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September 03, 2010



I couldn't agree more, Karen. My big frustration in our local district is that there's really no flexibility on the cutoff date in the other direction. I have a friend whose two sons are by far the oldest in each of their classes (and go figure, now the 3rd grader, who turned 9 a few months before 3rd - not 4th - started, is bored out of his mind, even though one might think his behavior isn't so far apart from that of his peers). Sarah's old for her class and that's probably OK, because she does better with every extra dose of confidence she can get. But if the cutoff had been October 1 instead of September 1, I certainly would not have chosen to hold her back.

Heather, OTOH, is starting K at almost 6 because of her November birthday, and I have absolutely no doubts that she could go right into first grade. Now, technically K isn't mandatory, but all that means is that we'd have to wait another year for first while I homeschooled her or something. And even the private schools here are quite rigid about the cutoff date. We've had all kinds of testing and teacher recommendations and still, no one will budge. Best I could get from the principal was a promise that they'd reconsider whether she might be able to move right up to 2nd grade after this year, which might work, but will sort of suck if she's made good friends and then has to leave them. Ugh.

Anyway, sorry to turn your issue into mine, but all this is just to say that it really does depend on the kid. I can't for the life of me see what huge advantage all these enormous, old kindergarteners get for the wait, other than the possibility that they'll get to be the big boys on the football team. ;)


In California the cut off is 5 yrs old by December 2nd. While I think the Sept. 1st cut off is more appropriate for most kids, and I often wish California would change to that date, I agree that flexibility s the key. I found myself really annoyed with the number of "red shirt" kids in my kids school. One day as I looked around my son's class, knowing all of the birthdays in our small town, I calculated that 25% of the class should be one grade higher according to their birthday. This is both due to parents delaying entry and a school that has a habit of holding back Kindergartners at the drop of a hat. They routinely request that about 15% of the Kindergartners have 2 yrs of Kindergarten. Even though my son has a June birthday, he was one of the youngest in the class.

What was I going to do with DS #2 who was born on November 30th? Well, his due date was January 7th, so even though he was already reading, I decided to not send this immature 4 year old to Kindergarten. I'm not sure if it was the right choice or not. He never came close to "fitting in" academically, but I don't think he would have a year earlier either. After Kinder and 1st grade I pulled him out to homeschool. There was no way I could send him to 2nd grade with reading and math abilities closer to the 6th grade level. It seemed like cruel and unusual punishment to make an immature ADHD boy sit in a classroom for 6 hours where the curriculum was years below him. For the first time I wished we had the resources of a bigger city and a gifted program to put him into.

So, I brought him home, skipped 2nd grade and can teach him wherever he is and not be locked into "grade levels". Karen you are lucky to have a school like you do for your kids!

Did we make the right choice in holding back our DS #2? I'm not sure, but we did fix the situation!

Karen T. Smith

What I think I find most alarming about this is that the culture is becoming "you must hold your child back because EVERYONE holds their child(ren) back."

That's treating childhood and school like it's some kind of competitive sport, keeping a child back to give them an advantage. Last I checked, school was for learning, for helping kids reach their potential, for exploring themselves and their interests and finding things that light their fire. Why are the parents (and administrators and teachers, it's not just parents who are pushing this idea that holding kids back is a good idea, I know) treating school like it's something to "win" at?

My kids are bright, but they aren't winning at anything. School isn't a competition. They're working hard, they have good days and bad, and subjects they are better in than others. They struggle sometimes, they are hungry for information, they love to learn, and they make friends. This is what school is supposed to be.

I think it's a mistake for families to be trying to give their children advantages by holding them back. Sure, there are kids for whom holding back is the right choice. Some children don't have the ability to sit, focus attention, listen, aren't demonstrating other readiness and would benefit from more time before formal schooling, but for the ones who are ready - I shudder to think about what's going to happen to their (very natural and inborn) love of learning when they find they're the biggest child in the room, and already know how to read or are otherwise academically ahead of their class peers.


Interesting post, as I've been thinking about this subject because Kathryn (the youngest in her 3rd grade class) is about to turn 8 in two weeks and Roger (one of the oldest in his 4th grade class) turned 10 in June.

