Across our country, from 10 to 30 percent of kindergarten children are retained in kindergarten or placed in "transitional" classes. These children are failing kindergarten because they are presumably not ready for the rigors of first grade. Yet the early years of schooling are crucial in determining the child's long-term attitudes towards self, teachers and learning. A child who emerges from the early years feeling good about himself or herself, respecting teachers and enjoying learning, will regard education as exciting and as a positive challenge. Contrariwise, a child who leaves the early years of schooling feeling badly about himself or herself, with a low regard for teachers, and turned off to learning will find lunch the most interesting part of the school day.
Kindergarten retention totally ignores what we know about child development. Early childhood is a period of very rapid intellectual growth. Some young children attain the age of reason, the ability to engage in syllogistic reasoning (All men are mortal, Socrates is a man, therefore Socrates is mortal) at five, some at six, some at seven. All children, with the exception of the extremely retarded, get these new abilities, but they get them at different ages. Syllogistic reasoning allows children to follow rules and to appreciate that one thing can have more than one defining trait (Socrates is both man and mortal). These two abilities are critical for learning the tool skills of reading and math. Formal education should not begin until the majority of children in the class have attained these reasoning abilities. That is why, in the Scandinavian countries and in Russia, formal instruction does not begin until the age of seven.