So Conflicted About Keeping Child in Kindergarten Another Year - Please Advise!!

Updated on April 19, 2013
M.F. asks from Riverside, OR
23 answers

Hello Dear Mamas!

I am the mother to a bright, vivacious, totally awesome 5 year old girl. We do not live in the US, but my husband and I are Americans, and we speak English to our daughter at home (not the native language of the country in which we are living). Even though my daughter has been in schools and care centers in which the native language has been spoken since she was little, she still does not have a solid grasp on the native language. By far and away, her strongest language is English.

Last year, her teacher told us (it was her first year teaching, just to provide all the info) that we should look into examining her speech, because she wasn't managing well in the native language. We decided to wait and push the native language more at home. It worked to some extent, but not fully. While our daughter is competitive, she actually doesn't seem to want to learn so much! She is easily discouraged, and hates making mistakes.

Now, the same teacher - who is her teacher for kindergarten - says we should hold her back for another year of kindergarten. The school psychologist agreed, saying that because she is young for her school year, it would be a good idea, and that it would be really beneficial to send her to the class of a teacher who focuses on preparing for first grade (teaches reading, etc).

I signed her up, but was just informed that this teacher is being switched out for another teacher who has not gotten rave reviews from the parents I've spoken to. I don't know yet whether she does active prep for 1st grade.

So now I feel really conflicted - should I keep my daughter back for another year of kindergarten which may or may not prepare her for 1st grade and risk wasting a year on playdoh and finger paints (meaning she'll be almost 7 when she starts 1st grade), or do I try to get her tutors and push her forward into first grade with the rest of her class, risking her being unready but not actually more prepared for school than she was before?

To complicate matters, now her teacher also thinks she has problems with word recall - she is very smart, and easily speaks her way around a word she forgets, but I'm starting to think she might actually be right - she has a hard time remembering names of people, for example.

I realize that while she will probably be ok either way we make the choice, this decision actually has massive implications, effecting all the kids she will know and grow up with, the age she will be when she makes certain decisions, and potentially the amount she is challenged in school, how old she is when she learns materials, etc. I don't know how to make this decision - I'm scared!

Do any of you have any advise? THANK YOU!

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So What Happened?

You are all so fantastic, I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your responses - you gave me so much to think about but more importantly, so much peace of mind and a sense that I am not alone in making this important decision.

I did a lot more research, including calling kindergarten teachers who work with and near the kindergarten teacher we were worried about, and the reviews improved. I'm thinking now that the parent I spoke to who didn't like her had a child who may have been difficult in her class. I also asked these kindergarten teachers what they thought about our situation - they said that in their experience, it is overwhelmingly better to give a child an additional year of kindergarten than to push forward to 1st grade if there is even a hint of a concern over readiness.

So we have decided to send our daughter for another year of kindergarten in a school which is thought to do good prep for 1st grade. I will meet with the teacher to discuss our specific concerns and needs and pray that it all works out!

Thanks again for all of your help and support, wonderful mothers. You are so terrific!

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answers from Bloomington on

If you are going to hold her back, now is the time to do it. If done later, it will be harder, on her.

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answers from Williamsport on

I may not be reading this right... but...her age is on par for kindergarten in the fall regardless. My daughter was 6 when she started first grade-and no foreign language involved. If the kindergarten there is THAT remedial, then MAYBE you should push her...but with the language factor, she is being enriched. She would be on the young side to move to first..First grade at five? Is that what you're saying? If so, that's young.

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answers from Miami on

The problem with answering your question effectively is that most of us know the American system, and it's hard to tell you which way to go in your country's system since this is actual kinder you're talking about, and not preschool getting treated like kinder, like a poster talked about earlier in the week.

I will say that if she is the youngest in her class or close to it, that makes things harder for her for the rest of her school years. Many American mothers hold their children back (especially their boys) if they are very young. But I don't know about the country you are in.

If I were you, I'd work with her at home. I'd also talk to a speech therapist who works with bilingual children. It's not just about speech - it's about language, receptive AND expressive. An evaluation would really help.

Good luck.

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answers from Columbus on

You need to do a little research into the characteristics of young billingal children. They are slow to recall words, they do fall slightly behind in language development, but ultimately they catch up. She does not sound atypical in that context. Before you make your decision about whether she needs additional intervention, please learn about bilingual education. Until then, it's difficult to know what to do with kindergarten. I was inclined to tell you to keep her in an additional year because I think a good foundation is key to success in future years. Depending on what the issues with the new teacher are, though, that may affect my ideas.