Roger was never interested in anything even slightly academic in his 1st preschool year (age 4). He only wanted to play outside and struggled to sit during story time (we had an awesome preschool in N.CA where he fit in great -- shoes were optional and you could choose to play outside about 90% of the time). He also didn't separate from me comfortably until the end of the preschool year, when he was about to turn 5. I felt that it was in his best interest to wait a year, and his new preschool teacher agreed with me.

Then, he started that 2nd year of preschool (a more traditional preschool in the classroom with tables and chairs) and he began to blossom. By kindergarten passed with little comment. He did fine. Then first grade hit and he bloomed. I remember clearly going to that first parent-teacher conference in 1st grade when his marks were all top notch and his teacher gushed about how awesome he was and having my jaw hit the floor. This is my kid who has been just barely successful in (traditional) school! How did he suddenly hit the top of his class?!?

Roger's success continues today as he is undisputedly the "smartest kid in the class" (his classmates tell me this all the time) and a leader in his class (last year his teacher had him running the weekly math quiz for the last 3 quarters of the year). His reading score from that test they always give the kids puts him smack in the middle of a 12th grade reading level.

Did I make a mistake by "giving him an extra year to grow up"? I'm sure he would be successful if he were in 5th grade right now. Or did I do *exactly* the right thing? Did he need a slow start to be able to get up to full speed? Is there any way to know?

And now there's Kathryn, starting 3rd grade, just one year behind Roger despite a 27 month age gap. She started preschool a few weeks before turning 4, mainly because preschool was free where we lived, otherwise I probably would have waited. I had considered having her do two years of preschool, but her teacher insisted she was ready for kindergarten. She couldn't read or anything, but she followed directions, could sit quietly and listen, and had amazing social skills (everyone always loves Kathryn). This was the opposite of Roger at this age.

So on to kindergarten she goes. Still one of the best behaved kids in class, but it's quickly becoming apparent that she is challenged by anything academic. By the end of 1st grade, she was *just barely* reading. She worked hard all through 2nd grade, going to the pull-out reading teacher, joining the reading club after school, and by the end of the year she was *almost* to where she should be as a 2nd grader.

I always assumed that her difficulty with math was in part because of her difficulty with reading (it's hard to do math in the early grades when you can't read the words on the worksheet!) However, she is still struggling now that she is a competent reader. She has to learn multiplication this year and it is *hard*.

She just took the little reading test thing (you know, where Roger scored at the 12th grade level) and she scored below the 3rd grade level.

Did I make a mistake by sending her to school when she made the cut-off? Will she just be a little slower to blossom? Her father and I were both always successful in school (smarty-pants, both of us) so neither of us know how to deal with this very artistic (she has always said she "wants to be an artist when she grows up"), very well-behaved, struggling in academics little girl.

Whoa, that was long-winded. I don't know if I have a point. Maybe it's just that even though you try to do the right thing, you might not, but there's no way to know, so you just do your best and try not to beat yourself up about it later. Try.


I'm with you. I think the redshirting is nuts. I think of it as taking a year of life away from those kids. They could be out in the world a year earlier but the parents decided they'd be better off still in school. I have a neighbor whose son is huge, easily the biggest and tallest boy in his preschool class and they're holding him back solely for sports reasons. Psychotic.


Karen, So glad I'm not alone in sending my early July son to school when he was well within the September 1 deadline to go. I had several people ask me if we were waiting a year to send him and I said, "No. He's ready. He's a smart boy and he'll do fine academically." My impression is people are faster to hold boys back and also youngest children back partly because it's harder for parents to let go and send their babies to school. The red shirting now to help them athletically in high school drives me bonkers too. School is about the academics. The cut off in Illinois used to be December 1, which is my birthday. I was the youngest in my class, except for the girl who skipped the grade. I did OK. More than OK. My parents were going to keep me back but said in the church Christmas program, the year before I could go to kindergarten, they could tell I was ready. I wish more schools would handle it the way you described, where "The SCHOOL, TOGETHER with the PARENTS, makes the decision based on each individual CHILD." As it should be.

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