Kindergarten Readiness 101     
  Dr. Megan M. Carlson, Principal

 No single factor determines whether a child is ready to start school. Here's how to tell if your child is mature enough physically, socially, and cognitively.

What are cutoff dates and how do I know if my child has met the deadline?

Cut off dates are deadlines schools use to determine who can enter the next kindergarten class. Your child must reach the age of 5 by the cutoff date, which is usually September 1 or December 1 in most schools, though some states have cutoffs as early as June or no deadline at all. Although your child's chronological age isn't the only way to decide whether he has what it takes to be a successful kindergartner, it is the most concrete factor we have. At Hebrew Academy, we use chronological age first – our cutoff date is December 1st – then once a child is five by September 1st of the year he starts kindergarten, we then focus on his or her physical, social, and cognitive development to help support his/her individual development. A big factor in a child’s readiness for kindergarten is, frankly, the parents’ preparedness to allow their child to separate and attend school knowing that her parents trust the school to educate their “baby.”

 What is kindergarten readiness?

Experts say no single or simple factor determines whether a child will thrive in kindergarten. Instead, a child's development needs to be evaluated on several fronts. His ability to think logically, speak clearly, and interact well with other children and adults are all critically important to success in school. A child's physical development also needs to be considered. 

In reality, very few children are equally competent in all these areas. Many children who are advanced intellectually may lag behind socially, while children who are extremely adept physically may be slower in terms of language development. 

But most early childhood educators agree that a child's developmental readiness is the most important gauge of readiness for kindergarten. In other words, when your child’s maturity level matches his/her chronological age, the educational experience will be positive. If however, a child’s emotional level seems incongruent with his age, beginning kindergarten may need to wait a year.

 How can I tell if my child is ready?

If your child is currently in preschool, talk to his teacher. She has a good sense of his development and how he compares with other children his age. We look for children who are able to separate from their parents without tears, who enjoy learning, who are curious, and who are beginning to move away from the “parallel play” stage of their development. We don’t expect children to know all their numbers, letters, phone number, etc. We also understand that many children are good at memorizing books, presidents’ names, or languages. In all cases, we look for the academic curiosity rather than rote learning in children. 

Visiting kindergarten classes in the schools you are considering can also give you invaluable information. As you stand in the back of the room, pay attention to how the other children are behaving, how they play with each other, and what kinds of skills they have. Can you picture your child sitting in one of those chairs and joining in an activity? Do you feel comfortable in the environment? Do children and adults seem happy and interested? 

Ultimately, you know your child’s and your needs best. Think about what he's like when he plays with others, and when he's alone in his room. Then ask yourself the following: 
1) Can my child listen to instructions and then follow them? Children need these skills to function in class, to keep up with the teacher and with their peers. 

2) Is she able to put on her coat and go to the bathroom by herself? Children need to be somewhat self-sufficient by school age. 

3) Can he recite the alphabet and count? Most kindergarten teachers assume that children have at least a rudimentary familiarity with the ABCs and numeration though these subjects will be covered as part of the kindergarten curriculum.

 4) Can he hold a pencil? Cut with scissors? He will need these fine motor skills to begin working on writing the alphabet and to keep up with classroom projects. 

5) Does he show an interest in books? Does he try to "read" a book by telling a story based on the pictures? This is a sign that his language development is on a par with other kindergartners and that he's ready to start learning how to read. 

6) Is he curious and receptive to learning new things? If a child's curiosity is stronger than his fear of the unfamiliar, he will do well in school. 

7) Does she get along well with other children her age? Does she share and know how to take turns? She'll be interacting with other children all day, so your child's social skills are particularly important for success in school. 

8) Can she work together with others as part of a group? Does she follow as well as lead in groups or does she always need to be in charge or in the background?  The ability to put her needs second, to compromise and join in a consensus with other children, is also part of emotional competence. 

If you answered "yes" to most of these questions and "sometimes" to the rest, your child is most likely ready for kindergarten. If not, your child might well benefit from another year of preschool, or from one of the transitional or pre-K classes now being offered by The Hebrew Academy.

 If you are not sure, come visit! We conduct group tours on Thursday mornings, and Dr. Carlson, our principal would be happy to meet with you and your child to give you feedback as to the match between your child/family and Hebrew Academy.

 To schedule a tour or a visit, contact Nelli Greenspan at 714-898-0051.