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answers from Washington DC on

Please do not let worries about one teacher your child might have influence you into making a choice!

You don't know anything real or substantial about this new K teacher yet. And even if she IS one who doesn't push first grade prep, the real issue here is the language, not other things. Asking your child to get better on the language while simultaneously having her in the new and tougher academics of first grade is too much, too fast.

You already say your daughter is balky about learning the new language. If you push a tutor at her and pressure her to be at a certain language proficiency before a very specific deadline -- the first day of first grade -- it may well backfire as she gets more, not less, resistant under the pressure. I know you are at this point probably saying: But we wouldn't pressure her, we'll work on it at home, we'll be positive and give rewards, etc. That may all be true and you might proceed very carefully and have a great tutor -- but to HER it will feel like pressure no matter how you do it. She is smart, and will be well aware that she is studying the language to be ready for the next school year. That will be pressure in her mind.

I would give her the extra year of K, especially as she already is young for her grade level. It does trouble me that you depict K in this country as "play-doh and finger painting" and I hope there is more actual learning than that going on, but in your case, the language issue trumps everything. If she enters first grade unsure about language, every subject -- every single one, including math, which will be taught and explained in the native language -- is going to be affected. Give. Her. Time.

Also, please don't overthink this decision as something that will harm her forever. You write, "this decision actually has massive implications, effecting all the kids she will know and grow up with, the age she will be when she makes certain decisions, and potentially the amount she is challenged in school, how old she is when she learns materials, etc."

It isn't really as massive as your feelings are telling you it is. It sure looks that way when it's your first child, I agree! I would have felt the same way when my daughter was in K! But please believe me -- in a few years you may wonder why you saw it as such a huge deal for her to have another year of K. She will find her own friends no matter what kids she knows in school; and the extra year of K will not really affect life-altering decisions for her later on. Truly. It might mean she's a bit older when she's faced with the social pressures that come later in school - wouldn't that be a good thing, not a bad one?

I know kids who repeated K for much less vital reasons than needing fluency in another language and they were fine -- in fact, their parents all say that they are glad they did it. So having a truly serious reason like another year of language practice would make me even more likely to say yes to another year of K. And the only family I know who did not repeat K when teachers advised it, (because the child was very smart academically but very disorganized) found that their child took several more years to get her act together once she entered elementary grades -- she should have had that extra year of maturing, and not getting that extra year put her behind her peers despite her being academically very bright.

And finally -- it is MUCH easier to have a child repeat K than to have a child repeat a grade later on. It's academically easier and it is absolutely socially easier. You might set her up for having to repeat a grade later if she begins first grade without better language skills.

You might be worried that since she is bright, she will be bored with another year of K. It's possible. But again -- the language issue is paramount or she will end up being taught academics in a language with which she is not fluent, and that will have a far larger impact on the rest of her school years than repeating K would have.

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answers from Washington DC on

zero back in on your last paragraph. she WILL be okay either way, remember that. the 'massive implications' are there in every single parenting decision you make. but it's very easy to become paralyzed by all the potential problems, and i'm afraid you're teetering on the edge of that.
good, thoughtful, informed, well-considered decisions can become terrified head-spinning morasses if you try to factor in every single eventuality.
it's good to have professionals, and to take their opinions seriously. it doesn't sound as if you disagree with them. if, however, your gut tells you that your child will actually be harmed by following their advice, then go a different path.
i don't really see any big red flags to having her do kindergarten again. at a higher grade it could have a bigger impact, but it's only K. being 6-almost-7 in 1st grade is fine. children are rarely harmed by 'wasting time' on play (which is not what kindergarten is in the US any more, sadly), while pushing them to keep a pace which may be 'standard' but is not their natural speed can be much more harmful.
don't be scared. you have way bigger and more impactful parenting decisions ahead of you. this is an important one, but neither choice is going to break your child. there are ALWAYS pros and cons to any big decision. if it were 100% either way, there wouldn't be a decision to be made. trust your professionals, trust your parenting, and most of all, trust your kid.

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answers from Green Bay on

Why is your kindergarten teacher not doing more to prepare kids for 1st grade? I would think that all kindergarten teachers should be following the same curriculum and "rules" regarding what kids need to know by the time the school year is done.

This is a hard decision. As a former kindergarten teacher, I can understand where the teachers might be coming from. It is hard to send a child on that is having a hard time meeting the expectations of kindergarten, let alone what they will be doing in 1st grade the next year.

