It’s time we rethink about “kindergarten readiness”

Benja and Eli

The boy in red shirt is Benjamin. He is my 4 year old son. Does he look normal to you?

Yes, he looks normal because YES, he is normal. Except for lingering longer during the breastfeeding period, not knowing how to use the bottle and difficulty in potty training, I see nothing wrong with him. He is an active, chatty boy who is curious about everything, very lovable and very bright.

However, we have a slight problem. Maybe just a little bit of a late bloomer.

He is turning 5 years old late this year and it seems that no school (so far) wants to accept him for kindergarten. Why? Because they think that something is wrong with him. They have not made their concerns that clear and vocal but last year one of the schools we applied for told me, “he is not ready”.

We’ve been to a couple of schools for assessments if he is ready for the big school. The first one was last year to enroll him in kindergarten 1 (Foundation Stage 1). Prior to that, he was just staying at home so there were tears during assessment period and the school suggested we put him in a play school first.

So we did.

ben in nursery 1

After a few months at the playschool, his teacher says she thinks Benjamin is ready for the big school, he memorizes things quickly, he loves to play and can communicate his needs to his teacher and his play mates. She suggested we find a school for him so he can transfer.

We opted he spend the whole year in play school just to be sure (plus, it’s difficult to find schools that accept transfer students mid-year).

Now, registrations and assessments have started for the 2016-2017 school year. Benjamin went in for another assessment last week. Today I got a call and was giddy, thinking nothing but positive things.

But then they asked us to take him there again for FURTHER assessment next week. My God, he is not going to Harvard University! Why so rigid?

I already know the reason, the same as before – he is shy, not responding to any interrogation, maybe eyes on the floor, stiff and shy around other kids his age (that he doesn’t know), in an enclosed space of the classroom. Outside in the parks, he doesn’t care about the other kids but if you put him in a room with other kids, he will create his own world…until he warms up to them. It will take TIME and a few minutes of “assessment” won’t be able to see that he is perfectly FINE – if only they’d give him a chance! He also can’t write his name yet. Why? Because to be honest – I was not hard core in teaching him to write letters or color within borders or to memorize the alphabets or numbers (though we read a lot at home and play with maps because he loves it before he turned 2!).

I know so many parents becoming stressed out to get their child ready for kindergarten that sometimes they miss out on the wonderful moments of love, exploration, curiosity, and play.

ben in nursery 2

No matter how I explain to them that he is a normal boy at home and at places where he is familiar with the people around him (like in his nursery school), they will always judge the shy and aloof boy they see for a couple of minutes. I am upset because I don’t know what to do to make him less shy or to talk to strangers when they greet him hello (it’s very rare he answers back if he doesn’t know the person talking to him). But his nursery teacher says she finds no learning/behavioral disability.

I am afraid that at this rate, my son could not go to school because it seems that schools only accept the “easy” kids: immediately social and chatty and probably can already write their names. And Benjamin is not. It’s part of his personality that I cannot change, for now, even how hard I try.

Benjamin talks A LOT at home (up to the point of being noisy sometimes) and he sings the songs he learns at the nursery. He is ready for kindergarten, why would he not be? He even knows a lot of countries on the map through memorization since he cannot read yet!

Don’t you just wish all kindergarten teachers tell you, “The only thing I ask of parents is that they give their child all the love and care they can provide. I will teach them once they are in my class.”?


  1. Not all schools are that perceptive. My second child was almost rejected for school because she did not know her phone number! She knew her numbers and the alphebet, and as she was in a Christian preschool, she loved to pray and tell stories to the other children. But she did not know her home phone number! Pah! I hope you can find a school where Benjamin will be accepted for who he is. I detest cookie cutter schools. I will be praying.



  2. That must be so frustrating! Maybe you could make a video of him at home, in the park, and at his current school interacting with others. Hopefully, they would take a few minutes to watch and know that he will be fine. Good luck with your search!



  3. I know from what I’ve seen that Benjamin is a smart kid. It’s just not fair that schools are not being inclusive about kids of all personalities. Have you thought about approaching a Montessori curriculum based school? They focus on doing rather than academics.



  4. Benjamin is a normal cheerful boy. Educators should be the first one to understand and know how to interact with kids of different personalities. Praying that Benja get’s a spot in a school who will appreciate him for who he is.



  5. I loved that last line…so much..wish every teacher said that..

    I just went in to a few play schools to enroll by 2.5 yr old for April batch.. The prob with my boy is he’s not yet talking..He just has got a few words in his vocabulary..but he understands every single thing we say and points to every thing.. I have never been so worried about him..I am pretty sure he’ll pick up soon..but the prob is I get far too many ppl advising me on sending him for a speech therapy, assessment etc. But I am convinced of what our paediatrician said..just send him to a play school or give him chances to play more with kids..I started off by sending him to my friends place everyday she has her kids and other 2 of her neighbours over there..I can see him improving already..

    I understand your feeling very well.. I know when people try to label a perfectly normal kid in a different way..and the school should take responsibility to teach kids and realise their true potential..its the kids know how to do every stuff himself and be so smart to their levels, then what’s their role anyway…



  6. I can’t imagine how frustrating this must be for you and your partner, and it sounds absurd that Benjamin should be judged on his social skills like that. Isn’t school also about teaching social skills?
    All the best and do keep us updated on the progress made. #uaemombloggers



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