Only a year

I don’t do parenting advice because what the hell do I know about your kids?  Every kid and every family is different and so for any given question there are millions of permutations of the right answer.  All I can give you is my thoughts on my family and the assurance that they are arrived at with no judgment and much respect for differences of opinion.

With that disclaimer, Kindergarten – to repeat or not to repeat?  That is the question I’ve been asked by many.  If you have a kid born between about May and September, you will have at least thought about this issue.  Do you start Kindergarten in the year he turns five, making him one of the youngest kids in his class, or do you start the next year, making him the oldest?

I think you all know that after much angst, we went with the latter choice.  Saige & Garrett are in their second year of Kindergarten this year, their first in public school.  They turned six last summer & fall respectively.

I will say this:  I love this decision. It’s probably the parenting decision I feel the most confident about in my six brief years of parenting.  Last year, I watched them struggle a bit.  Emotionally, they were too young. They were unsure.  This year they are confident and certain. They have been labeled leaders and they receive a lot of praise.

Maybe that’s not important, but we are committed to a public school education and public schools track kids.  It might be wrong; it might be right; it’s a fact.  When I look at the pros and cons of free public education, I realized that mass anything is not a perfect fit on the individual level.  Mass education – education aimed at trying to bring millions of school-aged children the knowledge categorized as necessary for an elementary education  – has to aim for the middle.  How else do you teach to such diversity?  How else do you form a curriculum that can accommodate every possible level of learning?

When you take a curriculum aimed at the middle and apply it to a class of twenty-seven kids you get … tracking.  The kids who have stretched beyond the given curriculum track high. The kids who are emotionally, socially, or physically not ready or who have less exposure track low.

So did that extra year of Kindergarten give my kids an advantage?  Hell yes it did.  They were emotionally, socially and physically more ready than 90% of the class this year. They had more exposure.  They tracked high and I can see that it is going to follow them through their elementary years barring difficulty that we’re not expecting.  How can it not?  They know that they’re good at the required subject matter.  They feel the confidence of picking up skills easily.

I don’t by any stretch of the imagination think these are the only criteria for success or that this is the only way to look at this issue, but I am personally very, very glad my kids repeated Kindergarten and started public school in the year they turned six.

But what about boredom?  What about challenge?  What about Garrett telling that sub that he might die if they didn’t move on to the next activity?

I don’t care.

I’m gonna say it again:  I don’t care. I don’t care if they’re a little bored.  I think both teachers have done an admirable job of meeting them where they are.  I think the subject matter is new in enough areas that they are challenged at least some of the time and I think the social and emotional challenges of their first year in a class of 27 very diverse kids is challenging enough.  And if they’re a little bored sometimes?  If they have to wait for a classmate to pick up on an idea?  Good.  That’s life.  We all get bored.  We all have to suck it up and do things anyway.  We all have to wait for people who are taking a little more time to pick something up.  We might even have to help them.  Twenty years from now, when my kids are in line behind the idiot that can’t work the automatic teller machine, or the struggling mother of four at the check out, I hope they are the sweet, young adults that take a deep breath and offer to help, not the entitled assholes that honk or mutter under their breath.

I see public elementary school as more than just an education in reading and math.  In fact, that’s kind of on the bottom of my priorities for the next six years.  We can teach them a love of reading right here, we’ve already brought them grades beyond what public Kindergarten teaches and that’s no praise to us. That’s by just living.  We read.  We converse with a fairly high vocabulary.  We challenge them to understand math in day-to-day transactions.  We can challenge them in these early years.  I want elementary school to teach them other things.  Community.  Teamwork.  Kindness.  What it feels like to follow your peers and do the wrong thing.  What it feels like to stand up to your peers and do the right thing.  How teasing hurts.  How to apologize.  How to move on from embarrassment.  How to talk about a problem.  How to work with someone who doesn’t agree with you.  How to stand up for yourself.  How to be a friend.

These lessons have such low stakes right now as compared to the situations where they might be critically needed in the future.

In conclusion, yes, I am thrilled with our decision to repeat Kindergarten.  I don’t think that there can be too much repetition of these early lessons.  I don’t think you can have too much practice at coping skills in such a relatively innocuous environment.  I’m in no rush to propel my kids into junior high a year earlier because I wanted them challenged academically.  I hope that these playground apologies and embarrassments and friendships will translate into big skills.  So that when a teen is tortured by his peers in ten years, my kids will still be leaders and they’ll have the balls to say “cut it out it’s not funny.”  So that when faced with a crisis, a drunk peer at the wheel, pressure to have sex, a suicidal friend, drugs, they will have the self-confidence and the tools to make good decisions.

I could be totally and completely wrong and all my parenting shit could hit the proverbial fan spectacularly in a few years.  I have no crystal ball.  But I’ll trade a little boredom for that chance.

To end this rational, carefully argued piece on an emotional mother-of-four note, I’ll never forget this piece of wisdom that I received last summer: “Do you want them to graduate a year earlier or do you want them to be babies a year longer?”

Mercy, they aren’t babies nearly long enough.

79 Responses to Only a year
  1. MegglesP
    April 3, 2012 | 2:54 am

    I really like your views about public school. I bought a house a mile from my childhood home partly because I know the schools are great. I may not live in this house when my future kids are ready to go to school, but finding a good school district will be one of my top priorities. I am all for public schools.

