Hold back from 1st grade

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  April 23, 2010 06:00 AM

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Hi Barbara,

My son has a late October birthday. He attended 3- & 4-year-old preschool and is now in kindergarten. We are facing the question as to whether he should repeat kindergarten another year. The reasons considered are focus, maturity, size (although he is probably not going to be huge based on our statures), and mainly because he is such a young 5. His preschool teacher suggested holding him back before kindergarten.

He is a very bright and quiet child and wanted to go to kindergarten so badly that we went ahead and enrolled him. He is academically on track for first grade. That being said, his kindergarten teacher placed him in a "Title 1" program, which basically puts him in a group of 5 other students being pulled from the class daily for an hour to work with a different teacher on letters, numbers, etc. because he needed some extra help and sometimes doesn't stay focused.

This was a surprise to us because he has always exhibited more mature understanding and abilities, well beyond his young years. However, he is young and I believe he was labeled as 'young' and quiet and therefore grouped with the young kids and not really given a chance to exhibit his abilities.

Another caveat to this situation is that his 'best' friend and neighbor will be repeating (probably the right decision for them); however, my son wants to stay with him and I am on the fence as to whether there are advantages to holding him back and what is best for him. Although their decision should not influence ours, he wants to 'go wherever he goes'.

Could you offer some insight onto whether it is advantageous to retain a young 5-year-old boy in kindergarten.

From: Nicole, Macomb, MI

 

 

Hi Nicole,

Just to recap: last year, his preschool teacher recommended giving him an extra year of preschool rather than putting him in kindergarten. This year, the kindergarten teacher placed him in a group for students who need extra help.

Two professionals who work with children and are in a position to make comparative assessments are sending you clear, strong messages that this child is not functioning at grade level. (Of course, whether these are even appropriate expectations for kindergarten is another issue, but that's a topic for a different discussion.)

Based on what you're saying, it sounds like holding back is a good idea. What other children do -- and most importantly, what he wants -- is not relevant. You are the parents. Your job is to do what's in his best interest. If he's unhappy, he'll get over it; he'll make new friends and maybe even keep some of the old ones.

There's been some criticism of parents who hold children back but it's because they do it for the reason: they think that by buying an extra year, their child will have an academic or athletic advantage in high school. That usually backfires. Yes, by being the oldest your son might be the first to develop facial hair, or get his license, and that can put social pressure on him.

But it sounds like you have a bona fide reasons to hold your son back. If a teacher senses he's struggling now, she's probably anticipating that he needs shoring up because, in this teach-to-the-test mentality in so many school systems these days, she's worried he will struggle. Have you asked her what she thinks about holding him back? I would definitely follow her advice more than mine because she knows him and I don't. But if you are going to hold back, now is the time to do it. You don't want to be looking back in a year and saying the signs had been there for two years and you chose to ignore them.

I answer a question from a reader every weekday. If you want help with some aspect of child-rearing, just write to me here.
 

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55 comments so far...
  1. It sounds like if they had listed to his preschool teacher, rather then letting a 5 year old make life decisions, they would not be in this situation. Clearly the professionals think he is not on par with the class, I would suggest taking control as parents now. Letting children make decisions they are incapable of doing, is a slippery slope. Be a parent.

    Posted by mj April 23, 10 09:47 AM
  1. I agree with mj and Barbara. The teachers have given you clear signals that another year of kindergarten would be beneficial. You have simply decided to ignore them and let your 5 year old tell you what to do. Lot's of parents think their kids are smarter/more mature than they really are and there is nothing wrong with that. But at some point you need to be realistic and listen to someone who is not as emotionally invested as you. Also, I don't believe teachers simply label a child as "young" and immediately put them in a program to help them academically. They put them in these programs because the child needs help.

    Posted by Dad April 23, 10 10:35 AM
  1. The year that my son was scheduled to start Kindergarten the cut off date was changed from December 1st to September 1st, but parents were allowed to request a waiver (for that year only) My son's birthday is in eary September. I had no idea what to do. I spoke with his pre-school teacher, the principal of the elementary school and anyone else that would listen. Everyone recommended waiting until the next year. The principal, who was an incredible educator and very attuned to his students, told me that children and for some reason boys especially benefit from the extra year. It is not about "academic ability". He said it allows them to start school with more confidence and maturity. I waited the year and have never regretted it. My son is now a confidant, happy, high school student and doing very well in school.

    Posted by ss April 23, 10 11:54 AM
  1. My younger brother and sister (twins) were November babies and back in the day they had Dec. 31 as the cut off date for school. My brother was kept back because it was obvious he wasn't ready-needed his sister for everything (as twins do!) and my sister was allowed to stay as she was quiet and appeared competant. To this day she says she always felt behind emotionally, socially and struggled in school. Give your son every opportunity to succeed, especially if the teachers are telling you that! It will help him all his life.

    Posted by AnnieOMalden April 23, 10 11:56 AM
  1. The parents here are unwilling to believe the teacher's assessment -- and are excuses as to why the school put the boy in Title I (because he is quiet and seems young?). But let me tell you, teachers do actually study literacy and child development. They also have far more experience than the average parent in knowing what is grade-level -- they deal with many kids, year after year. Most teachers know enough not to equate quite and shy with academically behind. My goodness, and with the budget pressures schools are under these days, so you really think they are on a witch hunt looking for kids who need extra services (services that more money). No; the issue is that your child is not working at grade level and needs extra help. LW, your boy is undoubtedly wonderful and sweet, but how would you have any clue about whether he has "mature understanding and abilities" unless you were, well, a teacher of many other children?

    There is no shame in staying back at these early grades. Better to do so now -- there really will be no stigma, and your child will have a chance to thrive. Let him have a good start. Pushing him on to first grade could set him up for real trouble; schools have been forced to cram a lot into the first few years of school, thanks to testing requirements, and it would be a shame for your son to struggle through this. The last thing you want is for him to fall further behind, start to doubt his own abilities, begin to hate school, etc. etc.

    Posted by jlen April 23, 10 12:01 PM
  1. My oldest, same situation. As a matter of fact all the parents of the boys in the same pre-school program got the same advice and the same justification. Flash forward 25 years and the 5 "not ready for kindergarden" boys have all graduated from college, 2 doing post grad work, 1 an officer in the Marines, and the other 2 own their own business'. When little boys act like little boys they don't fit the current model of behavior & erudition that is currently in vogue.

    Posted by Daddydearest April 23, 10 12:02 PM
  1. Full-day kindergarten is a very demanding place nowadays. In our school, the 5-6 year olds get 10 minutes for snack, 15 minutes for lunch, and two 15 minute recesses over the course of an entire day. On top of it, they have to stand in line for 20 minutes in the morning, and its almost impossible for them to be sent home by the nurse if they aren't feeling well. They have to be very seriously ill because of the attendence requirements for NCLB. This, and they jam alot of kids into the classroom.

    Yes, the kids get to move in the class, but it is not the same as having fun, creative playtime with friends.

    I know we are talking about first grade, but sending a 'younger' child to full-day, public kindergarten is a disservice to the child. It's simply not a developmentally appropriately place for a younger child (who acts their age or maybe a bit younger), even if that child is academically doing well. I believe this is especially true of boys.

    With that said, we are lucky to have an amazing teacher, and a child who is appropriately older for the class (we didn't 'red-shirt' him), so he is happy and he is learning quite a bit. We may send our younger daughter to an extra year of preschool, however, as they have a half-day kindergarten program there. We think her developmental needs may be better met with more time to rest, snack, etc, then we will have her join in the first grade.

    Listen to the teachers! I was the youngest in my class. I did very well academically, but always felt the age difference between myself and my classmates - and kindergarten was letters and macaroni and rest time back then! They have so many years to be in school...it is not a race.

    Posted by beentherebefore April 23, 10 12:11 PM
  1. Like SS, I have a boy who's birthday is early September and misses the cutoff. But even though my son is very smart intellectually, developmentally he isn't ready for such a faster paced environment. I am now happy to have the extra year for him to get ready. I believe it is in your best interest to listen to these professionals and heed their advise. It is probably the best thing you could do. They aren't "out to get" your son. They just don't want to see him fall through the cracks of the system and fall behind. They just want what is best.

