Is Kindergarten Optional?

Is Kindergarten optional in South Carolina? This is a discussion that has come up several times recently. I’ve talked before about compulsory attendance law, but several inaccuracies are still lingering.

Kindergarten is not optional. But you can opt-out.




Let’s talk about what we mean by “optional.” My husband says that the stop signs that are outlined in white are optional. It’s kind of an inside joke or debate that we’ve had for many years about rolling stop vs. complete stop. So, he’s come up with this “rule” that the ones outlined in white are optional so that he can roll on thru. Well, they’re actually all outlined in white. And we all know that stop signs are absolutely *not* optional.

Some things are optional, but stop signs are not. Now, what about Kindergarten?

Is Kindergarten Optional?

When somone says that kindergarten is optional, it’s misleading about what the law actually says. Optional means that it’s “available to be chosen, but not obligatory.” Kindergarten is not an available option to choose if you want.

No. Kindergarten is *not* optional in South Carolina. (Other states might be.)

If it’s September 1st and your child is 5-years old, they’re under compulsory attendance. They are expected to report to school. It’s not optional.

It’s obligatory. It’s compulsory. It’s required.

BUT…You can opt out. In order to opt out of Kindergarten, you have to sign a waiver (or register as a homeschooler).




Confusing Components

There’s a few more components that are confusing. Perhaps it makes sense to lawyers and legislators. But, not so much to the rest of us.

The wording is clunky. It’s confusing the way it’s stated in the law. “A parent whose child is not six years of age on or before the first day of September of a particular school year may elect for their child not to attend kindergarten.” It means if it’s September 1st and your child is five years old–they can opt out of Kindergarten. 

The school year starts weeks before theSeptember 1st deadline date. So, if your child’s birthday is late in August, they may actually be four when school starts, but they turn five by September 1st. You might want to let the child mature another year and start Kindergarten the following year.

School officials sometimes don’t know either. Some school officials don’t know about the waiver because they may not have had anyone want it before. I’ve heard of some schools that refer the parent to register with a homeschool association instead. If you really want to sign the waiver, you might have to be persistant against the school’s advice.




Legalities Matter

So, why does it matter? Who cares anyway? Since the school district doesn’t know about your child anyway, they aren’t counting your child absent either. You might not get caught. Just like you might not get caught rolling thru a stop sign. In most cases, the consequences are fairly minimal for misunderstanding the law if you do get caught.

But, I recently saw a situation where the mother was leaving an abusive relationship, and most likely going to have a custody battle about it. The child was going to be a young Kindergartener. Combined with the family situation, he was not ready for Kindergarten. Some were advising her that Kindergarten is optional anyway, so she could just not send him.

That kind of advice is dangerous and it matters to her. A lot. If she doesn’t have the necessary documentation to show why her child isn’t at school, she could risk losing custody.

Next time we’re giving advice, let’s be clear. Kindergarten is not optional. But you can opt-out.

Read more about Getting Started as a Homeschooler instead:So, you've decided to homeschool...and now you're searching and researching till you're about cross-eyed from it all. The good news is, it's really not that hard. South Carolina is a great place to homeschool. Here's 5 easy steps to Homeschool in South Carolina.

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About Kim Andrysczyk

Homeschool veteran, Association Director, coffee addict, sarcasm expert, and accidental blogger. I'm here to encourage you thru the tough times and inspire you toward excellence. If I can make it, so can you!

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