    Another bonus of letting them repeat kindergarten? If they do sports in high school, especially G, he will be one of the bigger, more mature boys. My boyfriend’s best friend is one of three boys in a family where the dad is a football coach. All three boys repeated K so that they would be older and bigger than their peers when it came to sports. I guess it paid off because they all got football scholarships. :)

    • Anymommy
      April 3, 2012 | 3:02 am

      We have great schools too and I like to be realistic about the limitations of public education. Unless these boys are a lot more coordinated than their parents, there is no way it’s going to help them in sports ;-)

  2. Denise-EPL
    April 3, 2012 | 2:55 am

    By school district rules, I am going to have both. My oldest started Kindergarten at 4, didn’t turn 5 until LATE September. She’s now in 3rd grade and doing splendid. Daughter #2 was born in December, she misses the cut off to start Kdg making her 10 months older than her sister was in the same grade. I’ll have one that’s the youngest in her class and one that is the oldest. Although, they won’t experience that until Middle School because they attend multi-age classrooms, something else I LOVE.

    The beauty of both situations?

    They go to a school that is based in individual learning (focus school), not teaching to the middle. So whatever they need, where they are working whether it be above grade level or below, they’ll be nurtured there. When I read your words about tracking, my heart just sinks….

    • Anymommy
      April 3, 2012 | 3:07 am

      I’ve heard a lot of praise for multi-age classrooms. It makes sense. As far as tracking goes, I think I just have to be realistic about it. It happens. And if we have the resources to meet the kids where they are once they are evaluated, which this district does, but many don’t, then it’s not all bad. I’m not crazy about the impression it gives the kids of themselves as time goes on, especially since the original distinction was based on age/experience and not necessarily ability.

  3. emily
    April 3, 2012 | 3:10 am

    Thank you for this post! I love it so much! I feel like you just wrote exactly how I feel about public school! You have a great talent for writing! Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us!

  4. Pamela
    April 3, 2012 | 3:10 am

    If you have to ask the question, you should already know the answer. In NY, the Kindergarten cut off is December 1st. Henry turned 5 on 11/27, and even if we didn’t school at home, I would have kept him home. Jack’s birthday is 7/27 and I started school with him this year when he was already six.

    Public school or not, it just works better to give kids a little more room to be little.

    • Anymommy
      April 3, 2012 | 3:58 am

      Room to be little. Yes. I had no idea some states moved the cut off to mid-year. I guess it doesn’t change the problem, just moves the birthdays that are borderline?

  5. She Looks Like a Mom
    April 3, 2012 | 3:12 am

    I recall commenting this one of your previous posts about repeating K, but I’ll say it again to emphasize the point you make here: my birthday is late August, and I was 4 when I started K. I was the youngest kid in my class for a couple of years (until another girl– who turned out to be my best friend– moved up a grade), but I’m sure my lifelong inferiority complex of always feeling younger, submissive, unsure, etc… started in Kindergarten. Even to this day, when I’ll be turning 30 this year, I have a hard time feeling mature enough to stand my ground as an expert on any given material. That said, I am in no rush to get my kids into Kindergarten. The social skills that Garrett and Saige are learning this year are absolutely as important as you think they are, Stacey. Those kids will grow up to be much more mature people than I can ever be.

    • Anymommy
      April 3, 2012 | 4:00 am

      It’s so interesting, you are not the first person that I’ve heard say that this affected them so profoundly. My youngest sister was very young (she didn’t turn five until December of her Kindergarten year) and felt it all the way through college. (I suspect you are fully caught up and very mature now ;-)

  6. Rebecca
    April 3, 2012 | 3:29 am

    Love your point of view, although I’m on the other side. I have a newly eight year old third grader who will jump to 5th next year. I think challenging him is very important and he is being challenged, finally. Don’t we all question our parenting decisions? 90% of the time I’m certain we’re doing it right, but some days I wonder :).

    • Anymommy
      April 3, 2012 | 4:01 am

      Yes, I think that we do. That must be so interesting – I have no idea how I’d feel if the school suggested one of them be moved up a grade. (I suspect I won’t have to deal with this particular problem ;-)

  7. Tracey
    April 3, 2012 | 3:29 am

    How do you do it, Stacey? How do you ALWAYS write EXACTLY what I’m thinking??? My oldest was born during July and we “redshirted” him for kindergarten as well. Having taught first grade for ten years prior, I was confident in that decision as well – and have not regretted it in the least since. As you say – one of the few parenting decisions I’ve made that I completely trust. I love how you write, though – you explain it all so eloquently.

    • Anymommy
      April 3, 2012 | 4:02 am

      Aw, thanks. Maybe we just gravitate together because we think alike?

  8. Lisa/MommyMo
    April 3, 2012 | 3:31 am

    I love you.

  9. LauraW
    April 3, 2012 | 3:59 am

    I’ve heard several parents say (myself included) I wish I’d held him back. I’ve never heard a parent say, I wish I’d pushed him on.

    Our oldest is bright. Beautifully so. However his social skills have always held him back. I worry for him as he heads off to college next fall. His GPA may be above average, but who cares if he is lonely and lacks the skills to make friends or lead when he needs to.

    Public or Private – your lessons at home on success in school are dead on! Read. Talk. Challenge. Question. Listen.

