Education · Parenting

The Gift Of A Year

Summer birthdays create a sticky situation (for some) with regard to starting school.

The cut off date for many states to start school is September 1. A student needs to be 5 years old on or before September 1 to enter Kindergarten. Children whose birthdays fall between the months of June and August are typically the youngest in the class/grade. As a mother of two August birthdays, I had to stop and ask myself, “Will my girls be more successful as one of the youngest or one of the oldest?”

As a former educator I made the decision to most likely start them in Kindergarten at the age of 6 (making them older than their peers) because our school year typically starts 1-2 weeks after their birthdays.

As each daughter grew, we encountered more and more friends whose birthdays fell during the school year. As I compared my children with their peers, they were stronger, average, or weaker in certain areas. They were typical children. There was no alarm going off saying “HOLD HER BACK.” In fact, it was quite the opposite with my older child. She is an excellent reader; she was reading chapter books by herself before Kindergarten. Why in the world would I “hold her back”?

As a teacher, I knew there was so much more to consider when making my decision. School is NOT only about academics. Students must be emotionally and socially ready to handle the ever-increasing expectations that come with formal education.

When it was time to either register for Kindergarten or wait another year, we decided to give her the gift of a year. After making my decision known, many people felt obligated to share their opinions with me. Somehow my decision affected my friends’ thoughts on my parenting and my children. I was informed that she would be bored; that she is too mature; and even that she is too tall. Or the flip side: how will she achieve age appropriate expectations if she is with younger kids; won’t she regress; or  won’t this prevent her from maturing?

Parents that decide to hold back do so because they see their child for exactly who they are. They know whether or not their child is ready to start school. They have considered their child’s tantrums, sensitivity, academics, maturity, impulse control, imagination, gross motor skills, fine motor skills, and the child’s overall personality before making this decision. Parents agonize over these things. The decision is not made lightly.

My daughter is now in second grade, and I am confident we made the right choice. She is a leader, able to handle the classroom workload, able to complete homework in an appropriate amount of time, and most importantly, she remains confident in her abilities.

You know your child(ren) better than anyone else. Pay attention to his/her social, emotional, and academic needs, and think ahead to future grade levels. What do you want their middle school, high school, and college experiences to be like?