Dear Dr. Debbie,
My neighbor is telling me that I have to register my son with Anne Arundel County Public Schools for kindergarten on April 8th. And when I hesitated in my response, saying something along the lines of, “Really? He’ll just be turning 5 at the end of August,” she said that they can come after me for his “truancy” if I fail to do so.
He’s in a morning preschool, plays with the neighbor kids in our backyard or theirs, has play dates with school friends, loves to go to the library, takes long walks in the park with me or his dad or the whole family (he has a younger sister) and some days takes a good two-hour nap. It’s hard to imagine this little boy sitting still for lessons at a desk — which I have heard from other parents is what happens in kindergarten — for nearly six hours!
I didn’t know we had to get in line so soon. If the neighbor hadn’t said anything, maybe I would have started to think about this in August.
What’s the story?
He’s Just a Baby
Don’t miss last week’s column Choice of school for child with special needs — Good Parenting
Kindergarten Round Up is a springtime phenomenon that indeed should have parents of 4-year-olds questioning the reality that kindergarten is close at hand. Seems like only yesterday this child learned to walk and talk. And now his near-constant movement and mile-a-minute speech seem quite the opposite of the decorum required of “big school.”
But your neighbor is correct. All children who will turn 5 years old by Aug. 31, 2015 must be registered for school, or be granted a waiver for one year. (At that point you can still opt out of school by registering as home schoolers) Read up on the legalities of getting your child educated in Maryland.
The Round Up seems an efficient way to handle the bulk of the newcomers. This leaves time to send away for hard-to-find paperwork and get immunizations up to date, and time to find the inevitable families who miss the call to show up in April.
So heed the call and contact your closest elementary school to first confirm that you live within its geographic boundaries (if not, they can direct you to the right school). Then find out the hours on April 8th for that school’s Round Up. Next, gather the required documents: your son’s birth certificate (location of birth and legal status are not eligibility factors, the school just needs to verify his age), immunization record (they will tell you if more shots are required before school entry and may direct you to the county health department for low-cost medical insurance and free services), and a document that proves his physical address. Proof of address can be any of the following: a deed or lease for your home, a parent’s pay stub from a current job, or a recent bank statement with your name and address. Documents not allowed are a parent’s driver’s license and insurance papers which are too easy to obtain for falsifying residency!
If you decide that it is in your son’s best interest to have another year of preschool and the daily flexibility his current schedule allows, AACPS requires you to fill out and submit a kindergarten waiver request to the Early Childhood office. You only need to state that he needs one more year for his skills to mature. Five months — from April to August — is a long time from a child development point of view, but if you believe he would benefit from waiting another full year, simply ask for a waiver.
If you would like to discuss your concerns about your child’s readiness, and learn what actually happens in all day kindergarten, someone at the school can meet with you either before or during the Round Up. Or call the Early Childhood office at 410-222-5441. Hopefully you have had some conversation with his preschool teacher about how he compares developmentally to other children his age. An experienced teacher is well-versed in all the components — social, physical, emotional, as well as intellectual — that indeed can take enormous strides in short periods at this age. “Wait and see by summer,” might be his teacher’s reassurance that he actually is right on track for being ready when the bell rings.
Deborah Wood is a child development specialist in Annapolis. She holds a doctorate in Human Development from the University of Maryland at College Park and is founding director of the Chesapeake Children’s Museum. Long time fans and new readers can find many of her “Understanding Children” columns archived on the Chesapeake Family Magazine website. You can find her online at drdebbiewood.com.
What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments or submit a question to Dr. Debbie at Betsy@jecoannapolis.com