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Dr. Joanne Meier

Along with her background as a professor, researcher, writer, and teacher, Joanne Meier is a mom. Join Joanne every week as she shares her experiences raising her own young readers, and guides parents and teachers on the best practices in reading.

Should she stay or should she go? (to kindergarten)

January 18, 2007

I knew it was coming — re-enrollment time at preschool. Top of the form, first question: Will your child be going to kindergarten next year? Our answer: UGH!! We can't decide!

Anna (our younger daughter) turns five in early July. In Virginia, the kindergarten cut off date is September 30, so she clearly could go. But, should she? We waited an extra year with Molly (our older daughter), whose birthday is in mid-August. Molly entered kindergarten having just turned 6, and she's done beautifully. It was the right decision for Molly. But Molly and Anna are different from each other. Very different.

This concept of "academic red shirting" for rising kindergarten students has gotten a lot of attention. CBS covered the story, with opinion from Barbara Willer, deputy executive director for the National Association for the Education of Young Children. The National Center for Education Statistics examined the reading and math achievement data of children who repeated kindergarten or who began kindergarten a year late.

Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children refers to the practice of holding young children out of school for an extra year before kindergarten as "buying a year," and suggests that the practice widens the gap between the most and least advanced children. I'm not looking to do that! I just want to provide Anna with every opportunity to flourish once she does get on the hamster wheel of public school. I feel like this is our only opportunity to give her the gift of time; like others , I wouldn't consider a grade retention later on in school.

Academically, Anna's ready. Knows her letters, sounds, loves to "write" and will count to 100 for anyone who will listen. Socially, she's ready. Outgoing, friendly and funny. Motor development, ready. Rides her two wheeler like a whip, jumps rope. Hmmm. As I write this she seems ready, doesn't she? Maybe it's the mom that isn't!? Stay tuned. Forms are due by the end of the week!

Comments

Each child is different! I have a July girl who we sent to 1/2 day kindergarten at age 5. She is now in 1st grade and doing great. Now, I'm just not sure what to do with my son. He'll be 5 this Aug. But I hesitate with him, simply because he is a boy, and "they" say boys benefit from starting later. But, he's right in line with where his sister was at this age, and 1/2 day is a good way to ease into the school experience. (We send them to private school.) We'll have to see what the Kindergarten testing reveals, but it's still weighing on my mind in the mean time!

I thought it would be good for feedback from an actual student who is a early july bday. Abilty and intelgince should decide whether or not you should hold back your kid, not birthmonth or size. If I had been held back, I would've been bored stiff. Another thought, nobody seems to think of perhaps getting the child's input to a degree. I know that at such a young age it is hard to take them seriously, but if they think they're ready for K, and you're only qualms are birhtmonth and size, than go for it! Send 'em. But if they don't feel ready either, and you're pretty sure they're not and it's not just based on age and size, than go with your first instinct. All depends on the kid.

I have a son who has had medical issues since birth but seemed to turn around about 4 years old. He has a late May b-day. He went to preschool when he was 4 and then on to Kindergarten when 5. The main reason for sending him to public school was for the fact of his speech and language delays. He is receiving speech theraphy 4 days a week this school year. The teacher and speech therapist think we should hold him back so he can work on his language along with his processing of blending sounds to make words. I have discussed it with him about staying with the teacher and being the big helper but he starts to cry. We live in a small town and only 13 in the whole kindergarten class. This child can remember what one his doctor did to him when he was 2 1/2. I can't imagine what holding him back will do to him but I also don't want him to end up being a resource student. I have requested he be evaluated for learning disabilities and speech eval. I feel like the teacher is dragging her feet on this. I don't know what I should do and if anyone has any suggestions that would be great.

