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What things should I know about Kindergarten enrollment?

Frequently Asked Questions About Kindergarten Enrollment
By: MDE Great Start
Lasted Updated August 1, 2022
More Information for Parents of Preschoolers (age 4-5 yrs)
Information and resources to help you understand what your preschooler is going through during this stage of development. You’ll also find answers to many of your questions with tips, learnings, resources and more for the next few years.

Is My Child Eligible to Attend Kindergarten? 
If your child meets the age requirement (five years old by September 1), they may enroll in Kindergarten. There is no entry test for Kindergarten. 

Is My Child Required to Attend Kindergarten? 
Enrollment in Kindergarten is not required in Michigan, but is strongly recommended. Enrollment in public or nonpublic school is required, however, for children who reach age six by September 1 of that school year. 

How Do I Know if My Child is Ready for Kindergarten? 
Most children are ready by age five, so it is likely that your child will be, too. The important part of making sure they are ready is for families and teachers to work together to make sure each child feels confident and ready to learn. 

What Can I Do to Help My Child Prepare for Kindergarten?
Family support is the most important factor to make your child feel safe and ready for school. Do things like: keep a daily routine and make sure they have plenty of play time. Read to, play with and listen to your child. Also, make sure your child’s shots and health checkups are current. 

How Do I Enroll My Child in Kindergarten? 
Most public schools start sign-up in early spring for the next fall. The most common things you’ll need to register include:

  • Your child’s birth certificate
  • Immunization record
  • Vision & hearing test results
  • Proof of where you live and a health form
  • Check your school district’s website for their exact date and the info they want you to bring.

What Papers Do I Need to Sign My Child up for Kindergarten? 
The most common ones needed are:

  • birth certificate or other proof of birth
  • proof of where you live
  • vaccination and immunization records
  • and vision and hearing tests

Is There an Early Option for Kindergarten Enrollment? 
If your child is turning five after September 1 but before December 1, you can request early enrollment instead of waiting a year. Talk to your child’s school district about the early Kindergarten entry options. The final decision is always up to you. 

What if My Child Has a Disability? 
A kindergarten class should support ALL children. School districts are required to teach children with special needs in regular classes when possible. If your child has an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), the school will work with you to make sure your child’s specific needs are met during this transition to kindergarten. You and your child have rights. You should receive a brochure explaining your rights from your Intermediate School District (ISD). To learn more about your child and family’s rights, visit the Michigan Alliance for Families.

What Services, Supports and Goals Will My Child Receive as Part of Special Education? 
An Individualized Education Program (IEP) team, including parents, teachers, and important adults in your child’s life, will be created for eligible children. The IEP will tell, according to federal guidelines, what supports, programs, and services your child will get, and how much time will be spent in regular class. Focusing on your child’s strengths and needs, the IEP will set goals and timelines for each service and support. 

Is Full or Half-Day Kindergarten Available for My Child? 
Although districts can choose to have morning or afternoon half-day sessions, full-day sessions, or alternate full-day sessions, most school districts in Michigan offer full-day Kindergarten. This allows children more learning time.

What if I Need Before- or After-School Care for My Kindergartner? 
Some schools offer before- and after-school child care. There is usually a cost, but the benefit is that your child can stay in one place for the whole day. Schools that offer this should have a child care license from the Child Care Licensing Bureau displayed in their classroom or office. 

How Will My Child Get to School?
If you live close enough, you may walk or drive your child to school. If you live a longer distance, riding the school bus may be an option. Contact your school or visit their website to learn about what bus routes are available. Some schools provide home pick-up and drop-off for kindergartners. 

What if My Child is Sick or There is an Emergency at School? 
Call the school if your child is going to be absent. Make sure the school has phone numbers where you can be reached, knows who can be contacted, and knows who can pick your child up from school. Teach your child how to contact you, and put that information in their backpack. Choose an alternate emergency contact, and make sure your child knows who that is. 

What Should a Good Kindergarten Program Have? 
Teaching and materials are age appropriate and are held in a quality environment. There is a mix of active and quiet time. There is also a mix of group time and independent work time. Parents and their children feel welcome. Teachers respect your family’s differences and culture. Students take part in deciding what they do during learning time. 

What Will My Child Do in Kindergarten? 
Your child will have active and quiet activities, in large and small groups. There will be time for your child to work alone on projects. There will be a snack time. Also, there may be extra classes such as gym, music, art, library, computers, etc. Ask your teacher for a sample daily routine. 

How is Kindergarten Different from Preschool? 
The program will be more formal and structured, with teacher-led activities. There will be more group projects and less free time. Classrooms will be bigger, with more children in class. They will work on writing letters and numbers. Classwork will work towards meeting state of Michigan goals for kindergarten.

