Parents should send questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or ask them on the columnists' Web site at www.dearteacher.com.
Kindergarten Starting Age Can Affect Entire Life
Question: My children are in college and college graduates. Since they had summer birthdays, I thought long and hard about when to send them to school. It was a hot topic of discussion with other moms at the time. Over the years, I watched my children and their classmates and how they handled high school – driving, drinking, dating and getting into and staying in college.
The point I would like you to express to parents is that the age that they send their children to school sets the stage for the age they will be when they face all the trials of high school, as well as college. Will they be mature enough for these challenges?
When you are a parent of kindergarten-age children, it is hard to think about them all grown up, but it happens in only 12 years. This is something to think about when deciding to send a very young child to kindergarten. – Been There
Answer: Your letter really says it all. Many young children, not all, need some extra time before starting school. Once they start the educational process, there is no stopping. We wonder why so many parents want to push their very young children into kindergarten. It often pays dividends to let them enjoy being children longer without the pressure of attending our current more academic kindergartens. The school experience, at least initially, usually is more successful for older children.
Transferring to a Quality School
Question: Students across the street from our house go to an excellent Blue Ribbon School in another district. Our children's assigned school, in a different district, is not nearly as good. I looked up all the students' scores. I really want my kids to go to the neighbor's school. What should I do? Just fudge our address? – Want to Transfer>
Answer: If you are considering transferring your children to the neighbor's school, you should do it legally or totally forget about the move. Lying about your address is definitely a terrible example for your children. Plus, you will be constantly worried about being caught. If you are caught, there can be severe penalties – even jail time in some cases.
Begin by calling your children's school district and the other school district to find out about transfer possibilities. Consider also that could be a more appealing school in your own district that your children might be able to attend. Do look into your district's charter schools, as they may enroll children from less-defined boundaries. Plus, if either a husband or wife works in a business in a school district, it is sometimes possible for children to attend a school in that district. Look into all these possibilities. If you are adamant about having your children attend a different school, you may need to move or consider a private school.
Choosing between Transitional and Traditional First Grade
Question: My daughter just finished kindergarten. She received mostly S's and a few N's. The teacher wants her to be placed in the transitional first grade, as she sometimes mixes up letter sounds and upper and lowercase letters, as well as some numbers when writing them to 100.
To me, transitional first grade is a repeat of kindergarten because the next year she would go to first grade. I have purchased a summer reading program that the school was offering to help my daughter this summer with her letter friends. What else can I do to avoid her being placed in the transitional first-grade classroom? – Against Transition Classes
Answer: Kindergarten teachers who have worked with children for an entire year can easily identify those who do not seem to be as ready for first grade. The purpose of transitional first-grade classrooms is to give children the additional preparation that they probably need. It serves to solidify kindergarten skills. Many of the students who are assigned to transitional classrooms are younger children with summer birthdays or those whose teachers considered them immature.
You are absolutely correct in saying that transitional first-grade classrooms are a form of retention. On the other hand, today's first-grade classrooms have become very rigorous academically. The few long-term studies done on children who went to a transitional first grade generally show comparable achievement later on to children who were recommended and attended first grade. The results are less positive for those who were recommended for transitional first grade and instead went on to first grade.
Be sure to talk with the teacher about your desire for your child to go on to first grade rather than to the transitional first grade. Ask the teacher for specific suggestions about ways to strengthen your child's reading and math skills.
In any case, it would be a good idea to use the school reading program that you purchased. You can get more ideas on how to improve your child's reading skills at the International Reading Association Web site at www.readwritethink.org. Improve her number skills by having her write the numbers and play Bingo and other number games.
Before school starts again, ask the school to re-evaluate your child's skill level. You may find that she has gained the skills needed for the regular first-grade classroom.