Kindergarten – Did We Make The Right Decision?

by Kerry Rivera


I believe as parents, no matter our differences, we generally agree on those big milestone moments in our children’s lives. First smile, first steps, first words, potty-training … you get the idea.


But as my oldest child is on the brink of another one of those key passages of time – starting kindergarten – I’m not so concerned about myself getting weepy-eyed and reeling over the fact that he’s growing up. Rather, I’m contemplating if I’m crossing one of those milestone moments – those parenting forks in the road – where I’ll look back on our decision on where we sent him to kindergarten and wonder if it shaped his future … forever and ever.


Can this decision determine how smart he’ll ultimately be? How he’ll interact with kids? If he’s Ivy-League bound or destined for community college? I’m exaggerating, but really, I know I’ve made myself crazy about this one choice. What mother thinks like this?


Let me preface the rest of this article by saying yes, I’m a total Type A personality. I’m a researcher, a list person, a planner. You’d think with those traits I’d have had everything figured out about my children’s futures by now. Forget Kindergarten, I’m already daydreaming about colleges, right? But in reality, I only decided about a week ago where we’d send our first-born – and already I’m wondering if we made the right decision.


Let me give you a glimpse into the inner-workings of my obsessive mind …


For the past three years, in part because we’re a dual-income family, my son has attended pre-school. But not just any pre-school … we paid top-dollar for a program that provided structure, enrichment, academics and lots of love. He’s thrived, matured and really developed into a bright little boy. As his mom, I know I’m totally biased. But if you met him, I really think you’d agree.


So last spring we started thinking about Kindergarten. Do we keep him at the private school for another year, since they have a full-day Kinder program? Or do we enroll him in our local public school – something we had planned to do all along? Our school district is definitely solid and we’ve heard nothing but good things about the teachers. The bummer is that it is only a half-day program. They do have an on-site after-care facility offering play, arts and crafts and the works, but is that really enriching and the best use of his time?


We knew if we elected to keep him at the private school, he would continue to thrive in this relatively sheltered environment with children of like-minded parents. He’d also continue to be pushed academically. The major con? It would cost us about a “gazillion dollars” to keep him there, and he would have to make the transition to a new school the following year since this school only offers classes through Kinder.



How about a discussion on WHEN you send your child to school. All across america, we have different standards on cut-off dates AND how flexible they are. We have kids entering kindergarten who are 7 (giving them the gift of a year, plus)! How this will shake out when these kids are 17 is yet to be determined, but I vote for one national standard that gets bent only according to some universal guidelines. Don't we all think it is weird that there is an 18-month swing in the ages of the children in any given grade? What happened to the days where kids were applauded ... for skipping a grade! No more.


Thanks Lulu. My son sounds similar to your daughter. He is kind of sensitive and resistant to change, so we're hoping exposing him to this environment enables him to grow those social skills. We're now two weeks in and he's loving his new class. I guess it's always a good thing if you can have your children loving school, so we're pleased. Got an e-mail from a Mom who elected to keep her child in the private school and she said he's being bombarded with homework and hating it. At 5, that's just too much ... For now, I'm glad my son is having fun and is confident in school with the base he has established in Pre-School. Glad to hear your children are doing well!


Peach, I thought we were here for community and support. Maybe you have an opposing point of view, which would be great to hear, but just criticizing like this doesn't serve much of a purpose.


I went through almost the exact same scenario as you--stay in the private daycare for a gazillion dollars or do public K and pay merely a million for the extended day option. We elected the public route both times (my son's now in 2nd grade and daughter is in K) and so far, so good. Not perfect, but good.

What I found with my son is that he did, indeed, backslide a bit ascademically in K as we waited for the other kids to catch up. But by the end of grade 1 he was back on track and is doing great in grade 2.

With my daughter, I worry a bit more b/c she is so advanced academically. She was really pushed by her preschool teachers and rose to every challenge. Where she needs help, though, is socially. She was in a very small, very isolated group and has yet to branch out. K will give her the opportunity to do so.

What I believe is that kids learn at their own paces and learn through all experiences--not just through rigorous academics. Try to remember that as your son goes meets new kids, goes through the lunch line and navigates playground politics. He'll learn so much more than if he stayed in his little world. (At least that's what I'm telling myself!).


Whiner. Let's leave it at... wish I had your problems.


I think worrying this much about each and every decision is going to make our kids crazy. They will be paralyzed at the thought of making any kind of decision, thinking it ALWAYS has irreversible repurcussions. I think it will also make our children painfully self-centered. "What should I have for dinner????!!!" as if the world depended on it. Go with the flow a bit. I'm type A too. But don't want to inflict it on my kids. So I try to limit it to my own life. Not theirs. We'll see what happens. They've been in public school since the beginning. One in 4th grade, one in 1st. In the city no less. They seem a-ok to me. They love to read so I'm happy.


When I went to kindergarten, we still had nap time and milk and cookies. The push to do more faster is making parents and, more importantly, kids stressed out and unhappy.

Money shouldn't be the deciding factor in where to send your kids to school (assuming you can afford private school, that is); an environment in which he/she will thrive is as well parents who are supportive (not hovering!)

My kids are products of our public schools; one is doing well, the other one, with learning challenges, always struggled. There's no support for kids "outside the box."

But you might want to rethink this kind of thinking: "They do have an on-site after-care facility offering play, arts and crafts and the works, but is that really enriching and the best use of his time?"

Play? Arts? Crafts? What else should 5- and 6-year-olds be doing?