If there is something else going on - i.e. a learning disability or something, another year of kindergarten may NOT be the answer.

Is there a way to delay your decision? How does the school year work? I.E. where I am, we have a "traditional" school year - September thru May. If it were me, I would try to boost my child's skills (being a former teacher, I have the skills to do that so I wouldn't hire a tutor, but you might want to). I would see how they are doing in August and decide from there.

As a teacher, I am disturbed that different teachers are teaching different things in the same grade...That would be something I would question/complain about with them. Why is one teacher doing "old" kindergarten (i.e. finger painting) and another doing more "1st grade prep" kindergarten (aka "new" kindergarten)??

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answers from Washington DC on

I agree with Doris but just wanted to add that all of my friends that have held back their kids in kinder b/c of social maturity/young age issues etc., not one of them has regretted it.

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answers from Los Angeles on

Before making the decision, I think you need to find out more about the new kindergarten teacher that she would potentially have next year. Find out whether she will actively prepare your daughter for first grade the way the current teacher would, or if it really would be a year of playdoh and paints. If it is the active prep, you'll feel a lot better about holding her.

Normally, I am very opposed to people who hold their children back. However, your daughter is exactly the type of child that I really do think could benefit from another year in kinder (and trust me, it is rare that I think kids should be held). The main reason I think it is because it will give you a chance to really focus on the other language. She'll be surrounded by it in school, so she'll hear it more both in a social and an academic way. You can also work on it a lot more at home. I think she would really benefit from being read to in the other language - reading is a great way to introduce them to new words and ideas. Plus, it might make her feel more comfortable in a school setting if she's used to reading books in that language.

If you decide to move her forward, I would find an intensive language program to put her in for the summer. I also think that getting her evaluated for a word recall problem is a good idea, as it will give you a chance to get tips and strategies to help her work with it.

I think you are very lucky that her current teacher is involved and taking an active role in helping you evaluate her strengths and weaknesses.

I have no doubts that your daughter is a smart girl and I really think the struggles are language-related. Do all that you can to improve the language and I think you'll see a big change.

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answers from Phoenix on

You know your child better than any teacher. Trust your gut, it doesn't lie. What do you feel will best support her future? The implications aren't as massive as you think. Take a deep breath. Your baby needs YOU. Not someone who says they know what your baby needs. NOBODY knows your child better than you. Believe in yourself! Stand for your child. You are the only one that will. The teacher stands for the school. Hope that's not too harsh?

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answers from Columbus on

I was in a similar situation with my son. He needed speech therapy and went to pre-school for one year; everyone suggested another year because they really didn't think he was ready for Kindergarten and I'm glad I listened to the professionals. He did one more year of pre-school (altho, it was considered more of a pre-Kindergarten), then Kindergarten - I'm glad we went that route because everything turned out great. That extra year in pre-school really did help.

If I were you, since the professionals all say hold her back, I would. BUT, I would also speak to the principal and find out what the curriculum will be and voice your concerns. They may suggest a tutor and they may even be able to provide one. Also, can you work with her at home? I didn't rely completely on the school for my son's speech therapy or other learning - we always worked with him at home as well. Then when it was time for First Grade, he was definitely ready.

As for being seven in First Grade, don't worry about it. My son was always one of the oldest; but my daughter was always one of the youngest and they've both done fine. Also, I've volunteered in the Kindergarten classes for many years - some of those kids really should have been held back; they were not ready at all!!!

Good luck!!

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answers from Cincinnati on

My son is bilingual. I speak English with him, while his father speaks Japanese. My husband is Japanese, and we currently live in Japan. In Japan, kindergarten is not required. That said, most Japanese families send their kids to kindergarten for 2-3 years. First year- child turns 4 years old. Second year-child turns 5. Third year- child turns 6 during the course of the school year. All children are required to start first grade elementary school the year they will turn 7 years old.

We decided to only send our son to the third year of kindergarten. I started teaching him the alphabet, reading, and writing from when he turned 4 years old. He is currently 5, and will turn 6 during this school year. He started kindergarten two weeks ago. He has naturally favored English up until this point. My husband and I speak to each other in English at home, but only use our native languages with our son. We sometimes speak to each other in Japanese if we are outside, but still only use our native languages with our son.

