When is a child ready for kindergarten in Indiana? From a mom who is still not sure.

//When is a child ready for kindergarten in Indiana? From a mom who is still not sure.

The topic has taken over theCityMoms private Facebook group lately: When are our CityKids ready for kindergarten? Is this new Indiana lawmaker push for a mandatory enrollment at age 5 the right call? CityMom Cynthia is weighing in today…

A couple weeks ago I opened Facebook and noticed that someone who doesn’t post very often – much less talk about politics! – had posted a link to Indiana State Senate Bill 318, authored by Senator Greg Taylor (D).

This bill would require school attendance for children who are age 5 by August 1st in Indiana. For reference, the current age is 7 by August 1st.

Kindergarten Indiana - theCityMoms

This post almost instantly had a string of comments on it. Most people that commented were parents that weighed in against it: Many thought 5 was much too young and that parents should be able to choose.

A few days later someone else on my Facebook feed – strangely also someone who never posts about politics – posted about the corresponding bill in the House, Indiana State House bill 1408, authored by Representative Tonya Pfaff (D). This is a similar bill that also makes age 5 by August 1 a “compulsory” {i.e. required} age for kindergarten attendance. The second person in my Facebook feed very strongly argued against this bill and encouraged others to do the same by contacting their legislators, even though this bill would not affect her family directly. Soon, this same topic had taken over many of the mom Facebook groups I am part of as well.

I was shocked.

Indiana General Assembly bills rarely show up in my newsfeed. Especially ones that have only been introduced and are not out of committee. {And just as backgrounder: This bill was introduced in the House and then referred to the Education committee. It is entirely possible that the bill would look completely different once it came out of committee, if the committee even heard it all at. 90% of bills die in committee, where they are either stall out or are simply forgotten about. Chances are, this bill won’t even be heard by the Education committee and will just die out.} However, people had very strong feelings about this and were treating it very seriously. And from what I saw, they were having a polite discourse about it. On the internet. Even though these bills may not amount to anything, they did spark an important public discourse.

I, like many others, also had strong feelings about this. I have two daughters with summer birthdays. I agonized over whether to send my middle daughter to kindergarten or not. She was born at the end of July and was just barely 5 by August 1st. She was a sensitive, quiet {in school} child that still carried her beloved stuffed bunnies around all day, still took naps, and would sometimes just melt down all day. However, she was also a very busy, bright, inquisitive child.

WE’VE TOTES TALKED THIS TOPIC BEFORE IN theCityMoms ask: Is my child ready for kindergarten?

I am a stay at home mom and my daughter had never been away from me all day before. Also: Let’s face it – kindergarten is not what it used to be. When my oldest daughter went, the teacher sat us down and told us that kindergarten is the new first grade. I knew her beloved bunnies would not be allowed in the classroom to comfort her during the day. Also if it was still a half day of class, I would not have agonized so much. But having one child go before her I knew what kindergarten would entail and I thought to myself, “What if she just cries all day? How can someone who is crying and misses her mommy learn to read?” Experts say that a child is most ready to learn to read between the ages of 6-8, and unlike her peers, she would not even turn 6 during the school year. It broke my mommy heart to think she would be sad and unhappy at school with no mommy or bunnies to help her.

She is only 5.  

After worrying about this all summer, I found a solution that worked for us. The preschool that my daughter had previously attended had a  Pre-K class for kids that are 5 before December 1st. So it is a little more rigorous than Senior Preschool but it was still half a day. I signed her up for that while also registering her for kindergarten. We live in the Hamilton Southeastern School district (HSE) and HSE started about 2 weeks before the local preschools do. I figured 2 weeks would be enough time to figure out if she can handle kindergarten or not. While the Pre-K safety net made me feel better, my husband was less worried. He assured me that she could handle kindergarten but I still felt uneasy. When I first met her kindergarten teacher, I told her about my bright and sensitive child with tears in my eyes and I said, “If she is upset and sad here and cannot concentrate, you let me know ASAP and I will put her back in preschool.”

The first week of kindergarten started and I was terrified that she would not be emotionally ready for school.

However, she proved me wrong. She seemed fine, getting on the bus that she was so excited to ride with her big sister and waving goodbye to me and her little sister. The week went by quickly and though she was somewhat tired, she seemed to be doing fine. I would even say she adjusted better and more quickly than my oldest, who was older than her when she started kindergarten. Her teacher emailed me at the end of the week, knowing how I had been agonizing and told me, “Your daughter is doing fine at school. She is so happy here she gave me 5 hugs today.” A weight was lifted off my shoulders. We had made the right decision! The business of kindergarten was what my daughter needed, she became more focused and melted down less. But how would I have known that? To me, it easily could have gone the other way. Then I began to wonder… 

Was going to kindergarten harder on her or me? The answer: Me. She was thriving.

Fast forward a couple years and my husband and I are making that same decision again. My youngest daughter was born close to the end of August. Like her sister, she is quiet and sensitive. HSE school district participates in early entrance to kindergarten. This means that children who are 5 before September 1st are allowed to go to kindergarten if their parents choose to send them – but it is not required.

ANOTHER TOPIC WE’VE TACKLED THIS MONTH: Parents, college isn’t the only answer. Trade professions need your kids too.

Even though my middle child’s birthday and my youngest child’s birthday are roughly only 3 weeks apart, we chose to enroll her in a rigorous Pre-K preschool program instead of sending her to kindergarten. This decision was much easier than the first time I made it, she did not seem ready and likewise, I could not imagine putting my 4 year old on the bus. However, this was almost not my choice to make. Last year, the Indiana General Assembly surprised everyone, including many school districts, by pulling funding for students who participate in Early Entrance to kindergarten. This meant that without state funding, school districts would have to scramble to find the funds to cover the students who turned 5 by Sept. 1. HSE did ultimately decide to allow the students to attend and pay for this deficit out of school funds, but many school districts had to turn these young and vulnerable students away. This left parents to scramble to find appropriate school accommodations for a child that they thought was going to kindergarten.

Overall, when a child is developmentally ready for kindergarten is a topic that parents are grappling with, especially with kindergarten being all day and the increased educational expectations. Even state legislators are trying to address this issue and even if neither bill ever makes it out of committee, the public conversation around this issue is worth having.

It is my belief that the person who is best equipped to decide whether a child is ready for kindergarten or not is his or her parents. And even for those parents it can be a very difficult decision, because each child is different. And what is the right decision for one child may not be the right decision for another.  


Cynthia Holladay - theCityMoms


Cynthia Holladay is a former state air quality inspector turned Stay-at-Home mom to 3 precious girls. ​She was named Mom of the Year in 2017 by Fishers Magazine.

When she is not busy explaining to strangers in public that yep, her hands are full, Cynthia is obsessing over true crime stories, playing trivia, or drinking chardonnay and eating tiramisu.

2019-02-08T15:01:13-05:00February 8th, 2019|
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