I’m often asked by friends and strangers alike what my thoughts are in regards to holding a child back an extra year as opposed to sending them to Kindergarten with a June-early September birthday. As a former K-2 teacher who spent fifteen years in the classroom, I definitely have my opinions about this. However, instead of sharing my perspective solely through the lens of a teacher, I’d love to share my opinions with you from the viewpoint of a mother who made this decision for her child as well.
Keep in mind that these are my opinions based solely on my personal experiences. We all have vastly different experiences both in and out of the classroom as well as in parenting, so there’s a good chance that you may not agree with my logic and that’s okay. Because my experiences might look different than yours, my opinions may be different as well. I am ONLY sharing what worked for us as a family and I am not offering these opinions as a suggestion on how you should proceed as a parent. We all have to make decisions based on what’s best for our families. I fully realize that this is not an option for all families. I can only speak to what my experience. However, if you’re on the fence about what you should do with your child and this is a viable option for you, these personal opinions and experiences might be helpful when making your decision.
While in the classroom, I had a knack for identifying the kids who started kindergarten at the early age of five….the kids whose birthdays were celebrated over the summer or during the few short weeks right before the cut-off date to start school. Ask most kindergarten teachers and I bet they’ll tell you they had the same knack for knowing who these kids were without ever looking at their records. In my experience, more often than not, these sweet babies often lacked the maturity their older peers possessed. They were oftentimes more impulsive, lacked focus, and experienced behavior challenges and struggles more frequently than the older 5-year-olds in class. None of this was a bad thing by any means! Not even a little! These babies were just at a different stage in their personal development than the kids who had the advantage of being a little bit older and thus a little bit further along in their development.
Based on my experiences with kids who shared June-early September birthdays, my husband and I made the choice to give our oldest the gift of time and delay the start of school by a year. Instead of sending him to school as a brand new 5-year-old, we wanted him to enter into Kindergarten after he’d been six for a few months. Not because we hoped he’d be the smartest kid in class. Not because we wanted him to give him an athletic advantage. We gave our oldest the gift of time because we wanted to make sure he was equipped with the social and emotional tools we felt he needed before being thrust into a world that functions at a much faster pace than it did when we were kids.
Let’s face it. Kindergarten isn’t what it used to be (sadly) and depending on where you live, child development isn’t often taken into consideration when curriculum is designed and standards are put into place. We felt that giving our oldest the gift of time would better prepare him emotionally (as well as socially) for the responsibilities he’d assume and the different situations he’d face once in the classroom without being tasked with the added pressure & responsibility of learning how to read and losing days upon days to testing and assessments. It’s just SO much.
By giving him the gift of time to experience Pre-K for an additional year, we knew he’d have ample opportunities to be social. He’d be able to lose himself in song and dance through music and create & act out different scenarios through dramatic play. He’d be able to get his hands dirty at the water and sand table and take a nap when he was tired (because y’all…those little babies NEED to sleep). We knew he’d learn how to interact with other kids and resolve conflicts as they arose. We wanted him to be able to play...I mean he was only five, for the love! He would have his whole life ahead of him to adhere to the expectations of a formal classroom environment…we just wanted our kid to be a kid for a little while longer.
We also knew that he’d still be learning, but that he’d learn in a way that was more developmentally appropriate and authentic. He’d be learning in a play-based environment where he could develop and mature in a way that made sense to his stage of child development. We wanted to spare him from testing too soon and being pressured to perform before he was developmentally ready to do so.
As a mom, I wanted my child to be a leader and I personally felt that holding him back a year would help grow his confidence. I started envisioning what life would be like for him in junior high and high school and wanted him to be the oldest instead of the youngest in those scenarios. And, if I’m being honest, as a mom I selfishly wanted to have an extra year with him here at home before sending him off to college. The thought of sending my brand new eighteen-year-old off to college unnerved me. That extra year at home and sending him off at 19 sounded so much better (even if it’s only just a year).
My oldest just finished up his fifth grade year in May and is headed into Junior High come August. His life is about to change in ways I can’t anticipate, but I’m SO very confident that he’s ready for the challenges and struggles he’ll undoubtedly face. I can honestly say that giving him the gift of time and waiting to start him in Kindergarten until he was six was the BEST parenting decision we could’ve made for him. There is nothing we regret about it. My only regret is that I didn’t do the same for my youngest who has an early April birthday and could’ve greatly benefitted from that extra year as well.
My oldest is a pretty confident kid. He’s definitely a leader and if there’s something he wants he takes the initiative to get it done without being asked. He’s responsible, responds well to criticism, and LOVES to learn. He adjusts well to new situations and surroundings and we’re hopeful these attributes will make his transition into junior high an easy one (fingers crossed). Now I can’t say that he’s developed these characteristics because we gave him the gift of time, but I do think that time helped him to mature & develop into the kid that he is today.
When I think about my oldest going into junior high in just a few short months, I’m so grateful he spent this past year in fifth grade instead of sixth. I can tell you right now that he would NOT have been ready for sixth grade in August 2018. Not at all. Academically he would’ve been great, but emotionally?! No ma’am. He developed & matured in ways we didn’t expect this past year and he’s so much more confident because of those changes. Knowing my son, the transition to junior high would’ve been so much harder had he not had that extra year to grow.
I’ve taught so many kids whose parents have also given them the gift of time and delayed Kindergarten by a year and they all say the same thing…it was the best decision they could’ve made for their child. I’ve never had a parent tell me they regretted their decision to hold their child back, but several have shared with me that they regretted NOT doing the same for their child. I can honestly say that I feel the exact same way. It truly was the best decision we could’ve made for him.
I’d also love to add that if you do decide to start your child in Kindergarten and realize halfway through the year that maybe he/she could’ve benefitted from a delayed start, don’t be afraid to retain him/her the following year. That’s your right as a parent doing what you feel is best for your child. It’s better to make that decision early on while they’re still in the primary grades.
In addition to that, dear parents…PLEASE listen to your child’s teacher if he/she recommends your child repeat a grade level. Your child’s teacher knows your child in a way that you might not be able to see. Your child’s performance in the classroom (academic/behavior/social/emotional) may differ tremendously from the child you see at home. Those recommendations come from a place of wanting what’s best for the development and well-being of your child and when it’s all said and done, we ALL want what’s best for our kids.
Did you delay your child’s start in Kindergarten? If so, what was your experience?! I’d love to hear from you!
Simplify Your Teaching
Join our community for tips, tricks, and resources to help you simplify your teaching!