Thursday, March 26, 2009

Kindergarten Decision Dilemma

Our daughter is 4-1/2 and was born on the bubble month for starting kindergarten this year. Surprisingly, many more kids than those born in the borderline month are being considered for holding back one year. It seems that holding back is very common where we live. For example, some of our daughter's older classmates could be as much as 1-1/2 years older.

When I was growing up, staying in one's class or trying to accelerate seem to norm. Since I was born in the early part of the year, my mom tried, unsuccessfully to accelerate me into an earlier kindergarten class when I was 4 -1/2. In high school, I only remember two classmates that were born in the year prior to my birth date. Holding back was the exception, not the norm.

Until now, my spouse and I have been hedging our bets. We've paid deposits to register our daughter for both pre-school and full day kindergarten. Based on differing schedules, she could start full day kindergarten and drop back two weeks later for the start of pre-school, if needed. Although we've covered all our bases, it will cost us a $200 to $325 to keep both options open until the start of school. (Our kindergarten choice is in a public school, but the full day option carries an additional cost.)

At this point, I'm leaning towards sending her to kindergarten, while my spouse is leaning towards holding her back. Here are the pros and cons as we see it:

Starting Kindergarten this Year



AgeShe makes the cutoff age for starting this yearShe may be the youngest by up to 1-1/2 years
SportsShe will compete regularly at a higher skill levelShe will be behind in physical development
Mental CapabilityShe will be challenged, which will enable her to learn moreShe won't be able to keep up, which will continue to get worse each succeeding grade level
MaturityShe will mature fasterShe will feel deficient to her peers and will be behind as she gets older
FriendsHer current friends will be starting kindergartenSome of her friends have already been held back

While our daughter sometimes surprises us with her mental capability, she doesn't often want to take on a challenge she thinks is hard. However, when pushed a little or with help from us, she will develop the skill. In some cases, she seems to suddenly acquire the skill, even if we haven't seen an progress for a few weeks.

On the physical side, there is risk she may be behind for awhile. I can see a significant difference from her peers and even between now and a few months ago. On the social side, she does seem a little behind those who would be attending kindergarten this year, but ahead of those attending the following year.

The decision is a choice between the benefit of accelerating her learning and the psychological risk of going too fast, especially since there will be a number of children that are already held back. The importance of this decision is that it will affect her for many years into the future.

Although we checked with her pre-school teach earlier this year, she recommended waiting before making the final decision. Today, we are having a parent/teacher conference day and will check again. In addition, we will have her screened by the kindergarten teacher next week.

With all this data, we can probably decide within the next week. The safe choice appears to be holding her back. However, I think we will still keep our options open until school starts :-)

For more on Crossing Generations, check back every Thursday for a new segment.

This is not financial or education advice. Please consult a professional advisor.

Copyright © 2009 Achievement Catalyst, LLC


MEG said...

It is a big decision, but really it is not a life or death kind.

Worst case if you start her now is that she really does lag behind and gets held back next year or the next. And she MAY be somewhat manipulated or peer pressured by the older more experienced kids in years to come (in kindergarden it won't matter as much).

Worst case if you wait another year is that she surpasses her peers mentally and isn't really challenged at school - which leads to boredom and sometimes mild behavioral problems. On the plus side she may develop a strong sense of self and confidence, since she'll be one of the more experienced/knowledgeable kids.

In any event, you never know how your child will develop. I was above average on all the pre-K tests except one - motor skills. I sucked so bad at catching a ball that they waited another year to let me start for fear I'd be physically behind the other kids.

Turns out I started puberty at age 8 and had (big) boobs by fifth grade. So much for lagging behind physically! I was teased endlessly and would have had a much easier go of it if I were in the grade above.

Anonymous said...

I just left a comment about 10000 hours recommending you to read "Outliers". That book might also shed some light on this dilemma of yours. 10000 hr rule here says that if your kid starts one year earlier, she will be one year ahead and other kids (that stay back a year) will find it hard to catch up to her. She will develop both mentally and physically. You're lucky to have this choice and not being told that you simply have to wait another year. I wouldn't wait.

Good luck!

ps: have been reading this blog for a while. thanks.

Unknown said...

If she is ready I would have her go to school. My children have birthdays in the winter and my son was ready for Kindergarten for the 2008 year, but he has to wait for this coming fall. It would be better for your family if your daughter was challenged in school and not bored, because everything was too easy.

loonyhiker said...

I was always the youngest and smallest in the class because of my age. I'm glad that my parents didn't hold me back because I actually felt "smarter" and that they expected me to perform. I'm afraid if they held me back, it would have sent the wrong message and had unintended consequences for me.

LH in Montana said...

The bottom line is to do what works best for your daughter and your family. A lot of parents are holding their sons back a year because boys generally take longer to develop some of the mental and physical skills that girls already possess. If your child doesn't have the physical hand-eye coordination necessary to do the kindergarten tasks, it's possible she might feel less skilled than her peers. For some kids, this might cause them to work harder, but for others, it might cause them to feel dumb or humiliated, resulting in withdrawal.

adrienne said...

I felt a lot of anxiety choosing whether to enroll my bubble month son in a 3s and young 4s class or 2s and young 3s class.

Ultimately, I put him in the younger class. For no particular reason I spent the next month questioning that decision. My boy was happy at school and doing well.

Then Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers was published. I read it voraciously, and it gave confidence that the younger class was indeed the best decision for our son. It also settled any debate on his kindergarten entry date.

My mom, an elementary teacher, had advised on holding bubble month kids back, but it wasn't util I read Outliers that I really understood her recommendation's wisdom.