    Posted by jd April 23, 10 12:38 PM
  1. Please hold him back. Our school professionals told us our son would do "fine" but in our hearts we knew differently. In high school he hung out exclusively with kids that were year behind him. After 10 years of tutors and pull-out programs our son is now happy well adjusted college freshman in the college of his dreams.

    Posted by dude's mom April 23, 10 12:41 PM
  1. Thank you to all who have written in with the advice to trust the teachers. In a world where politicians, businessmen, celebrities, etc. are constantly second-guessing our profession, it is heartening to hear so many votes of confidence from *parents!* Teachers are not perfect (we're humans, too!) and should never be dismissive of parents' perspectives on their childen, but teachers do have training, years of experience, and-- most importantly-- a driving passion to help all their students succeed. Your comments send me back from April vacation with a reinvigorated sense of purpose!

    Posted by MAteacher April 23, 10 01:12 PM
  1. Listen to the educators! We decided to do the holding back for our late August son in preschool and we can already see the benefits. His confidence has soared since we moved him to a class with kids just 6 months younger than he is. He seems developmentally on par with them, vs. the kids who share his birth month. When we were considering delaying his kindergarten entry, so many parents tried to talk us out of it - like there was a stigma associated with NOT going to kindergarten when you are 5 years old - but just as many parents (especially with these late-summer and early-fall boys) told stories of success with delaying school entry. Do it.

    Posted by GingerMom April 23, 10 01:20 PM
  1. I'd say you should wait if you are talking about boarding school. I waited until my son was 6, and that was the right decision. At 5, he was still kind of "babyish".

    Posted by Dan Cleo April 23, 10 01:33 PM
  1. My oldest son is 4 days before our state cutoff so now the youngest in the First grade. It's always been an issue for ME not for him. Academically he is right on target and above in some areas. The one comment that the teacher has had is that emotionally he's behind some of his peers. We knew he would be bored if we held him back and a bored bright child is not a good situation.
    I'm very very tired of the parents that hold back thinking their child will get an advantage. They are the reason that my first grader is in class with some kids that should be almost in third grade. The topic of holding back is a sore spot for me but also now we are on top of watching how our son is doing. On the flip side our youngest will be one of the oldest when he starts first grade and I'm a bit relieved I'll confess.
    Do what you think is best for your son. If the teachers are saying hold him back do listen to the agruments and see. Don't hold him back thinking you'll get an advantage. That's stupid. Hold him back if it makes sense for his school career and only you can really say.

    Posted by enolamr April 23, 10 01:50 PM
  1. As a teacher, based on what you have said, I would really recommend keeping him back. Give him another year to master kindergarten concepts before going to first grade!

    Posted by Amanda April 23, 10 02:51 PM
  1. Keep him back. My nephew went through this between 1st and 2nd. Wasn't kept back and ended up in summer school at the end of the next year. I think its better to stay back when kids are this age and have a reasonable chance of catching up.
    I'm sure your child is bright, but its not the only thing to consider here, as you seem to be aware of.
    A year now, may make all the difference to his entire career at school.

    Posted by lala April 23, 10 03:00 PM
  1. Definitely hold him back. He will start his Senior Year in High School and turn 18 a month later. The other kids will start to turn 18 only a few short months later. But, what he will get out of having that one extra year will last a lifetime. If they start out struggling, the chances of catching up are harder. Give him the advantage he needs, you will not regret it. Good luck! :)

    Posted by Valerie April 23, 10 03:01 PM
  1. Is there ever a detriment to waiting that extra year before enrolling a child in 1st grade? I don't think I've ever heard of one; I only know of advantages. A 5 year old in first grade might do just fine, but might not. I was 5 until December of 1st grade and, like Annie's sister, I always felt behind the curve. Not academically, but socially and maturity-wise, I guess. I'm a functional and happy adult, but sometimes I wish my mom had waited a year.

    Posted by poppy609 April 23, 10 03:01 PM
  1. My daugher was held back in the second grade due to age and maturity, and I have never once regretted our decision. I think the parents get too messed up with what people might think about their child, like it's a bad thing. It's not. It's what's best for them and who cares about anything else!!

    Posted by SDM April 23, 10 03:42 PM
  1. I will give you two perspectives- First, I am an educator and I would say retain. You won't regret it, but you might regret not doing it. Listen to the professionals. They are telling you these things and giving him these supports for reason. Second, I was retained myself. (repeated first grade) The best decision that could have ever been made for me. I would not be who I was if I didn't have that extra year of confidence. Good Luck!

    Posted by Helen April 23, 10 04:12 PM
  1. My nephew has an end of August birthday. Right now, he is in pre-school. He can spell his name, write most letters, say his ABCs, recognize shapes and colors and count to 100. He could start kindergarten next year but my sister (a former kindergarten teacher), is keeping him in pre-school for one more year because he simply is not as mature as the other kids moving on. He's right on the cusp for the cut-off date and knows what all the other children "know" but it's obvious that another year of development would do him wonders. To some people, talking about maturity in 5 year-olds seems silly. But I think we can all agree a year really does make a difference when it comes to children. A child can grow a lot in one year. What is more likely? Him moving on too soon and suffering academically and socially OR him staying behind and becoming the genius of the class with maturity far beyond the other children? I think we all know the answer. Staying behind will most likely cause no harm. Moving on too soon could do some damage.

    Posted by Linney April 23, 10 04:19 PM
  1. My older son's first grade teacher advised holding him back and we didn't do it. Please listen to the teacher. My very smart, talented and loving son struggled through school in part because of confidence issues. He was always more comfortable with younger children. He's doing well today but it took a long time for him to grow into himself and it didn't need to be as difficult as it was.

    Posted by Chocolate Chip April 23, 10 04:49 PM
  1. It will be beneficial.

    It's not a huge deal and will benefit him in the long run. I think there is a big difference between a 4 year old born in January and a 4 year old born in October. That 4 year old born in January is 10 months older!

    Rather than have him struggle, just keep him back and he'll grow into his own.

    Posted by Mikey "Insane" Monkeypants April 23, 10 04:53 PM
  1. Don't hold him back. I am a guidance counselor at an elementary school and have had many situation come up similar to yours. Research shows no benefit to holding a child back. Socially and academically they will develop appropriate skills and holding them back will do no good in the end. Children always surprise us!

    People who say they liked having an extra year to get a child ready are just saying that to make themselves feel better. Again, go and do some research..... not one study shows a benefit to it.

    My school has a policy of never holding a child back with out a special education evaluation/testing. You can request this through your school. You have this right as a parent. Talk to your guidance counselor.

    Good luck making your choice because your son is depending on you!

    Posted by dontdoit April 23, 10 05:39 PM
  1. Please listen to your teachers. In many districts, teachers have to specifically seek out the principal prior to even discussing retention with parents. By retaining a child, the district is putting themselves on the hook for an extra year of education costs - not something done lightly in this time of tight budgets. I also concur with the poster who stated that teachers are not looking to fill Title I slots - the slots are highly valued and not filled lightly. Teachers sometime have to fight to get children into them.

    Posted by Patricia April 23, 10 05:40 PM
  1. I was the youngest in the class. There was a Dec. 1 cut-off, and I am a February birthday. Academically, it was fine. Socially, it was not great, particularly in elementary and middle school. Then, after getting through middle school being young, there's driving a year late and, yes, drinking a year late (well, having someone else's ID, but that's another story!). I would encourage anyone whose kid's birthday is after the cut-off to hold. No question.

    My kids' birthdays are May and June. I've had many ask me if I'm holding my early June boy; I am not holding him. We know he is ready. His current teachers say he's ready. He was screened, and deemed ready. So, I agree: don't hold a kid just because others are, or because there is pressure to get him or her "ahead". Someone has to be the youngest, shortest, etc. (And, some are always going to be the shortest anyway.) But definitely hold when the child is younger than the cut-off date. It's more fair to the child to be with his or her peer group--and, now, that peer group should run from Sept. 1-Aug. 31 of the next year.

    Good luck!

    Posted by Beth April 23, 10 05:50 PM
  1. We were in the same situation as one of the other posters when the cut off date was being moved back so we had a choice of whether or not to hold our son back. I talked quite a few parents of older kids who had the same decision to make, and all of the parents who had their child repeat a year were happy they did it, while most of the parents who didn't have their child repeat regretted it. We don't regret it -- the extra year allowed him to mature more so he could handle the work in 1st grade. I really think you should listen to the teachers -- they are the professionals and .know your son.

    Posted by Enna April 23, 10 07:25 PM
  1. I could not agree with jlen more. As parents, we see our children in an environment that is very different from school, so it's easy to assume that a child who appears mature at home must be that way everywhere. But in the stressful, sometimes noisy, and competitive environment of even the best run classroom, the child's behavior may be quite different. Most likely, it is this that your son's teacher is seeing. In order for him to thrive--not just survive, but thrive--you should take the advice of the professionals and give him another year of kindergarten.

    Posted by Ashley April 23, 10 07:54 PM
  1. The decision to retain is a difficult one and should be a family one in the end. Most important should be the reason for the Tiltle 1 help and what the teachers concerns are. Is he struggling with attention, reading understanding concepts? Did the teacher suggest a full educational evaluation to better understand his struggles if not you should request one in writing. Keeping him back may help with his "maturity" but will not help him in the long run throughout his educational years if there is an underlying issue beyond just his age. Teachers tend to group things to boys take longer to do this or he is one of the youngest in the class but a learning disability or attention issue will not magically resolve by repeating a grade.

    Posted by mmb April 23, 10 08:07 PM
  1. Keep him back - best thing we ever did for my August birthday son. He went from struggling and sad to happy and thriving. You can rarely go wrong holding back a summer or fall birthday boy

    Posted by boston_boston_abc April 23, 10 08:11 PM
  1. Hold him back. Our twins, a girl and a boy, have late August birthdays. We sent them both to kindergarten and lived to wish we had held our son back a year. His maturity level allowed him to be easily distracted in elementary school and though he had a wonderful teacher whom he loved in 4th and 5th grade, by sixth it was obvious how much another year at 5 would have helped him. It's almost axiomatic that boys mature later than girls and though I was never a believer until it happened to us, it is something I really regret not doing.

    Posted by laMissy April 23, 10 08:21 PM
  1. Dear Parent--your child is NOT academically ready for 1rst if two teachers have recommended retention and one has put your child in a group for extra help. Stop putting YOUR image of YOUR child front and center and see the real kid in front of you.

    Thanks-a teacher

    Posted by a teacher April 23, 10 11:10 PM
  1. My opinion is to definitely keep him back. A little extra maturity goes a very long way. From my experience as an elementary educator the children who are young often end up feeling challenged in one way or another. The challenges could be attention, social, emotional, patience, etc., Yes, these are challenges that most students face at one time or another, but younger students have a harder time dealing with it.

    Another important thing to think about is that this decision would affect him for the rest of his life. I happen to have a lot of friends who have boys with "late" birthdays and they did not hold their sons back. Things were fine in first and second grade, but by third and fourth grade, these boys were miserable. Even though they were absolutely "smart enough" to do the work that was needed, they lacked the maturity that was necessary to comprehend multi-step projects and the motivation to endure. In short, the teachers provided extra help during the day and the parents did a log of arguing at night to get those boys to do their homework. The extra help at school and the arguing at night is stressful for everyone and causes the student to lack in self-esteem and confidence.

    Listen to your teachers. They would not be giving you this advice if they didn't think it was in your son's best interest.

    Posted by my2cents April 24, 10 06:45 AM
  1. We were faced with the same issue, and made the decision to have our son repeat kindergarten. Best thing we ever did. Socially, he fits in much better, and is better able to stand up for himself in difficult kid situations. He was a "young 5" and just needed another year to get used to the long school day. The guidance counselor at the time told us she had many parents over the years tell her that they wished they had held their sons back a year, but none express regrets that they did. However, other parents who didn't hold kids back regret they didn't, because as your child gets older, this is harder to do. This is not a failure on your son's part, he may just need another year, and this could make him happier and better adjusted down the road. It's a decision that seems tough now, but will seem like the right thing later.

    Posted by John April 24, 10 09:32 AM
  1. Many schools have an earlier cut-off date for kindergarten now - for a reason. I can tell you that if this delay continues to follow your son into the higher grades, he will feel the impact a lot more if he is a third or fourth grader being held back, than a kindergartner. Also, pay attention to some of the reasons the teachers are recommending this. He may have something else going on that will need further evaluation as he gets older (such as ADD), which can be difficult to assess in kindergarten. You need to stay on top of this to be able to provide the appropriate support and continuity from grade-to-grade that your child will need.

    Posted by KEM April 24, 10 09:54 AM
  1. As the mom of a January-born son now graduating from university I can tell you that these "young" boys stand out throughout their school careers. My son was always the oldest boy in the class, and the ones who were nearly a year younger were consistently behind in some way or another. These were great kids - some of them his best friends - but they would have benefited from the extra time to mature before kindergarten. Lack of focus, needing extra help - why put him through a cycle of failure?
    The above comment by mj is also spot on - you call the shots on the wehns and whys of school, not your child.

    Posted by Plato's Mom April 24, 10 11:27 AM
  1. I was the youngest and smallest in my class. for twelve years. I found it difficult to keep up academically, socially, and especially in sports. I wish my mother kept me out for another year.

    Posted by Started Early April 24, 10 03:07 PM
  1. I think I have to agree with the professionals in this particular instance but after reading some of the comments I just wanted to add that holding back is not always the answer in case there are other parents in this situation. I really would defer to the professionals and your gut instinct (which despite the lw saying she thinks her son is fine it's pretty clear reading between the lines that she has hesitations).

    I have a November birthday and was going into kindergarten/first grade right around when schools were switching from December to September cut off dates. I had gone to a different school for kindergarten and when I switched schools my parents planned to put me in kindergarten again. The teachers recommended just putting me in first grade because I had already mastered kindergarten so they did. I don't think they regret doing that nor would I want to do anything differently. The biggest challenge was that I was the last to get my license and the last to turn 21 in college. Annoying but I got over it.

    That being said, I think I would have been equally happy staying back (and given that I switched schools anyway it really wouldn't have made a difference socially). My kindergarten was at a preschool/kindergarten so we all went to different schools after without about half going to 1st grade and half doing it over (they tended to put us into kindergarten earlier because they had worked with us in preschool too so many kids were too young for cut off dates). To my knowledge everyone whether they did kindergarten once or twice came out being pretty solid people.

    Posted by pomgreen April 24, 10 03:16 PM
  1. The problem here is that no parent likes to hear that their child is not progressing as the parent wants them to. Nicole is clearly a thoughtful and great parent, but she needs to put aside her expectations, listen to the professionals, and place her son's needs first.

    # 6 Daddydearest spelled it out nicely: "...all the parents of the boys in the [my son's] pre-school program got the same advice [to keep them back] and the same justification. [Today these] boys have all graduated from college, 2 doing post grad work, 1 an officer in the Marines, and 2 own their own businesses."

    Daddydearest then goes on to make a crucial point: Little boys' natural, charged-particle behavior does not fit into the expected classroom behavior. It is like hammering star-shaped pegs into tiny round holes.

    Keep the little guy back.

    Posted by Tante Casilda April 24, 10 04:54 PM
  1. In our town the cut off is Aug 31st and those with summer birthdays are routinely held back.
    I have never heard anyone say they regretted holding a child back, but often hear regret over not holding back.

    Posted by Juliemom4 April 24, 10 07:39 PM
  1. Hold him back; it won't hurt and will most likely help.

    Posted by jenika April 24, 10 09:35 PM
  1. The words that struck me were especially "doesn't stay focused"... my younger son is an August baby (Aug 30 cutoff), is now in 5th grade, and still struggles with his focus... with maturity this has gotten better, but please, do not push a kid ahead because his friend is going or not. Let him mature a bit more, or you'll probably be wondering at the end of 1st grade whether he should stay back then. That choice will be even harder. If he needs to be pulled out of class in kindergarten, he will need it even more so in first grade, just trying to keep up. Listen to the teachers, they really do know what they're doing, and certainly wouldn't recommend costly special services if your son did not need them. Is your son an only child? Perhaps that is the reason he appears to be more mature to adults, but he will continue to struggle with peers if he doesn't get caught up to his age level. Good luck, it's not the easy choices that make us a good parent, its the hard ones.

    Posted by HelenL April 24, 10 09:48 PM
  1. Consider this. Research says that children who START AHEAD, FINISH AHEAD. Children who start behind, never catch up. The BEST time to retain is when children are in the earliest grades.It is MUCH more difficult to be considering retention when a child is in third grade or fourth grade. Furthermore, a student who has spent his preliminary grades struggling to keep up, catch up and stay out of the lowest groups, easily develops an antagonistic attitude toward school and the idea that "I am just not good at school" or "I don't like school."

    Posted by Mary G. April 26, 10 02:37 AM
  1. Like SS & JD, I had a boy who's birthday was in late summer/early fall and though he didn't miss the cutoff, he was developmentally young. We had conflicting evidence from his preschool teachers and the school system. We were told "If he's 5 on September 1, then we're ready for him".

    Unfortunately, though intellectually he was and is very bright, developmentally he was about six months behind the other girls and boys who's birthdays were the previous fall and winter. He was quiet, but attention issues were a big concern. In kindergarten and first grade, children are expected to be able to "attend" or pay attention for at least 35-40 minutes. That's a long time for some.

    We allowed him to go to kindergarten, but then realized that he needed that "gift of time", so he went to kindergarten for a second year. We insisted that he be assigned to another more academically oriented kindergarten teacher for the second year, so he would have a different experience, and not feel as if he was left behind in the same classroom. There were four other boys in the same situation.

    Now 18 years later, all of the boys, now young men, are in college and most are looking forward to graduating this year. Most have taken a little longer to complete their education and move into the work world. It may take them longer to get through college as well, and most graduate in their own time, but eventually it does happen.

    My 50 year old brother had the same developmental issues and attended two years of kindergarten, back in the day when it wasn't so common to do so. Just last year he completed his bachelor's degree in IT Management. He is now a part time student working on his MBA and has his own systems engineering business. He has three grown children who are college graduates, and six grandchildren.


    Posted by bola April 26, 10 03:27 AM
  1. I too was put in the same situation with my son, only being ten days away from the cut off date (at the time was Dec.31). I decided to hold him back after talking with teachers, pediatrician, and other parents. Most said they had never heard of anyone regretting holding a child back, but had heard of many cases who did. One thing that did stick out to me was the maturity factor in boys in general..and that I would be sending my son to high school at 13 and to college at 17. I've never regretted holding him back, and a good amount of his friends who were near the cut off date were also kept back by the choice of their parents. I looked at it as another year I'll have to spend with my son at home with his family! If his teachers recommend holding him, I would listen to them, they are the professionals, and I think it would harm him more to have him be held back when he starts school full time. Good Luck!

    Posted by lily April 26, 10 07:49 AM
  1. It seems that many districts have moved to an earlier August 31st cut-off from a Dec. 31st cut-off. My mother had a December birthday and has always been very bright, but she always strongly disliked being the smallest and the last to be able to do anything.

    I have a son and daughter, and I can fully understand, in watching them, how girls of a certain age are ready for school sooner than boys (with the same intellect). I, too, am hesitant to just hold kids back in an attempt to make them academic superstars; however, the feedback from the LW's preschool teacher and kindergarten teacher seems to indicate this boy is just not ready. And this is common for boys on the young side - no shame. If it were just one teacher suggesting this, then I can see how the LW would want another opinion. In any event, perhaps the LW can get an independent evaluation done for her son in order to make the best possible decision. But from the information provided in the letter, I would assume retaining the boy would be the best option. Good luck!

    Posted by JKR April 26, 10 09:05 AM
  1. I say let him stay, if it's what he wants.

    I am a december child and I started kindergarten at 4. This affected me socially as I was already small and shy.

    It took me a while to play the catch up game and I didn't come out of my shell really until I was 16. I'd have to say that if he has a friend who is staying in Kindergarten, then it's kind of a win-win

    Posted by Elle April 26, 10 09:15 AM
  1. My kids go to a private school where they use a comprehensive "testing" program to determine each child's academic age, and emotional age. My boys are August and September birthdays. Both of them could read quite well, knew all upper and lowercase letters, write several words, count to 100, etc. well before they were five. Due to what the school refers to as being "emotionally young" they were both recommended to start kindergarten the following years, as they were turning six, and it has worked out well. Our school believes a child's emotional maturity is a higher predictor of school success than how much they know.

    Since your child seems to be struggling with the academic and emotional aspects of school, it shouldn't even be a question - keep him back one more year!

    p.s. I do not mean to "brag", just trying to make the point that even with certain skills, we were still advised to wait, and a few years later it seems like it was the right choice.

    Posted by mom2boys April 26, 10 09:31 AM
  1. We had a late birthday son who was a little shy as he had two dominant older sisters. We held him back pre-K and without question it was the best move we could have done. He made a new group of friends so when he started 1st grade he started fresh. Absolutely fits in with his "new" grade from day one.

    As far as athletics it depends on the sport. He does well and really is just a little older than the other kids. Mathematically that will happen on both ends to any kid. The only sport that he'll face a problem with is soccer as next year (6th grade) he'll have to play with 7th graders because of age/tournament requirements. Earlier soccer and lacrosse he's playing with his grade.

    Posted by Dennis Callahan April 26, 10 09:56 AM
  1. dontdoit - that research is only in cases where students who are already enrolled in school and being considered for retention due to special education issues. In those cases, the misconception is that a child will "catch up", although research shows that disabilities do not go away - thus, the child does not "catch up" - simply from being retained a year.

    There is absolutely great reason to delay the start of school for a child whose age dictates that he/she may not be developmentally ready for 1st grade. Totally different scenario.

    Posted by poppy609 April 27, 10 02:10 PM
  1. For the Letter Writer,

    Just to be clear, the opinion of the trained, educated, professional teacher over the last few years was/is not enough to convince you that this a good idea.

    But when the five year old is afraid of losing his friend, you think that is now warrants discussion?

    I think that you need to drastically rethink the process by which you make decisions about the welfare of you child, and in what order you rank the information provided to you by people.


    Posted by BostonWombat April 28, 10 09:15 AM
  1. When I was a child, I'd been attending preschool since age 3ish, but when it was time for me to attend kindergarten, my parents were told that I had to be 5 years old to start that grade (I would turn 5 about 3 weeks into the school year, but it didn't matter). Instead of making a fuss and fighting to get me into kindergarten that year, my parents decided to put me in pre-K and then have me go to kindergarten when I was 5-almost-6.

    I was a straight-A student until mid-high school and recently graduated from a top university. I have plenty of friends of various ages. Rather than resenting my parents for essentially holding me back, I didn't even REALIZE I was being held back until years later, and now I consider it an interesting story.

    Clearly, your son was not ready for kindergarten. And THAT'S OKAY. It really sounds like you think it's a shameful thing if he has to repeat kindergarten, which it isn't.

    Posted by sabend April 28, 10 12:43 PM
  1. When I was in first grade, the cutoff in my town changed from December to August. As an October birthday, I was usually one of the youngest in the class, and was usually in the top of the class. When applying to private schools, I was often not accepted because I was considered too young (the schools would want to hold me back and my parents were against it). When I did end up in a private school, I was the youngest in my grade, and consistently at the top. While I did have some social struggles in my first few years there (I went to a 7-12 school), I ended up with a fantastic group of friends in my grade and the grades around me (above and below). I graduates high school and went into college at 17.
    For my younger sister, my parents did decide to have her repeat when she went from public school to private school (she repeated kindergarten). It was probably the best choice for her, though most of her friends from camp, etc are closer to her age and in the grade above her, as she is generally more mature than the kids in her own grade.
    I think that it really depends on the child and the specific situation. If teachers who have had experience with your child are expressing concerns, I think that it may be a good idea to listen to them and take that into account.
    It is a better idea to wait to enroll children in school rather than holding them back (especially due to the social stigma it is sometimes associated with)

    Posted by olivia April 28, 10 04:36 PM
  1. Would anyone be able to determine if this 'struggling' is just attributed to pure boredom?