    • Anymommy
      April 3, 2012 | 4:04 am

      I bet he’ll do beautifully with you to support him.

  10. Susan
    April 3, 2012 | 5:30 am

    Hello.
    I’m a long time reader, but this is my first time commenting.

    Just wanted to say that boredom at class is not something to take that lightly. I live in a country where school age is 7. Some professionals considered me school-ready at 5, but my parents decided not to let me go that early; I started at 6 (which means I was still the youngest of our class). In primary school I was bored. By the time I reached high school I was just plain lazy.

    I suppose what I’m trying to say is, if they’re feeling bored at school, you have to challenge them academically at home.

    • anymommy
      April 3, 2012 | 3:33 pm

      Definitely. I was bored in K-12 too; I did well easily and I had a lot of time for mischief, so that can be a problem. I think extracurricular activities can fill those gaps and you can challenge at home. I didn’t feel truly intellectually challenged by something I loved to learn until law school. I think this is a problem across public education and I’m not sure how to solve it, but we’ll try at home.

  11. Gayle
    April 3, 2012 | 7:51 am

    Susan makes a good point… my oldest was bright, got bored and by HS was lazy. Just didn’t apply himself at all.

    My two oldest are at the older end and honestly I wish they weren’t. It’s that whole turning 18 in the middle of the school year. I’ve seen several kids I know pull the “adult” card, move out of home and quit school. I got Nick through graduation, but I work about Elijah…he’s got so many issues and once he’s 18 he’ll probably be homeless with the attitude that is going to accompany it. (I hope I am wrong).

    The biggest thing you hit on the head was that all kids and all families are different. What works for one may not for another. My Lucas is one of the youngest in his K class, but he is also the most mature and brightest so holding him back would never be considered. It’s a big crap shoot…sometimes I get it right and sometimes I fail, but everything I do is done with love and good intentions.

    I hope to be still reading your posts in 12 years to see how it worked out. :)

    • anymommy
      April 3, 2012 | 3:35 pm

      Oh my gosh, I hope I’m still writing and you’re still reading in twelve years too! And please feel free to be all, “remember when you said xxxx!” Ahahahahahahah. ;-)

  12. Karen
    April 3, 2012 | 10:23 am

    Thank you, Stacy!

    My two cents (as a formerly certified middle school teacher and current professional tutor)– I don’t buy the boredom argument. Bright kids are bright because they pick up new ideas quickly. If a bright kid moves up a grade (or begins kindergarten early), they will still pick up ideas more quickly than the average kid in the older class. They will still be bored academically, but emotionally and socially, they will face a lot of challenges– I might add, that these experiences will go a long way toward whether a kid will feel competent, confident, and effective in any situation involving other people.

    There are certainly circumstances in which I would suggest moving a kid up a grade, starting early, and so forth, but the boredom argument is not one of them.

    Unless something drastic happens, I am planning on starting my September baby boy in kindergarten at 5-almost-6, though I am certain he will be academically ready a year earlier. We have resources in the schools and at home to provide intellectual challenges aplenty, and he needs to go to school to learn how to navigate institutions and systems of American life, work with others who have different backgrounds, and learn compassion and leadership and how to live a great life given the constraints that we all have to live with.

    • anymommy
      April 3, 2012 | 3:37 pm

      Yes to that last paragraph, you said it so well. And I think you’ve hit on what I tried to say about boredom. I think if a child is truly academically bored by their grade level, then the school and parents have to deal with that, I was talking more about a little bit of boredom in some subjects. I’m okay with the day involving some boredom.

  13. AmazingGreis
    April 3, 2012 | 12:03 pm

    I love you and I don’t tell you that nearly enough!!

    I know so many kids that have either started Kindergarten a year late or repeated it for all of the same reasons that you mention here. All kids are different and YOU, as their parent, must make choices that are best for them…I love that you are not afraid to post your choices…if it’s best for your kids why should it bother any other person out there?

    XOXO

  14. Christine
    April 3, 2012 | 1:20 pm

    I love your description of what you want them to learn in elementary school. Yes.

  15. Karina
    April 3, 2012 | 1:23 pm

    I have a weird situation with my oldest, Adam. He’s 6 now, but his birthday is late July so he’s in the bottom 2 or 3 kids in his class agewise, but there was no way he could have started school a year later. At 3 he had the reading and maths ability of a 6 year old. Now he’s 6 and he’s just finished reading the first 4 Harry Potter books (he loved them!), has read bits of ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything’ by Bill Bryson, spends his free time learning high school maths, and recently taught himself how to say and write the numbers 1-20 in Japanese because he wanted to be able to do sums in Japanese. Before anyone thinks we must be pushing him too hard, we’re absolutely not, all of these things he asked to do himself. Had we kept him back a year he wouldn’t have just been bored, I think it would have had a big effect on how much he enjoys learning. At the moment he loves it, but if he was spending all day being taught things he learnt 3 years ago I think it would have killed some of that love.

    • anymommy
      April 3, 2012 | 3:41 pm

      This, I think, is a different problem. Mass education is never going to handle true exceptions very well. Your kid is too smart for an education aimed at the middle, he’s too far to the right hand side of the bell curve. With a bell curve, it’s bound to happen. So, discussions of what to do with kids that are firmly on the bell curve (but maybe to the right of average) are not going to apply. You have to make different choices.

