Holding Kids Back - Any Regrets?

Updated on September 23, 2013
C.T. asks from Carrollton, TX
33 answers

We are considering holding our son back and putting him in kindergarten when he is 6 years (and two months) rather than 5 years, 2 months. Academically, he is more than ready. He's also good socially and good at following instructions, behaving in a classroom, etc. But, there is something about his personality that makes him seem young (more fragile? more in need of love? hard to describe). His preschool teacher says its a tough call, but she would probably keep him back a year, and her opinion holds a lot of weight with us.

The few people I've talked with who have held their kids back have been happy with their decision. I'm wondering, is there anyone out there who regrets holding their child back, and if so, why?

My concerns, if we do hold him back are:
1) Will he be bored academically? He can already read, add/subtract, and do other kindergarten skills -- and he's 4. By six, maybe kindergarten will be way too easy??
2) Will he feel weird being one of the oldest in his class? He could potentially be a year and two months older than some classmates if we hold him back. I suspect kids like being oldest while in elementary school, but I could see that changing in middle or high school.

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So What Happened?

Thank you for your stories and perspectives. We aren't trying to make the decision now, but I'm a planner and want to at least think about what I should be considering in advance. If it were my decision alone, I would send him to K, since he's academically ready and isn't likely to be a behavior problem. But, my husband is very determined to keep him back, and I need to decide whether/how hard to try to change his mind. My husband was the youngest in his classes growing up (his birthday is also near the cut-off, but his parents put him in early), and he hated being more than a head shorter than everyone else (my husband is naturally short, so he would have been small anyway, but being younger didn't help). So, that's influencing his opinion. The height doesn't bother me so much ... I figure he's destined to be short, so he might as well get used to it early. The main thing I like about holding him back is that he could stay a kid for a little while longer... the school he would go to gets pretty serious already in kindergarten (little playtime and daily homework). But, I am concerned about him going through puberty before everyone else, about him being bored, and about him feeling awkward, later, for being older. So, a lot to think about. Thanks for your help!

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M.H.

answers from Chicago on

He is 4 which means he is a young 4 right now.. You would be amazed how much they grow right before 5. Emtionally.

I am not understanding why this is a discussion right now.. school will not be starting for at least a year? I think this is better to be discussing July next year.

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T.S.

answers from San Francisco on

If he's a sensitive boy then he probably always will be, that's not something you grow out of.
If he's academically and socially ready don't hold him back.
You don't really want him having to go through the embarrassment of hitting puberty a full year before everyone else, do you? If he's a sensitive kid that will just make things harder for him, not easier. My son has a few friends like this, and while you may think being the "biggest" is an advantage, it's often not. These poor kids feel freakish towering over everyone else.
It's important to think LONG TERM about these decisions.

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A.B.

answers from Dallas on

We held my son back as well. We were not worried about academics, but behavior...he is all boy! We actually thought it out into high school and decided it would be better to be the oldest than the youngest. He would be bigger for sports, first to drive, etc. He is doing well academically, not too bored and the behavioral stuff - sitting still, paying attention, etc is actually much better in the 2nd grade!

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K.C.

answers from San Francisco on

ETA: Coincidentally, my husband just sent me this article: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/elements/2013/09/yo...

I really, really, really do not think you should hold your son back. He is socially and academically ready for school, therefore, he should be in school. Kindergarten - not preschool.

If he's not emotionally ready, that is more likely a matter of his personality and isn't going to change a whole lot in a year. He's just a more sensitive kind of kid and there's nothing wrong with that! We can't all be leaders (or followers), we can't all be outgoing (or introverted), we can't all be anything - we need a mix of all types of people. So, if your son is the type who needs a little more TLC, he'll get it.

Kindergarten is designed for five year olds, not six year olds. Your son will be five and two months. Please send him to school.

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G.B.

answers from Oklahoma City on

Yes, he'll be bored and act out.

Children should start kindergarten when they are a full 5 years old. That way they enter their senior year of high school at 17 and turn 18 during that year. Otherwise they drop out as soon as they turn 18 and see they have a whole year more and they just want to be an adult and move out on their own, so they drop out.

He'll spurt up when he gets a little older and he'll be a head taller than anyone else in his class. He'll be self conscious and hate himself for what his body is doing.

I think this fad of holding kids back for no other reason than they might flunk kindergarten is not a good reason. I really don't think there is any reason to hold a child back unless they are absolutely flunking the work and totally unable to do it. I do think that before this option is even considered that child needs to go to summer school are really try to catch up and have more specialized one on one with a teacher over that time period.

Keep your child with his classmates, let him be with all the other kids that are his age, all the other kids that are 5 will be in this class.

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C.F.

answers from Portland on

I personally wish we could have put my daughter in school earlier or skip her forward a grade.
Her birthday is a month or so after the cut off, so she had to wait a whole nother year to start.
Last year (1st grade) she was BORED!
Like didn't want to go to school, tummy aches, faking sick, bored.
Complained all of the time that the work was too easy.
They would give her a packet of homework that she was supposed to do a little each night over the week and tunr in on Fridays,
she ALWAYS finished it in one or two days, tops.

I would say if you are even a little bit worried he might get bored because he will know it all already, put him in, don't hold him back.

When I moved as a kid, I went from a private school education to a public school education.
My private school was WAY behind on basic things and I was forced to retake 5th grade.
I HATED being older than everyone.
It felt like I was constantly having to explain it so people did not think I was stupid.

Just my opinion.

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C.C.

answers from Visalia on

I regret it. They/3 girls, were bored in class cause they knew alot going in. As my kids got older in Jr. High and High School, they didn't click with younger peers. They felt they were too boy crazy or too much drama. You wouldn't think a year older could make that much difference but it does. My kids even challenged the teacher if they saw the teacher belittling a student.

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X.Y.

answers from Chicago on

No regrets over here. My daughter has an Aug 25th bday and she would have been the oldest or the youngest, we chose the oldest route. Every single one of her classmates turned 6 in kindergarten by October. So there really wasn't a big age difference after all. But if she just turned 5, then yes it would have been a big age difference.

I like to look ahead into the junior high and high school years. I have a late bday as well and was put in school as I turned 5. I did very well in elementary but then in junior high it went down hill. I have a niece that was the youngest and she is in high school, she struggles terribly. She was an A honor roll student till she was a sophomore. She was a mess with all the peer pressure and not fitting in. She learned inappropriate things cause the older kids taught her. She too was more *fragile* and it was so much more noticeable in high school were this just wasn't accepted or you will be devoured by the other kids.

Good luck making a decision, it's hard. Think about the peer pressure in high school, this isn't just about elementary.

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J.W.

answers from St. Louis on

Your friends, are their kids adults? I can tell you there were several kids in my older kid's classes that were held back, some two years. Two of them dropped out of high school, one barely graduated, one did amazing but she would have done amazing in her own grade as well.

Purely anecdotal but high school and college seems to be the great leveler. I wouldn't do it because I would be afraid my kids would be bored.

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C.M.

answers from Washington DC on

My son has a July birthday and we did not hold him back. He started K when he was 5 years and 2 months like your son. I have no regrets to start him on time at all. He did great. He was also the shortest in the class, but he was able to keep up socially and academically. He is now in 1st grade and is doing great. It's your choice, but if he is ready socially and academically, then I don't see why you would hold him back

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S.H.

answers from Honolulu on

No matter what you do you need to know the age cut-off for entering Kindergarten for the school he will be attending.

So will your son be turning 7 in Kindergarten, if you hold him back?

In my State per public school, kids enter Kinder per a cut-off date. Kindergarten is for kids who will be or are, 5. Thus, some kids enter at 4 then turn 5. Or enter at 5 then turn 6, while in Kindergarten.
IF a child is say 6 already and will turn 7.... then that child is entered into 1st grade. UNLESS, the parent requests that their child enter into Kinder at that age.

Being the "oldest" in class... is not always something that all kids like.
It is a generalization.
I work at my kids' school and see kids in all grades through 5th grade, that were retained or entered into Elementary at a later age.
It does not automatically make a kid better or more adapted or more mature.
Academic ability and social maturity, is also 2 different things.

As far as this year, quite bluntly... I see NO difference at all... in the kids that were retained, or entered into Kinder at an older age per maturity or academics.
They are not necessarily more mature or socially better, just because they are "older." And not always academically, better.

Also, if a kid is older and is the oldest... in the later grades say from 4th grade... they will be hitting puberty and bodily changes, ahead, of their classmates. So think about that aspect too.

I know of a couple of 5th graders, that were retained, and well, they are or will be 12. Meanwhile, the rest of their grade level, is either 10 or will be 11 years old. And these boys are "older" and bigger and it is visually, apparent. And they are not more mature nor academically better or more "confident" just because they were retained. And YES they know they are the OLDEST in their 5th grade, and so do all of the other classmates. One of the boys is already getting "pimples" on his face.

Any kid/person, has a personality.
If a kid is tenderhearted, having them enter school older/later, will not make that go away.
Your son seems socially fine.
But you say he is "fragile."
Well, I see lots of kids, from Kinder to 5th grade, that are that way. They are just, perhaps sensitive or more feeling oriented.
Fine. But a kid also learns resilience and about adapting. And with a parents guidance, they also learn about life's situations and how to manage their reactions/speaking up/knowing their own cues and following their instincts.
It is not only age related or per "when" a kid enters school. It is also how a child's personality along WITH the parent's guidance... learns how to adapt. Gain resilience etc.
It is multifaceted.
Not just about age.

I have 2 kids, a boy and girl. Both are late born.
They both entered into Kindergarten in the Fall- the start of the school year- per school cut-offs, and were 4 years old then turned 5 in Kindergarten, a couple of months after school started.
And they both did fine.
They are both different individuals, and they both did fine. And are fine now, even in their respective grades, both socially and academically.

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J.O.

answers from Detroit on

I regret NOT holding back. That's precious play time lost if they start kindy at age 5.

But really, a person is born with the smarts he/she has. Starting school at 4, 5, or 6 doesn't change that. So it's more of a call of wanting to delay academics simply because they are inappropriate for young kids, the way the schools push these days.

I'd hold back if you want to, or not if you don't want to. Either way your child will make his/her own way at his/her own pace, and do well or not do well.

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P.K.

answers from New York on

Send him to Kindergarten. You can always repeat K if necessary. He has more to gain being held back in K. What everyone keeps forgetting is that when you hold back, the age gap can be huge. Personally I would send him.
He seems more than ready..

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J.S.

answers from Phoenix on

Absolutely no regrets. My son met the cut off by 11 days, yet we felt it would be in his best interest to wait another year. He was also bright, had been to preschool and knew a lot (colors, letters, numbers, etc.) But it just didn't seem right to put him in when he was 4 turning 5. So we waited the extra year. Turns out he was diagnosed with adhd in kindergarten. He has struggled in reading but now does great. He still struggles with spelling. He's in 3rd grade now and I've never questioned our decision.

My 4 year old daughter shares his birthday. My husband already feels she will be ready next year when she is 4 turning 5. He feels there is no need to wait the extra year. I'm still unsure.

Only you know what is best for your son. If the preschool teacher shares your concern, then that should help the decision. Good luck!

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L.O.

answers from Detroit on

I would not make the decision now.. make the decision next august.. sign him up for kinder.. and then if the week before kind you do not feel he is ready.. then don't send him.. kids mature.. you never know when he will just blossom and have a huge period of growth.

however.. the studies show.. that a great way for kids to mature is to send them to school with their peers... ...

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S.E.

answers from Wichita Falls on

Here, one of our head start programs (pre-K) also has a few kindergarten classes for kids on the bubble of being ready. Look into your school system and see of there isn't something comparable. Or look at charter schools that will have smaller student to teacher ratios. Otherwise he will be bored.

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S.M.

answers from Dallas on

In my opinion, most people will tell you that it won't hurt to hold him back, but I'm in the kinder class room daily, and what I see is what it looks like when a kid is board. Just because one kid is advanced for the classroom the teacher can not make two different lesson plans to keep your child challenged, (please believe me when I say how difficult it is on both the child and the teacher). Yes the teacher will try to challenge your child but if he is already reading/writing and doing math then he is ready.

Here is what a bored child looks like to the rest of the class... He rolls around on the floor not focusing on his work because it is to easy or not a challenge. He knows the answers to most of the questions so he shouts them out instead of raising his hand our allowing another child a chance to have their turn. He refuses to do a task/assignment. Complains in front of everyone how stupid assignments are, and soon many classmates will follow. He knows he is smarter than his classmates and wants special privileges in class and can become aggressive to get them.

Now I'm not saying that your child will do any of these things, but any and all of these things become discipline problems, now this bright young unchallenged child is a discipline problem for the first time and that is very hard on a kindergartener.

Just my opinion, we sent my August baby to school because he was ready, young and small but I don't regret it a bit. He is my baby, a premie, so I get young and fragile, and tender hearted. But a good teacher can help him throughout that easily, my baby is in third grade now and still has that sweet spirit he always had, and he is still the littlest kid in class, but he is doing great right where he is at. I would say send him, you said yourself he was academically ready. He will grow up a lot over this year. Keep in touch with the teacher and share your concerns. And follow up as necessary.

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C.D.

answers from Dallas on

It is a no brainer. He is a boy. He is young. I held both my older kids back, a girl (May BD) and boy (February BD) and I am holding my 5 year old back (he just turned 5 on Aug. 27). Both my older two kids are leaders and doing very well. I don't regret it for a moment! All three kids are smart, it was for the maturity reason that I held them back. Plus, another benefit is I get to spend another year with them. How lovely!

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M.G.

answers from Seattle on

I have two children with late summer birthdays so they each went to school a whole year later than they needed to. My eldest is bright. She didn't learn anything new in kindergarten other than what school actually is and how to interact within the system. She is also an extremely emotional child, she always has been. Her maturity level isn't the greatest right now but it's a work in progress. Fragile children should be in school so that hopefully they can acclimate to school life. I would send your son to school.

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B.C.

answers from Norfolk on

Where we are you can start kindergarten if you are 5 yrs old on or before Sep 30.
Our son's birthday is end of Oct.
So when he started he was 5 yrs and 10 months and he turned 6 only a few months in.
He's almost always the oldest and tallest in his class.
The only exceptions are if there are any earlier Oct birthdays and they are few.
It's really worked out well for him.
It's easy to get bored academically - but they have a lot to learn about social skills and working with other kids.

Where we grew up, you had to be 5 yrs old on or before Dec 31st.
So my sister started kindergarten at 4 yrs old and she turned 5 early Oct.
Academically she had few problems but she was a mess when it came to working/playing with others.
I think our Mom should have had her wait a year - it would have worked out better at all her grade levels to have had a bit more maturity under her belt.

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M.H.

answers from Minneapolis on

That's not "holding back" in my opinion. That's just waiting to start kindergarten. I am a strong believer in the decision is based on the individual child and there is no blanket right or wrong answer. We decided to wait with my now-junior in high school and I think it was one of the best parenting decisions we've ever made. He was ready academically at age 5, but not socially or emotionally. Yes, there were some times he was a little bored in school, but not enough to have regretted our decision. There were just so many other positives in our case. He was in our district's gifted and talented program and that helped. He is now a very high-achieving HS student.

You have plenty of time to make this decision and you can see how he matures/progresses in the next 9 months or so. In our district you can decide right up until school starts. We decided in mid-August for an after Labor Day school start. At the time we made our decision we had him enrolled in two different preschool programs and kindergarten to cover all of our bases. There was no penalty to withdrawing him from the kindergarten registration. As part of our decision-making we talked to our son's preschool teachers and the principal of the school where he was to attend kindergarten.

We have NO regrets, but it really just depends on the kid. One of my pet peeves when we were going through the process was complete strangers telling me what to do. I thought--you don't know my kid! So I don't tell people what to do, I just tell them about our experience and how it worked out for us.

Oh, and our son does not feel weird as one of the oldest in his class. I actually thinks he kind of likes it. A lot of kids, especially boys, waited until age 6 to start kindergarten so he has friends and classmates his age. Also, our son is small so even though he's one of the oldest he's never looked it. Good luck!

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E.E.

answers from Denver on

No regrets.We gave my oldest an extra year for medical and social challenges. We gave our middle son an extra year because his early trauma causes him to have anxiety in new situations.

Many of the other kids from my oldest son's pre-K classes are in the same school as him now. They are fine. They are not bored - or any more bored than they would have been anyway. They are not bigger than the other kids. In fact, the biggest, most athletic kid in his class is one of the youngest kids. The "smartest" kid is one of the youngest kids. People who think otherwise are going off assumptions, not facts.

This is an individual choice and should be based on your sense of what your son needs. Don't worry about what anyone else thinks. Elementary is much different than it used to be, and honestly, if you think holding off is a good idea, it probably is.

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S.H.

answers from St. Louis on

okay, he's 4....so this is about next year. Wait & make your decision then. Seriously, a lot of growth occurs between each year!

Normally, my answer would be to wait until 6. In 26 years of working/living with children, this choice has worked every single time.

Conversely, every single time a child started school early....slightly before 5 or as a young/not ready to focus 5......all Hell broke loose by 2nd/3rd grade. Each of these kids had to repeat a year....ranging from KG to 3rd grade. & yes, schools do have children repeat school years.

In your son's case, tho'....if he's 4 & knows so much already, then I would be comfortable recommending KG at age 5 for him. Even if he's not mature in character, as long as he has social skills & this brilliance in academics....he will thrive.

& to help him seem not so fragile, get him involved in some group activities such as church youth groups or sports. An individual activity, such as martial arts, would also help boost his presence. :)

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B.M.

answers from Los Angeles on

My son has a July birthday and we started him in kinder this year, about 3 weeks after he turned 5 (we have an extremely early start date here). My son is kind of sensitive too and I do have some concerns. I'm in touch with his teacher about that so I can keep track of what's going on day to day.

However, here in California, the state has been changing the cut off dates, and with that has come Transitional Kindergarten (TK) for the kids in between the old and new dates. In our district, the TK and K kids are in a mixed classroom, which is the class my son is in. If I don't feel he's ready to progress to 1st grade, then we'll discuss keeping him in K for another year, and it won't be a big deal since the TK kids will also be repeating. I'd rather hold him back now, then later in 2nd or 3rd grade.

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J.P.

answers from Dallas on

My oldest is 18, and just started college. He has a late June birthday. If I had it to do all over again, I would have held him back a year. He was academically ready, but that isn't enough.

He was bored in his classes as it was, so another year wouldn't have made a lot of difference as far as that goes. He was always one of the smallest, and just didn't have the maturity that was expected by his teachers, as they compared him to those kids who had been held back, and were more than a year older than him. A year makes a big difference. On top of that, he started puberty late. Middle school was a nightmare for him. Those kids are just plain mean at that age. High school was a bit better, but I believe he would have been much more successful if he had another year of maturity under his belt. He graduated with a C average in the top half of his class.

All that said, he is happily in the college of his choice, with a scholarship and is happy and doing well.

As a parent, you know your child better than anyone. Follow what your gut is telling you.

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S.A.

answers from Chicago on

I am so glad you asked this question! My youngest turned four in mid-August. He just started preschool last month (his first school experience). I have strong concerns that he won't be ready for kindergarten next year. I will hold him back if his preschool teacher recommends it, but I wonder how it will affect him being the oldest in the class. I'm glad to hear that it's more common than I thought.

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S.R.

answers from Kansas City on

So you really didn't hold him back then? You are just not going to start him until he is getting ready to turn 6 rather than 5. I made that decision with my oldest and it was the best decision ever! She made the cut off date for age but that would have meant she was the youngest in her class and she was ready in all aspects, but she was so young. I didn't hold her back, i just didn't start her until she was turning 6. She seems to think i held her back and she tells everyone that. "my mom held me back". No I didn't because you never started K at age 5, you started at age 5.5. I would def do it!

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S.G.

answers from Grand Forks on

There were a couple of older kids in high school and they were pretty popular because they could drive before the rest of us and they could buy liquor for the rest of us (Canadian drinking age is 18). Might not exactly be what you want for him...