    Posted by Angela April 28, 10 06:11 PM
  1. Has your son been evaluated for ADD? Some of the things you describe, like problems with focus and social immaturity, are classic signs. You can request an evaluation through the school. If he does have ADD, his problems with focus will not go away by holding him back, and he may require special services throughout his school career anyway.

    Posted by Sally April 29, 10 02:02 AM
  1. I don't agree with you Sally. Just because a boy is immature and having trouble sitting still does not mean he has ADD. My son is a summer baby. I sent him to school at 5. Other children that were born that summer into fall kept their boys in Pre-K. He did amazing in Kindergarten. He had maturity issues, but nothing extreme. In first grade we moved to a new state. he had trouble with behavior at first. The school suggested he had ADD. I said he was an immature boy. His grades were amazing. He is academically ahead of most of the children. I ignored the "professionals" that labeled him. Now that he has settled into school and a new home he is ending first grade on top and has matured and doing well. I'm glad I listened to my instincts with my child and NOT the school. Most teachers are amazing, but to just generally trust someone because they are "a professional" is absurd!.

    Posted by Amber May 17, 10 03:24 PM
 
55 comments so far...
  1. It sounds like if they had listed to his preschool teacher, rather then letting a 5 year old make life decisions, they would not be in this situation. Clearly the professionals think he is not on par with the class, I would suggest taking control as parents now. Letting children make decisions they are incapable of doing, is a slippery slope. Be a parent.

    Posted by mj April 23, 10 09:47 AM
  1. I agree with mj and Barbara. The teachers have given you clear signals that another year of kindergarten would be beneficial. You have simply decided to ignore them and let your 5 year old tell you what to do. Lot's of parents think their kids are smarter/more mature than they really are and there is nothing wrong with that. But at some point you need to be realistic and listen to someone who is not as emotionally invested as you. Also, I don't believe teachers simply label a child as "young" and immediately put them in a program to help them academically. They put them in these programs because the child needs help.

    Posted by Dad April 23, 10 10:35 AM
  1. The year that my son was scheduled to start Kindergarten the cut off date was changed from December 1st to September 1st, but parents were allowed to request a waiver (for that year only) My son's birthday is in eary September. I had no idea what to do. I spoke with his pre-school teacher, the principal of the elementary school and anyone else that would listen. Everyone recommended waiting until the next year. The principal, who was an incredible educator and very attuned to his students, told me that children and for some reason boys especially benefit from the extra year. It is not about "academic ability". He said it allows them to start school with more confidence and maturity. I waited the year and have never regretted it. My son is now a confidant, happy, high school student and doing very well in school.

    Posted by ss April 23, 10 11:54 AM
  1. My younger brother and sister (twins) were November babies and back in the day they had Dec. 31 as the cut off date for school. My brother was kept back because it was obvious he wasn't ready-needed his sister for everything (as twins do!) and my sister was allowed to stay as she was quiet and appeared competant. To this day she says she always felt behind emotionally, socially and struggled in school. Give your son every opportunity to succeed, especially if the teachers are telling you that! It will help him all his life.

    Posted by AnnieOMalden April 23, 10 11:56 AM
  1. The parents here are unwilling to believe the teacher's assessment -- and are excuses as to why the school put the boy in Title I (because he is quiet and seems young?). But let me tell you, teachers do actually study literacy and child development. They also have far more experience than the average parent in knowing what is grade-level -- they deal with many kids, year after year. Most teachers know enough not to equate quite and shy with academically behind. My goodness, and with the budget pressures schools are under these days, so you really think they are on a witch hunt looking for kids who need extra services (services that more money). No; the issue is that your child is not working at grade level and needs extra help. LW, your boy is undoubtedly wonderful and sweet, but how would you have any clue about whether he has "mature understanding and abilities" unless you were, well, a teacher of many other children?

    There is no shame in staying back at these early grades. Better to do so now -- there really will be no stigma, and your child will have a chance to thrive. Let him have a good start. Pushing him on to first grade could set him up for real trouble; schools have been forced to cram a lot into the first few years of school, thanks to testing requirements, and it would be a shame for your son to struggle through this. The last thing you want is for him to fall further behind, start to doubt his own abilities, begin to hate school, etc. etc.

    Posted by jlen April 23, 10 12:01 PM
  1. My oldest, same situation. As a matter of fact all the parents of the boys in the same pre-school program got the same advice and the same justification. Flash forward 25 years and the 5 "not ready for kindergarden" boys have all graduated from college, 2 doing post grad work, 1 an officer in the Marines, and the other 2 own their own business'. When little boys act like little boys they don't fit the current model of behavior & erudition that is currently in vogue.

    Posted by Daddydearest April 23, 10 12:02 PM
  1. Full-day kindergarten is a very demanding place nowadays. In our school, the 5-6 year olds get 10 minutes for snack, 15 minutes for lunch, and two 15 minute recesses over the course of an entire day. On top of it, they have to stand in line for 20 minutes in the morning, and its almost impossible for them to be sent home by the nurse if they aren't feeling well. They have to be very seriously ill because of the attendence requirements for NCLB. This, and they jam alot of kids into the classroom.

    Yes, the kids get to move in the class, but it is not the same as having fun, creative playtime with friends.

    I know we are talking about first grade, but sending a 'younger' child to full-day, public kindergarten is a disservice to the child. It's simply not a developmentally appropriately place for a younger child (who acts their age or maybe a bit younger), even if that child is academically doing well. I believe this is especially true of boys.

    With that said, we are lucky to have an amazing teacher, and a child who is appropriately older for the class (we didn't 'red-shirt' him), so he is happy and he is learning quite a bit. We may send our younger daughter to an extra year of preschool, however, as they have a half-day kindergarten program there. We think her developmental needs may be better met with more time to rest, snack, etc, then we will have her join in the first grade.

    Listen to the teachers! I was the youngest in my class. I did very well academically, but always felt the age difference between myself and my classmates - and kindergarten was letters and macaroni and rest time back then! They have so many years to be in school...it is not a race.

    Posted by beentherebefore April 23, 10 12:11 PM
  1. Like SS, I have a boy who's birthday is early September and misses the cutoff. But even though my son is very smart intellectually, developmentally he isn't ready for such a faster paced environment. I am now happy to have the extra year for him to get ready. I believe it is in your best interest to listen to these professionals and heed their advise. It is probably the best thing you could do. They aren't "out to get" your son. They just don't want to see him fall through the cracks of the system and fall behind. They just want what is best.

    Posted by jd April 23, 10 12:38 PM
  1. Please hold him back. Our school professionals told us our son would do "fine" but in our hearts we knew differently. In high school he hung out exclusively with kids that were year behind him. After 10 years of tutors and pull-out programs our son is now happy well adjusted college freshman in the college of his dreams.

    Posted by dude's mom April 23, 10 12:41 PM
  1. Thank you to all who have written in with the advice to trust the teachers. In a world where politicians, businessmen, celebrities, etc. are constantly second-guessing our profession, it is heartening to hear so many votes of confidence from *parents!* Teachers are not perfect (we're humans, too!) and should never be dismissive of parents' perspectives on their childen, but teachers do have training, years of experience, and-- most importantly-- a driving passion to help all their students succeed. Your comments send me back from April vacation with a reinvigorated sense of purpose!

    Posted by MAteacher April 23, 10 01:12 PM
  1. Listen to the educators! We decided to do the holding back for our late August son in preschool and we can already see the benefits. His confidence has soared since we moved him to a class with kids just 6 months younger than he is. He seems developmentally on par with them, vs. the kids who share his birth month. When we were considering delaying his kindergarten entry, so many parents tried to talk us out of it - like there was a stigma associated with NOT going to kindergarten when you are 5 years old - but just as many parents (especially with these late-summer and early-fall boys) told stories of success with delaying school entry. Do it.

