Two years ago I was in an agonizing place: knowing that my son was not ready to m0ve on to 1st grade but also unsure whether he should repeat kindergarten.
If you are currently in this difficult situation, please know that you are not alone! And I PROMISE YOU that everything is going to be okay. Whether you decide to have your child move on to 1st grade, repeat kindergarten or stay in preschool a year longer, things will turn out okay. Promise! So stop for a moment and take a deep breath.
Every Spring and Summer, I start noticing my post about Why My Son is Repeating Kindergarten on my site and Scary Mommy starts getting a lot of traffic. This is the season for parents to come to the realization that their child is either behind other kids in their class or simply not emotionally or academically ready to move on with their peers.
And along with this realization, comes a lot of big feelings for parents like shame, worry and fear. Shame that you may have done something wrong as a parent or that your child is not like the other kids in their class. Worry that there is something wrong with your child. And fear that your child will never learn to read, will always do poorly in school, not be successful in life, be thought of differently by other kids, their parents, teacher or their school.
Listen to me…everything is going to be okay!
I wasted so much time and energy focusing on these fears two years ago when it was the BEST DECISION I HAVE EVER MADE AS A PARENT!
That’s right: having my son repeat kindergarten was the absolute best decision I have ever made.
And in all likelihood, you too will feel the exact same way in about 6-8 months.
Let me explain and also answer some of your questions I’ve gotten over the years.
My son was born in July, and our school district has a September 1 birthday cutoff. This means that the vast majority of his class will be older than him.
For some kids, this is a non-issue, but for other kids, they are “young” for their class. I mention kids, because I know girls who fall into this category. But the vast majority of kids who are not quite ready to start school according to the school calendar are boys.
As the mom of a boy and a girl, I noticed vast differences between them right away. I was told that girls are born about 6-8 weeks ahead of boys, and I have to agree. Little girls tend to be more mature and more advanced than little boys.
When I saw girls are “ahead” of boys I do not mean hitting milestones. Grayson walked 4 months before Harper (at 9.5 months versus 13 months), he crawled and rolled over sooner as well.
Language for Harper came much earlier than for Grayson. In fact, when Harper was born Gray was exactly 2.5 years old and JUST started truly speaking, and his language came out in full sentences. Meanwhile Harper started chattering around 9 months and still hasn’t stopped.
But the major difference between boys and girls is in their emotional maturity and school “readiness.” When my son was starting kindergarten, I did not think he was ready. He just seemed very young for his age. He was shy and quiet in his class and his mental, physical, fine motor and other skills were not at the same place as those kids born a full 10-11 months before him.
This is the trouble with birthday cut-offs for school. They are always arbitrary and don’t take account of each child’s unique skills and abilities.
Looking back, having Grayson repeat Kindergarten was one of the best decisions I have ever made, but I was wrought with uncertainty and fear just like you are right now. It’s hard to know what is right and again, there’s all of that worry.
So if I could go back in time, this is what I would say to myself.
If you are even thinking about having your child repeat or delay Kindergarten, DO IT! You as the parent know your child the best. You understand their capabilities unlike anyone else.
If this thought has crossed your mind, there is a reason for it. Why second-guess yourself? Just because your school district says your child should be in this grade does NOT mean this is true for every child. There will always be kids who are a bit too old for their grade and kids who are too young for their grade due there only being one class per school year.
Would you rather have your child being a bit older, a bit more ready, more emotionally mature, more mentally prepared for challenges or the alternate? Would you rather your child be the smaller, shyer less engaged child or the more confident, secure student?
Who gets picked for dodgeball, the smaller, younger kid or the bigger, older, more confident kid? This experience encapsulates why it is so much better for younger boys to WAIT until they are ready Kindergarten.
Younger kids are less likely to be leaders, less likely to speak in class, make less friends, struggle to do homework and other assignments. This struggle often does not go away. AND if you later decide to make a change and have your child repeat, they are much more aware that they are not moving on with their class.
Grayson was not really aware that he was not moving to the next grade unlike his peers. We phrased it that he was “lucky” to stay in Kindergarten with his same teacher. A few kids in his first Kinder class asked me why he did not move ahead with them, but it was not an issue at all.
He is still very friendly with many of the kids in his first Kinder class and plays with them at school and is invited to many of their birthday parties. At a party two months ago, my husband and I looked at each other and we realized just how much younger Gray is than the boys at the party. I could not imagine him in class with them!
Now in 1st grade he is confident, speaks up in class, is friendly with everyone in his class and he is not the oldest or bigger kid. His best friend is actually an August bday (so a year and a month younger than Gray) who has a similar learning disability to Gray. And he is a really tall, big boy, so Grayson in no way stands out as that big kid who repeated kinder.
Now to your questions:
- Did I get push-back from Grayson’s school? Yes, I did get a little push-back, but not much. I found advocates for him at his school like his speech teacher and his Kinder teacher. When he was starting Kinder I asked if he could repeat if needed and I was told that very few kids do this. In reality, about 1-2 kids repeat every year at my son’s school. Several more spend time in public TK at his school (this was not an option for us, as TK was not located at his school the year he started Kinder) or in private TK. The vast majority of kids in private TK are boys.
- If I could do it over again I would…? I would put Grayson in TK. As I mentioned earlier, TK was not located at his school the year he started Kinder so it did not fel like an option for us. I was also not offered the choice to switch until the day before school started. If I could go back in time I would move him to TK.
- Do I regret my decision to have Gray repeat kinder? Absolutely no! The only thing I regret is wasting so much time worrying and stressing about this decision. I wish instead I made the decision and never second-guessed it. I wasted so much time and energy thinking about this!
- Has he experienced anything negative with repeating Kinder? No. Not one thing.
- Should you change teachers? We kept the same teacher which was the right decision for Grayson. He felt very comfortable and knew the rules and what to expect. His Kinder teacher was very regimented and “strict” which is the educational structure Grayson thrives in. Some school districts require your child to repeat. However if you can stay with the same teacher, and your child likes their teacher, it really is such a treat to have the same teacher twice. Grayson was her special helper, which made him feel very confident and happy all year long.
To sum up my feeling about having Grayson repeat Kindergarten, if you have any inkling that your child should repeat or delay starting Kinder, DO IT! Stay true to your natual parenting instincts. You and only you know your child the best. Rules are made to accommodate the average child.
Have you heard of GATE or gifted and talented education? This programing was created because some kids are naturally ahead and need extra programming. However there is very little support for kids who are on the opposite end of the spectrum. Public (and most private) education is a one-size-fits-all approach and leaves many many kids out.
Also I don’t want you to fret that because your child needs the gift of time they are not gifted or extremely bright. Grayson tests extremely highly in math, science and reasoning. He is very smart and bright boy. Your child likely is too, they just need a little more time.
And the best part about having a child repeat or delay kinder? They will have an extra year at home with you when they are 17 – 18 years old and most boys have a less developed hypothalamus which is responsible for impulse control. Now that certainly seems like a wise decision, right?
Plus I get an extra year of my son with me before he flies the nest!