The holding back question, again, this time with good reasons

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  April 22, 2011 06:00 AM

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Hello,
My son is in kindergarten now & the teacher is concerned about the way he shuts down when asked to write words to the pictures of what he drew. She wants him to try & sound it out & write down whatever he thinks it is. He won't do it. He will draw pictures but writing it down is a struggle. In the past 2 months, he has been able to recognize his letters, which is a success. He is trying to associate sounds w/ letters but that's a struggle. He can copy letters w/o a problem. She is suggesting that he be held back, redo kindergarten. I'm on the fence about it. My husband is totally against holding him back. He is our 3rd out of 4 children & he is born in March, so he is an "older" kindergartner already. He was delayed in speech & we got him evaluated at 2.5. They said he was delayed but not enough to receive intervention. He was delayed in using the toilet, at 4.5 he was fully potty trained. I truly don't know what to do regarding this. Our district has 1/2 day kindergarten. What are the pros & cons of holding a child back in kindergarten?

From: Vicki, Northport
(NY? AL? Fla? Vickie didn't say....)

Dear Vicki,

I've written before in this space that holding children back in kindergarten has become fashionable for all the wrong reasons. I'm not sure that's the case for your son.

It sounds like his teacher has legitimate concerns and I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss them. Each year (unfortunately), academics are getting pushed down to lower grades; kindergarten looks like first grade, first grade looks like second. The teacher is in a good position to know whether your son will be able to meet the challenges of first grade or whether he's more likely to be frustrated by them, and therefore potentially turned off to learning. From my experiences, teachers don't make the hold-back suggestion lightly, and holding back could just be the best gift you ever give him.

I realize the deadline must be fast-approaching, but there are two things would try to do before making this decision. (1) Ask for the school system to evaluate your son again. It's been two years or so since the last one. Things change. (2) Observe one of the classrooms your son could be assigned to for next fall. Stay for a few hours, not just 10 minutes. I know it's hard to project ahead to what your boy will be like in six or eight months, but try. Can you see him fitting in -- not just academically, but also socially?

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5 comments so far...
  1. This is excellent advice. Speaking as an educator, I know that holding a child back is always a last resort, and if your child's teacher is suggesting it, then she must have legitimate concerns about his reading and writing.

    Definitely ask for another evaluation, especially since the last one he had was when he was 2 1/2? He must be 6 now, right? Perhaps in addition to speech, a full academic evaluation as well, which would highlight some difficulties he might be having with literacy. The academic evaluation can pinpoint specific difficulties, and from there, certain teachers can make service recommendations for him, if applicable.

    Also a great idea to observe a classroom, if the school will allow it.

    Posted by Erin April 22, 11 12:46 PM
  1. It sounds like he may have delays in several areas. Holding him back might help, but he may also need some special education services as well.

    I think asking for the school to do a full educational evaluation is the right way to go. Also consider discussing these issues with your pediatrician who may be able to help you with suggestions regarding developmental delays.

    Posted by koala April 22, 11 03:44 PM
  1. Schools should designed to serve your child, not the other way around. If you decide to hold back this year, it will be much more difficult to do so again in the future. 5/6 years old is still so young to make a decision like this. Why not try for first grade, get more information, and then reevaluate next year?

    Posted by teach2 April 22, 11 10:08 PM
  1. I held my son back in Pre-K one extra year (he turned 5 right before September) and it has been the best decision we made for him. He was just not ready, and I know he would have struggled in K this year. He is doing great in Pre-K, making friends and having fun.

    On the other hand, his older brother has a birthday also at the end of summer, and he went to K right after turning 5. He has always been one of the last to get his work done, even though he is a bright boy. He is in 2nd grade now, and this is still happening. He really would have benefited in waiting that extra year.

    I see nothing wrong with letting a child repeat K to have one more year of growth. It will give him an advantage in the upcoming grades when he gets there. It is better to let him grow/develop at his own pace, then to push him ahead when he is not ready.

    Posted by Amanda April 23, 11 03:37 PM
  1. It really isnt the end of the world to hold a child back if they are not ready for the next grade. I was held back when I was in Kindergarten because I wasn't ready for 1st grade. I am 24 right now, so this happened only 18 years ago. The teacher thought that holding me back would be more helpful for me than hurtful. It was a good thing too, because I was able to catch up on my reading a writing skills. When I finally went to 1st grade I was ready and did very well every year since. I dont know where I would be right now if I hadn't been held back, but I have to wonder if I might have not done as well in school as I did because of being held back.
    My father was against it, but he did realize a few years later that what my mom did was in my best interest.
    Just thought this might be helpful for the mom wondering if this is the right thing to do.

    Posted by Rachel April 23, 11 06:24 PM
 
5 comments so far...
  1. This is excellent advice. Speaking as an educator, I know that holding a child back is always a last resort, and if your child's teacher is suggesting it, then she must have legitimate concerns about his reading and writing.

    Definitely ask for another evaluation, especially since the last one he had was when he was 2 1/2? He must be 6 now, right? Perhaps in addition to speech, a full academic evaluation as well, which would highlight some difficulties he might be having with literacy. The academic evaluation can pinpoint specific difficulties, and from there, certain teachers can make service recommendations for him, if applicable.

    Also a great idea to observe a classroom, if the school will allow it.

    Posted by Erin April 22, 11 12:46 PM
  1. It sounds like he may have delays in several areas. Holding him back might help, but he may also need some special education services as well.

    I think asking for the school to do a full educational evaluation is the right way to go. Also consider discussing these issues with your pediatrician who may be able to help you with suggestions regarding developmental delays.

    Posted by koala April 22, 11 03:44 PM
  1. Schools should designed to serve your child, not the other way around. If you decide to hold back this year, it will be much more difficult to do so again in the future. 5/6 years old is still so young to make a decision like this. Why not try for first grade, get more information, and then reevaluate next year?

    Posted by teach2 April 22, 11 10:08 PM
  1. I held my son back in Pre-K one extra year (he turned 5 right before September) and it has been the best decision we made for him. He was just not ready, and I know he would have struggled in K this year. He is doing great in Pre-K, making friends and having fun.

    On the other hand, his older brother has a birthday also at the end of summer, and he went to K right after turning 5. He has always been one of the last to get his work done, even though he is a bright boy. He is in 2nd grade now, and this is still happening. He really would have benefited in waiting that extra year.

    I see nothing wrong with letting a child repeat K to have one more year of growth. It will give him an advantage in the upcoming grades when he gets there. It is better to let him grow/develop at his own pace, then to push him ahead when he is not ready.

    Posted by Amanda April 23, 11 03:37 PM
  1. It really isnt the end of the world to hold a child back if they are not ready for the next grade. I was held back when I was in Kindergarten because I wasn't ready for 1st grade. I am 24 right now, so this happened only 18 years ago. The teacher thought that holding me back would be more helpful for me than hurtful. It was a good thing too, because I was able to catch up on my reading a writing skills. When I finally went to 1st grade I was ready and did very well every year since. I dont know where I would be right now if I hadn't been held back, but I have to wonder if I might have not done as well in school as I did because of being held back.
    My father was against it, but he did realize a few years later that what my mom did was in my best interest.
    Just thought this might be helpful for the mom wondering if this is the right thing to do.

    Posted by Rachel April 23, 11 06:24 PM
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About the author

Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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