Kindergarten Readiness: Is My Baby Ready for Big School?
Image courtesy of Rebecca Bouck Photography
As your child nears the milestone transition to kindergarten, do you question whether he or she is ready? Do you wonder what skills he or she needs before the first day or how you can best prepare him or her? If you are up at night wondering if he’s mature enough or she knows enough numbers, we’ve got some great information to ease your mind.
On September 23, 2015, Piedmont Parent Magazine hosted a LIVE Chat with Suzanne Billips, lower school learning resource specialist, and Kelly Sipe, kindergarten teacher, both of Greensboro Day School. These two experts in their respective fields provided great information for parents of preschoolers. Here’s the transcript from the chat, lightly edited for clarity and grammar:
Piedmont Parent Magazine: Welcome to the Piedmont Parent and Greensboro Day School LIVE Chat: “Ask the Experts: Kindergarten Readiness for Parents of Preschoolers.” Today, Suzanne Billips and Kelly Sipe will be answering your questions about preparing for kindergarten, including what to expect and how to know when your child is ready for this big step.
Readers: We welcome your questions posted as comments on this post. Don't forget to refresh your page often!
Let’s get started with this question: There are so many elementary school (kindergarten) options in our community. It is JUST kindergarten. Does it really matter?
Greensboro Day School: Good morning! Thank you for having us this morning. This is a great question to begin with. When we were children, choosing a school was easy — usually just your neighborhood school or a faith based option. Today, we have so many available options that it can be overwhelming. The choices in our community offer parents the opportunity to match their child's strengths/needs, family values and educational goals with a compatible school philosophy. Each child should be in an environment that will support them as an individual and allow them to grow into their best self. Kindergarten and elementary school choice, in our opinion, is very important as it lays the foundation for future success and how children will view themselves as learners moving forward.
Piedmont Parent Magazine: Another Triad mom has a similar question: I'm overwhelmed by the choices for kindergarten. How do we choose the right one? What are the major differences between magnet, charter, independent and parochial schools?
Greensboro Day School: Magnet schools are subject-based and have a specialized focus that may match a child's natural interest or area of passion. Independent schools are non-profit. They can be faith-based. They are governed by a board of directors and are not bound to state mandates. Charter schools receive public funding but operate independently from the public school system. As you investigate each of these options, please include a tour in your search process. Ask questions about student life, educational philosophy and opportunities. Does the school match your family's needs (nurse/counselor on staff, student:teacher ratio, athletics, specialist classes, the arts, etc.)?
Tyler Beyea: My question is about reading in Kindergarten. I have a 5 year old who just started Kindergarten. What are the reading expectations at this age? We read at home every night, and she knows when we skip pages, but can't read on her own yet. Should we be doing more reading exercises at home? Do you encourage flash cards or is reading alone enough for now? Thanks!
Greensboro Day School: Reading at home to your child daily is fundamental! As educators, we see the benefits of children who have been supported at home in their early years with exposure to read alouds, print and language development. Oral language and phonemic awareness skills are foundational skills. I do not encourage flash cards or skill practice with children at this age. Children at this age need to fall in love with reading and find meaning and make connections to what they read (or have read to them).
Tyler Beyea: Good, so we're on the right track. [Are there] any books you would recommend at this age? I know they use “Brown Bear, Brown Bear” a lot to teach colors. [Are there] any other ones you use regularly that would be helpful? Thanks!
Greensboro Day School: Tyler Beyea, any book you choose provides opportunities to expand on knowledge, make connections and expose children to literature. Repetitive text builds confidence and phonemic awareness skills.
Tyler Beyea: Thank you!
Brenda Larson: My niece has some socialization issues. How can my family help her get ready for the kindergarten classroom?
Dawn Field: Ditto on the question. I have an 18-month-old granddaughter [and am] worried about her socializing with others.
Greensboro Day School: The social-emotional aspect to starting school is a crucial component. It would be beneficial to see if your child's school offers summer camps. Camps will allow your child to become familiar with the school, meet potential teachers/classmates and will provide opportunities to connect with other families/students. Many schools offer events for incoming students — take advantage of those!
Brenda Larson: Great suggestion! Thanks.
Martha Muir Swaim: Hello! My question is about getting my Pre-K aged daughter to focus on learning at home. We are given exercises/homework from her teachers to work on over the weekend, but she refuses to do them. She gets very distracted and annoyed when we try to work on it with her. [Do you have] suggestions on how to make it fun and get her to concentrate? We want to get a handle on this before she starts kindergarten and the real homework starts. Thank you!
Greensboro Day School: In our opinion, having homework at such a young age is not the best use of a child's time. Weekends would be better spent in real life experiences (cooking, building, visiting the library, playing board games, etc.). I would encourage you to speak with your child's teacher about how to match your child's learning needs/preferences with their expectations.
