A friend of mine recently asked for my advice on whether or not he would put his son in kindergarten this year or give him one more year of preschool. He and his wife have decided that they definitely want their son to be older in kindergarten. However, they wondered if there would be a benefit to starting him in kindergarten this year with the intention of having him repeat it again next year. His reasons were that it would save a considerable amount of money by not having to pay for preschool. Also, it would give him one year of practice in kindergarten and then he could do it again next year as the real deal.
I remember my son being quite a bit younger than the other kids in his class and I wondered about putting him into kindergarten for 2 years or giving him one more year of preschool and making him a year older before he began. So, I could relate to this logic.
But, here are some things that I recommend for people who are considering putting their child in kindergarten before the child is ready to take it seriously. Kindergarten is rather rigorous now, not like it was when we were kids. There is a very high expectation for behavior and achievement. A child that is not mature enough will feel like they are not able to keep up with the other kids. This could result in being labeled by the teacher as immature and possibly being labeled by peers as well. He may also develop self-confidence issues when trying to compare himself to other kids that are older and more mature. Once a child has experienced an entire school year, whether or not they were ready, they have experienced all of its special moments. When they repeat the same grade level, none of those special moments are a surprise. The year may seem a little less magical and for a child, may even seem boring and predictable.
So, here are some alternatives that parents may want to consider when waiting for one extra year to start kindergarten. Some preschools offer a pre-K program that is a transitional year between preschool and kindergarten. Parents may also choose to increase the days that their child goes to preschool. Kindergarten is five days a week. For older kids, preschool can be an opportunity to begin getting into that routine.
But I definitely do not recommend using kindergarten as a dress rehearsal, or a training camp. It is something that should be taken seriously the first time through.
Here are some other articles to read about kindergarten readiness: