Parents, Are You Ready for Kindergarten? A Guide for Families
By: Wendy Grove
Is there a child in your life who is 5 years old (or turning so soon) who is amazing you with all he or she knows? Mamas, daddies, grandparents and loved ones, that baby of yours is growing up! After surviving midnight feedings, watching them learn to walk and talk and answering their endless questions, it is time to start thinking about kindergarten. February is the time of year most schools start requesting kindergarten registration paperwork.
Sending your child to kindergarten is a big change for many families, but the Department has updated its kindergarten resources to make this transition easier. Today, I am going outline a few of the basics you may need to know regarding kindergarten and preparing your child — and yourself — for school.
Where should my child go to school?
There are many schools and program types to consider when choosing the right option for your child. Know that you have choices! There are many options the Department wants you to be aware of so you make an informed decision about what is best for you and your child. Public schools, community schools, private schools, part-time, full-time, free, tuition-based, scholarships, open enrollment — what does it all mean? Whew, I’m out of breath. That is a lot! But don’t worry, to learn more about Ohio’s education options, browse the topics listed below:
- Do you know which school your child would attend based on where you live? There is an online tool to help you find your neighborhood school.
- Do you know all the options available to you when choosing a kindergarten setting? Learn about education options here. If you want to talk to someone about those options, staff contact information is available on that website.
- What about the neighboring school district where your friend’s child attends? Would that be possible? Open enrollment is when a school accepts children who live outside of the residential boundaries. Find out here which schools offer open enrollment.
When should my child start kindergarten?
Ohio state law says children are old enough to start kindergarten if they are 5 years old by the school district’s age cut-off date. That date is either Aug. 1 or Sept. 30. Each school district has chosen one of these dates. After you identify which district or school your child will attend, you can find out that school’s kindergarten age cut-off date by visiting its website or calling its office.
What does it mean to be “ready” for kindergarten?
Part of the when question may be whether your child is ready for kindergarten. Sometimes, people ask me if children should know how to read before starting school. The answer to that is “no.” But here is a list of knowledge and behaviors that might help you decide how ready your child is. The list also is a guide for how to help your child get ready for school. You should know that age is the only reason a public kindergarten program can accept or deny your child’s registration for kindergarten. There is no state law that says a child must be able to do certain things in order to attend public school. If your child is gifted or has special education needs, or if you don’t yet know and need to know more, the link above has information about that too.
Why does kindergarten and early learning matter?
Research tells us that 90 percent of the brain is developed between birth and 5 years old. This means the time for learning is now! Children learn more during this time of life than in any other. Just think of all the life skills they have learned up to now: walking, talking, eating, dressing, brushing teeth, sharing, showing love and looking both ways before crossing the street. In kindergarten, your kiddo will learn how to do school, which is where he or she will spend a lot of time over the next 13 years. In addition to the foundational academic skills, like writing and numbers, children also learn (or continue learning) how to be away from family, make friends, establish relationships with other trusted adults, follow rules outside of home, and work through schedules, routines and steps to solve problems.
This is such a great time. I am so excited for you and your child! I hope you are as excited as your little one may be to “be a big kid” and start school. If you do have a kiddo at home that seems more scared or worried about beginning kindergarten, I hope the resources and this blog will help you support your child in feeling more confident about kindergarten.
If you have other questions about starting school, try the Department’s Frequently Asked Questions. The Department also has a great team of education specialists who can answer your questions — just contact them through the contact information at the link above.
Finally, one piece of advice from my own experience as a mama…this is harder on you than your child. Be strong and help your child feel confident. Your child takes cues from you. Always remember you are your child’s first teacher and biggest advocate. Your support can lead to your child’s success in kindergarten and beyond! So, let’s get ready! You have the next seven months to continue the steps to school! Then, you will walk your growing child into the school, post a first-ever, first day of school picture and exhale.
Dr. Wendy Grove is the director of the Office for Early Learning and School Readiness at the Ohio Department of Education, where she helps develop and implement policies for preschool special education and early childhood education. You can learn more about Wendy by clicking here.