How Old Is Too Old For Kindergarten?

My five-year-old is the youngest kid in her kindergarten class.

The rest of the kids are six (or will be by the end of the month), and if I read the birthday list correctly, one of her classmates will be seven in May.

A seven-year-old in kindergarten?

Am I the only parent who thinks it strange that a seven-year-old is playing with paint and glue with a bunch of kids he towers over?

Never mind how I feel about the situation. I wonder how he feels about being called “the giant” and “Big Buddy?”

According to most schools in the United States, children are eligible to enter kindergarten, if they meet the “birthday cutoff” (a.k.a. a random date set by state and/or district administrators).

A recent New York Times report found that birthday cutoffs span six months, from Indiana, where a child must turn 5 by July 1 of the year he enters kindergarten, to Connecticut, where he must turn 5 by Jan. 1 of his kindergarten year. Most schools also note that children can start kindergarten a year late, but in general they cannot start a year early.

Consequently, it is not out of the realm of possibility that a seven-year-old would end up as one of my daughter’s classmates. These days, kindergarten classrooms have children with birthdays that span not a mere 12 months like in years past, but a whopping 16 months. Meaning the age difference between the youngest and oldest students in the average kindergarten class is about 25 percent.

There are pros and cons of starting kindergarten when you are older. I see it each time I volunteer to be a “helper” in my daughter’s class. The older kids are faster, tougher and slightly more confident than their young counterparts. Of course, that confidence comes in handy when they get pelted with pint-sized taunts, such as “giant” and “bully.”

Thankfully, my kid is not one to tease or taunt (she’s much too busy trying to peel her laminated name tag off her desk). I like to think she knows better. (She does know better. However, knowing and doing are two different things.) After all, the child does not control when he begins kindergarten. Ultimately, parents’ decide when their children start school. Some decide to wait while others don’t, and the reasons for making the decision are as varied as the make-up of individual classes.

How old was your child when he/she entered kindergarten?

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Michele Cheplic

About Michele Cheplic

Michele Cheplic was born and raised in Hilo, Hawaii, but now lives in Wisconsin. Michele graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Journalism. She spent the next ten years as a television anchor and reporter at various stations throughout the country (from the CBS affiliate in Honolulu to the NBC affiliate in Green Bay). She has won numerous honors including an Emmy Award and multiple Edward R. Murrow awards honoring outstanding achievements in broadcast journalism. In addition, she has received awards from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association for her reports on air travel and the Wisconsin Education Association Council for her stories on education. Michele has since left television to concentrate on being a mom and freelance writer.