Why the Five’s?

Perhaps your child’s birthday falls in the second half of the year. Maybe you’re thinking your child needs more social and emotional growth. Or you sense that your child would benefit from additional play-based learning before enrolling in kindergarten. Whatever the reason, you might be wondering, why the Five’s?

On January 15, a panel of staff, parents, and an education specialist, convened at Zion’s Hill Preschool to answer that question. Director Jessica Joy opened the event by providing some context. Most states require that children turn 5 years old on or before September 1 if they are to enroll in kindergarten. A handful of states cut off kindergarten enrollment between September 1 and October 15. In Connecticut, however, children can turn 5 as late as January 1 to enroll in kindergarten. This means children in Connecticut can begin kindergarten as young as 4 years 8 months. As kindergarten becomes increasingly academic, and research emerges on potential disadvantages of being the youngest in the class, some families face a dilemma: Enroll my age-eligible child in kindergarten? But what if he just doesn’t seem ready?

Connecticut’s unique situation has led to the development of Five’s programs around the state. During the panel discussion, education specialist Katie Egan Cunningham explained three primary benefits of a Five’s class: play-based learning, a focus on inquiry, and interdisciplinary curriculum. In this kind of classroom environment, Katie explained, children increase their knowledge about the world, which in turn fosters curiosity, empathy, and the desire for further knowledge. “It ignites a cycle of learning,” said Katie, “that children want to repeat.” Five’s Lead Teacher Marissa Generoso spoke about ZHPP’s “Fearless Five’s,” which currently consists of 12 students with birthdays June to December. Building independence and encouraging peer relationships are top priorities. The curriculum integrates all of Connecticut’s early learning standards—cognitive, social, emotional, physical, literacy, math, science, social studies, and the creative arts—through units designed in response to children’s interests, including space, farms, holidays around the world, and the human body. Two parents on the panel shared why they enrolled their children in the Five’s and the significant benefits they have observed, both for their current Five’s children and for those who are now in elementary school. One parent explained that she opted not to enroll her daughter in the Five’s several years ago, and she has noticed several age-related concerns develop now that her daughter is in third grade. Panelists also addressed concerns families might have as they consider a Five’s class, from managing the daily routine to coordinating services if your child has an IEP.

If you are interested in learning more, please contact Jessica Joy. She would be happy to share further details from the panel, put you in touch with panelists, and take you on a tour.