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January 29, 2008

Ready...or not?!

Last week, I sent home fliers about kindergarten registration, starting at the end of February. As expected, I was flocked with questions, emails, and phone calls from parents asking “IS MY CHILD READY?” I suppose if there was someone to ask, it should be me--the “School Readiness” pre-kindergarten teacher!

I have a pretty good sense of which areas children need more practice in and which students are more successful at interacting with their peers. Thankfully, I try to work with each child individually at least once a week--if not more. I find that keeping a daily log and ongoing formal and informal assessments help track my students' progress.

Yet, every year when I get this question, sometimes I don't feel confident and I am torn with how to respond. Maybe because it is a decision that will affect their family, especially their child, for the rest of his/her life! I think parents should be the decision makers when it comes to this difficult question. However, that is never a good enough answer for my families. They want to know how their child is doing academically, whether they are socially ready for kindergarten, and if I think it is a good choice to hold them back.

For this reason, I have a collection of articles and checklists to help parents process this decision with me. We go through them together, remembering that we need to think about Ryan or Sylvia not only as a kindergartener but as a fifth grader, an eigth grader, a high school senior, and hopefully a college senior! Together, we discuss language skills, interest in learning and reading, ability to listen to stories and to play well with others, fine and large motor skills, and basic letter/number recognition. I encourage parents to spend time in our room as a volunteer so that they can observe their child and really think about the pros and cons of waiting to enroll.

Ultimately, this process reminds me that not only am I teaching and learning with young children, I am facilitating and mentoring families through some of their most important life decisions. This comes with a lot of pressure, but I am able to provide my families with the tools to make informed and thoughtful choices.

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