5. School

When to Keep Your Child Home from School

If your child is not feeling well, your physician is the best person to consult about whether she can go to school. Common sense, con­cern for your child’s well-being, and the possibility of infecting classmates should all contribute to the decision about whether your child should stay home.

As general guidelines, keep her home if:

  1. she has a fever
  2. she is not well enough to participate in class
  3. you think she may be contagious to other children

If your child has been ill but is feeling better, yet has still awak­ened with a minor problem, such as a runny nose or slight head­ache, you can send her to school if none of the three circumstances listed above is present. Even so, make sure the school and your child have a phone number where you can be reached during the day if more serious symptoms develop and she needs to return home.

5. School

Tips to Help Your Child Enjoy Reading Aloud

​​Your children will learn reading skills in school, but often they come to associate reading with work, not fun.

The best thing parents can do to encourage children to love books and reading is to read aloud to them. And don’t stop reading aloud to them once they have learned to read for themselves.

  • Read to your child every day-even if only for a few minutes. It is your time together.
  • Reading should be fun. You don’t have to finish a story if your child loses interest.
  • Let your child choose the book even if it means reading the same book over and over.
  • Invite your child to “read” to you from a familiar book that he has memorized from having heard it so often read to him.
  • Stop and ask about the illustrations or what your child thinks will happen next. The answers may amaze you.
  • Read from a variety of children’s books, including fairy tales, poetry, and nursery rhymes.
  • Follow your child’s interests in choosing the books. There are many great books on non-fiction subjects such as the ocean or dogs.
  • Join your local library!
5. School

The Gifted Underachiever

Despite their high intelligence and talents, some gifted children do not live up to their potential in the classroom. These are the gifted children who also have a learning disability. More boys than girls fall into this category. Approxi­mately 10 percent of gifted children are delayed in reading by two or more grade levels, and approximately 30 percent of gifted children have a significant discrepancy between their potential, as measured by intelligence tests, and their achievement.

When an educational specialist diagnoses a gap or underachievement, he or she will look for signs like a significant discrepancy between the verbal and nonverbal portions of an IQ test, or between scores on an IQ test and a stan­dardized achievement test. The assessment may also include aptitude testing, as well as emotional, behavioral, and family evaluations.

In some cases parents may hold especially high or unrealistic expectations of a gifted child. These parents may have difficulty understanding why a child of superior intelligence or talent is underachieving. They may blame the school for not providing adequate stimulation and challenge through its cur­riculum and teaching. They may criticize the school for emphasizing confor­mity rather than originality and creativity.

Gifted underachievers are especially prone to developing a poor self-concept. They may grow increasingly negative about themselves and feel increasingly incompetent, unaccepted, and isolated. Their expectations of themselves tend to decline as they meet with continued frustration and a long-term lack of success.

Talk with your school principal, a learning specialist, or a professional who works with gifted children to help an underachieving gifted child get back on track. Perhaps your child would be better off in a regular classroom receiving some special attention than in a special class for gifted children. Do not ignore the problem and merely hope that it resolves itself. Again, early recognition of the situation and appropriate intervention makes for the best outcome.

5. School

Ten Tips for Your Child’s Success in School

It should come as no surprise that success — or failure — at school starts at home. Studies have linked poor academic performance to factors such as a lack of sleep, poor nutrition, obesity, and a lack of parental support.

The good news is that those same studies also show higher test scores for students who live in homes where healthy habits, regular routines, and good communication exist.  How can you ensure your child heads off to school this fall with the best possible foundation? Follow these 10 tips and watch your child thrive.

Enforce Healthy Habits

You can’t perform well when you don’t feel good. To help your child have the best chance at doing well in school, make sure she follows healthy habits at home. Choose a bedtime that will give your child plenty of sleep, and provide a healthy breakfast each morning. Encourage exercise, and limit the amount of time she spends watching TV, playing video games, listening to music, or using the computer.

