Do We Have This Right? Kindergarten Admissions Week

March of Any Year

What a tough week this has been for so many wonderful parents and children in New England – Kindergarten Decisions Week!   Wait, what?!!

We are not talking about college acceptances here, for which my own parents waited with baited breath during my senior year of high school. (With my acceptance to Yale, it was as if the weight of all the years of stretching financially for my education and of being the “best parents” they could be was lifted from their shoulders.) But that moment in time — that I think they viewed, perhaps correctly, as a review both of them and of me — came about on the verge of my adulthood.

Here we are fretting about admissions for children between the ages of 2 and 5.   Competitive admissions to kindergarten don’t make sense.   We profess to believe that all children have amazing potential. We profess to believe that we cannot predict at age 2 /3 / 4 who children will be as adults.  Yet, schools are selecting children at 2/ 3/ 4 for their elementary, middle and high school spots.   (Many parents believe these admissions are key to elite high schools and colleges.   Stop believing this, Parents, immediately!!!)

As an early childhood school director, I can predict with some reasonable accuracy, which children will be accepted or will be at the very top of a wait list.   Schools do want diverse personalities in a class.   Nevertheless, know that your child will have a harder time getting into schools if he/she is: reserved, highly energetic, (overly?) playful, or simply fully occupied for a bit longer with the joys of childhood rather than the development of the range of superficially “academic” school readiness skills.   Of course, all of the above qualities have a place in society and might be the very ones that ultimately make your children leaders!

My advice to school directors: Adopt a first-come, first-enrolled system.  We are up to the challenge and the thrill that come from successfully educating a wide range of children.   Family interest level in your school – one of the private school admissions criteria – “magically” reveals itself.  Parents who want to be with us will enroll when enrollment opens.  Those who aren’t sure, wait to see what their options are and may not have a spot when they finally decide. Simple. . .and okay.   It is less random than most selections processes at age 2 / 3/ 4.

My advice to parents: Shrug off kindergarten admissions disappointment. Assume it was somehow meant to be.  Admissions at 2 /3 / 4 years of age determine nothing many years in the future.   Convince yourselves — so that you can teach your children – that keys to success in life are:

  • Hard work,
  • Interdisciplinary learning that builds knowledge and curiosity about the physical and cultural world around us,
  • Unique experiences, about which a child can expound and from which a child can extrapolate, and
  • Passions!

If you model and provide these for your children, then they will know how to define their own success.   As a happy “by-product," the impassioned, hard-working, young adult with a wide range of experiences will probably do quite well in the college admissions process – the first point in time at which a school selection process is based upon the steps already taken by young people to “create themselves.”

Kristen Mansharamani, author, is the Founder and Executive Director of Torit Montessori School in Boston, MA. She holds a BA from Yale University in Ethics, Politics and Economics and a JD from Harvard Law School.