  16. Robyn
    April 3, 2012 | 1:37 pm

    I was 4 when I started K, 17 when I went to college — it never affected me (other than jealousy at not being able to drive when my friends could). But, I think I was either the exception OR girls may be more mature than boys.

    My August 30th son, just made the cut-off, so he is literally the youngest in his K class. He’s doing AH-MAZING academically, but his behavior (self-control, focus, etc.) has been a problem this entire year. I’m now struggling with whether he should repeat K. If so, I’ll have to put him in private K for a year, b/c I don’t think I could make him repeat at the same school.

    These are such tough decisions – who really knows what kind of difference (if any) they will make, as the outcome won’t be seen for years down the road? I loved your post, it gave me a lot to think about.

    • anymommy
      April 3, 2012 | 3:45 pm

      It’s really hard. I wrote an entirely different post going *into* our second year of Kindergarten. I was worried to the nth degree about boredom. I was appalled by the huge step back in the level of their learning at the start of this second year of K. I found, over the year, that I could challenge them and that they rose quickly to the top of the tracking and started to be challenged at school. I’ve been pleasantly surprised for the most part.

  17. Workout mommy
    April 3, 2012 | 1:55 pm

    Just love this post –thank you for making me feel better about my decision for son 2. My oldest missed the cut off by 2 weeks and there is such a huge difference in his confidence and ability this year. That extra year is so worth it. (and the last line of your post made me burst into tears. They aren’t!)

  18. Ryan
    April 3, 2012 | 2:15 pm

    One of the first chapters of Gladwell’s Outliers book talks about the oversampling of January-March birthday males (the “oldest” kids in a given hockey-year) in the NHL and the Olympics. The same mechanic applies to school up to and including (to a minor degree) college enrollees. If you have the option, hold them back and allow them to be the oldest in the class. Our system rewards it.

    • anymommy
      April 3, 2012 | 3:47 pm

      I was blown away by that book, what an eye opener. Our system does reward it. The chapter that I think about the most in that book though is the one about airline pilots. Holy crapcakes!! The overwhelming evidence that cultural nuances and expectations can cause the death of hundreds of people. Crazy.

  19. Melissa
    April 3, 2012 | 2:30 pm

    Our cutoff date is Sept. 15th. My oldest was born in November so I knew she’d miss the cut off. My 2nd was born Sept 29th. So she misses it too, by 14 days. 14 DAYS! I moan and complain about it, about preschool for an extra year, about them driving me crazy while I’m trying to work, but truthfully I’m really glad. My husband repeated K and so he has his license in 10th grade, which was awesome for us (he could drive his girlfriend – me – around) :) My girls will have the same sort of experience, older among their class, better able to grasp concepts and driving early. Hmmm now that doesn’t sound so great. Anyway, I’m glad about it – and I agree that while public school might not be able to individualize the curriculum…I can if necessary. What they aren’t getting, we as parents can customize something at home to help them get whatever their missing. So far (3rd grade) I love our school district, and that’s saying something as its a direct rival to my own HS. Lovely post, thank you.

  20. Melissa
    April 3, 2012 | 2:31 pm

    Also, I figure if the kids get bored, the teachers can assess and recommend they jump up a grade if its really a big issue.

  21. meekasmommy
    April 3, 2012 | 3:19 pm

    While I’m a few years from this decision, my daughter is a June baby and so it will someday come time to think about it… so thanks for sharing your experience, I’ll keep it in mind when we get to this point :)

  22. Issa
    April 3, 2012 | 4:48 pm

    At first I was irritated when I realized that Harrison misses the cut off for kindergarten by ten days. TEN DAYS! It made me so mad. If we were in California still, he’d be in. He’ll be six a month into kindergarten. I don’t know why that seemed so bad to me at first. Yet the closer we get, it seems like it may be better.

    I think about everything you’ve said and what I want for him in life and it’s really okay. He’ll be six. His cousin, who is three months older may or may not be held back a year by his parents. They’re still deciding. Either way, that will be okay too.

    He may read by then. My girls were. But I’m with you, it’s so much more than that. They start their entire school foundation at this level. Why not give them the time to be emotionally ready for it?

  23. thewonderfulhappens
    April 3, 2012 | 5:06 pm

    This is a very timely post for me. I have 2 sons (virtual twins, the younger one adopted). My younger son’s birthday is in May and they are both going to be starting kindergarten in the fall. Initially, I wanted my younger son to repeat a year of preschool, but his teachers convinced me that it would be best to repeat kindergarten. He is smaller and socially and emotionally behind even though he is congnitively average to above average. There are many reasons I believe we will hold him back, but my one worry is sending one kid on to first grade while holding the other one back. I don’t want him to feel like he “failed” at something. Maybe we will start at the beginning of the year talking about it. Thanks for your thoughts.

    • anymommy
      April 5, 2012 | 10:54 pm

      We struggled with this exact same issue because Saige probably could have successfully gone on to first grade and Garrett needed to repeat the K year. It worked out okay to hold them both in our case, but we had talked to them a lot about how some people needed more K and some people didn’t. No biggie. It helped that they were switching schools.

