Earlier this week, I shared some information about how to get your preschooler ready for kindergarten. If you have a preschooler or toddler, make sure you read it.
Today, I’m wading into the debate on whether children with spring or summer birthdays should be kept back a year. This is sometimes called, “Red shirting,” and it is usually the parents of boys who consider starting them a year later than they could.
I will tell you upfront, that we did have Henry wait a year, but I didn’t share that information with either of the educators I spoke with for this post. I didn’t want to bias them in their answers, and also, I’ll be the first to say that I don’t think Henry’s situation was necessarily typical (more on that later).
Laurie Sjolund, the Early Learning Coordinator in Sumner, says the decision about whether to wait a year is always an individual decision that should be made based on the unique needs of the child and family. She points out that a boy with a summer birthday could have better skills than a girl with an autumn one. Rather than focusing on the child’s age or gender, she encourages parents to assess their child’s skills and also to think about the important issue of what the child would be doing with that extra year.
Cindy Johnson, an Early Learning Specialist in Franklin Pierce, worries that children who spend an extra year at home may be losing valuable learning time. She feels that if children are five they should go to kindergarten.
Why did we have Henry wait? Well, it was a combination of factors, and I think if you make this decision it should be. He was not where he needed to be academically, mainly because he had absolutely no interest in learning anything related to letters or numbers. Hole digging was his thing. The alphabet song? Not so much. Additionally, while he had a fabulous preschool, he had a very difficult time attending to activities like story time. He was typically doing head stands or rolling out of the circle before the ten minutes was up. It wasn’t just me who noticed either. His Sunday school teacher, his preschool teacher, and saintly Mr.Dave at the Fife Pool, all commented ever-so-tactfully on his activity level.
We had also taken Henry to our district’s Child Find when he was 3, and he’d had quite a bit of other testing. So, while he was receiving speech services, we were pretty confident that he didn’t have some bigger thing going on. I mention this, because if you have a gut instinct that your child has some kind of special need, then you really don’t want to wait a year. You want to get him evaluated as soon as you can and get him receiving special services (You can start these as young as 3 through your school system. This is a topic too big for this post, but if you want to know more, call your district).
So, we gave Henry what his preschool teacher called, “The gift of time.” His preschool had a Pre-K class, so he didn’t have to redo the same stuff. He continued speech therapy with the school district and with a private therapist, and of course, we did lots and lots of outings and work here at home. He started kindergarten this year, and he has fit right in. He’s on the tall side but not the tallest. He’s doing well with the work, but he isn’t bored either, and socially-well, he fits right in.
Now, this decision was right for Henry, but I would never suggest that it would be right for everyone. I have friends who kept back girls with June birthdays and friends who started boys with August ones. I know folks who decided to wait mostly because they didn’t want their kids to be the very youngest in the class, and I know folks who started their kids because their children are spaced closely together, and they didn’t want them to be in the same grade. I also have friends who had their very bright children wait in order to give them more time to develop socially. All these children have thrived, and whether they’re older or younger, their parents all feel good about the choice they made.
In the end, I don’t have a magic formula to share with you. If you’re on the fence, I think the best thing to do is to talk with the people who know your child best. If her preschool teacher thinks she’s ready, she probably is. If you’re still nervous when that first day rolls around, ask the kindergarten teacher if you can plan on meeting in a couple weeks to see how things are going.
What do you think? Do children who wait a year have an advantage when they start, or do kids do better if they start as soon as they can? I’d love to hear what you have to say, just as long as you keep your comments respectful (I know…I know….you learned that in kindergarten).
Don’t forget I have links to most district registration events in the menu bar. I am still working on updating a few. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your comments on this topic!