Parents who are considering early entrance to kindergarten for their children have a lot of questions! They are certainly concerned whether or not this is the right decision for their child, and they wonder how to make the decision.
1. One of the myths we hear is that precocious preschoolers no longer stand out a few years after they enter school. People might say that the other students “catch up” once they reach 1st or 2nd grade. Do talented 4-year-olds actually plateau in their learning and end up not being that far ahead of their peers?
This question comes up frequently, especially with younger students who are just entering school. In a nutshell, the answer is “no.” Gifted students tend to perform better than average students all the way through school. The caveat here is that they thrive when they are consistently challenged. If left to languish in an under-stimulating classroom, they don’t do as well. Gifted students need a challenging environment, and early entrance to kindergarten might provide just the challenge needed.
2. What types of schools are most receptive to having students skip grades or enter kindergarten early?
Schools differ remarkably on this, and, unless there is a specific written policy on early entrance to school or grade-skipping in general, the response might depend on the administrator. For example, a school may not have a policy specifically supporting early entrance to kindergarten, but a given principal might be very receptive to the idea and work carefully with families that might need that option. A huge public school system might have the resources to challenge students effectively, but it might have a policy in place that prevents students from entering school early. A small, under-resourced school with an innovative principal and small classrooms might provide exactly what a student needs. Parents need to spend some time researching the schools in their area and asking questions concerning early entrance to school. Volume 1 of A Nation Empowered (www.nationempowered.org) is a quick read and provides a lot of information supporting various types of acceleration and is an ideal resource to provide to a busy principal or administrator.
3. How do we figure out if my child should enter kindergarten early?
There are lots of great resources that can help you with this important decision. First, see the Acceleration Institute website: www.accelerationinstitute.org. Look for the section for parents (http://accelerationinstitute.org/parents.aspx) and Questions and Answers (http://www.accelerationinstitute.org/Resources/QA/). Also, look at the chapter on whole-grade acceleration and early entrance to kindergarten in Volume 2 of A Nation Empowered (www.nationempowered.org). The book is available for purchase, and it is also available as a free download from the website. There is also a tool specifically designed to help families and schools make good decisions about grade-skipping and early entrance to school, the Iowa Acceleration Scale (http://www.accelerationinstitute.org/Resources/IAS.aspx).
4. Is it possible to find schools who will provide a more customized education while allowing my child to be surrounded by age-peers?
Yes. They might be public, private, or parochial schools. Again, you’ll need to do some research in your area to find the best fit. Additionally, take a look at acceleration policy information provided here: http://www.accelerationinstitute.org/Resources/Policy/By_State/Default.aspx. It will help to be informed about policies in your state, if you are going to approach a public school with your questions. This article presents data about state cutoff dates for kindergarten entry: http://ecs.force.com/mbdata/mbquestRT?rep=Kq1402
5. What types of questions should we be asking when looking for schools that are the right fit and can accommodate a precocious preschooler?
This website is helpful: http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/choose_school.htm
In fact, I encourage you to explore the Hoagies gifted website in general. It’s chock-full of information! See: Info about early entrance to kindergarten: http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/kindergarten.htm and the Blog Hop on acceleration (the individual stories from families are great!): http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/blog_hop_acceleration.htm
You might also enjoy reading one parent’s experience with early entrance to kindergarten: http://tinyurl.com/kgzlwbo. The author discusses concerns such as physical development and social development. The last paragraph concludes, “One principal I spoke with was honest about this. ‘We used to test children for kindergarten readiness, but there were too many problems when a child didn’t qualify for kindergarten. Now we just use a cutoff date.’ Our children deserve better than this.”
- Selection of Candidates for Early Admission to Kindergarten and First Grade, by Nancy Robinson and Linda Weimer: http://www.davidsongifted.org/db/Articles_id_10123.aspx
- Ohio Dept. of Education Written Acceleration Plan and other great resources for school personnel. http://education.ohio.gov/Topics/Other-Resources/Gifted-Education/Resources-for-Parents/Academic-Acceleration-for-Advanced-Learners