Starting kids in school early - what do you think?

My daughter’s birthday is in late January, so it’s not a lot earlier, but we have a choice of starting her this upcoming school year (she would be four) or waiting until she officially turns 5.

She wold be in the same class as her cousin, who is the closest thing she has to a sibling (for now) and it would be in French Immersion, so the program is slightly more challenging. She is extremely bright and I can’t see her having any problems with the work, but what about the social aspects…?

What do you guys think? Did any of you start school early? How did you fare? Did you find it an advantage or disadvantage?

Any education professional opinions are more than welcome of course! I spoke to a principal friend of mine and he said that girls don’t generally have any problems.

Of course, every kid is different, but…

Imho, it’s a bad deal. Think about it this way: a child that enters school at the age of 5 will have 25% more development-time (emotionally, physically, mentally, socially) than a child entering at the age of 4. That matters.

When your child grows older, she’ll be one of the last to (drive, turn 16, go through puberty, date, etc) in her class. Always. If you hold her back, she’ll be among the first (or at least in the middle). It’s stupid shiite, of course, but this matters a lot to kids and being the last among your friends to be allowed to “do anything” is wearying.

Definitely a bad idea. Kids develop rapidly all the way through puberty, so that the smaller/less mature kid stands out. Besides, what’s your hurry? Give the kid a little more time to be carefree.

My daughter went to school on time, but took a course load in HS that let her graduate early. If yours wants to do that when the time comes, fine. But don’t try to push her out of childhood. She has a whole life ahead of having to do things.

That last should read:

“and always being the last among your friends to be allowed to “do anything” is wearying.”

We started our oldest daughter at four and it didn’t really work out. Academically, there was no problem (she could already read), but emotionally and socially she wasn’t ready and she didn’t do well with the structure (she always got up from her table and wandered around the room while the teacher was talking, didn’t follow directions, etc.).

We took her out and started her over again the next year. She’s in first grade now and doing great.

That’s just one kid, of course. We knew she was precocious in terms of intellect but that’s not all that matters. I think it’s good to start teaching some things at home before kindergarten, though.

I was an early starter, and I wish I hadn’t been. Like the previous posters said, it sucked being the youngest all the time.

But one bit of information we don’t have: is she in group day care or preschool? If she is, and it’s close to the same hours and she’s doing well and loves it, then it might not be such a big deal to move her into kindergarten. If she’s not, I’d do that, starting at part-time and working up, for the next year. Kindergarten ain’t what it used to be. Socialization, counting, waiting your turn, learning your colors and shapes - all that’s expected *before *day 1 (or at least by the end of the first month). Kindergarten really is academic now.

Our school cutoff is September 1.

I have one son, now in second grade, with an end of August birthday, and one daughter, now in first grade with a September birthday.

We held him back. He is one of the oldest kids in his class. We didn’t push her forward, she is also one of the oldest kids in her class.

In my opinion, there is a lot more to this than just intellectual readiness - that may be the least important factor. My kids are both pretty bright, but they have a year of emotional maturity they wouldn’t have had if I started them earlier. This is particularly important for my daughter, who isn’t very emotionally mature. Emotional and physical maturity will play a big part in their self image as they go through school - probably more so than the intellectual maturity we like to focus on. Being the last person to hit puberty, be able to drive, etc., is difficult, and pushing her forward means that she will be with kids who are ready to date perhaps before she is.

They are both doing great and their teachers both think we made the right decision.

I have a friend who teaches junior high English and said “I’ve only had one kid come through where I’ve though ‘maybe they should have enrolled him early’ - I have several every year that I think they started him (or her) too early and things would have just been easier for the student with another year of maturity before school.”

I was the youngest kid in my class due to starting in a district with a later cutoff date. It wasn’t horrible - but I was the last to drive, I was the last to hit puberty, I did have high school self esteem issues - and intellectually, it didn’t help me ‘acheive potential’ or anything. When you are smart, you tend to stick out in a not-positive fashion in high school anyway. Smart and younger than everyone else can make you a target.

I definitely don’t think it’s a good idea. It might not matter in middle school or high school but it will in elementary school.

Very true. Even with clubs like Girl Scouts her classmates can join and she might not be able to.

I started a year early. Never really caused me any problems - always did well in school. By the time I got to high school, most of my friends were at least one year older than my classmates anyway, so I imagine being the oldest in class (but a year behind in grade) would have exacerbated that situation. It was sometimes a pain being the last one to whatever, but not any real biggie; I don’t remember ever getting any grief for it. Most of my problems were from being very shy and introverted - something for which age isn’t really a solution.

My step-daughter, on the other hand, started at the usual age but had to do a “transition” year between 2nd and 3rd grade. She just wasn’t emotionally/socially mature enough. Did great after that, though.

It all depends on your child. You know her better than anyone and will have to make the call.

FWIW, I also graduated a year early and started college at 16. Now that was a mistake.