I have 5 children. Our eldest, a boy, went to a jrK/K split classroom as a kdg. He has a Spring bday. He was academically above already but maturity was a question. We decided to wait and have him go to kdg the next year. My twin sons came next, also Spring bdays. They also went to jrK. The boys have done great. Now our first girl, also a spring bday, could go to kdg in the Fall. She is more ready than the boys, but I'm not sure what we'll do. (She would be only a grade behind the twins). The youngest, a girl, has a Sept. Without question she will wait. I should add I am an upper elem. teacher. Many of my lower elem. colleagues told me "you never hear anyone say I wish I would have sent them earlier."

As a preschool teacher, I have always thought that it is best to hold boys back another year if they have a summer birthday to let them mature a little more socially. Girls seem to do better in Kindergarten with a summer birthday. With the right amount of academic skills a child can succeed in Kindergarten, but if they are not socially mature they struggle more.

My son had a Feb. birthday and as a special ed teacher, I felt he had some delays in reading. He repeated kindergarten and has now graduated from college. He kept his Hope Scholarship the whole time while in college! He was able to make mostly a's and b's throughout school without a struggle. I am so glad I held him back and didn't allow him to fail! I asked him how he felt about it and he said being held back never bothered him. I think that gift of an extra year has made him more of a leader. During college he was asked several times to be a guest speaker at his church. I don't think he would have had the self confidence to speak in front of others if we hadn't held him back.

I don't believe it to be holding them back. I chose to send my boys on a year later. My oldest (late May birthday and now in 2nd grade)was actually advanced for his age in all aspects of development. However, I wanted to allow him to engage in another year of emotional, creative, and social growth all the while realizing that I would need to stimulate him intellectually along the way. He's been blessed with wonderful teachers who are educated enough to realize that each class has a wide range of abilities and all of those levels need to be stimulated. My 3rd fella (also a May birthday) needed the emotional growth allowed during that extra year. Being a Kindergarten teacher myself,and understanding the expectations of the children, there was not a doubt in my mind that my boys would be gifted an extra year of childhood!

I am wondering what to do with my to be 5 in August son this coming school year....He has been attending 2 years at a Montessori school, and is ready for sitting still and the like. BUT, he is on the smaller side physically so this could be an issue socially for him as he is going to be one of the smaller kids regardless. The other problem is his montessori school is saying he is not ready for their "junior program" which is a more intensive year, where writing is a huge part of the year. We were sort of planning to keep him montessori for the kindergarten year and send him into first grade with his peers at the public school. As he is probably not ready for the junior program, (but I do think he is def. ready for public kindergartne) we are at a bit of a loss. Not sure what would be the best avenue for him at this point. Of course not spending the money on another year of straight out montessori would be benefical, as it is not the junior program I don't know if I want to spend another year's tuition.This all leaves the decision more about him being one of the youngest and smallest children in his class this September if he attends the public kindergarten...what to do what to do.

I am wondering what to do with my to be 5 in August son this coming school year....He has been attending 2 years at a Montessori school, and is ready for sitting still and the like. BUT, he is on the smaller side physically so this could be an issue socially for him as he is going to be one of the smaller kids regardless. The other problem is his montessori school is saying he is not ready for their "junior program" which is a more intensive year, where writing is a huge part of the year. We were sort of planning to keep him montessori for the kindergarten year and send him into first grade with his peers at the public school. As he is probably not ready for the junior program, (but I do think he is def. ready for public kindergartne) we are at a bit of a loss. Not sure what would be the best avenue for him at this point. Of course not spending the money on another year of straight out montessori would be benefical, as it is not the junior program I don't know if I want to spend another year's tuition.This all leaves the decision more about him being one of the youngest and smallest children in his class this September if he attends the public kindergarten...what to do what to do.

