When the time came to register her older daughter for kindergarten, Tara D'Onofrio Bonawandt had an advantage over most parents.
As a former kindergarten teacher, the Westhampton, New York, mother of two knew firsthand the types of skills required to succeed in class: the ability to listen attentively at storytime, follow directions, concentrate during lessons, share.
This doesn't merely mean whether she knows her ABCs but also whether she knows how to get along with her classmates.
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For example, 5-year-olds are generally expected to read by year's end, and in some states they are taught to count by twos, fives, and tens, and to identify fractions such as halves, thirds, and fourths.
A growing number of parents have reacted to this increased pressure to perform at a young age by refusing to send their child to kindergarten when the calendar says it's time, and instead giving him what proponents commonly refer to as "the gift of an extra year."Still, redshirting's impact as an age equalizer may be overstated.
Beyond the average age of students, kindergarten classrooms vary significantly in personality, often even within the same district or school.
Teachers' personalities too play a large part in setting the tone.
Maybe you couldn't wait to start school as a kid, so naturally you expect your child to inherit a similar sense of enthusiasm.
Conversely, you may have cried every day for the first few weeks of kindergarten and worry that she'll revisit that traumatic experience.
Perhaps you're concerned about the hefty expense of another year of preschool or simply hate the idea of holding her back.
Whatever the case, your job is to focus exclusively on your child's classroom skills.
D., medical director of the Belilovsky Pediatric Center, in New York City.
This advice may sound obvious, but the fact is it's difficult to assess your child's abilities objectively.
The number of kindergartners over the age of 5 has more than tripled from 5.4 percent in 1970 to 17 percent in 2009, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.