Stick to a Routine

Most kids thrive on structure and will respond well to routines that help them organize their days. In our house, for example, my son gets dressed, makes his bed, and eats breakfast while I make his lunch and pack his school bag with completed homework and forms. When he gets home in the afternoon, I serve him a snack and he does his homework while I prepare dinner. Your routines may differ, but the key is to make it the same every day so your child knows what to expect.

Create a “Launch Pad”

Veteran parents know it’s important to have a single place to put backpacks, jackets, shoes, lunchboxes, and school projects each day. Some call it a “launch pad,” while others call it a “staging area.” Our area is a hook by the back door.

Whatever you call it, find a place where your child can keep the items he needs for school each day and keep him organized. Then you’ll know right where to find everything during the morning rush.

Designate a Space

At school your child has a desk or table where she works. There is plenty of light, lots of supplies, and enough room to work. Why not provide her with the same type of environment for homework? A designated homework space often makes it easier and more fun for children to complete assignments at home. A desk is great, but a basket of supplies and a stretch of kitchen counter work just as well.

Read, Again and Again

It is often said that children spend the first several years learning to read, and the rest of the lives reading to learn. The written word is a gateway to all kinds of learning, and the more you read to your child, the better chance he has of becoming a proficient and eager reader.

Try to sit down with your child to read a little bit every day, give him plenty of opportunities to read out loud to you, as well, and above all have fun. While the importance of reading with your child cannot be stressed enough, it should not be the cause of stress.

Learn Always

Your child may be past the preschool years, but home education is still a critical part of his overall learning experience. “Some of the attitude recently is that it’s up to the schools and teachers to figure it all out, to make sure children are learning and healthy and safe,” says Barbara Frankowski, M.D., MPH, FAAP, and member of the AAP Council on School Health. “There’s only so much teachers can do. Parents have to fill in with good support at home.”

Look for ways to teach your child throughout the day. For example, cooking combines elements of math and science. Use the time when you make dinner as an opportunity to read and follow directions, to discuss fractions, to make hypotheses (“What will happen when I beat the egg whites?”), and to examine results.

Take the Lead

Children learn by example. Let your kids “catch” you reading. Take time to learn a new skill and discuss the experience with them. Sit down and pay bills or do other “homework” while your kids do their schoolwork.

If you display a strong work ethic and continually seek out learning opportunities for yourself, your kids will begin to model that same behavior in their own lives.

Talk Often

Do you know how your child feels about her classroom, her teacher, and her classmates? If not, ask her. Talk with her about what she likes and doesn’t like at school. Give her a chance to express her anxieties, excitements, or disappointments about each day, and continue to support and encourage her by praising her achievements and efforts.

Show Interest

Don’t limit your support to your child; extend it to her teachers as well. Meet the teachers and stay in regular contact by phone or e-mail so that you can discuss any concerns as they arise. Not only will it pave the way for you to ask questions, but it will also make the teachers more comfortable with calling you if they have concerns about your child.

Expect Success

Perhaps the most important way you can support your child’s efforts at school is to expect him to succeed. That doesn’t mean that you demand he be the best student or the best athlete or the best artist. Rather, let him know that you expect him to do “his best” so that he’ll be proud of what he can accomplish.

If you make that expectation clear and provide a home environment that promotes learning, then your child will have a greater chance of becoming the best student he can be.

5. School

Teaching Health Education in School

Many parents are keenly interested in the basic academic education of their youngsters—reading, writing, and arithmetic—but are not nearly as conscientious in finding out about the other learning that goes on in the classroom. A comprehensive health education pro­gram is an important part of the curriculum in most school districts. Starting in kindergarten and continuing through high school, it pro­vides an introduction to the human body and to factors that prevent illness and promote or damage health.

The middle years of childhood are extremely sensitive times for a number of health issues, especially when it comes to adopting health behavior that can have lifelong consequences. Your youngster might be exposed to a variety of health themes in school: nutrition, disease prevention, physical growth and development, reproduction, mental health, drug and alcohol abuse prevention, consumer health, and safety (cross­ing streets, riding bikes, first aid, the Heimlich maneuver). The goal of this ed­ucation is not only to increase your child’s health knowledge and to create positive attitudes toward his own well-being but also to promote healthy be­havior. By going beyond simply increasing knowledge, schools are asking for more involvement on the part of students than in many other subject areas. Children are being taught life skills, not merely academic skills.

