Making the Choice Between Preschool and Kindergarten

Ah, the plight of a parent with a child born just before the kindergarten age cut-off date. To kindergarten or not to kindergarten, that is the question. I, for one, am for keeping a child home until they are five, but Gaby is of the other mindset, as he started kindergarten himself at four years old (his birthday being at the end of October), and turned out just fine. So, how do you decide? What’s the basis of that decision? Are there long reaching consequences or benefits of putting a child in school before their fifth birthday? Read on to see how we came to our decision, what research we did, and some links to help get you started with your own investigation.

Playground

Options, Options, Options

Our children’s heritage is three quarters French, so it was an easy choice to make when we decided that they would go into in a French or French Immersion program. I started considering the various options when our oldest, Katrina (who’s birthday is at the end of November) was just two and a half years old. At this time, I was looking to start her at French preschool at the age of three, that way, we had another year to discuss and decide if she was mature enough to attend kindergarten at age four, or if we should put her through a second year of preschool. This would also give her the benefit of learning the language beyond what she was hearing at home from a very early age.

To my surprise, the costs for a French preschool program in south Calgary were astronomical! I’m talking over $300/month for only three mornings a week! I couldn’t believe it. I’ll admit, I was quite disheartened. There was just no way that I could justify the cost of what would be equal to almost a year of university for my preschooler. Gaby was adamant that she attend some sort of school program at age four, and with preschool being so cost-prohibitive, we were now looking at putting her in kindergarten, much to my chagrin.

The Layoff and the Move

Soon after we decided to move forward with kindergarten, Gaby was laid off. It was then that we began thinking about how and where we wanted to raise our family, and concluded that we needed to move ourselves back home to our roots in South Eastern Manitoba. With this decision made, school options came to the forefront of our minds once again, as the cost for preschool in the town we were moving to was a mere $350 for the entire year.

The Basis for Our Final Decision for Preschool

Katrina was four and a half years old when we moved into our new home and community last July, and a lot happened that spring that helped us make our final decision. The first and largest factor turned out to be the move itself.

We began packing up the house in April/May of that year, and it was about this time that Katrina began suffering from anxiety. She was terrified that we were going to move to Manitoba without her. There was absolutely no basis for her fear, but there was nothing we could do to convince her otherwise. Every time we would move a box into the garage, or go out there to get more supplies, she would panic, and start screaming for us because she didn’t know where we were. She began refusing to play in our backyard or basement playroom without one of us right by her side. It came to the point that we needed to hang our keys on her doorknob at night so that if she woke up, she would know that we hadn’t taken our vehicle and left without her. We found that we just didn’t want to put her through any more outside pressure, such as starting school, before she had a chance to adjust to our new situation.

First Day of PreschoolOther factors that helped us make our decision included her maturity level (at four and a half, she still seemed quite a bit younger than her five year old peers), as well as the fact that there would be little time for integration into our new community before school was set to begin (the preschool program only started at the beginning of October, as opposed to kindergarten at the beginning of September). A year of preschool would give her the opportunity to mature, and the time to make new friends and learn with less pressure and more play.

As our first year in Manitoba comes to a close, and preschool graduation just around the corner, I have to say that Gaby and I are in agreement that we made the best decision for Katrina. The amount that she has grown up in the last year is astounding, and how much she’s learned in language, motor skills, and behavior is remarkable. I can’t say enough good things about her preschool and the teachers there. Oh, and the anxiety? Disappeared completely once we were on the road to our new home.

Research It for Yourself

There is a lot of reading material out there, papers and studies done by professionals, and many varying opinions from teachers, parents, friends and family. Ask yourselves the hard questions, such as: Is my child mature enough for school? Are they able to sit still for an extended period? How are their social skills? Will they thrive in an environment away from home, or benefit from a program with a little less pressure and fewer hours? How independent are they?

Doing your own research is key. Below are few links that I found interesting to help get you started, with both pros and cons to each side of the coin.

In the end, you need to do what works for your child and your family. In our case, Katrina’s anxiety and maturity level played integral part in our choice to send her to preschool this past year.

Our youngest child’s birthday falls in the middle of October, and right now he’s only 18 months old. Already I’m finding that his language and maturity levels are below that of our older two at the same age, and I want to hold him back from kindergarten until he’s five. Gaby thinks he’ll catch up quickly, and wants to wait to make the decision until we’re closer to registration time. I think that’s a pretty good compromise.


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