Raising Richmond: The oldest kid in class

Our daughter misses the cutoff for kindergarten in Richmond Public Schools by almost a month. We think she could be ready for kindergarten in the fall anyway, and I finally found out what our options are.

Among the worries that I have about my daughter’s pending introduction into grade school is not knowing when she’ll start. She’ll be five this fall, but her birthday misses Richmond Public Schools’ kindergarten cutoff of September 30th by a few weeks.

She’s always been a bright kid. She was an early talker, she has a great memory, and she can count to 130. Her preschool teacher has put her on par with the pre-K kids a year ahead, but if we go by the standard policies, she won’t be starting kindergarten until right before she turns six.

I think I would let it pass and go with the system if I wasn’t told so often that I should try to get her into kindergarten early.

Her pediatrician and preschool teacher have suggested that we find a private school for her to start kindergarten this year, and that way she’ll start first grade the fall she turns six. But I don’t even know if my child is ready for kindergarten. I can’t truly compare her to other kids since she’s my only one, but she keeps up with her friends who will be a grade ahead of her. Just because her parents and grandparents think she’s the smartest and best kid ever doesn’t mean schools will agree. She might not pass the school’s assessments in the same way she won’t smile in photographs when asked.

We worry that she’ll get bored and underperform. Now she’s in a class of 10 kids, and her teacher works with her and the other older kids on more challenging activities. When she’s in public school, classroom size won’t allow for that kind of attention. It gives me flashbacks of every year of school for me–waiting quietly for the learning to start while the teacher addressed the students who couldn’t shut up and sit down, even at 17.

VPI (Virginia Preschool Initiative) applications will be posted on February 15th, and open enrollment (if you want to send your kid to a school outside of your school zone) has already started. Faced with these deadlines, I thought I should finally find out what I can do with my rising public school student.

First I contacted the principal of the school in her district, and she got back to me very quickly with whom to contact, which let me know that, while she didn’t have the specifics, there are exceptions. I was handed off several times from the contact number she gave me, but with each “this is the person you need to contact,” it kept me thinking there was a way.1

Then the last response I got was that, no, there are no exceptions made for early admission to kindergarten. To paraphrase that email, consideration for early entry to kindergarten is on hold while a process is developed, and even that’s on the fence because there may not be any benefits to enrolling kids into kindergarten early anyway (I have seen as many studies and articles against and in support of sending children into kindergarten a little earlier).

So there you go. Honestly, I’m relieved to have an answer either way. Secondhand from a principal, I’ve heard that those who try to sneak in through private school for kindergarten face similar age requirements for first grade (one of my aunts also said this has backfired on her friends). Now I can use all that money that I would have spent on private school on nothing, because we didn’t have that money anyway.

Some good news is that two different people have told my husband and me that students in their children’s kindergarten classes have moved on to first grade at the beginning of the year after testing is done. I haven’t looked into this, because my child isn’t in kindergarten now for another 20 months. What I’m told today doesn’t apply that far in advance.

The worst thing that could happen is that our child goes into kindergarten when she is supposed to and then stays there. Is that really so bad? Does that mean she won’t do well? I have another aunt2 who teaches elementary school who thinks it’s better for kids to be a little older. I know plenty of people with October and November birthdays who were the older students in their grades, and they appear to be well-adjusted and successful contributors to society. When we see each other, I rarely have to tell these people to settle down so that we can start hanging out.

My daughter will probably still be challenged. It’s not like we sit down with her and teach her kindergarten lesson plans. There’s plenty she doesn’t know. And what would be so bad about being one of the oldest kids in the class? Maybe she’ll be one of the top performers. Or maybe she’s not a genius.3 Maybe when she’s six, the age differences between her and her classmates won’t matter as much.

My daughter loves school and loves learning. She happily does activities in her LeapPad books and she is especially proud when I tell her that I know something because she taught it to me.4 I want her to continue to feel encouraged to know more and share what she knows, and she’ll at least get that at home.

From what I can tell, talking to parents who already have kids in school, I will have plenty of work to do when school starts. I should save my energy for looking out for my daughter when she is actually in the school building, and give everyone some credit that she will not immediately disengage.

And if VPI doesn’t work out, I need to prepare for another year of full-time child care. Maybe that was the real reason I was interested in her getting into kindergarten early.

Photo by: woodleywonderworks

  1. I’m pleasantly surprised that I got an answer at all. I was expecting to be ignored since I currently don’t have a child in the school system. Although I kept getting handed off to other people, at least everyone promptly responded, and the last person actually reached out to me with an answer and not another name to contact. 
  2. I have an aunt for every situation. 
  3. She is. 
  4. Like candy canes are shaped as “J” for Jesus. I don’t know if this is true, but I’d never heard of it until she told me. 
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Kelly Gerow

Kelly Gerow lives and writes in Richmond. She probably does other stuff in Richmond, too.

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