My daughter was born in October, my favorite month as it happens to be the same one that I was born in. The only problem with being born in October is that our school district has very strict rules about when children should start Kindergarten. The magic date is September 1. Any child who is not five years old BEFORE September 1 doesn’t start Kindergarten until the next school year. Our district is very strict about this rule. I have a friend whose daughter was born ON September 1. She started Kindergarten when she was six, and she’s now the oldest kid in her class.
Our district is very stern with parents who think their children should start Kindergarten early. You can challenge this rule by paying $500 to test your September/October baby. But they don’t bend the rules for anyone, including kids who miss passing the $500 test by a point or two (no refunds, by the way).
In general, I think this is a good rule. It’s taken me almost five years to come to terms with it. My worry for my daughter is that I was also an October baby, but my old school district’s cutoff was December. So I started Kindergarten when I was four, and I was always one of the youngest in my class. I was also one of the tallest and most mature in my class (in terms of physical development, at least). If I had been held back a year, it would have made an awkward childhood even more, well, awkward. My daughter is following my footsteps in terms of height and maturity.
Now I had come to accept our district’s rule and even view it as a good thing, particularly after my son started public school and I realized how much more is expected of kids at school today. I remember learning colors and the alphabet in Kindergarten. My son’s Kindergarten class was learning to read and basic math… including some simple algebra.
Maybe an extra year for my daughter wasn’t a bad thing, I thought. I made my peace with the idea that she would be the tallest in the class — it wasn’t the end of the world. When the school year started last September, I was actually a little relieved to drop my daughter off at her Pre-K class instead of stressing over another year of Kindergarten homework and lost lunch boxes.
Then this week we had a meeting with her Pre-K teacher, who told us that our little girl was already testing at the 79th percentile on Kindergarten tests BACK IN SEPTEMBER. What? The 79th percentile A YEAR BEFORE she even starts Kindergarten?
My reaction? Damn! What am I going to DO with her?
More specifically, what is the school district going to do with her. Because my daughter is what we call a “spirited child” these days. And if a spirited child already knows everything the poor Kindergarten teacher is going to be teaching, she is going to be bored. And a spirited child can be very distruptive in a classroom environment when she’s bored.
I foresee a very interesting parent-teacher conference next year.
So yes, my 5-year-old daughter can read, do basic arithmetic and count coins. Any parent would be proud… except for me. I’m the only parent in the world who looks at her child’s reading scores and thinks, “Dang it. She can read that well already?!? I’m so screwed.”