When Should You Start Your Child in School?
When I grew up, a long time ago, children went to school based upon their birthdate. If you were born before the magic date, you went to school. What was the magic date? The first day of school. If you were 5, you went to school. End of story.
Needless to say, our birthdays all went in a row from oldest to youngest and everyone was within 1 year of age.
When my oldest was 4 years old, the daycare operator said, “I think you should consider holding him back a year and let him mature.”
I’m sure I looked at her like she’d grown a second head. Who held there kids back a year? Was that even possible? Surely that was illegal.
The concept of “red shirting” was completely foreign to me outside of college football.
I did do a little research about the concept, but not much.
I had a lot of concerns regarding my 2 boys being in the same grade. If the oldest was held back, then both boys would start school at the same time. They were old 9 1/2 months apart and I wanted them to have different likes, friends, personalities. I didn’t want one of them to live in the shadow of the other by being in the same class.
But, I was concerned. I spoke with his pre-school teacher to ask her opinion. She also thought he should stay another year as well, because he was struggling academically.
I decided to go ahead and take him to early enrollment and see what they wanted to do. When he met with them, he apparently put on a good front. They said, “he’s quick, eager, and will catch up.”
They were wrong. He didn’t catch up.
I also had no idea what schools expected kindergarteners to know and do throughout the year. When I was in school, I only went 1/2 day and learned the abc’s and not to eat glue. If I would have known what they expected, I would have known he wasn’t ready.
However, he did learn so much in his first year of kindergarten. I don’t think another year of pre-school would have pushed him enough. While it was a struggle for him every day, he made 2 to 3 times as much progress as he did in that previous year.
That didn’t make the decision to hold him back a year any less painful. I was filled with doubts. Concerns with him getting bored and acting out. Fears that kids would make fun of him. Remorse that I didn’t do more. Worry that I would need to hold his brother back when I felt he was actually ready based upon the current expectations. Worry that when he turned 18, he would rebel by saying he didn’t need to finish or follow my rules. Guilt that I should have held him back a year instead of going ahead and starting him in school. Blame that I didn’t research more into what was required. Anxiety that the foster care system would think that I was failing as a parent. Dread that he would be embarrassed.
None of those concerns have come true. He thrived in his second year of kindergarten and no longer gave up when he learned something new. He is continuing to do well and is getting ready to start 2nd grade summer school in 2 weeks.
His younger brother is also getting ready to finish 1st grade and they both have different interests, friends, and personalities.
I obviously didn’t know the right time and neither do a lot of you or there wouldn’t be an age range of 6 to 9 in the first grade. All I can say is to do your research. Find out what is required. Think about your child’s maturity level. Maturity level is really as important as academic readiness. My younger son has been ready academically, but has struggled this year with his maturity (hyperactivity) an his young age is likely a part of the problem. Find out your schools classroom make-up. If you have a boy and he is young, will he be the youngest in the class? He will be less mature and it could cause problems down the road for him.
Here are 5 things to consider when sending your child to school.
- Analyze how your child responds to directions. Can he do 2 to 3 steps after another? Does he listen to other adults?
- Consider what your child knows. Does he know his abc’s, can he count to 30, does he recognize his letters and numbers?
- Think about your child’s educational behavior. Is he able to sit still for a few minutes and do school work? Can he wait his turn?
- Contemplate how your child handles her emotions. Can she be told “no” without having a meltdown? What are her coping strategies?
- Consider what her peer relationships look like. Can she get alone without fighting? Is she able to share with another child?
There is no perfect answer. There will always be questions. Go with your gut and make it work how it needs to.
How did you/will you decide it is the right time to start your child in school?
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