Piedmont Parent Magazine: An at-home mom asks: My daughters are 1 and 3 and don’t attend preschool. I’m a stay-at-home mom. A friend told me I needed to enroll my older daughter in preschool, because if I don’t, she won’t be ready for kindergarten. Is my friend right?
Greensboro Day School: Preschool experiences provide children with opportunities for social-emotional growth (with peer exposure and interactions) under the guidance of educators and early childhood professionals. A preschool experience also helps to develop a child's sense of independence, however, having said this it is not mandatory for their future success.
Piedmont Parent Magazine: Are there activities at-home moms can engage in with their preschoolers to foster a similar sense of independence?
Greensboro Day School: Simple household chores are an easy way for children to take on some responsibility and learn independence at home. Children should also practice advocating for their own needs when around other adults/family members and should be encouraged to dress themselves, pack their school bags, open food wrappers/containers, etc. Although these take time, it will help to build confidence and independence.
Piedmont Parent Magazine: Great suggestions!
Piedmont Parent Magazine: Kim M. wants to know: What kinds of questions do they ask on the kindergarten screening tests and what score will my child need to pass so he can go to kindergarten?
Greensboro Day School: Kindergarten screenings vary for each school. Most kindergarten screenings include a selection of alphabet/number knowledge, oral language skills, vocabulary, to name a few. Please do not feel as if you need to prep your child for a kindergarten screening. The best glimpse of your child is obtained through an authentic assessment that allows your child to be evaluated appropriately for their school placement.
Piedmont Parent Magazine: Excellent point. With all the testing going on these days, parents need reassurance that there is a difference between screening and testing; and that screening provides information for teachers to meet the needs of individual children.
Michele Huggins: My child has a late summer birthday. I'm debating whether to hold him back a year or let him start kindergarten as a 5 year old. [It] seems so many parents hold children back now, but his preschool teachers assure us he's ready to move on, and we feel he is too. What's your perspective on this?
Greensboro Day School: There are a multitude of skills that help in determining a child's readiness for school (stamina, engagement, fine/gross motor skills, social maturity, self-reliance, oral language, etc.). Without knowing your child specifically, I can't speak to what is best in your situation. There is a phrase often heard when considering whether or not to hold a child back that says there is a ‘gift of time that cannot be recaptured.’ There can be research found on both sides of this issue. If you are still in question, please reach out to those that know your child best — family, pediatrician, preschool teachers, etc.
Regina Alston: What is the math/numbers expectation for kindergarten?
Greensboro Day School: Most kindergartners count pretty high (between 30-100), however, the majority of them cannot recognize/read numbers past 12 or 20. Many children at this age misread the teen numbers (may say 71 for 17). For the preschool child, exposure to numbers in ways such as playing board games, taking a scavenger hunt (finding a variety of different amounts of items), measuring, comparing/contrasting, building math vocabulary (greater than/less than, more, equal) will provide them with a rich foundation upon which to build.
Regina Alston: Thank you, I'll share this with my niece.
Beth Poland Shugg: How involved should parents be in encouraging a kindergartner to do their homework? It seems like reminders are necessary when they are this young.
Greensboro Day School: As parents, it is important for us to support the school's learning goals for your child. However, I feel that homework for a kindergartner should be minimal and that which is given should be meaningful. If your child is reluctant to do homework, consider breaking it into small increments and allowing for movement. If this continues to be a struggle for you or for your child, reach out to their teacher.
Piedmont Parent Magazine: It looks like we have time for one more question. What is the benefit, if any, of a full-day kindergarten program over a half-day program?
Greensboro Day School: A quality program takes into consideration the developmental needs and readiness of children at this age. For example, our kindergarten at Greensboro Day School is a full-day program. We thoughtfully schedule a graduated start to the year with days of early dismissal to allow children and parents to best make the transition to ‘big school.’ It takes a full six weeks for children to adapt to a new learning environment. We manage our days with the needs of the students in the forefront of our minds/curriculum. The length of the kindergarten day is not the big question. Your child's developmental readiness and the school's approach and structure to the day are essential. This question would be an important one to ask the school you are considering for your child.
Piedmont Parent Magazine: We’re out of time for today’s LIVE Chat. I want to thank Suzanne and Kelly for providing excellent information for parents, today. And a big thanks goes out also to all those who participated with questions and comments. For more information about Greensboro Day School, visit GreensboroDay.org.
Greensboro Day School: We are so grateful to have had this opportunity! Feel free to reach out to either one of us if you have any further questions or if we can offer further assistance. Kelly Sipe: firstname.lastname@example.org or Suzanne Billips: email@example.com