Just Precious

Here comes Kindergarten: NOW he’s ready

Posted in education by Julie Meyers Pron on August 26, 2009

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About 6 months before having my first August baby, I gathered with teacher friends in the teacher lunch room at the elementary school where I taught. I knew then, without even knowing my child, that with an August 31 cut-off, the baby would be “held back” prior to Kindergarten.

There were many reasons. To start, I’d rather him or her be the oldest than the youngest. He’d drive his car and drink legally first rather than last. I recognized that no matter how much he could handle academically when he was 6, 7 or 8, it was the maturation of the child I was more concerned about. So I wasn’t just thinking ahead 6 or 7 years, I was  thinking ahead 12 or 13 years.

While this decision was based on emotions, it was also based on experience. Each year, by the time the first week of school had ended, I could practically place my students in a line by age, youngest to oldest, and without even glancing at the class roster. This wasn’t an academic judgment, it had nothing to do with the children’s skills in math or reading. It was based on transitions, conflict resolution, neediness. Birth dates went hand-in-hand with maturation.

Jeremy was the shortest child in my 2nd grade class. Freckles speckled his face, his toothless grin lit up his brown eyes. He skipped around the room, always chipper, always happy.The shortest child in the room (both his parents were short) by almost a head, visitors walked into the class and asked who this adorable child was. Unfortunately, they weren’t just asking because he was such a cutie, they also asked because he didn’t sit through an entire lesson like his peers. Concepts taught to 2nd graders took longer for him to comprehend and, usually, when there was a problem in the cafeteria or on the playground the “innocent grin” belonged on Jeremy’s freckled face.

Jeremy, whose birthday was September 6, started Kindergarten and 1st grade in a different school district where the “cut-off” was September 30, versus our August 31. Having completed Kindergarten when he transferred, my district slated him to enter second grade when he moved to our school, a grade where he would be the youngest, if only by a few weeks. There were children in his grade who lapped him, being older than he by more than 14 months. He wasn’t just small. He was small and young. When we paired up with a first grade class he fit right in, with the first graders. But amongst the 2nd graders, he was, well, young.

He moved to a different school within the same district before 5th grade. That year we finally held him back. He repeated 4th grade, fit in, succeeded. Jeremy’s story is only one of many I experienced as a teacher. All strong supports of my decision to “hold my son back.”

Every child is different, but I challenge you to show me a parent who regrets holding back. I knew we made the right decision when 3 days into the school year I received a “we need to talk” call from his pre-k teacher. The third day of school. He could read, he could write, his logic was strong. But maturationally, the extra year before Kindergarten had already proven to be the right choice.

He’ll be starting Kindergarten 2 weeks. Age 6. Yes, he’s ready.

This post is in response to the Y! Motherboard’s topic of the month: Selecting a School. For great tips and opinions on a number of back-to-school issues visit Shine and get the low down on a variety of topics.  And be sure to read other Y! Motherboard member’s posts about Back to School Season:

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6 Responses

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