Interesting post. I know I am a bit tardy in my response but here it goes.As a mom of an daughter with an August birthday where the cut off is September 1st I feel that holding a child back should ONLY be considered if pushing them forward would impair their ability to learn to a child's full potential. This can be due to cognitive, social/emotional, or physical immaturity. You shared that your daughter met every one of these pre-K milestones in your descriptions. I feel we enable our children to feel not capable when we hold them back unnecessarily. I am curious as to what you did. As an educational professor of research as well as a curriculum writer myself I think deadlines are created for a purpose and we should be respectful and adhere to them. Schools have a right to NOT allow parents to make decisions when there are no reasons to hold back. As a prior administrator children were placed in their age appropriate grade unless their was a reason. I see too many parents hold back due to pressure that everyone else is doing it. We are widening the academic achievement gap at the expense of creating neuroses in our children that they were not good enough when really we are afraid of the unknown.Erika Burton, Ph.D.Stepping Stones Together, FounderEmpowering parental involvement in early literacy skills

Erika,Thanks for the last post. I have two June boys, who everyone is telling me to hold back because they are summer boys. Our dilemma is further complicated since we live in a failing school district and by the luck of two lotteries the boys could get into this year, the #1 and #2 school of our choice and possible neither next year. Why we are weighing the decision of what is more important an extra year to grow or a great school I am read A LOT of posts on the subject. But haven't found one that touched on the point you made in your final statement. While I think its great that we give them an extra to be young, what message am I also sending them about my belief in their capabilities when they are old enough to realize that we took the easy road that everyone is taking and instead of the one that MAY be a little more challenging.

I have a daughter who will be 5 July 20th. She has been home with me until last month, so she hasn't been "raised" in preschool/daycare as many children have. She is very smart and does well socially -as long as- she's not in a bad mood! When she's in said mood, she refuses to participate, follow direction, etc. Very stubborn. ALSO her motor skills are underdeveloped. She scribbles and refuses to hold the pencil properly (I have had knock down drag outs with her over this!) She wants to do things her way, and that is further delaying her motor skills. Because of this, the preschool teacher says she may not be ready for kindergarten. I was unaware of this big hold-back debate until now. I think I might have to hold her back if nothing else because I just can't get her to cooperate sometimes. She is sooo smart- above average, really, so I wish I could put her in. As for my own experience, I was an older kid in school, being a November baby, and I breezed through everything. I loved school, and got straight A's with minimal effort. Although I have a high IQ, I am now wondering if being on the older side was part of the advantage...

I don't think being an older kid in school gives one an advantage. I was a June baby and breezed through school. Though I was among the youngest in class, I was one of the smartest. I was a leader and made friends easily. I never even realized I was the youngest. I was just very unhappy that everyone else got their birthday cakes before me. I have a late August daughter who made the cutoff to start kindy by a week. She was born a month early and should have been a late Sept baby who didn't make the cutoff... but I had a troubled pregnancy.The week she turned 4, her preK4 school year started and all the other kids started turning 5 that year. They began to exclude her and say "we're 5, but you're only 4 so you can't play with us... or sit here... etc" That continued all year because, of course she never turned 5 that school year. The whole summer would pass & she would not turn 5 until the next school year started... and then of course the other kids would all start turning 6 but she never would turn 6 until the following school year started. And so on...I did not send her on to kindy after her experience in preK4. Instead, I put her into a jr. kindy class that was kind of a holding place for summer bday kids that were waiting out a year & fall kids who couldn't go to kindy yet but whose parents thought they should and wanted them to be more challenged. She fit right in & loved it. Totally different kid. At age 5 1/2 I noticed a huge change in her and I realized she was ready to go on to kindy, but sadly would have to wait a few more months until school started. She will now go to kindy the day she turns 6, but it doesn't bother me because a week later the Sept kids will start turning 6 and then the October kids, etc. She will be the age all the other kids are! Yay!I don't feel like I held her back a year. I feel like I held her back a week, because she is no different than any September bday kid. That extra week alive did not prepare her for kindy an extra year early. I promise, that week she was pretty much just crying & messing up diapers.And I didn't wait so she could have an "advantage" over other kids. I waited so she would not be disadvantaged like she was in preK4.

