WARNING: The opinions expressed in this post are solely mine and mine alone; they do not reflect the overall views and beliefs of the management of Who Needs A Nap? Me. Oh wait, yes they do. Because I AM the management of Who Needs A Nap? Me. Yay! I can say whatever the hell I want here! You can disagree, but you can’t sue me! In addition, content provided on this site is for entertainment or informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or safety advice. That part is TOTALLY true. Although anyone that takes anything I say as safety advice is crazy in the head and sort of deserves to be laughed at by an ER doctor.
The reason for the above disclaimer is because I’m about to add my two cents (well, more like $1.39 since I have a difficult time editing myself or using fewer words when I can use more or saying things succinctly or using brevity) to a VERY CONTROVERSIAL ISSUE. (Granted, nothing I say here is THAT controversial because I stay clear of controversy, the same way I avoid roller coasters, talking on the phone and cilantro. Conflict is not my thing.)
But this issue has reared its moderately unattractive head one time too many for me to ignore.
Yup, I’m talking about the RED-SHIRTING YOUR KINDERGARTENER issue.
DU DU DUH. (<– that was supposed to be that scary music theme that often follows some big dramatic announcement… did you get it? It’s kind of hard to know how to spell… go ahead and say it out loud, you’ll see what I mean. I’m open to suggestions if you think you have a better way to spell it. I mean, I don’t want to FIGHT about it, but if you can be gentle in your feedback, I’m willing to hear it.)
So, my introduction to this issue was when I was first pregnant with the Nibbit and a stranger asked me when I was due and if I knew what I was having. When I answered, “I’m having a boy, in December,” her response was, “Oh, a December boy? You’ll have to hold him back for school.”
CRAZYTOWN, right? I was pregnant – as in HE HADN’T BEEN BORN YET – and random stranger ladies were already telling me that my kid needed to be held back in school. Insane, I know!
I didn’t really have any idea what she was talking about at the time (I was too busy trying to get the Loud One to sleep through the night before the new kid came along and screwed us all up again), but I soon found out.
These are the facts:
- Connecticut is one very few states to have a cut-off date of December 31st for Kindergarten. This means that if your kid was born on December 15th (like the Nibbit), then he is legally able to start Kindergarten at 4.8 years old.
- There is research to support the conclusion that sending your 4-year old to school is: the right thing to do, the wrong thing to do, a good parenting decision, a terrible parenting decision, a potentially life-altering decision, a good idea and just plain stupid.
Everything else is up for debate.
As this issue became more and more relevant for us over the past year, I’ve read many articles and have had many conversations (with both teachers and parents) about it. And here’s what I’ve learned:
Opinions vary. Woah! Someone write a press release!
Many professionals believe sending kids as soon as they are eligible to go is the right way to go. I understand this and on principle, I agree.
My principles aren’t worth a damn when the reality of the situation is that many parents are ignoring the research and giving their fall-born (and sometimes summer-born) kids that extra year of preschool. Which means that my 4.8 year old son could be in class with kids that are 6.1/6.2/6.3 year olds.
And I’ve decided that, knowing my kid and his social maturity (or extreme lack thereof), I’m not OK with that.
I have said the following statement so many times that I’m fairly certain most of you reading this have heard me say it. Twice.
I have no problem with my kid being the youngest in his class. SOMEBODY has to be the youngest. I DO have a problem with him being younger than the oldest kid by almost a year-and-a-half.
I have to believe that THAT big of an age different does put my kid at a firm disadvantage – socially and emotionally – possibly into his high school years.
Let me be clear:
This is NOT about academics. Of course, I want my kids to do well in school and go to college. I am fairly confident that will happen regardless of my decision… or not. Point is, this will probably not be the deal-breaker.
This is NOT about athletics. I have no idea if any of my kids are going to play or excel at sports. (Early indicators say probably not, but there’s still time.)
This is about a social and emotional maturity that I don’t believe MY son will have achieved by September. And my fear is that this “lag” in maturity will follow him throughout his school career.
Have I mentioned that this is about MY kid?
I make no grand statements about what ALL parents should do. Every child is different and every parent is different as well. Some parents believe the research 100% and are willing to give it a shot. Some parents believe their child will thrive regardless of age. Some parents can’t justify paying for another year of preschool, when FREE school is available. And some parents are just ready for their kid to be out of the house for most of the day. (Believe me, that last argument resonates with me. A LOT.)
So what’s the answer? It’s the same answer that applies to most parenting questions (How do I get them to sleep through the night? What discipline method works best? What TV shows make for the best babysitters?): It just depends on the kid.
We stressed about this decision for a long time before enrolling the Nibbit in a pre-K class next year. I wavered on a daily basis. But ultimately, I watch the Nibbit saying, “Blah blah blah blah blah” (literally “Blah blah blah blah blah” – that’s not code for anything) all day long and honestly think this is the best call for him.
I didn’t feel great about this idea of holding him back until a friend yelled at me one day, “STOP thinking of it as ‘holding him back’ and START thinking of it as ‘sending him when he’s ready.”
AH. Isn’t that a much better way to think about it?
Because ultimately, nobody wants to hold their kid back.
PS. Google “Redshirting Kindergartener” and you’ll see approximately a bazillion articles. Here’s just ONE that I like.
PPS. There are a lot of “I” statements in this post. Rest assured, KJ is allowed to have opinions on these issues (they count for approximately 20% of the vote) but this blog is all about my perspective, so I only like to speak for myself.