just because they haven’t done it before doesn’t mean they can’t.
We dealt with this very same issue 2 years ago. My son has a July birthday and was going to be 5. He was going to lose his speech therapy through the public school system because he had “aged out.” For the very same reasons you mentioned, we were cautious to jump on board with the school. In my heart, I thought, one more year of intense speech is going to give him SO much more. Sure he was on track with some of the other skills motor wise, math, but he lagged severely still in speech and (obviously) socially. I thought putting him in to the fast paced environment of Kindergarten with sounding out letters, blending, reading, double digit math, etc. I was going to be looking at him struggling on so many levels. I also factored into his boy-ness. If I waited one year, he would be the older one in class. Years from now that will make a difference, he’ll mature faster, possibly being bigger than some of his classmates… maybe he’ll have a little athletic edge by maturing a little sooner (although Apraxia is a beast and he is awkward at sports). Why wouldn’t I give him the time so he can be good at something?… or at least let some things be a little easier for him? Shoot, I even thought if he is one of the first to get his driver’s license wouldn’t that make him feel good. Best. Decision. Ever. His speech is nearly age appropriate. Some of my thoughts have been confirmed … it is hard to sound out words and blend with Apraxia… ordering your voice with your brain is HARD work. Because the school day WAS shorter, I could shuttle him to private speech therapy classes. I wouldn’t trade my decision if you had a stack of evidence a mile high. I am so glad I didn’t listen because in the end, they really don’t know how difficult apraxia is.
We had almost the exact same scenario. My son has an end of May birthday and the deadline to enroll in Kindergarten rolled around. They pressured me into it and I caved. I had many sleepless nights worrying about it after I enrolled him so I called the school and had them change him to half day Kindergarten. They obliged (not happily though) Everyone made repeated comments about how he was the only kid in 4 Kindergarten classes that was doing half day. Guess what, I didn’t care it was right for my baby and I would do it again. This may be an option for you as well. They do not advertise this option but I don’t think they can refuse if you ask. He also received his 2 speech services and 1 OT during the half day. He will start Kindergarten next fall and guess what…. he will be ready then and so will I.
Good luck to you and stick with your mommy gut. It is always right.