Delayed School entry big decision
Megan Hable remembers what it was like to decide whether to send her 5-year-old son to kindergarten.
"First and foremost, it was a matter of prayer between my husband and I for sure," she said. "You never want to make the wrong decision with your children. You always want to give them the best opportunities, but it was also a discussion with a preschool teacher."
Her daughter went to kindergarten in 2010, and she noticed that the younger children in the class -- those who had turned 5 right before starting school -- seemed to have the most problems with classroom discipline.
"I didn't want to start Nolan off on the wrong foot if he was just being a normal fidgety boy," Mrs. Hable, 33, a stay-at-home mother, said. "Maybe one more ... year would help him."
The Hables decided to hold Nolan, who has a June birthday, out of kindergarten at Jack Elementary School in 2011, but they kept him in the kindergarten program at the preschool he had been attending, Kids' Kaleidoscope, a ministry of Pollard United Methodist Church.
This year he started kindergarten at age 6 at Jack Elementary School, and Mrs. Hable said she and her husband couldn't be happier. "Instead of being the youngest boy in the grade, he's now the oldest," she said. "There's a sense of pride that goes along with that, knowing that he's the teacher's helper. ... I just think he's more ready."
Statistically, the majority of children enter kindergarten when they are 5 years old, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics.
However, every year a small percentage of children are delayed first-time kindergartners or repeat kindergartners.
Some call this delayed kindergarten entry "redshirting," a term borrowed from the college ranks when athletes delay participation in athletics to lengthen their eligibility. Others have their child repeat the grade, a decision not unlike the Hables.
Local educators said this issue is complex. It is an individual decision and one that requires parents to weigh a lot of factors, they said.
In Texas, children must be at least 5 years old on Sept. 1 of the school year in question to start kindergarten. However, kindergarten is not mandatory. A child is only required to attend school once they turn 6.
At St. Gregory Cathedral School in Tyler, a list of anonymous kindergarten birthdates showed five of 43 students in this year's entire class could have attended kindergarten last year, but apparently didn't or were "redshirted." Four barely made this year's cutoff turning 5 in August, but their parents still enrolled them.
St. Gregory Principal Kathy Shieldes Harry said the question of parents deciding when to enroll their students in kindergarten is nothing new.
"In all honesty, it's a very complex issue," said Mrs. Harry, who has been an educator for 37 years and St. Gregory principal for 21 years. "For me as an educator, the conversation that I have with parents about that is that it's first and foremost the parents' choice, and the parents need to make that decision or a decision that is best for their family and that particular child."
Academic and social preparedness are some of the factors parents consider when making this decision. Mrs. Harry said some parents consider their child's physical size or their own desires -- whether they are ready for their child to go to school.
She said several factors such as gender and birth order can come into play when it comes to a child's developmental level.
"Children develop at different ages," she said. "So there's not anything magical to say at 5 everybody's going to be successful in school. So that's the approach that I personally take is looking at the individual child because they're all going to be different."
Kristy Adams, 51, of Lindale, chose to redshirt two of her five children but for different reasons.
"The first one was my oldest one, and his birthday was May 5," she said. "He didn't have an extremely late birthday, but socially, we didn't feel like he was ready to be in the academic setting."
She said an example of this is that he would hide from relatives if he didn't feel like talking. She said the decision was the best for him and by the next year he was ready to go to school.
Ultimately, he finished high school in three years on an accelerated plan and now works as an avionics technician with the U.S. Air Force.
Mrs. Adams, who works in information technology, redshirted her youngest son, but for different reasons. He had a July 14 birthday.
"He was probably ready to go (in) every way," she said. "I just felt it like it's such a huge disadvantage for the younger ones with things like attention span (and) maturity."
She said the decision turned out to be a positive one for him. He is now a gifted and talented student.
Kindergarten teacher Dana Miller at Owens Elementary School in Tyler agreed with the individual approach.
A kindergarten teacher for 29 years, Ms. Miller said most of her students have been 5 years old, but occasionally she has a 6-year-old.
"A lot of parents are ready for them to go to school," she said.
Like Mrs. Harry, she said every child is different, so it's difficult to say that at a certain age they are or aren't ready for school.
However, she said, a lot of times the older students do follow directions better at least at the start of the school year. But academically, it depends on the child, she said.
"I have had kids who had summer birthdays who did just as well as the ones who stayed out ..." Ms. Miller said. "Personally, I really feel like it's something that we can work with them because you never know until you've exposed them to the classroom setting to see what they can do."