Why Does Learning Involve Play in Kindergarten?
Research shows children this age learn best through play. Most kindergartners are not ready to sit and listen for a long time. Using play to learn helps keep children engaged. It helps physical skills by moving their muscles, social skills by boosting imagination, emotional skills through compassion and teamwork, and mental skills with problem solving.

What will my child learn in Kindergarten?
Your child will start to learn reading and simple math skills. The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) has guides for each school on what should be taught in each subject or area. These subjects include science, technology, social studies, nutrition and health, physical education, the arts, and, for some, world languages. For more information on these subjects and the MDE guidelines, visit the Michigan Academic Standards page.

How Do I Know if My Child is Learning?
It’s natural to wonder about your child’s progress and learning. There are a number of ways to determine your child’s strengths and needs. This includes both informal (based on the teacher’s experience and observations) and formal assessments (using tools created by experts in child growth and learning). You play an important role partnering with the teacher to understand your child’s progress, goals, challenges, and any needs. Keep an open line of communication with the teacher with daily check-ins in person, online or through an app. 

What if English Isn’t Our Family’s First Language?
The school will do a language screening for your child to help the teachers plan for their learning and for supports. It is important that the school supports your child’s first language, while helping them learn English. 

What Do I Do if My Child Does Not Speak English?
Children can learn two languages at the same time. Learning a second language should not replace your home language. If the language difference makes learning too hard, your child may go to an English as a Second Language, or bilingual, class. In those classes, your child will learn the same material as other children in the same grade. 

What if There are Concerns About My Child’s Development?
Remember children learn at different rates. Talk to your doctor, teacher, and other people who know and work with your child if you have any concerns related to growth and learning. If you still have concerns, and it affects your child at school, submit a request for an evaluation to the principal or teacher. For more information on the evaluation and what happens next, the best thing to do is talk with your child’s teacher. 

What is a 504 Plan for Students with Disabilities?
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is the law that does not allow discrimination on the basis of disability, guaranteeing anyone with a disability equal access to education. A 504 plan is created for students with a disability who require support in order to be successful in the classroom. Children with a 504 plan are protected and should receive learning in a typical classroom, in a classroom with supplementary services or some combination of the two. To learn more about the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and a 504 plan, visit the ADA Guide to Disability Rights Laws. 

What Can I Do at Home to Prepare My Child?
Spending time with your child doing simple, fun activities helps get them ready for school. Some of these activities include: 

  • Reading to them every day
  • Coloring and drawing with your child
  • Talking and listening to your child 
  • Using a lot of different words when talking to them
  • Being respectful with your child and others
  • Playing with your child
  • Cooking with your child 

How Can I Help My Child Become a Reader?
Reading, writing, speaking, listening, and viewing are all key parts to helping your child master and love reading. Talk with your child every day. Read with your child for at least 30 minutes daily. Point at words when you read them. Ask them to tell you a story. Have them watch you write.

How Can I Help My Child Ease First Day Jitters?
Your child is influenced by the things you say and do. Show that you are happy and excited about starting kindergarten. Find and read a book about starting school. Start them off with a good breakfast before they go. Let your child take part in making decisions about things like what to wear and school supplies. Give a loving, but firm goodbye and let your child know when you will see them again. 

Are There Books I Can Read to My Child About Kindergarten?
There are some great books about starting kindergarten that are fun and can help your child learn what to expect when they start school. For book recommendations, ask your child’s teacher or a local librarian. 

How Can I Be Engaged with My Child’s Education?
Being engaged in your child’s school helps them succeed. There are many ways to become involved. You can volunteer at the school, join the PTA, or serve on a committee. You can read and respond to the school notices or newsletters. You can also be involved simply by helping organize your child’s time, helping with homework, and talking to them positively about school. 

Should I Talk Regularly with My Child’s Teacher?
Being in touch with your child’s teacher makes it easier for your child to move into kindergarten and more satisfying for you. Sharing your different points of view is important. Being a partner in your child’s education with their teacher is one of the best ways to support the learning experience. Keep communication open. Call or email the teacher with questions, respond to notes, volunteer in class, look at your child’s work, attend parent-teacher meetings, and use the app to check in daily if your school offers one. 

What About Sharing My Family’s Culture?
Your family’s beliefs and customs have a great impact on your child’s life. Children find it easier to learn when their classrooms feel more like home. Good teachers accept and respect the beliefs held by families. Ask your teacher about opportunities to share your family’s culture with the school.

Will My Child Benefit from an Extra Year of Kindergarten?
Kindergarten is a one-school-year program before first grade. There is a developmental kindergarten program to give children who are not ready an extra year of schooling. However, research has shown that for most children attending two years of kindergarten has no long-term benefits and, in fact, may negatively impact your child in the long run. 

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