My son was born on Labor Day, so he was eligible to test and start kindergarten in the Seattle School District right when he turned 5. We agonized over the decision about whether to wait a year or send him on time.
My son is a bright kid and at the time he seemed more mature than a lot of other kids his age. We debated if it was the right time to start kindergarten, despite our own misgivings and friends’ advice to wait. Or was it worth paying for another year of child care to avoid the risk of having our son held back because he wasn’t succeeding?
I had a long talk with my son’s preschool teacher one afternoon at pick-up. I was interested to hear her take as she is an educator who knows the system well and had been my son’s teacher since he was 3.
Her recommendation was to wait. No matter what signs of readiness he was displaying right now, she worried that he could struggle down the line.
She reminded me that getting held back a grade is much harder for kids than getting bumped ahead a grade. If he did thrive in school he could always skip a grade. If he started straight away, he would miss that important time to just play, be a little boy and learn at his own pace before facing the rigors of institutionalized education.
I discovered that age becomes more of an issue later down the road.
The more I spoke with friends and teachers, the more I learned. I discovered that age becomes more of an issue later down the road. Harsh social consequences pop up if kids struggle in school, and maturity levels are especially apparent when they enter middle school, something not too many parents of a 5-year-old are thinking about right now.
So, we waited. My son is now about to enter fourth grade and he is thriving. He is the oldest and tallest in his grade, and his maturity does shine through, as does his ability to grasp concepts more quickly than some of his younger peers. My son is excelling in math and reading two years above his grade level.
Was holding him back a year before he started kindergarten the right move? For us, it was, but we have plenty of friends who didn’t wait. Sometimes holding your child back a year can have a better payout than saving that year of daycare costs. On the other hand, kids still do thrive when launched into a new school situation the day after they turn 5 years old.
You just need to make the right decision for you and your child.