Yesterday, 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 rerunning the second part of this series-the pros and cons of having children wait an extra year before heading to kindergarten.
This is sometimes called, “Red shirting,” and it is usually, though not always, the parents of boys with late spring or summer birthdays who consider starting them a year later than they could. I’ll share our personal story at the end of this post, but first, I wanted to share some thoughts from area early learning experts.
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.
We did have our Henry wait, though I’d never suggest that he is a, “Typical,” kid (Don’t get me wrong-I wouldn’t want him any other way). Why did we have him 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-even for ten minutes at a time-and a variety of adults in his life had commented on this ever-so-tactfully.
Was it the right decision? Mostly.
He has fit right in with kids a year younger than he is. He’s been able to keep up academically and socially for the most part, and while he’s on the taller side, he isn’t the tallest. I honestly can’t imagine him in his, “Correct,” grade.
I say, “Mostly,” because it turns out that he also has some fairly unusual learning differences. I sometimes think he may have gotten help earlier if we had started him on time. On the other hand, that may have just lead to him getting mislabeled as a behavior problem. Btw, while this is a subject too big for this post, if you are worried about some aspect of you child’s learning, give your district a call and ask about Child Find, or ask your pediatrician about early intervention services. You can often get them through your district when kiddos are very young, and early help makes a big difference!
On balance, I still feel it was the right decision, but I also think our story emphasizes that it is a very individual decision and one you should make with a lot of thought.
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. There is a good chance that your kiddos are going to zoom to the top of the class.
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).