My daughter’s birthday is August 31st – the absolute last day for a child to be old enough (5 years) to start school. Since the day she was born, I have been bombarded with the question, “Oh my goodness…what are you going to do about school?” (i.e. hold her back a year or send her to school a day after she turns 5 – knowing she will be the youngest child in her entire class).
What’s sad interesting is that everyone puts so much focus on a child “getting tested” to see if they are ready for Kindergarten. To me, it’s not the issue whether my daughter is qualified academically to begin school or not. I am more concerned about the long haul – 6th, 8th, 10th, 12th grade and college. I know my daughter will hold up academically in the early years. My question is: How will she hold up emotionally and socially being the youngest in her class? If she is struggling emotionally in 8th grade, it’s too late then to hold her back a year.
Yes, there are countless studies that prove that the kids who are old for their grade are more successful in school. For for my own personal research, I decided to go straight to the source: Adults who were young for their class. So over the past 4 years I have asked countless adults who were young for their grade to tell me what their challenges were and if they wish they had been held back a grade. By a landslide, every single one of them said it was very difficult being the youngest and, if they had their choice, they would have held themselves back a grade. The only person who said being young was not an issue was a woman who only had 15 people in her graduating class. She said the school was so small that everybody was friends with the kids two grades ahead and two grades below. This was the rare exception.
School is not a sprint. It’s a marathon, a journey, an adventure. Far too often the mentality is get your kids through school quickly. Only troubled kids get held back. If your kid is in 2nd grade but reads at a 4th grade level, he needs to be pushed ahead. Why?
Just this week I figured out my game plan for my daughter. Originally I was going to simply have her repeat kindergarten by attending the public school kindergarten first, then transferring to a private school for the long haul. But I found out over the holidays that children cannot repeat kindergarten if they have been to an “official” school. But yesterday I discovered that my daughter’s current church school has a Kinder-readiness class which is academically at the same level as the public kindergarten, but it does not count as “official” kindergarten. So when my daughter turns 5 on August 31st, she will start Kinder-readiness, and the following year begin kindergarten somewhere else.
And to answer the question What if my daughter is bored and not challenged enough by being held back? It is my job as a parent to keep her stimulated and hungry for knowledge – not the school’s. She is already playing card games, solving puzzles, writing and reading at a level far beyond her age – because her dad and I make time each and every day to work her little brain muscles. We are the best teachers our kids will ever have – and we must never forget that.