This is coming to you from two teachers. The kind who grew up playing school and decorating their bedrooms to look like classrooms. The kind who made younger siblings and stuffed animals sit for hours while they wrote meticulously on chalkboards or read books in their best teacher voice.
This is also coming to you from two mommas. The kind who, from the time they were old enough to carry a baby doll, have been ecstatic for the day they would have their own real-life babies to love, protect, and raise.
As this school year winds down, many of us are thinking about next school year. Especially if you have a kiddo with a late spring, summer, or early fall birthday, you may be considering whether they’re ready to start kindergarten or hold off or, if they’re already in school, considering whether they should move to the next grade or repeat. We’re here to offer some perspective so that you can make the best decision for your kiddo.
I (Brianna) happen to have one of these kiddos with a late summer birthday. My firstborn was due September 6th, and the teacher/planner in me was relieved because the cutoff birth date for promotion was September 3rd. I thought, “Whew! I won’t have to hold him back because he’ll naturally have to wait a year because of his birth date!” As a teacher, I’ve seen the difference that being one of the older kids in the class, as opposed to one of the younger kids in the class, can make. Well of course, he had other plans. On August 29th (the only date I was opposed to, and fellow Nola mommas know why), as I was walking my students to recess, my water broke. No, I didn’t just wet my pants, little Johnny! Apparently my sweet babe was ready to make his debut in the world. I literally told my husband between contractions that we would delay his start of Kindergarten so that he’d be one of the oldest in his class. Yes, that was on my mind in the delivery room. I like to think of myself as proactive and not crazy. 🙂
Fast forward to decision time. We considered his social maturity, his academic readiness, and the fact that he’s a boy. We talked to his preschool teachers, researched Kindergarten expectations, and ultimately decided to stick with our decision. I’m happy to report that he’s a thriving, confident 1st grader today, and my husband and I both feel that giving our son the gift of time was one of the best decisions ever.
A lot of parents feel there’s a negative connotation associated with “holding back” or “repeating,” but it can be a tremendous gift. Who doesn’t want more time?! While this is not the right answer for every child, it provides children a whole extra year to mature before really tackling academics. Think about their number of years on Earth when they’re that little. One more year for a 5-year-old is huge! It can mean the difference between school being an uphill battle for 18 years and school being fun and enjoyable for 18 years.
Trust yourself. You’ll make the best decision for your child. There are pros and cons to either choice. Consider:
- Birth Date
- Late spring, summer, or early fall? You may want to consider the gift of time.
- Boy or Girl?
- Science has proven that girls mature at a faster rate than boys. Boys may especially benefit from the gift of time.
- Social Maturity
- The gift of time is typically a great benefit to kiddos who are more socially immature than their peers. That extra year can make a massive difference.
- Academic Readiness
- Soaring academically? Then maybe they don’t need the gift of time. But if they’re struggling with foundational skills or just generally uninterested in academics, an additional year to secure foundational concepts could really set the stage for success going forward.
- Learning Differences
- Diagnosed learning difference? If so, researchers typically advise against the gift of time. Especially if all of the bullets above don’t apply, then retaining your child based solely on the fact that he has a learning difference can be detrimental. If this resonates with you, talk to your pediatrician and other professionals who know your child.
Side note, you can decide, especially in those first couple of years between Kindergarten and 2nd grade, that you would like your child to repeat a grade level. When they’re that little, they’re resilient and adapt quickly. It’s all about how you approach it as a parent. If they see you’re excited about this golden opportunity, they’ll be excited about it.
You’re the momma, and you know best! Gather what information you can and make the best decision for your child. Happy thriving! 🙂
About Brianna & Suzanne
Brianna and Suzanne are co-hosts of the podcast Thrive in the Hive. They are teacher-moms who are passionate about helping families thrive at home, at school, and in life. They bring their perspectives as educators to the podcast and other resources they provide. Brianna grew up in New Orleans but moved to Houston after college for her husband’s job. She has three children, ages 7, 6, and 2.
Suzanne is a Houston native who spent her early motherhood days across the pond in the UK. She has two children, ages 19 and 16. Visit their website at Thrive in the Hive HERE.