I was just reading your post to a parent who was considering holding back her kindergartner. I have a similar dilemma with a 5th grader getting ready to go to middle school, but the reasons are mainly maturity, not academic.
My son was a very early sight reader, and was really bored in preschool unless there was a pretty challenging curriculum, so I always had him in a class where he was the youngest (he has a late October birthday) and I was able to find a great 4-year-old preschool where they basically covered kindergarten. After that, we moved to Hawaii where the age cutoff for school is December 31st, so he was tested and determined to be fully ready for 1st grade, and not too young there, so he was enrolled in 1st grade at a private school.
He did well there, and we didn't have a lot of issues with school or academics until this year. He has been the object of a lot of verbal bullying lately and seems to have a lot of anxiety about school. His academic performance is still good (he makes mostly B's, some A's in a fairly challenging curriculum), but he has lost interest in a lot of school and other activities.
His Dad is deployed for a year, which definitely doesn't help. Since he is a year younger than many of his peers now in Florida, with an August 31st cutoff, we are considering enrolling him in a private school where he has the option of being in a 5th grade class that does 6th grade work. I really feel that it would be good for him to rebuild his confidence in himself, which seems to be really low right now. He is really adamant that he doesn't want to go to the private school and wants to go to the big public middle school with all of his "friends." I can only name about 3 or 4 of these so called "friends" who haven't been mean to him in some way in the past year.
He is a Korean adoptee in a sea of white people which doesn't help. He has been teased about being Korean, being adopted (one of his so-called friends in a younger grade called him a "poor orphan" yesterday). I want him to feel he has some choice in a life as a military kid where he doesn't have a lot of choices, but on the other hand, I want to be able to look back when he's grown and know I gave him the very best opportunities to thrive and flourish.
If he was your kid, what would you do?
From: Laura, Niceville, FL
Being the youngest almost always puts undue social pressure on a kid. Some kids have the temperament to handle it, some don't. But this isn't going to get easier in middle school, in fact, middle school is probably the toughest time socially for kids out of their entire school career.
If you think this is a good school for him (and hopefully you've talked to the school about issues of diversity, including adoption), I would support the move to a private school. Holding back in middle school is not as common as in kindergarten and it can be tricky, but it's not unheard of, especially when going from public to private.
However, since it's not something he wants, and since this is a stage of development when kids really resent feeling they have no control over their lives, I would tell him that as his parents, this is your decision; that you'd like him to try it for a year, and to really give it a chance; and that you will reevaluate after a year. That will give him some sense of control. With any luck, he will be happier at the new school!
Are there other readers who have made similar decisions?
I answer a question from a reader every weekday. If you want help with
some aspect of child-rearing, just write to me here.
The author is solely responsible for the content.