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L.U.

answers from Seattle on

My son turned 5 one day after the cut off. We had to wait a whole year before he got to go to school. So, he went at 6.
A LOT of boys in his class had summer birthdays and their parents waited to put them in school. Within 2 months 75% of his class was 6.
It was GREAT.
He is now in 5th grade and just today we got his results in state testing. The boy is advanced in every subject he tested.
He is challenged in class, has been every year, and he sounds a lot like your son. Truthfully I was a bit worried that he would be a lot more advanced then the other kids also, and it just wasn't the case. Sure, he was academically farther ahead, but he certainly needed that extra time to socially be ready.
We were opposite of you. His preschool teacher said he should go to school "early" as did his doctor. But, after talking with my Aunt who is a 2nd grade teacher, SHE told me to think about jr. high and high school. Do I want my son to be the oldest (first to get drivers license, first to get girlfriend, later curfew) or did I want him to be younger than everyone? I wanted him to be oldest.
We have not had any issues and I wouldn't change my decision for anything.
L.

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C.B.

answers from San Francisco on

If he's that advanced academically when he's six, you can put him straight into first grade. Kindergarten is not required - don't let them tell you it is. Kids are not required to attend school until they are six and they CAN go straight to first grade.

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S.F.

answers from Topeka on

I have a youngest child (13 in 9th grade) and an oldest child (almost 9 in 3rd). Although each child is different, I would send your child to school if he is ready academically. Yes, he will be younger than most of his classmates...for a matter of months. Someone is always the youngest. You are right in thinking that he will be bored. The fragility and love issues will not be better a year from now. His basic personality is not going to morph in 9 months. In fact, the longer you wait, the more anxiety he may feel about it. Kids know when they are the oldest and youngest and often feel a bit of "you cannot mess this up" when they are the oldest already.

That said, it is incredibly popular to hold kids back a year, especially boys. In the teenage boy venue, playing sports in high school is much easier if you are a 15 year old freshman with a mustache :). It is also easier for most moms to delay school since it is pushing them "out" a year earlier.

When I started my boy in kinder he was 4 (5 end of Sep). He was bright and social and could follow instructions too. He was ready. I knew in my gut that he was ready. He IS my only boy and it was hard to send him. I stressed so much that I could a book called, "The September Baby" now.

However, he is a freshman in high school now. Yep, he will be last to drive and date. He has braces. He is also a straight A student and level-headed. He is NOT bullied. He is not out of place. He is happy. Go with your gut. This is one of those areas where mama knows best. We had preschool teachers and relatives telling us to keep him out of kinder another year too. Don't listen to them. If he is ready, it is crucial that he moves forward and starts learning at that level.... a few months shouldn't bar him from those goals.

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M.L.

answers from Cleveland on

mine is in 4th and no regrets yet. when he is bored he finishes his work and reads a book. im a bit concerned about puberty only because i'm not ready for my baby to be a teen but plenty of other kids are developing now too.

In our school and most others in my area, it is not uncommon to redshirt. so my Ds is not the only one in his grade that is a bit older, I wouldn't say half are but he is definitely not the only one.

I feel bad for the babies in the class and really really really it is so much harder to be a young Boy in kinder. lots of reasons why but in general they just aren't as ready as girls.

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L.S.

answers from Tyler on

I have not held my child back, but my son is the youngest in his class. I never considered holding him back because he was very much academically ready - and honestly, he makes the best grades now in his class (he is in 5th grade). However, he is also very big and is always the tallest boy in his class, so no one would ever guess he was the youngest.

However, what I want to share with you is that my daughter just misses the birthday cut off and so she is almost 6 and just started Kindergarten. I can see that she is much more mature and responsible at this age now (than my son was).

I think you just need to do what you think is best for your family. Some people hold boys back a year so that they can do better in sports (be bigger later on). That might be something for you to consider if your son is on the small side and is interested in sports (my son is not interested in sports at all, so that doesn't play a role in my decision making).

Also, my daughter went to a very good pre-school and she is doing quite well in Kindergarten (it is all review at this point). But, I have decided it doesn't really matter. My son was super advanced and was already reading before starting Kindergarten. They actually enrolled him in the first grade reading program. But honestly, I have chilled out. I have decided that none of that really matters. I just want them to be happy at this point. When the grades start to matter, we'll get serious about which school to go to and what classes to take. For now, for elementary school, I have decided to take a chill pill. :)

Good luck!
L.

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