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My son is bright, but is he too young for kindergarten?
Q: My 4-year-old preschooler has an August birthday and we’re debating sending him to kindergarten. Nathan knew all his state capitals at 2 and is currently reading at a second grade level. He can add, subtract and is eager to learn. Since he was born we planned on delayed entry. Now that he’s 4 we’re rethinking the idea. We don’t want him to be bored by being delayed, and we’re opposed to him skipping a grade. My husband likes the idea of him being bigger and more mature to handle situations.
A: I would definitely not hold him back. If he’s already reading at a second grade level and doesn’t enter kindergarten for another year and a half, you run the risk of turning him off to the whole idea of school. Providing an appropriate educational experience for a bright 5-year-old who is academically advanced is a challenge for any kindergarten teacher, and having one enter at 6 years (as your son would be if you delay his entry) presents a double challenge. If the information you have given me is accurate and doesn’t represent the normal exaggerations of a proud mother, I think you would be doing a great disservice to your child by keeping him out a year. And I wouldn’t worry about having him skip a grade. Although that was fairly common during my childhood, the practice is rare today. Instead, quality schools try to enrich the curriculum in the gifted child’s regular placement.

May I suggest that you discuss this situation with your son’s preschool teacher? She should be in a good position to know whether he has any striking areas of immaturity—something I cannot determine by the information you have included. For example, how does he get along with other children? Do they like to play with him? Or do they avoid him? If she does identify any areas of weakness, you and she can work on them during the remainder of this preschool year.

Whatever your decision about enrolling or holding him back, you can expect to have to consider placement decisions throughout his educational career. And you will have to find ways to provide the extra enrichment and support he needs to keep him progressing optimally. That, to me, comes under the category of “good problems.”