It is that time of year again. If your child is already five or will be turning five on or before Oct. 1 (the date depends on your state), it is time to start considering kindergarten registration. There are several steps in the kindergarten registration process and even more if you register a child in foster care. In addition to the step below, you may need forms and a release of information from the child's caseworker. The school, the child, is enrolled in may need to be approved by the agency, court, or school district. Where I have located, the school district has a specific department for children in foster care. I enroll my foster children in charter schools with the caseworker's permission.
Call the elementary school your child will attend for more information if you are unfamiliar with the process. Call the district's central office or check their website if you are unsure which school your child will attend. It is not always the closest.
In general, kindergarten registration is free if your child is attending a public or charter school. However, unanticipated costs may include supply boxes, PTA, agendas, or calendars. In addition, there may be time-associated costs, such as your child may need a current physical, including an eye exam and current vaccinations documents.
Typical requirements at registration are:
~ Birth certificate
~ Social security card
~ Current immunization record
~ Current physical record
~ Current eye exam
Most schools will schedule a kindergarten screening after registration conducted by a teacher or diagnostician. The purpose of the screening is about placement and not about acceptance into the school. The school must look at teacher-student ratios and match the right teacher, classroom, and program for your child.
Kindergarten screening looks at six primary areas:
- Cognitive skills
- Listening and sequencing skills
- Language skills
- Fine motor skills
- Gross motor skills
- Social and emotional skills
The kindergarten screening is not a judgment on your parenting skills. However, the school needs to assess your child and early screening allows the school to help you prepare your child before school begins. After the assessment, you will receive a skills checklist from working with your child. In addition, children with special needs may be referred to the Special Education dept to discuss when and where services will be provided.
The kindergarten screening allows the school to better match your child with a teacher, class, and program. Each child's kindergarten experience depends on the level of entry skills and the progress rate after school starts. Activities and work may not be identical to classmates. Many schools break classes into ability groups or pull children out of class to work with peers of similar ability or needs.
Identifying special needs not already identified early on helps the school plan for the coming year. In addition, the assessments will provide critical information to the school and district to determine the demand for gifted and remedial staff needs.
While your local school must make a place for your child, no matter when you register, it is to everyone's benefit if you register as early as possible. The school needs an accurate enrollment projection and needs to make plans after meeting and testing your child. In addition, your child benefits from early enrollment by allowing you to know what to do to prepare your child for kindergarten. Finally, your child is on a list, enabling the school to contact you regarding open houses, information meetings, and other events.
My neighborhood school offers a Jump Start program a few weeks before school starts, allowing kindergartners to start early. As a result, the students can become familiar with the school building, staff, and routines. In addition, since the school is not full, they begin working on some essential skills, which may interfere with their ability to succeed with other distractions.
Kindergarten registration is simple and necessary, but it can be unclear if you don't know what to expect. Being informed about what to do before, during, and after registration can help make the process less frustrating and exciting for everyone involved. Also, don't forget to take pictures!