It is easy to underestimate the importance of this health education for your child. Before long he will be approaching puberty and adolescence and facing many choices about his behavior that, if he chooses inappropriately, could im­pair his health and even lead to his death. These choices revolve around alco­hol, tobacco, and other drug use; sexual behavior (abstinence, prevention of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases); driving; risk-taking behavior; and stress management. Most experts concur that education about issues like alcohol abuse is most effective if it begins at least two years before the behav­ior is likely to start. This means that children seven and eight years old are not too young to learn about the dangers of tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs, and that sexuality education also needs to be part of the experience of elementary-school-age children. At the same time, positive health behavior can also be learned during the middle years of childhood. Your child’s well-being as an adult can be influenced by the lifelong exercise and nutrition habits that he adopts now.

Health education programs are most effective if parents are involved. Par­ents can complement and reinforce what children are learning in school dur­ing conversations and activities at home. The schools can provide basic information about implementing healthy decisions—for instance, how and why to say no to alcohol use. But you should be a co-educator, particularly in those areas where family values are especially important—for example, sexu­ality, AIDS prevention, and tobacco, alcohol, and other drug use.

Many parents feel ill-equipped to talk to their child about puberty, repro­duction, sex, and sexually transmitted diseases. But you need to recognize just how important your role is. With sexual topics—as well as with many other ar­eas of health—you can build on the general information taught at school and, in a dialogue with your youngster, put it into a moral context. Remember, you are the expert on your child, your family, and your family’s values.

Education seminars and education support groups for parents on issues of health and parenting may be part of the health promotion program at your school. If they are not offered, you should encourage their development. Many parents find it valuable to discuss mutual problems and share solutions with other parents. Although some parents have difficulty attending evening meet­ings, school districts are finding other ways to reach out to parents—for in­stance, through educational TV broadcasts with call-in capacities, Saturday morning breakfast meetings, and activities for parents and children together, or­ganized to promote good health (a walk/run, a dance, a heart-healthy luncheon).

In addition to providing education at home on health matters, become an advocate in your school district for appropriate classroom education about puberty, reproduction, AIDS, alcohol and other substance abuse, and other relevant issues. The content of health education programs is often decided at the community level, so make your voice heard.

As important as the content of a health curriculum may be, other factors are powerful in shaping your child’s attitudes toward his well-being. Examine whether other aspects of the school day reinforce what your youngster is be­ing taught in the classroom. For example, is the school cafeteria serving low-fat meals that support the good nutritional decisions encouraged by you and the teachers? Is there a strong physical education program that emphasizes the value of fitness and offers each child thirty minutes of vigorous activity at least three times a week? Does the school district support staff-wellness programs so that teachers can be actively involved in maintaining their own health and thus be more excited about conveying health information to their students?

In addition to school and home, your pediatrician is another health educator for you and your child. Since your child’s doctor knows your family, he or she can provide clear, personalized health information and advice. For in­stance, the pediatrician can talk with your child about the child’s personal growth patterns during puberty, relate them to the size and shape of other family members, and answer questions specific to your youngster’s own de­velopmental sequence and rate.

For most school-related health concerns, your pediatrician can provide you with specific advice and tailored guidance. You and your pediatrician may also consult with the school staff on how to deal most effectively with school time management of your child’s health problem.

5. School

Should My Child Repeat a Grade?

Should my child repeat a grade?

Ideally, no. Repeating a grade―also known as “grade retention” ―has not been shown to help children learn.

Children won’t outgrow learning and attention issues by repeating a grade. In fact, repeating a grade may contribute to long-term issues with low self-esteem, as well as emotional or social difficulties.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) believes children are most successful when they are supported to advance grade levels with their peers, when possible, while reasons behind their lack of academic progress are sorted out and addressed.