  24. magpie
    April 3, 2012 | 5:29 pm

    In our town, people don’t repeat kindergarten, they stay in pre-school an extra year. It’s interesting to see that there’s a different alternative. That said, my kid started kindergarten at 4 (her 5th birthday was in November). And that was right for her.

  25. Leah
    April 3, 2012 | 5:51 pm

    I agree 100% I am so so so happy Maya was born in late October, I dind’t even have to think about it, she will be one of the older ones and i love it. Both of her boy cousins and have July birthdays, both of them will be doing 1 year of kindergarten somewhere else and then repeat it at public school. Better to have them excel then struggle.

    Oh yes about glitter, you did notice that was done outside right, perfect place!

  26. Jennifer
    April 3, 2012 | 6:10 pm

    Thank you. For this post. Just…..thank you.

  27. Candice@NotesFromABroad
    April 3, 2012 | 7:39 pm

    My experience with this . . our son needed something more than a kindergarden experience so we took him to a private school that was highly touted and enrolled him .. he loved it, all went well, then the next year he was passed on to first grade.
    At the age of 5.
    He was never as big, as old, as anything as the other kids, except as smart :)
    Looking back, we always said, we would have made him repeat another year then start first grade with everyone at the same age.
    It affects them more when they are older, I think.
    He wasn’t driving when his friends were, he was just younger and sometimes smaller.
    He started college younger too .. I don’t think it was terrible for him but it did cause small issues all through the years.

    • anymommy
      April 5, 2012 | 10:56 pm

      My sister was very young in college. I think the thing she felt the most was that she didn’t turn 21 until the middle of her senior year. She was illegal much longer than most. I don’t think that says good things about our family.

  28. Roshni
    April 3, 2012 | 7:40 pm

    My older one also started late coz he missed the cutoff date by a few days….. he went from being a shy, inhibited kid to a bossy know-it-all the next year. hahahha :P
    Not really sure how that validates your choice though!! But, I am glad that we were forced to delay!! :D

  29. Jan
    April 3, 2012 | 8:33 pm

    Fortunately I don’t have to worry about this particular parenting issue (December, May and March birthdays), but I second the concerns of the commenter who doesn’t think being bored is such small potatoes.

    I dunno. I loved school at the elementary level, in large part because I excelled at it. I reveled in all the praise associated with being the ‘smart’ kid. And I was never particularly challenged, so I always got that experience. Right up until something did (challenge me) and suddenly I wasn’t the Very Best One and I had no idea how to handle it. My solution was to make sure *that* never happened again. By taking easier classes and generally dumbing down my HS and college education as much as humanly possible.

    My husband, on the other hand, was just plain bored in school. And he hated it. Hated being there, hated being forced to ‘learn’ what he already knew. By 2nd grade, he had written school off as a colossal waste of time. He never really recovered from that, and barely squeaked through graduating from HS. He went back for a bachelor’s degree after seeing the alternative (a military career), and it took him 7 painful years to finish.

    So I don’t know. I’m not trying AT ALL to say that this choice is wrong for your family, but I do think your argument could just as easily go the other way, too. You say you can challenge them academically at home or with extra-curriculars, but they need school to learn those all-important soft skills. I’m just suggesting that maybe the reverse is also true: maybe they can learn the soft skills through extra-curriculars and at home, but the academic challenge should come from school.

    Does that make sense?

    BTW, There was an interesting 60 Minutes piece on this phenomenon (red-shirting, they call it) just recently.

    • anymommy
      April 5, 2012 | 11:04 pm

      It is an issue – how to teach effort and how to deal with not being good at something when most things come so easily. I struggled with this, I have to fight to this day not to quit something because I don’t pick it up immediately.

      I have to say though that I don’t agree that the soft skills can be learned at home. I don’t think of them as secondary skills and I think it will be much easier to supplement academics than to expose them to all the various situations that a large institution has as a part of its existence.

  30. lt
    April 4, 2012 | 1:20 am

    In New York the cut off is December 31st so a summer birthday doesn’t make you one of the youngest. The school system doesn’t allow a parent to delay starting kindergarten and a child is only held back if they fail to meet the standards. If you try to register your child for kindergarten when they are old enough for first grade they just put you in first grade. What makes it worse is that private schools go by the September cut off so there is no uniformity to the process.
    I see both sides of the issue but what I do wish that there was uniformity. I know each child is different and every child has their strengths and weaknesses but it can feel like people are “red shirting” their children for some sort of advantage (I know that is not where you are coming from). My son was born in late October, started Kindergarten at 4. He is now 16 and a junior in high school. He is in a private high school after attending public school until 8th grade–some kids in his class are 18. He will start college at 17 and I know some kids he will be starting with will be 19. THere were times when he was younger when I thought he seemed young for his grade but he is a kid he works really hard for stuff that he wants and is a very successful student now. I am not sure if it is a result of his age or not.
    Like I said I just wish there was one universal rule and that everyone followed it unless there was a demonstrated reason as to why the child should wait to start school. There was an article I read that pointed out that it is the kids of the more educated parents who are weighing these options and making the decision for their child to wait a year to start kindergarten. Parents who are struggling to pay for daycare usually don’t want to wait a year or have the means to wait a year and just want to get their kids in public school so that they can cut down on the cost of daycare.
    New Jersey seems to have a good rule. If your kid’s birthday falls 30 days before the September cut off date the parent can decide to wait to start them and if it falls 30 days after cut off date they can start them early.
    I am by no means suggesting that you are manipulating the system. Believe me, there have been years where I wished my son was on the older end, not younger end of his class. We all have to do what is right for our kids but I just think there ends up being too large an age difference within a class when the cut off date is not adhered to.

