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The recent move to all-day kindergarten in Fairfax County prompted me to write to encourage parents in our community to consider a pre-kindergarten program for children who might benefit from an additional year in preschool. If a child is not quite ready for the requirements of a very challenging all-day kindergarten program, then an additional year to develop further and strengthen needed skills might be advisable.

Heading off to kindergarten is a wonderfully exciting time. When your child is ready, schooling is a long, happy journey. If you are at all uncertain that your child is ready for kindergarten, to ensure success you should reflect on your child’s social, emotional, physical and intellectual development. For optimal success, all four areas of development should be progressing simultaneously.

It is not uncommon for a child to be very bright, yet not physically or socially or emotionally ready for the rigors of working all day in a large group. There are many advantages to enrolling your child in a pre-k program and spending an additional year in preschool. In my experience, parents agree that you never regret waiting a year, but you might regret pushing ahead with a child who would truly benefit from another year in a smaller setting with more individual attention and support.

Comments from several McLean parents on the advantages of enrolling a child in a pre-k program before proceeding to kindergarten include:

“An extra year in a pre-k program is very important to consider, especially if your child has shown some difficulties in his performance at preschool. Parents sometimes rush in putting their kids into kindergarten without thinking about the challenges that they are going to face at the upper levels.”

Another reflection: “I knew my son was ready academically, but I didn’t like the idea of him being the youngest child in his kindergarten class. It didn’t take long for me to realize that waiting for kindergarten was the best decision I could have made.”

Lastly, “My son started preschool when he was 3 years old and when it was time to start kindergarten it was a big decision for our family. My son was very bright, but shy and needed some more time to gain confidence in a small, caring group. This one extra year made him ready for the transition from a small environment to elementary school.”

If you are questioning your child’s readiness for kindergarten, the McLean area offers many excellent choices for pre-k classes. Investigate the different programs available, ask questions, think about your child’s individual strengths and weaknesses, and consider giving your child the gift of time.

Anne Schwartz

The writer is director of Dolley Madison Preschool in McLean.