Does my five-year-old have to start kindergarten?

By Jessica

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In the U.S., it’s generally accepted that children start kindergarten at age 5. Which is to say that they can start kindergarten anytime within their fifth year, either by turning five before a cut-off date – generally September 1st or 30th depending on the school district – or late in their fifth year, so some children will start kindergarten closer to age 6.

But what if your child is indeed 5 by the cut-off date and you feel she or he isn’t ready for kindergarten? What happens then?

Many parents who feel that 5 is too young to start kindergarten, or that their child isn’t quite ready for it, choose to home school their child or enroll him or her in Pre-K classes or a private preschool that runs through kindergarten. Some school districts will also test children for kindergarten readiness, and give you feedback on whether or not your child is ready for kindergarten or would benefit from another year of preschool.

In fact in the U.K. there’s a movement called the Save Childhood Movement that is trying to push back the age of formal schooling to 6 or 7 (U.K. law states that children need to start formal schooling by the age of 5). They are backed by research in the education field that points out that too much formal schooling too soon can cause more harm than good. They argue that children’s play is integral to their brain development and natural learning process, and should be the focus of their lives until the age of 6 or 7.

By law in most U.S. states, children need to start kindergarten by the age of 6. There are some states, like Minnesota, where a child legally doesn’t have to start school until the age of 7. And according to a lawyer on JustAnswer, if you don’t have your child enrolled in either a public, private or home school by the legal age, social services can investigate your home for neglect.

It’s important to check with your local school district about cut-off dates for kindergarten and state laws regarding age and school, then make an informed decision about what’s right for your family and your child.