How many kids repeat grades annually?

According to 2016 data from the National Center for Education Statistics, about 1.9% of U.S. elementary through high school students stayed in the same grade they were enrolled in the prior school year― down from 3.1% in 2000.

Rates remain higher among younger children. In 2016, 4.3% of first-through-third graders repeated a grade. Social and economic factors such as race, family income and parents’ level of education also affect how likely a student is to have repeated a grade.

Rates are also high among children in households with low incomes. In 2016, 8% of children from households with incomes at or below the federal poverty level repeated a grade versus 3% of children who were from households with higher incomes.

Can your child read at a third-grade level?  Some states have “third-grade retention laws,” meaning that third grade students who aren’t reading at a certain level aren’t allowed to move on to fourth grade. The school of thought behind these laws: the transition from third to fourth grade is when classwork shifts from learning to read to reading to learn. But exceptions may be possible, especially if your child is diagnosed with a learning disability and has an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Other “good-cause” exemptions may include students who have been learning English as a second language (ESL) for three years or less.

Do any children benefit from repeating a grade?

Some students may benefit from repeating a grade, at least in the short term―especially those who already have strong self-esteem and are emotionally healthy but are still having difficulty keeping up academically with their classmates. But even if students who were held back improve on standardized test scores, this doesn’t appear to help their overall learning.

Repeating a grade can be considered an adverse childhood experience (ACE). Research suggests that repeating a grade, at any grade level, is associated with later high school dropout and other long-term effects. It also can affect a child’s social and emotional development. In one study, sixth-grade students rated having to repeat a grade as “the most stressful life event.” 

What can parents do if their child is in danger of repeating a grade?

  • Set attendance goals. Don’t underestimate the harm of these school absences. Children who are chronically absent in kindergarten and first grade are less likely to read on grade level by the third grade.
  • Talk with your pediatrician. Your pediatrician may refer your child for psychological and educational evaluations. These can held identify any neurodevelopmental and language disorders, learning and intellectual disabilities, emotional health issues, and/or sources of stress that can be addressed.
  • Get supports at school. Your pediatrician can help you request and advocate for the best Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 plan at the child’s school, as well as help you advocate for changes to existing plans.
  • Reinforce your child’s learning at home. In addition to doing homework, your children should spend time reading not only with you, but also on their own. If a child finds pleasure in reading, it increased the chances that it will become a lifelong habit.
  • Look into alternatives to repeating the grade. In addition to academic supports and services such as extra one-on-one time with a teacher’s aide, there are other alternatives to repeating a grade. One example is multi-age grouping, or mixing children from two or more grade levels in the same classroom. This way, a child stays in the same classroom with his or he friends—continues developing socially and emotionally—but receives the appropriate academic work that he or she needs. It also allows for the completion of grade-appropriate work in areas where they are capable. Other options include allowing children to repeat a failed semester instead of a full year. Extended school year or summer learning programs may also be offered in some areas.
5. School

School Discipline

Many classes have a student who constantly talks out of turn, or chews gum in class when it is clearly prohibited, or gets into fights with classmates, or peeks at another student’s paper during a spelling test. All of these situations warrant some disciplinary action. Most schools have a policy about discipline, and in many cases it is available in writing, often published in the school handbook. Although both students and parents tend to think of discipline as a form of punishment, it actually means to teach in a correct way and has a highly de­sirable purpose: providing an orderly, safe environment to promote learning. Disciplinary efforts work best when clear explanations are given to both children and parents about:

  • the behavior that is expected
  • the behavior that is unacceptable
  • the consequences of unacceptable behavior

The American Academy of Pediatrics feels strongly that while departures from expected behavior should be dealt with appropriately and firmly, teach­ers and school staff should also take into account each child’s individual tem­perament, attention span, and cognitive abilities. For example, a youngster with an attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may have more diffi­culty sitting still in class than most of the other children. This disorder should be kept in mind when discipline is being considered.