    PS When my husband started school in Pennsylvania many many years ago the cut off date was January 31 and his birthday was January 27 so he did not turn five until late Jan of his kindergarten year!!

    • anymommy
      April 5, 2012 | 11:08 pm

      Oh yes, there is definitely a HUGE socio-economic factor to this “issue.” So many of the things that we stress about/discuss/parse and consider so intense about parenting are very privileged issues. I get that. I try to understand and keep in mind that all of my thoughts are skewed by my perspective.

      And, you are kind, but we ARE manipulating the system. Legally, but intentionally. The problem with huge public systems is that they are easily manipulated. You are absolute right that firmer rules about starting age reduce the gap between children and make everyone relax about this. I wouldn’t mind that 30-day rule at all here!

  31. Liza
    April 4, 2012 | 1:56 am

    My birthday is in August, and my mom considered sending me to kindergarten when I was 4 and even took me through kindergarten screening. Ultimately she decided to wait a year and we both agree it was one of the BEST decisions that she ever made– everything you mentioned (confidence, academics, socialization) was drastically improved and we believe that it was because we waited an extra year. Now, as a kindergarten teacher in an inner city public school, I see so many four year olds come into my classroom who will ultimately end up being retained if their school district doesn’t socially promote. I am a HUGE proponent of waiting and this it makes such a difference in classroom success!

    • anymommy
      April 5, 2012 | 11:10 pm

      Bouncing off our socio-economic discussion above, I wonder if there is Headstart in your district? I wonder if a good full day Headstart program would help the parents to stop rushing the kids into K at four?

  32. Louise
    April 4, 2012 | 2:31 am

    from one mom-of-four to another……i am clapping and dancing after reading this. yes, yes, yes. i send them to public school to learn to be a friend, a leader, a follower, a community member. oh how important those lessons are. thank you for dishing your perspective, i eat it up!

  33. Lady Jennie
    April 4, 2012 | 6:34 pm

    My youngest started Petite Section (first year at the public school) when he was still 2 because he turned 3 before the new year. He is kind of known as “the kid who poops in his pants.” Fortunately he is as hard as nails and I think he’ll outlive it. Whether he will academically be up to par, I’m not sure but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. It’s very common to repeat all sorts of years here, more than I remember it being in the States. I do like that my kids are spaced 2 years behind each other scholastically.

    And I do love public schools.

  34. Jenny
    April 4, 2012 | 9:03 pm

    As a teacher, I just want to say thank you! Thank you for realizing that social skills matter (many parents don’t) and that social success can alter a child’s school experience.

    As for boredom, I always tell my class that bored is a choice. There are dozens of ways for students to challenge themselves in the classroom. One of the best is helping out a friend who doesn’t understand because teaching a concept to someone else deepens your own understanding. And as you said, we all need to learn how to deal with a little boredom (and how to make choices that productively combat it). In my 8 years as a first grade teacher I have yet to see a student who truly had nothing more to learn from the activities we are doing.

    Thanks again for offering a great argument for not rushing kids into kindergarten!

    • anymommy
      April 5, 2012 | 11:11 pm

      I was skeptical going into this year that one teacher could combat boredom and meet so many kids – with such different skills – needs, but BOTH of my kids’ teachers have. I want to say thank you and thanks to them and all the other great teachers out there.

  35. Peggy
    April 5, 2012 | 1:27 am

    I have a daughter who turned 6 in July. Like Saige and Garrett, she is in the final quarter of kindergarten. I agonized over the decision for most of her first 5 years but in my heart I always knew what I would do. I could not be happier with the decision. She did not do kindergarten twice, but was at a good preschool last year. She was shy; she is now a leader. She is oh so ready for 1st grade. And, most importantly, she is happy.

    And I won’t lie. She is my 3rd of 3 and I did not want to give her up. Giving her up to kindergarten meant the end of my life as a mother of babies and preschoolers. That was hard for me. Truth be told, I sobbed in a friend’s arms on the first day of school. So my decision was a little selfish too.

    I had it put to me this way by a cousin of mine: Would you like to give her an extra year of childhood or an extra year of adulthood. Well, that’s certainly a no-brainer, isn’t it?!

  36. Connie Weiss
    April 5, 2012 | 9:59 pm

    As I was reading this…..I got an email from my son’s school setting up the meeting to discuss having him repeat Kindergarten next year.

    I’ve wrestled with it because my daughter will start Kindergarten next year and I really didn’t want them in the same grade.

    But….if it’s what the school recommends, we will do it.

    Thanks for this post. I needed it.

  37. jen
    April 5, 2012 | 10:10 pm

    ok mama. yes. in fact jeremy read a book about (and had me scan through some chapters … who has time to read? A BOOK?) being the eldest in a group or a class and how statistically, it’s the kids that were born first that actually tend to DO better because of a whole mess of other coincidences. (yes. i’ll find the title for you later. time is a tickin’.)