My son attended Sunday school for three years, every Sunday. The teachers for the first hour of his Sunday school class could only speak Japanese, but there are a couple of teachers in the second hour that can speak English. My son was usually very quiet during the first hour, but would talk if called upon in the second hour. I asked him why he didn't try during the first hour to speak more. He said that he could understand his teacher, but she couldn't understand him when he answered. This is very normal in bilingual children. They will favor the language that is more useful for them in the beginning. This year, my son decided on his own that he would try to speak more Japanese at church. I thought he would start using code-mixing (complete sentences mixing both languages: Dinosaurs ski desu. I like dinosaurs.) Instead of that he just uttered the words he knew in Japanese, much the way a two year old does. He is 5 years old. It surprised me a bit, but when I asked him he said that it was a waste of time to say a word the person didn't understand anyway. My son can tell who speaks which language and how well they understand the other language, and makes adjustments accordingly. He does use code-mixing with any people who are basically fluent in both languages and don't care about switching between them.

About a month ago, my son came bursting into our bedroom at 5 am on a Saturday morning. He totally caught my attention, and I am not a morning person at all. He started talking with my husband in complete Japanese. Not a single word in English. The grammar was pretty accurate as well for a five year old. I pointed out to him that he used only Japanese. His response, "Of course, mom. I am fluent after all. This is Japan." My point is that with bilingual children you don't need to rush them with that second language when they are starting so young and there is a natural need for that language.

Most of the bilingual children that I know all became fluent in speaking both languages at some point between the ages of 5-7 years old. How is your daughter's ability in English? Does she seem behind in speaking and comprehending English? If she does, then I might consider holding her back. If her English is fine, and it is just the second language that she is struggling with then I would let her move forward a year, but get some added help with the language. Again, I wouldn't worry so much about that second language. If the need for speaking becomes greater, it will come naturally. Another thing to consider, will you be staying in your current country for longer than a few years? If not and your daughter doesn't have any struggles with English, I would probably let her move ahead so that her age would match the kids back in the States grade wise.

There was one case with a little boy at my church. His family was from Brazil, yet there were also Japanese family members. This little boy spoke Portugese fine, but was very shy about using Japanese at all. When he was 6, the ladies at church strongly urged his parents to keep him back a year and not let him go ahead to first grade. The family ended up moving back to Brazil for a year. When the kid came back a year later, he was fluent in both Portugese and Japanese. He was also learning English. He was a late bloomer with the language, hitting fluency in both at 7 years old. Don't worry so much about that second language. It comes naturally when the need is there. If you pressure your daughter too much, she might decide to not speak on purpose. That also happened with the daughter of a friend. (Japanese/Canadian family) The girl never uttered a word in English to me until she was 8 and her family moved back to Canada.

My advice for you is to learn a little more about how bilingual children learn languages. Think about the long term as to where you are likely to be living and your daughter attending school. Consider how she communicates and speaks in her favored language first. Is it fears of the school about their being able to communicate with her? I don't know which country you are living in, but many Japanese people are terrified to have to speak English, nevermind that they spend many years studying the language in school. If it were me, the only way I might consider holding her back would be if she was also struggling with English. Hope that helps.

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answers from Cheyenne on

I have a few questions. I am an American living in a foreign country with a different language, and my kids are 5 and almost 7, so we've been through something similar and I have done some research on this.
First, you said you and your husband both speak English at home. Did she have anywhere else where she learned the native language before she started school? A preschool, daycare, some sort of program for music or a playgroup?
Second, is your daughter's ONLY issue for being held back the language, or does she have other developmental delays? (Motor skills, emotional issues, Lower IQ)
Does the school offer a tutor or other resources to help with language?