In all cases disciplinary actions should show respect for the youngster and take into account the student’s capabilities, effort, and ability to improve and respond positively. While discipline may include an extra homework assign­ment or a loss of privileges, physical punishment should never be used, nor should a child ever be humiliated in front of others. 

If your own youngster has disciplinary problems at school, you need to take a more active role in determining the reasons and ensuring that she behaves appropriately. Make certain she understands the type of behavior you and the school expect from her in the classroom and on the playground.

On occasion you might be unhappy with the school’s approach to disci­pline. In that event, address your concerns directly to the teacher, principal, or other school personnel. Do not make derogatory comments about the school to your child. Your own attitudes and behavior are a powerful role model for your youngster, and if you do not appear to have much respect for the school, your child will not either.

For example, if your youngster is being kept inside at recess as a form of punishment, and you feel she really needs to get outside and burn off some ex­cess energy, be careful how you express your dissatisfaction to your child. Do not say something like “That is really a stupid form of punishment, isn’t it?” In­stead, talk to the teacher and suggest another form of punishment that might be more appropriate. You and the teacher should try to find a common ground so your child receives a consistent set of expectations and positive reinforce­ment both at home and at school.

In general, a child should not be kept from play at recess to complete class­room assignments at her desk. She will dislike her work even more if she misses out on outdoor activities that she enjoys. And since her attention will probably be on the playground, she may not learn much from what she is do­ing. It is very important for children to be outside playing with others at times during the day.

In all cases ask the teacher and/or principal to keep you apprised of disci­plinary problems with your youngster. Some principals call home immediately upon the child’s first visit to their office; others believe that by the upper grades of elementary school, the youngster should take more responsibility for her own behavior, and thus these principals may try to help the child work out the problem without parental intervention.

If there is a serious problem, you probably will be notified at once; but for more routine behavioral difficulties, you cannot necessarily count on being called. If your child tells you she has been to the principal’s office and you want to know exactly what happened, feel free to call the principal. On the other hand, many issues can be resolved effectively without your involvement and without your also punishing your child at home for something that she is already being disciplined for at school.

Finally, keep in mind that behavior problems are often a signal of stress or a call for help or attention. Consider the causes of the behavior difficulties as well as the problems themselves.

5. School

School Bus Basics

Is bus transportation available for your child? Many parents have particular concerns about bus rides on the first day of school, and also when older youngsters riding the bus start to cause trouble. Also, what happens if a child misses the afternoon bus or is detained after school? On your child’s first day of elementary school, you might be tempted to drive her to school, particularly if she seems apprehensive about the bus ride or about starting school in general. However, except under unusual circum­stances strongly encourage your child to ride the bus that first day.

Your youngster should be there if seats on the bus are assigned, and the driver needs to get used to the stop where your child will be picked up. You can take your child to the bus stop and meet her there when she returns. If your work schedule doesn’t allow you to be there, arrange for another adult or an older sibling to take on this responsibility.

Review the basic bus safety rules with your youngster: Wait for the bus to stop before approaching it from the curb. Do not move around on the bus; this will help avoid injuries if the driver needs to stop quickly. When disembarking, cross at least ten feet in front of the bus and only when it is fully stopped, the red lights are flashing, and the driver has signaled that it is safe. Of course, the child should also check to make sure that no other traffic is coming.

In most cases, you won’t be allowed to ride on the bus with your child, even on the first day of school. Although some parents feel better following the bus to school in their car and making sure their child finds her classroom, the school staff is usually prepared to help youngsters navigate through the school grounds on opening day.

If your child complains about trouble occurring on the bus, caused by older and/or rowdy youngsters, find out what the particular problem is and take ap­propriate action. If your child is being teased or harassed, encourage her to suggest some potential solutions in hopes that she can resolve the difficulty herself. If she is being hurt or is afraid for her safety, call the principal for some assistance. To minimize problems, discourage your child from bringing ex­pensive or popular toys to play with on the bus, since they can easily become damaged when other children want to try them. Bear in mind that drivers need to concentrate on driving the bus; they have neither the time nor the training to serve as disciplinarians.