    BUT … here is my problem. stella is not being challenged. at all. and yes. that’s fine and wonderful that she’s doing well. but i have a hard time with the fact that she just (finally) brought home a pretest that she only got 2/15 on. she was SO UPSET. i told her yay! because NOW? you will be able to learn something new!
    instead it’s busy work. stuff to do … that has already been mastered. we finally talked to the teacher and stella is working on a project. just because we needed her to put her brain into something – or else the tv gets easier to watch. know what i mean?
    there needs to be appropriate programming for both sides of the bell curve …

    • anymommy
      April 5, 2012 | 11:17 pm

      The book is probably called Outliers. It’s fascinating!

      I know – I don’t have any answers. That’s why I can only write about my kids, who are repeating some material, but definitely aren’t so far ahead as to be unchallenged all the time. I think some kids are too advanced for their age group to be appropriately accommodated in a certain grade and in that case, the equation shifts and maybe putting them ahead is better.

      I do think it’s a little optimistic to think that public education can accommodate the edges of the bell curve – on either side – I don’t believe it can be done, at least, not well. If I had a genius or a kid who was significantly academically challenged, I might seek another option.

  38. Gigi
    April 6, 2012 | 12:04 am

    This is a complex issue, as these comments reflect. I agree with Stacy, that every family knows best what works for them. And I agree with the comment by “It” that class age should be standardized to avoid differences of age >1 year within a class (which increases the disparity in size and ability within a class).

    And I’ve read with interest that some longitudinal studies show that there is a measurable long-term benefit to being slightly younger (not older) compared to your classroom peers.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/25/opinion/sunday/dont-delay-your-kindergartners-start.html?src=me&ref=general

    • Anymommy
      April 10, 2012 | 5:36 am

      That is fascinating. Thank you for sharing the study!

  39. vodkamom
    April 6, 2012 | 1:47 am

    I LOVE YOU!!!!!!!!

    I have said to MANY parents (some who have ignored me) that you are giving your child a GIFT if you allow them to repeat. They gain SO MUCH that will mold their WHOLE school career.

    I love you more now than EVER. If that is possible.

  40. vodkamom
    April 6, 2012 | 1:48 am

    Age DOES make a difference.

    It really, really, really does.

  41. Mandie
    April 6, 2012 | 3:20 am

    It was the right choice!

    I have 2 boys, both born in September 2 years apart. Number One started school when we lived in Kentucky and was only 4 when he started kindergarten which was a full day program there. He then moved on to first grade. That spring we moved to Oregon which has an earlier cut off date than Kentucky. They moved him back to kindergarten. Was he bored? Sure, for a while, but we were able to deal with that and worked with the teachers for a while to let him to some other (not necessary additional) assignments.

    He’s now a sophomore in high school…and an inquisitive, passionate, reliable, and responsible student.

    Number Two is in 8th grade and also a leader.

    When you start them later, especially boys, you don’t typically have to deal with the struggles to play catch up.

    You’ll be happy with your decision.

  42. Elaine
    April 6, 2012 | 4:21 am

    I read this whole post but that first paragraph is GOLDEN. So true.

  43. Kate
    April 6, 2012 | 6:59 am

    We made the other choice. My baby, who will be seven this summer, is finishing first grade. She’s not the youngest, but close. But socially, she was ready. She could focus for the school day. Academically, she’s fine, not the best, but not struggling. (She tested into the gifted program where we live, so she’s tracked blatantly.)

    I almost held her back. Almost. One of our best friends held her’s back, and it was very much for the best. But a boy in my daughter’s preK class was a year ahead and lorded it over the others. He created enough problems to keep the teachers distracted from much of the class. He was ready to move on, and his parents holding him back was a disservice to him and everyone in his class. (Your two do not sound like this at all!)

    I think, like every parenting choice, you have to look carefully at your child and the options available to you. But when you make the right choice for you and your kid, it’s glorious.

  44. Steph
    April 6, 2012 | 5:06 pm

    I agree that every family has to figure out what is best for their child. I was 4 starting kindergarten and loved that I ended up graduating law school at 24. On the other hand, my parents have always regretting sending my brother at 4. Before reading these comments, I had never seen a parent regret waiting to send a boy later. Now I have two girls: both September birthdays. The older one started kindergarten as she turned 6 and the younger one as she turned 5, she was so much more advanced having a sister six years older than her. I am very happy with where they are now (at 14 and 8 yrs old) but went through much angst in making both decisions–though like you I understand it is a problem for the privileged.

  45. sandy7
    April 6, 2012 | 11:02 pm

    I think you coined it when you said that every kid and family is different in your opener. There are some general bits of advice that can cross over but really, when you think about it, these are common sense. The only advice I think that is really useful, and again, it is common sense, is “know your kids”

  46. Mom24
    April 7, 2012 | 2:42 am

    That’s exactly why we had Jacob wait until he was 6 to do kindergarten. We had an awesome 5′s program at preschool and I wanted him to have the gift of time. I will never regret it. It all goes by way too quickly, to give him the gift of time to grow at his own pace is truly priceless.