    Posted by GingerMom April 23, 10 01:20 PM
  1. I'd say you should wait if you are talking about boarding school. I waited until my son was 6, and that was the right decision. At 5, he was still kind of "babyish".

    Posted by Dan Cleo April 23, 10 01:33 PM
  1. My oldest son is 4 days before our state cutoff so now the youngest in the First grade. It's always been an issue for ME not for him. Academically he is right on target and above in some areas. The one comment that the teacher has had is that emotionally he's behind some of his peers. We knew he would be bored if we held him back and a bored bright child is not a good situation.
    I'm very very tired of the parents that hold back thinking their child will get an advantage. They are the reason that my first grader is in class with some kids that should be almost in third grade. The topic of holding back is a sore spot for me but also now we are on top of watching how our son is doing. On the flip side our youngest will be one of the oldest when he starts first grade and I'm a bit relieved I'll confess.
    Do what you think is best for your son. If the teachers are saying hold him back do listen to the agruments and see. Don't hold him back thinking you'll get an advantage. That's stupid. Hold him back if it makes sense for his school career and only you can really say.

    Posted by enolamr April 23, 10 01:50 PM
  1. As a teacher, based on what you have said, I would really recommend keeping him back. Give him another year to master kindergarten concepts before going to first grade!

    Posted by Amanda April 23, 10 02:51 PM
  1. Keep him back. My nephew went through this between 1st and 2nd. Wasn't kept back and ended up in summer school at the end of the next year. I think its better to stay back when kids are this age and have a reasonable chance of catching up.
    I'm sure your child is bright, but its not the only thing to consider here, as you seem to be aware of.
    A year now, may make all the difference to his entire career at school.

    Posted by lala April 23, 10 03:00 PM
  1. Definitely hold him back. He will start his Senior Year in High School and turn 18 a month later. The other kids will start to turn 18 only a few short months later. But, what he will get out of having that one extra year will last a lifetime. If they start out struggling, the chances of catching up are harder. Give him the advantage he needs, you will not regret it. Good luck! :)

    Posted by Valerie April 23, 10 03:01 PM
  1. Is there ever a detriment to waiting that extra year before enrolling a child in 1st grade? I don't think I've ever heard of one; I only know of advantages. A 5 year old in first grade might do just fine, but might not. I was 5 until December of 1st grade and, like Annie's sister, I always felt behind the curve. Not academically, but socially and maturity-wise, I guess. I'm a functional and happy adult, but sometimes I wish my mom had waited a year.

    Posted by poppy609 April 23, 10 03:01 PM
  1. My daugher was held back in the second grade due to age and maturity, and I have never once regretted our decision. I think the parents get too messed up with what people might think about their child, like it's a bad thing. It's not. It's what's best for them and who cares about anything else!!

    Posted by SDM April 23, 10 03:42 PM
  1. I will give you two perspectives- First, I am an educator and I would say retain. You won't regret it, but you might regret not doing it. Listen to the professionals. They are telling you these things and giving him these supports for reason. Second, I was retained myself. (repeated first grade) The best decision that could have ever been made for me. I would not be who I was if I didn't have that extra year of confidence. Good Luck!

    Posted by Helen April 23, 10 04:12 PM
  1. My nephew has an end of August birthday. Right now, he is in pre-school. He can spell his name, write most letters, say his ABCs, recognize shapes and colors and count to 100. He could start kindergarten next year but my sister (a former kindergarten teacher), is keeping him in pre-school for one more year because he simply is not as mature as the other kids moving on. He's right on the cusp for the cut-off date and knows what all the other children "know" but it's obvious that another year of development would do him wonders. To some people, talking about maturity in 5 year-olds seems silly. But I think we can all agree a year really does make a difference when it comes to children. A child can grow a lot in one year. What is more likely? Him moving on too soon and suffering academically and socially OR him staying behind and becoming the genius of the class with maturity far beyond the other children? I think we all know the answer. Staying behind will most likely cause no harm. Moving on too soon could do some damage.

    Posted by Linney April 23, 10 04:19 PM
  1. My older son's first grade teacher advised holding him back and we didn't do it. Please listen to the teacher. My very smart, talented and loving son struggled through school in part because of confidence issues. He was always more comfortable with younger children. He's doing well today but it took a long time for him to grow into himself and it didn't need to be as difficult as it was.

    Posted by Chocolate Chip April 23, 10 04:49 PM
  1. It will be beneficial.

    It's not a huge deal and will benefit him in the long run. I think there is a big difference between a 4 year old born in January and a 4 year old born in October. That 4 year old born in January is 10 months older!

    Rather than have him struggle, just keep him back and he'll grow into his own.

    Posted by Mikey "Insane" Monkeypants April 23, 10 04:53 PM
  1. Don't hold him back. I am a guidance counselor at an elementary school and have had many situation come up similar to yours. Research shows no benefit to holding a child back. Socially and academically they will develop appropriate skills and holding them back will do no good in the end. Children always surprise us!

    People who say they liked having an extra year to get a child ready are just saying that to make themselves feel better. Again, go and do some research..... not one study shows a benefit to it.

    My school has a policy of never holding a child back with out a special education evaluation/testing. You can request this through your school. You have this right as a parent. Talk to your guidance counselor.

    Good luck making your choice because your son is depending on you!

    Posted by dontdoit April 23, 10 05:39 PM
  1. Please listen to your teachers. In many districts, teachers have to specifically seek out the principal prior to even discussing retention with parents. By retaining a child, the district is putting themselves on the hook for an extra year of education costs - not something done lightly in this time of tight budgets. I also concur with the poster who stated that teachers are not looking to fill Title I slots - the slots are highly valued and not filled lightly. Teachers sometime have to fight to get children into them.

    Posted by Patricia April 23, 10 05:40 PM
  1. I was the youngest in the class. There was a Dec. 1 cut-off, and I am a February birthday. Academically, it was fine. Socially, it was not great, particularly in elementary and middle school. Then, after getting through middle school being young, there's driving a year late and, yes, drinking a year late (well, having someone else's ID, but that's another story!). I would encourage anyone whose kid's birthday is after the cut-off to hold. No question.

    My kids' birthdays are May and June. I've had many ask me if I'm holding my early June boy; I am not holding him. We know he is ready. His current teachers say he's ready. He was screened, and deemed ready. So, I agree: don't hold a kid just because others are, or because there is pressure to get him or her "ahead". Someone has to be the youngest, shortest, etc. (And, some are always going to be the shortest anyway.) But definitely hold when the child is younger than the cut-off date. It's more fair to the child to be with his or her peer group--and, now, that peer group should run from Sept. 1-Aug. 31 of the next year.

    Good luck!

    Posted by Beth April 23, 10 05:50 PM
  1. We were in the same situation as one of the other posters when the cut off date was being moved back so we had a choice of whether or not to hold our son back. I talked quite a few parents of older kids who had the same decision to make, and all of the parents who had their child repeat a year were happy they did it, while most of the parents who didn't have their child repeat regretted it. We don't regret it -- the extra year allowed him to mature more so he could handle the work in 1st grade. I really think you should listen to the teachers -- they are the professionals and .know your son.

    Posted by Enna April 23, 10 07:25 PM
  1. I could not agree with jlen more. As parents, we see our children in an environment that is very different from school, so it's easy to assume that a child who appears mature at home must be that way everywhere. But in the stressful, sometimes noisy, and competitive environment of even the best run classroom, the child's behavior may be quite different. Most likely, it is this that your son's teacher is seeing. In order for him to thrive--not just survive, but thrive--you should take the advice of the professionals and give him another year of kindergarten.

    Posted by Ashley April 23, 10 07:54 PM
  1. The decision to retain is a difficult one and should be a family one in the end. Most important should be the reason for the Tiltle 1 help and what the teachers concerns are. Is he struggling with attention, reading understanding concepts? Did the teacher suggest a full educational evaluation to better understand his struggles if not you should request one in writing. Keeping him back may help with his "maturity" but will not help him in the long run throughout his educational years if there is an underlying issue beyond just his age. Teachers tend to group things to boys take longer to do this or he is one of the youngest in the class but a learning disability or attention issue will not magically resolve by repeating a grade.