Thanks so much for your responses - I realize she would be starting early - but it’s a matter of a few months, not a year - the cut-off for her year is Dec. 31, her birthday is January 22, so it’s actually less than a month difference.

Does that change anything? She would be four-and-a-half, so it’s not quite a whole year.

Yes, she is in daycare - actually in the school she would be attending - and has been for the past few months. She is doing extremely well.

Yes, but note that what this means is that the “cut-on” date was January 1st, so in relation to the other children in her class she’s not merely a “month behind”, she’ll be a full year-and-a-month behind some of them.

It is worth noting that more and more parents are keeping their kids out of K an extra year, for various reasons (letting them mature more socially, giving them an “edge” in sports/academics later on, or worry about the current increased expectations in kindergarten). This means that kids who enter younger are at a bit more of a disadvantage than they would have been 20-30 years ago, when most of us were in K. I was a young kid in my class, and it wasn’t all that fun–not because of the academic work but because of social factors. I would hate to do it now, when half the parents I know are putting their kids in late.

I was started early.

On the one hand, I can now see that I probably was not socially developed enough and was definitely behind the curve there. (Of course, there were also other factors that may have been more a problem with social development than just the age thing. It’s hard to separate out what made the most difference)

On the other hand, I was more than ready academically and staying out of school another year would have not been good for me that way. I would have gone from being mostly bored and very occasionally challenged to completely bored and not motivated at all had I been another year older. I also think the other factors would have been even more exaggerated had I been the “right age.”

Of course, it depends on the child in question. But, I’m glad they started me early.

Being the youngest to do anything was never a problem.

I skipped kindergarten and started first grade a whole year early. I feel it had two sides to it - I always felt like I’d missed out on something, and there was certainly an emotional maturity issue for the first few years, but if I hadn’t skipped I think I’d have gotten in even more trouble than I did - I was always acting up because I was bored, and a year later would have been disastrous on that front. Your mileage may, of course, vary.

My son turned five on 9/11. He started school during the middle of August. He had been in day care since he was a baby and started TotTime when he was three. About two months prior to starting kindergarten, I sent him to a new pre-school that had longer hours and was supposed to be more “academic”. He transitioned well and the teachers assured me he’d be ready to start school.

Most of his classmates are turning 6 as their birthdays arrive. He’s as big as or bigger than most all of the boys in the class. He’s doing well school-work wise, but during the parent-teacher conference she mentioned he WAS easily distracted. He’d just not be paying attention during circle time.

I was an “old” student. I had my own apartment in high school. That enabled me to indulge in all sorts of immoral activity. I like knowing that there’s no way my kid’s moving out during high school. I didn’t go to college - straight to work. And college nowadays is not an option, it’s two or four more years of school that’s required.

Ditto on the boredom. That was the main reason my parents started me early - they already had one bright troublemaker who caused problems because he was bored in class. I think his birthday was just barely too late for the deadline, so he started the next year.

I will second what dangermom said. More and more parents are starting their kids a year late, if possible, because they think it gives their kid a leg up on the “competition”. Your daughter could end up being two years younger than some of the other kids. I don’t agree with holding your kid back, but I would be hesitant about starting her early.

And, as dangermom noted, more people are holding their kids back. While my kids are among the oldest in their classes, there are kids almost a full year older than THEY are. That can create a three year gap between the oldest kid in the class and the youngest.

I think the advantages to doing this are pretty slight (you get a restless four year old in school earlier, you get a leg up on starting life a year earlier - I don’t think it adds to the difficultly - a smart kid will pick up algebra (properly prepared) just as easy a year earlier as a year later - if you need enrichment, moving a kid ahead isn’t the way to go.

On the other hand, the risks are pretty big - mostly social and emotional - and difficult to project when you are looking at your four year old and trying to imagine what they will be like at fourteen. Maybe you’ll have a well adjusted kid who won’t have a problem. Maybe you’ll have a hormonal basket case no matter what you do.

The other thing to check out is how easy this is - its really a pain in the back end to do in our district - in fact, it basically isn’t done. When we were considering it, I thought it was just a matter of registering my kids when I felt they were ready, but there is a huge exception process to go through - and they almost never give a kid permission.

Wow. Your kid was born on 9/11/01? You must have had some pretty mixed emotions on that day.

Me too. My daughter was born right at the cutoff, and we held her back for a year, and it has paid off wonderfully. (She’s in college now, so we have some data.) In NJ, our school district had a pre-first, for kids from kindergarten who weren’t quite ready for first grade yet. Some of our friends sent their kids there, and it paid off.

When I was in school the cutoff was Dec 31, and I was born in November, so I was young. I had no problem with the schoolwork, but socially I could have benefitted from an extra year.

As for boredom - there are plenty of good program a kid can go to, and parents can give a lot more than a kid will get in school, assuming they have the time.