  47. Lesley
    April 7, 2012 | 3:16 am

    Thank you so much for this post! We’ve been struggling with this decision, except in our case it’s repeating k-4 & waiting until she turns 6 to start kindergarten. It’s great to hear about someone with similarities to our family (4 kids, lawyer turned SAHM, much less international travel for us :) ), & how things are working for you & your family. My husband also read this & felt much better about this decision & how to deal with others (his mom) who think we’re crazy. Out of curiosity, is K all day for you? In FL we have full day K & really that’s a huge reason why I think Addison needs to wait another year. Thanks again!!

  48. Nicole
    April 9, 2012 | 6:43 am

    Your post is has a point and I love your idea with this matter.As we talk about this issue we struggle if we choose the public or private school for our kids but it isn’t the name of school we talk here, the quality of education that can produce of a school.

  49. Rebecky
    April 9, 2012 | 4:18 pm

    I love this post – we made a similar choice for our son (August birthday) and he’ll enter kindergarten this coming fall. His preschool director was very helpful in the decision – why not give your child the gift of an extra year to be a kid?

  50. Liz
    April 10, 2012 | 5:35 am

    I like the whole article. It was an influential post. Keep sharing your beautiful thoughts and experience with us.

  51. Charissa
    April 10, 2012 | 9:06 am

    You did a great article. Very influential and creative. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.

  52. cathy
    April 10, 2012 | 10:14 am

    Thanks for these informative post.This kind of decision was hard for parents.

  53. Jenng
    April 10, 2012 | 4:13 pm

    I love reading your posts! When my son was in 4K we seriously considered holding him back another year before sending him to “real kindergarten”. He is a May baby, so one of the youngest in his class. The first half of the year he did awful – maturity level way down, and just didn’t seem to get any of his lessons. They had these scholastic books for 4K teaching them the alphabet and phonics. He didn’t seem in any way ready for the next step. Then came the second half of the year – he started getting all of his letter right, and even reading short stories. He passed his sister in maturity (and she was in big kindergarten). We decided to go ahead and try him in Kindergarten, thinking if he didn’t do well we would hold him back the next year. Luckily, he has done tremendously well. He’s now in 1st grade, and well ahead in all areas – and so mature for his age! (Still ahead of his sister in that area – haha). We made the right decision for us, but I give you a huge kudos for doing what is best for your kids. One of the boys in my sons current class was held back, and was in my daughters class last year – it has done WONDERS for him! Any act made by a parent out of love should never be looked upon badly by others. :)

  54. Jessica@Team Rasler
    April 11, 2012 | 4:30 am

    I took a long time to think about this post because I have to honestly say that it (and many, many of the comments) make me so SAD. Not because I think parents are right or wrong in their decisions, but because it is such a heart-wrenching decision for many that is caused by a dysfunctional school system. And I say that as a public school teacher, who must agree that age does make a difference. Not the only difference, not necessarily the defining difference, but a difference that parents cannot ignore.

    I makes me sad that with two boys born in July, I have to choose between letting them be the oldest or the youngest. I hate the idea that they may be totally ready academically and not yet ready emotionally or socially (or vice versa). It bothers me that they will be compared to children a whole year older than they are if I choose to start them on time. It bothers me that many teachers can’t meet kids where they are because if they could, this would be a total non-issue. It bothers me that poor families don’t have this choice because private school, day care, etc. costs too much so they have to start the kids in free public school as soon as possible.

    This is why – and someone else already mentioned it – I am becoming a big believer in multi-age classrooms. Over the three years my sons are in Montessori, they will experience it all: being the youngest, middle, and then oldest in their classrooms. If only they could just repeat that in the next age group! But we aren’t made of money to continue them all the way up through middle school.

    As a teacher getting an endorsement in gifted education, I can say that I don’t take boredom lightly AT ALL. It can lead to all kinds of problems if it’s chronic, and for me, it was. I learned that if things didn’t come easily to me, that it must mean I wasn’t good at them. I learned not to try hard enough at those areas. Fortunately most of school did come easily to me and I was still successful (and started K at age 4, incidentally), but I wish for better guidance for my boys. So I agree that a little boredom is character-building, but I hope it won’t ever be a chronic problem for your kids like it was for me (and for you). That is NOT how any education system should be.

    Thanks for this, and making me think. I have a year to work it out for Boy #1!

  55. Jennifer
    April 12, 2012 | 4:45 am

    I put both of my elementary aged boys in at the “correct time” even though they are both August birthdays and could have easily gone either way. They are the youngest in their classes… so what. They love it! Tons of friends, tons of confidence. They were ready. For me, I would rather push them and then not. I have two more boys who will also go in at the “normal” time.

    I am a bit anti-red-shirting though.

  56. MommyNamedApril
    April 23, 2012 | 3:46 am

    i think this is such a personal decision, and so long as you’re challenging your kids at home and providing a loving environment i don’t believe you can go wrong.

    but just to play devil’s advocate… i was the youngest in my class and then the youngest by even more by the time i got to law school (because i rushed through undergrad). then i was the youngest by FAR at the law firm.

    i loved it – i always wore it as a badge of honor and appreciate that i had an extra few years of earning potential. i’m so glad my parents didn’t hold me back and if i am able to put my fall birthday kids forward, i will.

  57. Irish Catson
    June 7, 2012 | 4:05 am

    I love reading your post. I prefer to enroll my kid when he turn to five. Fortunately, I felt my kid love to go to school already at the age of five because he always us me to buy bags and notebooks. He loves writing anywhere most especially in my important papers.

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