I don't think being an older kid in school gives one an advantage. I was a June baby and breezed through school. Though I was among the youngest in class, I was one of the smartest. I was a leader and made friends easily. I never even realized I was the youngest. I was just very unhappy that everyone else got their birthday cakes before me. I have a late August daughter who made the cutoff to start kindy by a week. She was born a month early and should have been a late Sept baby who didn't make the cutoff... but I had a troubled pregnancy.The week she turned 4, her preK4 school year started and all the other kids started turning 5 that year. They began to exclude her and say "we're 5, but you're only 4 so you can't play with us... or sit here... etc" That continued all year because, of course she never turned 5 that school year. The whole summer would pass & she would not turn 5 until the next school year started... and then of course the other kids would all start turning 6 but she never would turn 6 until the following school year started. And so on...I did not send her on to kindy after her experience in preK4. Instead, I put her into a jr. kindy class that was kind of a holding place for summer bday kids that were waiting out a year & fall kids who couldn't go to kindy yet but whose parents thought they should and wanted them to be more challenged. She fit right in & loved it. Totally different kid. At age 5 1/2 I noticed a huge change in her and I realized she was ready to go on to kindy, but sadly would have to wait a few more months until school started. She will now go to kindy the day she turns 6, but it doesn't bother me because a week later the Sept kids will start turning 6 and then the October kids, etc. She will be the age all the other kids are! Yay!I don't feel like I held her back a year. I feel like I held her back a week, because she is no different than any September bday kid. That extra week alive did not prepare her for kindy an extra year early. I promise, that week she was pretty much just crying & messing up diapers.And I didn't wait so she could have an "advantage" over other kids. I waited so she would not be disadvantaged like she was in preK4.

yikes! sorry about the (long) double post. It gave me an error message & said I had to resend :(

my daughter is 5 years old last Aug and she is now in kindergarten at the Montessori school. I am wondering the same as Jen that should I hold her back for another year either in Montessori school or Public school.. she is doing well in Math but in reading. I don't see any good result and my friend's kids who borns in November , she can read a book on her own... I am wondering should I hold her back or not but .. I am not sure that i would want to spend another year for the tuition... umm. ..what disadvantage and advantage that she will get if I held her back for another yet . ... :-( ..

Well fellow Aug Boy parents...i'm here to tell you that intelligence doesn't equate to maturity. Our son is very bright, but still needs more attention than other kids. He's having tantrums at school and always wants to be called on and likes doing things on his clock. We are leaving the school district and he will be repeating k-5 next year. my sister has a july boy in the 5th grade and she regrets that she didn't hold him back. other boys are more mature..talking about girls and so on...holding back in my opinion will give my son some maturity that other september, october boys currently have in his class...11 months older means alot at 5 and 6 years old children. We noticed at a family party when some 6 year old boys were playing. our son was petrified of these boys even if he was bigger than some of them. I knew in my heart he wasn't ready coming from a prek of 8 kids...to 21 with music, art, and gym teachers. Good luck to all.

It's an individual decision. A tough one when your child falls close to the cutoff date. The problem is with the way we educate children. They shouldn't be talk a particular curriculum. They should be taught at their level. If they have mastered a skill, they should be be allowed to learn a harder skill. If they struggle with a skill, they should be allowed to work more on that particular skill. Kids that are outgoing and active shouldn't be considered "not ready" either. They can still learn! It's just easier for teachers to manage kids that sit and don't talk/interupt. I think we need to rethink education in this country.

I have a November son and a September son. With my November son he was academically ready and socially but was small for his age. We planned from the beginning to have him attend 2 years of kindergarten. First a half day kinder then a full day kinder. It was a great choice for us. By the end of his 2nd kindergarten year he was reading 2nd grade level and he had so much confidence socially and academically. Now it is my September sons birthday and we are on the fence. He is academically there but has a hard time transitioning from one thing to the next. Not sure if half day kinder will help or another year with play based preschool? BJP had an amazing point.

I don't think it is an advantage to hold kids back. I was held back because of my birthday and I was always behind in school. I think we need to follow our instints as partents and not let anyone determine when we have our children go to school.

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