How can I make a truly educated decision about kindergarten readiness for my son?
We are having such a hard time deciding if our youngest son, who will be 5 in the beginning of August, is ready to start kindergarten. He knows most of his letters by sight, but when asked to write them, he needs visual reminders. He can write his name and can recognize his name when he sees it. He can count from 1-10, but not 10-20. When he doesn't know something, he starts to clown around, trying to deflect the fact he doesn't know the answer. When we sit with him to work on letters/numbers, he is focused for about 5 minutes, then he loses it. He plays well with other children in his preschool class, shares well, generally follows directions from the teachers and likes to sit still for stories (for the most part). At preschool, when he has to sit and do a worksheet, he typically rushes through it so he can go and play with his friends. Is this typical knowledge and behavior of a child ready to start kindergarten in the Fall? Our only frame of reference is his older brother who was writing all his letters at the age of 2 and was reading by the age of 4. We don't want our younger son to feel like he is in the "educational" shadow of his advanced older brother, however, we don't want to "red-shirt" him unnecessarily. Any advice is appreciated. Thank you!
I applaud you and your husband for gathering as much information and advice as possible in order to make this tough decision. There are a couple of things to consider when trying to decide whether to send him off to kindergarten or "redshirt" him for a year. Some studies have shown that children (particularly boys) born in the summer who were redshirted for a year tend to do slightly better academically than their same-age peers who went off to school at the age of five. For more information on this, take a look at the second and third links below.
However, how well a child does depends on other important indicators of a child's well-being, such as their physical, social, and emotional development. Kindergarten and preschool teachers evaluate a child's readiness on a variety of indicators. Typically the indicators that are deemed most important for readiness include an ability to take care of their own biological and personal needs, an interest in learning, and the capacity to tolerate a structured learning environment, such as circle time. Basically, the question you are trying to best answer is the following: Is my son ready to be a student? They don't need to know all of their numbers and letters, yet. They just need to be interested and prepared to learn. The first link below is an article on some of the readiness indicators. The last link includes a kindergarten readiness quiz.
If you remain uncertain, I would invite you to talk to your son's preschool teacher. She has likely seen many children who are ready, not very ready, and borderline in their readiness. What would she recommend for your son?
L. Compian, Ph.D.
Education.com Expert Panel
Before you make a decision, I suggest you read the first 28 pages of the book "Outliers" by Malcom Gladwell.
He compares statistics about student athletic and academic achievement in relation to age. What he points to a stastically significant difference achievement that correlates to the their ages (only months' difference apart). The relatively oldest students in class or on a team have an outsized impact on coaches and teachers in terms of what they think students can achieve. A few months difference in age makes noticeable differences in the abilities of the students -- physically, emotionally and mentally.
Over time, these differences become magnified as the coaches and teachers focus on those who they perceive to be the most talented, but are actually the oldest in their class or on their team.
You can see these statistical differences in standardized tests, and even in those who go on to college. The relatively youngest students in a college age group are under-represented by more than 11%.
Speaking from personal experience, I was one of the youngest in my class (Sept birth month). I was considered gifted entering 1st grade -- never went to kindergarten. But I barely passed 1st and 2nd grade and was miserable in both. Although I graduated high school with honors, I felt I needed to wait a couple of years before going to college.
He's more likely to be bored and gifted than not ready. (IQs do not tend to vary much within a family.) Waiting a year sometimes smooths the first couple of months, but it's been shown to permanently lower IQ, on average, and really has NO benefit beyond the first year.