Q. "My 4-year-old will be 5 on Aug. 20. My concern is whether we should enroll him in kindergarten. I'm worried that his (possible) emotional immaturity may cause him to "bottom out" later in the fifth and sixth grades.

"My older son has a January birthday and I can see how his later start gives him an edge in second grade. And I do know that many psychologists and early-childhood specialists are urging parents not to push their pre-schoolers academically. Some even think parents should hold boys back from kindergarten until they're fully 5 1/2.

"If my son were small, had a later birthday, or was physically, emotionally or intellectually disabled, there would be no question, but he has none of these problems. This decision is difficult because I have been preparing him for school at age 5 and if he has to wait another year I'd feel we were just marking time."

A. It's refreshing to hear from a parent who would consider holding her child back, rather than automatically pushing him forward.

Rushing never helps a child, but that isn't the only consideration. It can be almost as bad to hold him back, when he's ready to get going. And your son sounds ready.

Although some children--especially boys--need more time to be ready for school, they are usually the ones who have trouble settling down, who are smaller, who get tired more easily, who don't concentrate as well as their friends, who are quick to cry. But your little boy seems right on target, in all ways. To keep him out of school for another year could be embarrassing to him and a terrific letdown, not just because he's been promised the move, but because the younger child is always eager to follow the older one.

You're going to be amazed how much your child will grow up in the next six months. If he goes back to his old pre-school, or to another one, he'd probably be mighty bored by January.

Why don't you see how he does in kindergarten? He should be able to handle it well, although he may need more rest than an older child, with an earlier bedtime or a rest after lunch. Kindergarten is more tiring than nursery school. He also should have more stories read to him and less TV; some heavy-duty exercise to keep the oxygen flowing and the mind lively and, of course, very little junk food. He needs all the sustained energy he can get.

Your child also will need a minimum of pressure at home: Let him learn his ABC's when he will.

If, by the end of kindergarten, he shows signs of flagging--academically, socially or physically--see if he can be put in the junior primary if your school has one. It's a pleasant stopping place that gives young first graders the chance to catch up and old kindergartners the chance to move ahead. Your child would find this a smoother transition than staying back while all his friends started school.

And if your school has no junior primary and the teacher agrees, let him go on to first grade. Given the odds, your child is going to make it on schedule. Most children do.

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