Last fall, I had big plans for starting kindergarten with my daughter. Though not yet five years old, she had mastered the K4-level materials, so why not move on to K5 and give her a head start on life? On the other hand, I wondered if I would be robbing her of her childhood or setting her up for failure by beginning before she was ready. It was with these questions in mind that I asked advice from Carol, a mom who has twenty-five years of homeschool experience. While her family’s situation was slightly different from my own, I knew her insight would be valuable as my husband and I made this decision.
Carol began by explaining that we should approach this decision just like any other decision—by praying for wisdom. She said, “Carefully consider the reasons for the early start, make a good assessment to determine if the child is ready, get counsel and input from a few others you respect, use a good curriculum, and keep praying for wisdom. Don’t forget to have fun right along with your child!”
That struck me as perfect advice for parents of four- and five-year-olds. But I wasn’t sure what specifics I should look for to answer the question “Is my child ready for kindergarten?” Carol explained, “Some of the signs I looked for to gauge my daughter’s readiness for K5 included attention span, cooperation, motor skills, maturity level, and a desire to learn.”
These signs resonated with me because my daughter was still developing fine motor skills and maturity. Carol chose to start K5 with most of her children when they were five years old, but she began K5 with her youngest child when she was four. “After much prayer, seeking God’s wisdom, and confirmation from my husband,” Carol said, “I decided to begin K5 with my youngest child a couple months before she turned five years old. Many factors went into that decision, including her desire and enthusiasm to start K5, her success in completing K4, and my knowledge of the BJU Press K5 curriculum and experience of teaching it to my other children.” She added, “I definitely would not recommend beginning K5 at that age unless the child is ready. K5 should be a successful foundation, not a frustration. As it turned out, my daughter handled kindergarten very well.”
That curriculum helped Carol’s children enjoy learning. The education materials you choose will have a major impact on your child’s enjoyment of learning. “Each child is unique,” she said, “but all four of my children loved the BJU Press K5 curriculum and were very successful in accomplishing the objectives. They had fun learning and looked forward to school.”
Carol’s youngest is now in high school, so I asked how the early start in kindergarten had affected her daughter’s transition into later grades. Carol’s answer relieved some of my concerns. “Up through the end of eighth grade, she seemed ready for each successive grade emotionally, physically, and academically. Her scores on the Iowa Tests® have always been well above average and confirmed that she was ready to move on to the next grade level. Her transition into high school this year has been the first ‘hitch’ so far.”
Not exactly sure what caused the “hitch,” Carol’s been learning to trust God through it. She says, “My daughter has seemed overwhelmed at times with the amount of material covered in a day and also the number of quizzes and tests required. I’m not sure that this current bumpy road is due to the school grade as much as just adjusting to the teen years. It’s keeping this mom humble and praying and depending on God.”
After thinking through Carol’s advice and discussing the matter, my husband and I decided to wait on kindergarten. Our family situation this past year included a move and a new baby. So we continued to do preschool activities along with some basic reading instruction. My daughter loved learning how to read, but I’m thankful I held back on a full kindergarten program. The short and sweet period before formal schooling gave her time to develop her fine motor skills and to mature emotionally so that kindergarten will be less of a challenge and more of a joy.