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10 Things I Wish I Knew About Sending My Kid to Kindergarten

Photograph by Getty Images/iStockphoto

Should I send my kid to kindergarten this year or next?

It's a question weighed by parents -- primarily moms -- who are overcome by fear and indecision. A high-brow, anxiety-ridden choice believed to have life-long consequences.

Maybe we should blame our helicopter culture, infusing us with the belief that there is a singular prescription for achievement, and by micromanaging our tiny miracles, we can bestow happiness and success on them and us.

Maybe we choose to favor our business mindset over our hearts to solve the kindergarten question and help shoo away gnawing gut instincts that have served humans for thousands of years. Where research begins by badgering every mother of a summer baby to learn if their decision influenced scholastic achievement, athletic prowess or an interest in pyromania.

Whatever the reason, those with a summer birthday are stuck with an unfortunate schooling tradition. As the youngest or oldest child in the grade, they will either be shaving in the back of the classroom, wearing a cup size larger than the teacher or unable to reach the water fountain.

It's a dilemma that makes you pine for the simpler days of pre-school when worries were contained to the occasional biter and the reoccurrence of norovirus.

I was one of those mothers who went blind crazy trying to decide what was the right decision for our child. Bless the heart of my husband, who gave me sideways glances while I talked to myself, and refrained from saying anything about my mental state. And bless our first born who will always be the first to endure our parenting mistakes and successes.

When friends now reach out for advice about the dreaded "to send or not to send" question, I dig into my bag of mistakes and tell them what I wish someone had told me. And here are 10 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Sending My Kid to Kindergarten

  • Sign your child up for kindergarten. The kid you know in April, will not be the same person in August. A child's mind grows at an astounding rate and should not be judged as ready or not ready months before starting elementary school. By signing them up for kindergarten, you buy them and yourself more time to make a decision. You can make your final decision the week before school starts. School District be damned.
  • Stop comparing your kid to others. We live in an incredibly competitive society, where your neighbors are probably both Olympians and Ivy League standouts. As parents, we have to remind ourselves that the goal is not to raise Olympians or Ivy Leaguers (however lovely that may sound), but instead happy, resilient, healthy adults.
  • Look around you. If your kid has an older sibling or attended pre-school for three years, chances are they ready for kindergarten and would prefer to go to school with their buddies than eat glue for another year.
  • Holding back a smart kid doesn't make them the smartest in the class. Instead, they may become the student the teacher doesn't worry about, and end up spending the day reading in the corner, acting out, or quietly hating school.
  • Children who are held back are not more likely to become professional athletes or receive a sports scholarship. Less than half of a percent of kids grow up to become professional players. Students are 16 times more likely to attend an Ivy League school. (Check out the articles from CNBC and the Changing the Game Project.)
  • Listen to your kid. Are they talking about kindergarten? Can they articulate why or why not they want to go? Will they give you the "woman, what have you done to me" look when their buddies are getting on the bus, and you are driving them to pre-school, AGAIN?
  • Every kindergartener is working on something. Either social or academic.
  • Stop listening to those around you and start listening to your gut. You know your kid better than anyone else. The decision you make is the right one.
  • You have the right to change your mind.
  • Think ahead. If you decide to have another child, abstain from sex between November and February.

Jennifer Cunningham is the founder of Disruptive Ed. A media project to inspire communities to rethink education and challenge the status quo. Twitter & Facebook

First Published by Disruptive Ed, Aug. 2015

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