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4:11 AM Sat, Nov. 17th

Column: Kindergarten, or another year of preschool?

'Raising Prescott'

Making educational decisions for your children is one of the hardest jobs a parent has. One wrong choice may negatively affect them for the rest of their lives. On the other hand, making the right decision may set them up for lifelong success.

Results vary, depending on the child, but involving as many people in the process as possible is likely the best way to ensure an educated decision on what’s best for the child is made.

That “decision” to start kindergarten early isn’t to be taken lightly. My wife and I are currently in the middle of a week-plus long discussion about this very subject for our 4-year-old daughter, Emma.

She just turned 4 in December, meaning she fits into the “late baby” category when it comes to school. Currently, the Prescott Unified School District policy is students must reach age 5 prior to Sept. 1, 2018, to enroll in kindergarten for the 2018-19 school year.

Emma won’t celebrate her fifth birthday until that following December.

There is, of course, a way around the rule, which is to apply for “early enrollment” into kindergarten.

Steps to obtain early enrollment include registration on a tentative basis, not guaranteeing placement of school until the results of a screening can be finished. A written request to the superintendent by June 1 is required, which must include preschool records and a narrative description of the child’s overall maturity and developmental history.

The screening process will test our little scholar on a wide range of skills including receptive language, expressive language, auditory, visual memory, visual discrimination, fine motor and gross motor.

Based on everything her current preschool teachers and administrators have shared with us, Emma is ahead of the curve. Once the screening portion is complete, we’ll find out the results. If she passes, and assuming the superintendent gives the nod, we’ll have a big decision to make.

Thoughts that immediately come to my mind are age at the time of graduation in high school. I was 18 my entire senior year, but I had plenty of friends who were barely 17 before they walked across the stage.

It’s often thought that boys are better off being held back a year, while girls should be allowed to excel. It has more to do with physical and emotional development than anything else. Boys just take longer to mature, thus giving them an easier path if they are a bit older than their female peers.

Of course athletically it can’t hurt, either (a coach talking here).

All that aside, it may be most important to focus on an entirely different question all together: Is your young student socially and emotionally mature enough to handle kindergarten?

Kindergarten students must be able to pay attention to the teacher, follow directions, obey rules, sit and listen to stories, stay focused on a task and understand the difference between work and play. And know when each is appropriate.

I think she is, but I’m her father. I’m biased. That is why we’re involving her teachers, and plan to involve potential future teachers in a roundtable discussion of what’s best for Emma.

I’m on the fence, either way. On one hand, we’ve been told our daughter responds better to being challenged. Can she handle a third year of preschool? They accepted her at age 2. Is kindergarten too much of a leap for a 4-year-old to make?

I trust that not only my family, but the teachers and administrators involved will come to the right decision, and I look forward to finding out.

NEED HELP?

If you’re a parent involved in the same situation and want to find out more about the process, head to prescottschools.com for more information.

Brian M. Bergner Jr. is sports editor for The Daily Courier. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @SportsWriter52, or on Facebook at @SportsAboveTheFold. Email bbergner@prescottaz.com or call 928-445-3333, ext. 1106.