    Posted by mmb April 23, 10 08:07 PM
  1. Keep him back - best thing we ever did for my August birthday son. He went from struggling and sad to happy and thriving. You can rarely go wrong holding back a summer or fall birthday boy

    Posted by boston_boston_abc April 23, 10 08:11 PM
  1. Hold him back. Our twins, a girl and a boy, have late August birthdays. We sent them both to kindergarten and lived to wish we had held our son back a year. His maturity level allowed him to be easily distracted in elementary school and though he had a wonderful teacher whom he loved in 4th and 5th grade, by sixth it was obvious how much another year at 5 would have helped him. It's almost axiomatic that boys mature later than girls and though I was never a believer until it happened to us, it is something I really regret not doing.

    Posted by laMissy April 23, 10 08:21 PM
  1. Dear Parent--your child is NOT academically ready for 1rst if two teachers have recommended retention and one has put your child in a group for extra help. Stop putting YOUR image of YOUR child front and center and see the real kid in front of you.

    Thanks-a teacher

    Posted by a teacher April 23, 10 11:10 PM
  1. My opinion is to definitely keep him back. A little extra maturity goes a very long way. From my experience as an elementary educator the children who are young often end up feeling challenged in one way or another. The challenges could be attention, social, emotional, patience, etc., Yes, these are challenges that most students face at one time or another, but younger students have a harder time dealing with it.

    Another important thing to think about is that this decision would affect him for the rest of his life. I happen to have a lot of friends who have boys with "late" birthdays and they did not hold their sons back. Things were fine in first and second grade, but by third and fourth grade, these boys were miserable. Even though they were absolutely "smart enough" to do the work that was needed, they lacked the maturity that was necessary to comprehend multi-step projects and the motivation to endure. In short, the teachers provided extra help during the day and the parents did a log of arguing at night to get those boys to do their homework. The extra help at school and the arguing at night is stressful for everyone and causes the student to lack in self-esteem and confidence.

    Listen to your teachers. They would not be giving you this advice if they didn't think it was in your son's best interest.

    Posted by my2cents April 24, 10 06:45 AM
  1. We were faced with the same issue, and made the decision to have our son repeat kindergarten. Best thing we ever did. Socially, he fits in much better, and is better able to stand up for himself in difficult kid situations. He was a "young 5" and just needed another year to get used to the long school day. The guidance counselor at the time told us she had many parents over the years tell her that they wished they had held their sons back a year, but none express regrets that they did. However, other parents who didn't hold kids back regret they didn't, because as your child gets older, this is harder to do. This is not a failure on your son's part, he may just need another year, and this could make him happier and better adjusted down the road. It's a decision that seems tough now, but will seem like the right thing later.

    Posted by John April 24, 10 09:32 AM
  1. Many schools have an earlier cut-off date for kindergarten now - for a reason. I can tell you that if this delay continues to follow your son into the higher grades, he will feel the impact a lot more if he is a third or fourth grader being held back, than a kindergartner. Also, pay attention to some of the reasons the teachers are recommending this. He may have something else going on that will need further evaluation as he gets older (such as ADD), which can be difficult to assess in kindergarten. You need to stay on top of this to be able to provide the appropriate support and continuity from grade-to-grade that your child will need.

    Posted by KEM April 24, 10 09:54 AM
  1. As the mom of a January-born son now graduating from university I can tell you that these "young" boys stand out throughout their school careers. My son was always the oldest boy in the class, and the ones who were nearly a year younger were consistently behind in some way or another. These were great kids - some of them his best friends - but they would have benefited from the extra time to mature before kindergarten. Lack of focus, needing extra help - why put him through a cycle of failure?
    The above comment by mj is also spot on - you call the shots on the wehns and whys of school, not your child.

    Posted by Plato's Mom April 24, 10 11:27 AM
  1. I was the youngest and smallest in my class. for twelve years. I found it difficult to keep up academically, socially, and especially in sports. I wish my mother kept me out for another year.

    Posted by Started Early April 24, 10 03:07 PM
  1. I think I have to agree with the professionals in this particular instance but after reading some of the comments I just wanted to add that holding back is not always the answer in case there are other parents in this situation. I really would defer to the professionals and your gut instinct (which despite the lw saying she thinks her son is fine it's pretty clear reading between the lines that she has hesitations).

    I have a November birthday and was going into kindergarten/first grade right around when schools were switching from December to September cut off dates. I had gone to a different school for kindergarten and when I switched schools my parents planned to put me in kindergarten again. The teachers recommended just putting me in first grade because I had already mastered kindergarten so they did. I don't think they regret doing that nor would I want to do anything differently. The biggest challenge was that I was the last to get my license and the last to turn 21 in college. Annoying but I got over it.

    That being said, I think I would have been equally happy staying back (and given that I switched schools anyway it really wouldn't have made a difference socially). My kindergarten was at a preschool/kindergarten so we all went to different schools after without about half going to 1st grade and half doing it over (they tended to put us into kindergarten earlier because they had worked with us in preschool too so many kids were too young for cut off dates). To my knowledge everyone whether they did kindergarten once or twice came out being pretty solid people.

    Posted by pomgreen April 24, 10 03:16 PM
  1. The problem here is that no parent likes to hear that their child is not progressing as the parent wants them to. Nicole is clearly a thoughtful and great parent, but she needs to put aside her expectations, listen to the professionals, and place her son's needs first.

    # 6 Daddydearest spelled it out nicely: "...all the parents of the boys in the [my son's] pre-school program got the same advice [to keep them back] and the same justification. [Today these] boys have all graduated from college, 2 doing post grad work, 1 an officer in the Marines, and 2 own their own businesses."

    Daddydearest then goes on to make a crucial point: Little boys' natural, charged-particle behavior does not fit into the expected classroom behavior. It is like hammering star-shaped pegs into tiny round holes.

    Keep the little guy back.

    Posted by Tante Casilda April 24, 10 04:54 PM
  1. In our town the cut off is Aug 31st and those with summer birthdays are routinely held back.
    I have never heard anyone say they regretted holding a child back, but often hear regret over not holding back.

    Posted by Juliemom4 April 24, 10 07:39 PM
  1. Hold him back; it won't hurt and will most likely help.

    Posted by jenika April 24, 10 09:35 PM
  1. The words that struck me were especially "doesn't stay focused"... my younger son is an August baby (Aug 30 cutoff), is now in 5th grade, and still struggles with his focus... with maturity this has gotten better, but please, do not push a kid ahead because his friend is going or not. Let him mature a bit more, or you'll probably be wondering at the end of 1st grade whether he should stay back then. That choice will be even harder. If he needs to be pulled out of class in kindergarten, he will need it even more so in first grade, just trying to keep up. Listen to the teachers, they really do know what they're doing, and certainly wouldn't recommend costly special services if your son did not need them. Is your son an only child? Perhaps that is the reason he appears to be more mature to adults, but he will continue to struggle with peers if he doesn't get caught up to his age level. Good luck, it's not the easy choices that make us a good parent, its the hard ones.

    Posted by HelenL April 24, 10 09:48 PM
  1. Consider this. Research says that children who START AHEAD, FINISH AHEAD. Children who start behind, never catch up. The BEST time to retain is when children are in the earliest grades.It is MUCH more difficult to be considering retention when a child is in third grade or fourth grade. Furthermore, a student who has spent his preliminary grades struggling to keep up, catch up and stay out of the lowest groups, easily develops an antagonistic attitude toward school and the idea that "I am just not good at school" or "I don't like school."

    Posted by Mary G. April 26, 10 02:37 AM
  1. Like SS & JD, I had a boy who's birthday was in late summer/early fall and though he didn't miss the cutoff, he was developmentally young. We had conflicting evidence from his preschool teachers and the school system. We were told "If he's 5 on September 1, then we're ready for him".

    Unfortunately, though intellectually he was and is very bright, developmentally he was about six months behind the other girls and boys who's birthdays were the previous fall and winter. He was quiet, but attention issues were a big concern. In kindergarten and first grade, children are expected to be able to "attend" or pay attention for at least 35-40 minutes. That's a long time for some.

