Something happened the last year my daughter was in preschool, everyone started talking about birthdays. Not fun topics like, “What kind of cake are you serving, but tough ones like, ‘are you holding your daughter back another year because of her birthday?’”
I was stunned. Should I?
My daughter is a “summer birthday” (a term used to define children who barely make the cutoff for kindergarten because of their birthdays). Other moms would ask about this strange “summer birthday” and want to know what I was going to do about it. Huh? Well, I guess have a party?
They weren’t talking about parties (bummer, because I’m great at that subject). They were talking about Transitional Kindergarten. A phrase I am familiar with these days as my “summer birthday” daughter is a proud student in TK . . . or in some circles JK.
She loves it, and so do I. It is the perfect environment for hands-on learning, social development, and early skills. She plays and learns and laughs. She is learning to concentrate, she never complains about going to school, and she is starting to read and write new words everyday.
Childhood development varies. Some “summer birthdays” may excel in Kindergarten, while others need another year to work on gross motor skills and concentration. For my daughter, it was concentration. She needed another year to learn to focus (a trait I am sure she gets from me) so she could get the most out of a kindergarten setting.
If you are in the middle of the “summer birthday discussion” . . . you are in luck. There are a tremendous resources to help you make the best decision for you and your summer babe. Read this insightful article from Scholastic about the rise in popularity of a Transitional Kindergarten year. It was enlightening!
You can also have your child tested to evaluate their readiness. We visited with physiologist, Terry Hudson Huntley. She spent time with our family and gave us insightful information which allowed us to make an educated decision. The most creative tool Terry used was when she asked our daughter to name all the animals she could in thirty seconds. She named only one. I was stunned, clearly our five-year-old knew more than just one animal!? She did, but in those thirty-seconds she talked about the first animal she named and how much she liked it. Before she knew it, time was up. The point of this exercise wasn’t to test her knowledge of animals, rather to test her ability to concentrate.
Many independent schools offer a Transitional Kindergarten year and almost all preschools offer a comparable program. Research your options carefully and keep an open mind.
Finally, trust your instincts. You know your child best. Don’t worry too much about what everyone around you is doing and be prepared for a ton of unsolicited advice (some good and some downright judgmental). Go with what is right for you knowing your “summer birthday” will learn at their own pace, no matter where they end up!