Over the last couple weeks, my husband and I have finalizing one of the bigger decisions for my son than we have faced so far. We are deciding if we are going to send my son to kindergarten according to the state guidelines, or hold him back one year.
In the state of Connecticut, where we live, the cutoff for entering school is January 1st. Technically, my son just makes the cutoff – he was born on December 30th. From my research on the Education Commission of the States (ECS), it looks like we are one of the latest cutoffs in the country. CT and Vermont have January Cutoffs, and the December cutoffs include District of Columbia, Michigan and the Virgin Islands. There has been a lot of talk in the political arena that CT would change the date of entering school, but with all the other major issues going on in our country and state, this one keeps getting pushed to the back burner.
Shortly after my son was born, my husband read the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. Much of what he read in the book about creating situations for success quickly made up his mind that we would hold my son back. Yes, he is the typical decision. One book, decision made, case closed.
Because male and female decision-making varies (at least it does in our house) – I have debated this over the last 3 1/2 years. Early on, I thought a lot about how the age factor would affect him later in life – he would be the last of his friends to get his license, to turn 21, and if we ever moved to another state where the cutoff was in September or October, he would be younger than the youngest child in his grade. I also wondered how he could be in the same position as his peers from other states to be learning the same topics. Someone born in South Dakota (cut off Sept 1st) on September 2nd would be almost one year and 4 months older than him, learning the same material. It just didn’t seem right to me that developmentally, it would all work out. Connecticut being so much later than everyone else left us in a difficult spot.
Now, I am able to put all the theoretical arguments aside, and look at my child. He is the first child, he is a boy, and I know, in my gut, that he is he will not be ready to go to kindergarten in a year. Academically and verbally, I am very proud of where he is, but I think emotionally, he has a little ways to go to catch up to some of his peers. I knew that if things changed, and he did need academic help later, my husband and I would be there to help him, or would ensure that he had the help that he needed. But at 4 ½ I feel like sending him to school, I am starting him behind the 8 ball, and short-changing him.
We sought advice from his current teacher, pediatrician, and I spoke to a lot of teachers that I knew. Most of them said the same thing that we were thinking– academically he is great, but the extra year to grow emotionally would be beneficial. A couple of people said, he would adjust or he could just repeat kindergarten if he had to, and I did have one person ask if I was “redshirting” him for sports. Um, no, I am pretty sure that my son is not going to be getting a college sports scholarship or playing in the pros someday…
While I would love to play the wait and see game, I realized that we had to make a decision sooner rather than later. He could enter a pre-K program in September or stay in preschool for an extra year. While this shouldn’t be a big deal, I looked at the differences between the programs. Pre-K programs had more academic time, a stricter time schedule and curriculum, and the focus (not surprisingly) was to ensure that students were ready to enter Kindergarten. There was also a big “graduation” at the end of the year, where the talk is about moving on to kindergarten. This would potentially confuse him quite a bit. The pre-school program was more focused on play, social relationships, and had more flexibility around the academic curriculum. Remaining in preschool would give him the opportunity to grow in the areas where I thought he could benefit most.
I wrote down every pro and con about the situation – and realized the pro’s were all about his future, and the cons were all about the situation now. My number one “con” was that he would be devastated seeing his friends in a pre-k class across the hall while he was still in preschool. The decision that I came to, ultimately, regardless of that big “con” was that he would repeat preschool this year, and he would be going to kindergarten a year later. I have second-guessed myself a million times, but that is what we are going with.
I know that this is mega-overdramatic, but I truly feel I like my husband and I are deciding how the rest of my son’s life is going to turn out with this one decision. . I am expecting the first couple weeks to be tough as he looks across the hall at his friends that he has been with in school for years, sitting in their pre-K classroom, but I am hopeful that it will work out…it has to, right?