    We allowed him to go to kindergarten, but then realized that he needed that "gift of time", so he went to kindergarten for a second year. We insisted that he be assigned to another more academically oriented kindergarten teacher for the second year, so he would have a different experience, and not feel as if he was left behind in the same classroom. There were four other boys in the same situation.

    Now 18 years later, all of the boys, now young men, are in college and most are looking forward to graduating this year. Most have taken a little longer to complete their education and move into the work world. It may take them longer to get through college as well, and most graduate in their own time, but eventually it does happen.

    My 50 year old brother had the same developmental issues and attended two years of kindergarten, back in the day when it wasn't so common to do so. Just last year he completed his bachelor's degree in IT Management. He is now a part time student working on his MBA and has his own systems engineering business. He has three grown children who are college graduates, and six grandchildren.


    Posted by bola April 26, 10 03:27 AM
  1. I too was put in the same situation with my son, only being ten days away from the cut off date (at the time was Dec.31). I decided to hold him back after talking with teachers, pediatrician, and other parents. Most said they had never heard of anyone regretting holding a child back, but had heard of many cases who did. One thing that did stick out to me was the maturity factor in boys in general..and that I would be sending my son to high school at 13 and to college at 17. I've never regretted holding him back, and a good amount of his friends who were near the cut off date were also kept back by the choice of their parents. I looked at it as another year I'll have to spend with my son at home with his family! If his teachers recommend holding him, I would listen to them, they are the professionals, and I think it would harm him more to have him be held back when he starts school full time. Good Luck!

    Posted by lily April 26, 10 07:49 AM
  1. It seems that many districts have moved to an earlier August 31st cut-off from a Dec. 31st cut-off. My mother had a December birthday and has always been very bright, but she always strongly disliked being the smallest and the last to be able to do anything.

    I have a son and daughter, and I can fully understand, in watching them, how girls of a certain age are ready for school sooner than boys (with the same intellect). I, too, am hesitant to just hold kids back in an attempt to make them academic superstars; however, the feedback from the LW's preschool teacher and kindergarten teacher seems to indicate this boy is just not ready. And this is common for boys on the young side - no shame. If it were just one teacher suggesting this, then I can see how the LW would want another opinion. In any event, perhaps the LW can get an independent evaluation done for her son in order to make the best possible decision. But from the information provided in the letter, I would assume retaining the boy would be the best option. Good luck!

    Posted by JKR April 26, 10 09:05 AM
  1. I say let him stay, if it's what he wants.

    I am a december child and I started kindergarten at 4. This affected me socially as I was already small and shy.

    It took me a while to play the catch up game and I didn't come out of my shell really until I was 16. I'd have to say that if he has a friend who is staying in Kindergarten, then it's kind of a win-win

    Posted by Elle April 26, 10 09:15 AM
  1. My kids go to a private school where they use a comprehensive "testing" program to determine each child's academic age, and emotional age. My boys are August and September birthdays. Both of them could read quite well, knew all upper and lowercase letters, write several words, count to 100, etc. well before they were five. Due to what the school refers to as being "emotionally young" they were both recommended to start kindergarten the following years, as they were turning six, and it has worked out well. Our school believes a child's emotional maturity is a higher predictor of school success than how much they know.

    Since your child seems to be struggling with the academic and emotional aspects of school, it shouldn't even be a question - keep him back one more year!

    p.s. I do not mean to "brag", just trying to make the point that even with certain skills, we were still advised to wait, and a few years later it seems like it was the right choice.

    Posted by mom2boys April 26, 10 09:31 AM
  1. We had a late birthday son who was a little shy as he had two dominant older sisters. We held him back pre-K and without question it was the best move we could have done. He made a new group of friends so when he started 1st grade he started fresh. Absolutely fits in with his "new" grade from day one.

    As far as athletics it depends on the sport. He does well and really is just a little older than the other kids. Mathematically that will happen on both ends to any kid. The only sport that he'll face a problem with is soccer as next year (6th grade) he'll have to play with 7th graders because of age/tournament requirements. Earlier soccer and lacrosse he's playing with his grade.

    Posted by Dennis Callahan April 26, 10 09:56 AM
  1. dontdoit - that research is only in cases where students who are already enrolled in school and being considered for retention due to special education issues. In those cases, the misconception is that a child will "catch up", although research shows that disabilities do not go away - thus, the child does not "catch up" - simply from being retained a year.

    There is absolutely great reason to delay the start of school for a child whose age dictates that he/she may not be developmentally ready for 1st grade. Totally different scenario.

    Posted by poppy609 April 27, 10 02:10 PM
  1. For the Letter Writer,

    Just to be clear, the opinion of the trained, educated, professional teacher over the last few years was/is not enough to convince you that this a good idea.

    But when the five year old is afraid of losing his friend, you think that is now warrants discussion?

    I think that you need to drastically rethink the process by which you make decisions about the welfare of you child, and in what order you rank the information provided to you by people.


    Posted by BostonWombat April 28, 10 09:15 AM
  1. When I was a child, I'd been attending preschool since age 3ish, but when it was time for me to attend kindergarten, my parents were told that I had to be 5 years old to start that grade (I would turn 5 about 3 weeks into the school year, but it didn't matter). Instead of making a fuss and fighting to get me into kindergarten that year, my parents decided to put me in pre-K and then have me go to kindergarten when I was 5-almost-6.

    I was a straight-A student until mid-high school and recently graduated from a top university. I have plenty of friends of various ages. Rather than resenting my parents for essentially holding me back, I didn't even REALIZE I was being held back until years later, and now I consider it an interesting story.

    Clearly, your son was not ready for kindergarten. And THAT'S OKAY. It really sounds like you think it's a shameful thing if he has to repeat kindergarten, which it isn't.

    Posted by sabend April 28, 10 12:43 PM
  1. When I was in first grade, the cutoff in my town changed from December to August. As an October birthday, I was usually one of the youngest in the class, and was usually in the top of the class. When applying to private schools, I was often not accepted because I was considered too young (the schools would want to hold me back and my parents were against it). When I did end up in a private school, I was the youngest in my grade, and consistently at the top. While I did have some social struggles in my first few years there (I went to a 7-12 school), I ended up with a fantastic group of friends in my grade and the grades around me (above and below). I graduates high school and went into college at 17.
    For my younger sister, my parents did decide to have her repeat when she went from public school to private school (she repeated kindergarten). It was probably the best choice for her, though most of her friends from camp, etc are closer to her age and in the grade above her, as she is generally more mature than the kids in her own grade.
    I think that it really depends on the child and the specific situation. If teachers who have had experience with your child are expressing concerns, I think that it may be a good idea to listen to them and take that into account.
    It is a better idea to wait to enroll children in school rather than holding them back (especially due to the social stigma it is sometimes associated with)

    Posted by olivia April 28, 10 04:36 PM
  1. Would anyone be able to determine if this 'struggling' is just attributed to pure boredom?

    Posted by Angela April 28, 10 06:11 PM
  1. Has your son been evaluated for ADD? Some of the things you describe, like problems with focus and social immaturity, are classic signs. You can request an evaluation through the school. If he does have ADD, his problems with focus will not go away by holding him back, and he may require special services throughout his school career anyway.

    Posted by Sally April 29, 10 02:02 AM
  1. I don't agree with you Sally. Just because a boy is immature and having trouble sitting still does not mean he has ADD. My son is a summer baby. I sent him to school at 5. Other children that were born that summer into fall kept their boys in Pre-K. He did amazing in Kindergarten. He had maturity issues, but nothing extreme. In first grade we moved to a new state. he had trouble with behavior at first. The school suggested he had ADD. I said he was an immature boy. His grades were amazing. He is academically ahead of most of the children. I ignored the "professionals" that labeled him. Now that he has settled into school and a new home he is ending first grade on top and has matured and doing well. I'm glad I listened to my instincts with my child and NOT the school. Most teachers are amazing, but to just generally trust someone because they are "a professional" is absurd!.

    Posted by Amber May 17, 10 03:24 PM
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