5. School

School Attendance, Truancy and Chronic Absenteeism: What Parents Need to Know

How many days has your child been absent from school over the past 4 weeks? Was it just one sick day or two? What about the day he left early for the dentist? Or the days you took off to extend a vacation? It’s hard to always keep track. 

Missing a day here or there may not seem like a problem. But, absences add up quickly. And, these missed school days can have a big impact on your child’s learning and overall health.

Missing two days a month—excused or unexcused—can add up to a child being considered chronically absent.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) encourages parents to reduce unnecessary absences, learn about attendance policies where they live, and prioritize getting their kids to school on time, every day. 

​What is chronic absenteeism?Chronic absenteeism means missing too much school—for any reason—excused or unexcused. Experts and a growing number of states define chronic absenteeism as missing 10% (or around 18 days) during a school year).

Chronic absenteeism affects as many as 6.5 million students nationwide.

That’s 13% of our total student population! You may think this is just high school students skipping school. But in fact, this problem starts early. At least 10% of kindergarten and first-grade students miss a month or more of the school year. Chronic absenteeism becomes more common in middle school, and about 19% of all high school students are chronically absent.

Students are chronically absent for many reasons.

There are some reasons for absenteeism that cannot be avoided. Life happens. Common illness causing high fevers and fatigue happen. But, if your child is missing many days of school, or a few days every single month, it’s important to consider the reason for the absenteeism.

  • A nationwide study  found that kids with ADHD, autism, or developmental delays are twice as likely to be chronically absent compared to kids without these conditions.
  • Children with common chronic illnesses, such as asthma and type 1 diabetes, miss more school when they are having more symptoms.
  • Mental health conditions, like anxiety or depression, are common reasons for absences.
  • Up to 5% of children have school-related anxiety and may create reasons why they should not go or outright refuse to attend school.

Add it all up, and this creates a lot of empty desks and missed school time.

Don’t underestimate the harm of these school absences.

Missing just two days a month of school―for any reason― can be a problem for kids in a number of ways. Children who are chronically absent in kindergarten and first grade are less likely to read on grade level by the third grade. For older students, being chronically absent is strongly associated with failing at school―even more than low grades or test scores. When absences add up, these students are more likely to be suspended and drop out of high school. Chronic absenteeism is also linked with teen substance use, as well as poor health as adults.   

​What makes a student “truant”?While chronic absenteeism measures total absences, including excused and unexcused, truancy measures only unexcused absences. The number of unexcused absences it takes for a student to be considered a “truant” differs by state.  Read your school district policies and state codes on attendance. You need to stay well-informed on how many absences are allowed, and what count as excused and unexcused absences. Take any warning you receive seriously. Why? The consequences of too many absences are serious not only for students, but also for parents! Schools handle minor truancy with warning letters, parent-teacher conferences, and other means. However, in some states, parents can be fined when their kids miss too much school.

Here are 10 practical tips to getting your child to school on time, every day:

  1. Set attendance goals with your child and track your child’s attendance on a calendar. Try offering small rewards for not missing any school, such as a later bedtime on weekends.
  2. Help your child get a good night’s sleep. A lack of sleep is associated with lower school achievement starting in middle school, as well as higher numbers of missed school and tardiness. Most younger children need 10-12 hours per night and adolescents (13-18 years of age) need 8-10 hours per night.
  3. Prep the night before to streamline your morning. Lay out your child’s clothes. Pack backpacks and lunches. Develop back-up plans for getting to school if something comes up like a missed bus or an early meeting. Have a family member, a neighbor, or another trusted adult on standby to take your child to school should you ever need help.
  4. Try to schedule dental or medical appointments before or after school hours. If children have to miss school for medical appointments, have them return immediately afterward so they do not miss the entire day.
  5. Schedule extended trips during school breaks. This helps your child stay caught up in school learning and sets the expectation for your child to be in school during the school year. Even in elementary school, missing a week of classes can set your child behind on learning.  
  6. Don’t let your child stay home unless he or she is truly sick. Reasons to keep your child home from school include a temperature greater than 101 degrees, vomiting, diarrhea, a hacking cough, or a toothache. Keep in mind, complaints of frequent stomachaches or headaches can be a sign of anxiety and may not be a reason to stay home.
  7. Talk with your child about the reasons why he or she does not want to go to school. School-related anxiety can lead to school avoidance. Talk to your child about their symptoms and try to get them to talk about any emotional struggles they may have with issues like bullying, fear of failure, or actual physical harm. If you are concerned about your child’s mental health, talk with your pediatrician, your child’s teacher, or school counselor.
  8. If your child has a chronic health issue such as asthma, allergies, or seizures, talk with your pediatrician about developing a school action plan. Meet with and get to know the nurse at your child’s school. If you need guidance and documentation for an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 Plan, ask for your pediatrician’s help accessing services at school.
  9. Follow the rules. Be sure you know what your school’s requirements are for when your child will be absent or late. If you are supposed to call, email, or provide a doctor’s note after a certain number of days out, then do it. If we want our children to follow rules, we must lead by example. Cross your t’s and dot your i’s when it comes to these procedures.
  10. Keep track of your child’s attendance and investigate reasons when the days missed add up. Look into why your child is absent. Think about your child’s mood. Has she been spending time by herself lately? Is his chronic condition starting to be more problematic? Is this school refusal? You know your child best. 
5. School

Registering Your Child for School

To enroll your child in school, you will need to demonstrate that he meets the school district’s age requirements for kindergarten. Some schools require that a child be five by September of his entry year. Others use different cut off dates. If proof of age is requested, bring a birth certificate, religious (bap­tismal) certificate, or a physician’s record. If you feel convinced that your child is ready for kindergarten and you want him to attend, but he has not reached the designated chronological age, find out the exemption process that may be offered in your school district.

Visiting the Doctor

Before your child enters school, make an appointment for your youngster with your pediatrician. The doctor will make certain your child is properly immu­nized and can discuss with you the various issues related to this important transition.

Since many schools register new kindergarten students in the spring, sched­ule this doctor’s visit for late winter or early spring so the important readiness issues discussed earlier can be addressed well in advance, and so that you avoid the late-summer logjam in the physician’s office. Ask for a copy of your youngster’s immunizations to bring with you to school during registration. 


When you register your youngster, you will be asked for his immunization record. Specifically, the school staff will want to see either a copy of the record from your child’s pediatrician or the clinic where the immunizations were given, including the doctor’s signature, or a summary copy from the physi­cian’s office.

If you do not have a record but are sure your child has had all the necessary shots, the school will usually give you some time to obtain the records. In many places they will not be able simply to take your word for it; the immu­nization requirement is a state law, and the state dictates which types of records are acceptable.

A fully immunized child who has had a four- or five-year-old checkup will have had one or two MMR (measles, mumps, rubella), five DTP, DTaP, or DT (diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus), four polio vaccines, and three to four Haemophilus influenzae B conjugate vaccines. He may have also been immu­nized against hepatitis B and chicken pox. All these immunizations are not necessarily required for school entry, so check with your school to find out which ones are needed.

If your child does not have the immunizations required by your particular school district, your pediatrician will likely recognize this and can address the problem during the prekindergarten appointment you have made. The needed immunizations can often be given at that visit. Even if additional immunizations are needed, your child will probably be admitted to school with a note from your pediatrician that the immunizations are “in progress.” School personnel are aware that time intervals (such as six weeks) are often needed between some of these immunizations, but may allow only that amount of time, so be prompt.

If your child has not been immunized because you have moral or religious objections to immunizations, ask the school staff about the exemption process. Some parents who have not had their children previously immunized decide to have immunizations done when their children start school because their youngsters will now be exposed to large numbers of children and dis­eases. Talk it over with your pediatrician if you have questions or concerns.