It was during this time two years ago that I was really starting to stress. We had to decide whether to send our daughter to kindergarten in the fall or hold her back a year. Her late August birthday meant she would probably be the youngest in her class or the oldest if we held her back. She turned five the day before kindergarten, and we sent her.
For my husband, there was never an issue. He had a late September birthday and he did fine. She would go. For me, every possible outcome needed consideration. Nearly everyone we knew suggested redshirting, a common trend of holding kids back from school a year, giving them what’s considered the gift of time.
My husband and I thought this practice was a bunch of baloney. She could already read. She knew her numbers to 100. And kindergartners spend a lot of time on numbers to 10. And shapes. And lots of other simple things. But there were factors to consider beyond kindergarten. Could holding her back guarantee that she’d get into gifted programs? Or could holding her back eventually backfire? Would boredom cause a child who didn’t feel challenged to act out in class?
My gut told me to send her, but it didn’t keep me from constant worry about whether we were doing the right thing. I spent hours searching and reading about other people’s opinions and experiences online. I could never find much supporting what my gut told me and what my husband already knew: My daughter needed to go to kindergarten. Why hold her back? She was ready.
I found articles stating boys with a birthday of January or later should be held back. Really? My son with a February birthday has never had a problem. Strangers I talked to facing the same issue, even friends who weren’t, looked horrified when I revealed we planned to send our daughter to school on time. I felt a lot of pressure.
People told me that holding her back a year would give her confidence. She’d be the smartest kid in the class. But it felt like cheating.
My husband just always shook his head. “She’s going,” he’d say. And I knew he was right, but I still needed validation.
I worried that if everyone else held their kids back, she would be behind. She would be so young. But in the end, that was really all I worried about. I knew she could do the work. I had to believe in her. Deep down, I knew giving her a chance to show what she is capable of would be best for her. Challenge isn’t a bad thing for kids, and parents shouldn’t be scared of it. Challenge and struggle are different.
Some of the most successful people I know were not the kids who were the best in class. They weren’t the valedictorians or the kids who had it easy in school. They were the middle-of-road kids who learned to work for something. Challenge is good.
Having things come too easily can backfire. Not having to study, not having to work hard at first. I know those are skills you don’t want to learn in high school or college.
I volunteered in my son’s kindergarten classroom every week, so I knew what my daughter would face, and I knew she could do it. I asked teachers about kids with late birthdays and I got mixed answers.
I asked the principal. He said his oldest daughter had a late birthday and they sent her on time. They’ve never regretted it. I could have hugged him. Finally, someone understood. Someone else had guts.
Two years later, my daughter is in first grade and finishes all of her work on time. She follows directions. She behaves, sits still. She understands her work. She tells me everything about her day. She moved up to the highest reading group this year. She is in a class with kids who are a year older than her, and she does just as well as they do. And she’s also not the youngest. Two other girls have birthdays later than her. Sure, it all depends on the kid, but I didn’t do it because of a date and I have no regrets.
In the end, we knew that none of this would stop our daughter from being a doctor or a lawyer if she wants to be. And we decided that her “gift of time” would be better spent at the end of her eighteen years. Instead of an extra year of preschool, because she will be younger than her peers, she can take a year off to travel, to study, to work, to start her life. That is the gift we gave to her.