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Is Your Child Kinder-Ready?

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Sending your child off to kindergarten is such a parental milestone. It's one of the largest stepping stones in your child's life and sets the foundation to create excitement and passion for learning. Preparing your child for his or her first foray into the "formal" education system is largely met with happy anticipation. But there's also a heavy dose of concern: Is my child ready for kindergarten?

A Newsweek article published in September 2006 added further complexity to this discussion when it examined if "kindergarten is the new first grade" -- where academics being pushed more aggressively in younger children versus traditional play-based learning. And moms and dads are left scratching their heads even more as they look to answer a very difficult question.

The reality is that there's no formula, no sure-fire way to tell if your daughter or son is kinder-ready. In the end, determining if your child is kinder-ready includes a mix of research, analysis and instinct that you're making the right choice.

If only it were as simple as making your decision on your child's birthday. Age is one definitive factor -- children can enter kindergarten as early as four years old in some schools if they have a late fall birthday. But there are multiple issues for parents to consider as they evaluate their child's readiness for school. According to the Clearinghouse on Early Education and Parenting, "readiness for kindergarten depends on the level of social, perceptual, motor, and language development expected by the teacher."

There are some basic concerns. For example, does your child know his colors and numbers? Can she write her name and cut with scissors? Parents should also assess whether their child can work independently as well as in a group. Can your child follow simple rules and instructions? Kindergarten teachers may expect their students to be able to begin and complete tasks; participate in group story time; follow directions; and, of course, share. Your child should also be able to handle personal tasks, such as going to the bathroom on his own, dressing himself, and eating lunch independently.

Abigail Munroe co-owns Footsteps Preschool, located in San Francisco's Silicon Valley. She's taught four-year-old students for more than 20 years and strongly recommends that parents partner with their child's preschool teacher as part of the decision-making process. Munroe conducts parent/teacher conferences twice a year to discuss the social, cognitive, physical and emotional development of each student. Each parent also receives a written evaluation of his or her child.

"When a child has been in a program for a period of time, the teacher becomes cognizant of how that child reacts in a classroom setting," said Munroe. "With that knowledge, the preschool teacher can often be in the best position to assist parents in making the kindergarten-readiness decision. Often, it is the preschool teacher's recommendation that is the defining factor for parents in their decision to delay their child's entrance into kindergarten."

In addition to partnering with their child's educator, Munroe suggests parents network with other parents to find out how their peers made the decision to send their child to kindergarten.

And, of course, the Internet offers tons of valuable information to help guide parents along the way, and help you ask the right questions to get your golden answer.

Looking for online resources and articles to help you decide if your child is kinder-ready? Check these out:

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