The reason I ask: Research shows that children who grow up bilingual appear to have a delay in their early years at school, but will catch up relatively quickly and in their later Elementary years and the rest of the way through, they will actually have an advantage over their peers. The part of the brain that is stimulated by learning languages actually becomes stronger in bilingual's like a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it gets. So while her vocabulary and skills in the one language are limited at the beginning, she actually has a larger overall vocabulary, because that's not the only language she has a vocabulary in. I'm guessing that they don't test her English vocabulary. They didn't with my kids. But as she gets older and learns more, that part of the brain develops more, and it also helps in other areas later on. Kids who are bilingual do better later on in math and science, too. And for some reason, being bilingual seems to somehow work against dementia later in life. But for now, the good news is she can catch up fast and it will help her in the long run to have both languages. So if she DOESN'T have anywhere else where she gets the native language spoken, you might consider signing her up for something to stimulate that and get her interested and wanting to learn the art class, or music program....something fun where she's getting the language without realizing she's getting it.
If her only issue is the language, I wouldn't hold her back. She WILL catch up, and the problem with holding kids back is that they get bored. At a certain point they are ready to learn things like the math and reading etc...and keeping them back could actually work against it. Imagine having to go back to school to learn basic things that you already know...BORING. My son is 5 and is reading and doing math, neither of which he gets at school. He has no patience for cut and paste, paint and color, bla bla bla and his teachers say he is easily distracted. Well duh...if someone was making YOU do that, you'd look for distractions, too! But if he had to go back to kindergarten next year, the only thing he'd learn would be to hate school. My daughter's teachers wanted her to go to a special class that was oriented around language and learning to read. We signed her up, thinking it certainly couldn't HURT her...the results? She was bored out of her mind, hated going, the teacher didn't know what to do with her because she was already giving her more difficult work than the other kids were doing and she would finish it faster than the others...she ended up only going for the first half of the year when the teachers decided she didn't need it, so they pulled her out. One year later, she's tested in the top 20% of kids nationwide on Math and reading, she reads 2 grade levels above her own age group...she still has a SLIGHT delay with vocab, but she started off in kindergarten scoring in the lowest 10% and now in first grade she's just barely below average and her teachers said they don't even understand why she tested so low because they don't notice a problem at all. If your daughter has other problems that would hold her back, then consider that, but if it's JUST language, my kids are proof that you don't need to worry about that and you don't want her to get bored. She can get extra help with the language in other ways. And if she struggles next year in 1st grade, you can always make the decision to let her do it over. I have a wonderful article outlining all the benefits of bilingual children, but it wouldn't help you much unless you speak Dutch.

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answers from Oklahoma City on

Don't hold her back. She's likely bored with play-doh and finger paints and will only get more bored with it another year.

Keep her with kids her age and send her to first grade. How are you going to feel when she's a junior at 18 and decides she's done with school and stops going? It's possible. She'll also be dating adults when she's in highschool, she might be old enough but if she's with 16 year old kids in her classes she's going to be mentally 16 instead.

I would never keep a child in kindergarten no matter what the teachers said. I would always let the child go into first. IF there is a problem in first then I would consider holding them back instead of second grade but I would NEVER put a child back in kindergarten at all.

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answers from Phoenix on

I would not hold her back. I would get her help with country's language and go from there. Since her issues can be fixed with a little help and don't necessarily have to do with social/maturity issues, I would also push her forward.

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answers from Hartford on

If your daughter's main issue is that she doesn't understand the native language, and that's the language being spoken in the kindergarten, then why doesn't she have a language tutor? Your daughter does need to continue using English but she also needs to be immersed in the native language. It doesn't sound like a speech issue so much as a comprehension issue.

That all said, if there's a summer school program she can attend while also taking language classes then I would not hold her back.

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answers from Dallas on

Seriously? Your K is just play dough and finger paints?

Our K is introducing core concepts, keyboarding, hands on projects and activities.

If your K is that simplistic.... work with her over the summer and send her to 1st grade. It could be that she does not fully get the other language but with practice over the summer with some good programs, she can improve.

Just make sure you do work with her over the summer for enrichment and not let her lag behind due to summer break.

Ask to see the curriculum that is proposed for a possible hold back for K and for 1st grade.

Good luck.

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answers from Portland on

My advice would be to consult with a tutor before making any major decisions. Have your daughter evaluated and see what sort of feedback you get from the tutor. Sure, they'll likely recommend lessons, but how much? Does the tutor feel like they might be able to bring your girl up to speed?

I will also say that if you had no other issues with your daughter's teacher, try to take her recommendation at face value. In regard to maturity... talk again to the school psychologist about your concerns regarding the newly-proposed Kindergarten teacher (The one who was switched in to replace the 'great prep' one). Does the psychologist think this would be a good match? Are there any other factors you haven't mentioned, like behavior in class or ability to move along with the group/follow instruction? I do think that for kids, an extra year of a lighter curriculum is not a 'waste'.. there is value in the activities you describe (art, fine motor coordination, etc.)

I will also say that my son is buddies with a boy in his kindergarten class who will be seven this summer. That boy is one of the nicest kids, I enjoy him so much and that teeny bit of extra maturity has been a good influence on my son. So, there is something to be said by not pushing or hurrying our children if they just aren't 'there' yet.

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answers from Detroit on

how long are you going to be in this country..? are you going to move back to the us where she can speak English and go to school in an English speaking school?

I would let her advance but get her extra help. a language tutor? pay for private tutoring and private testing to see where she is academically.

the studies show that holding kids back does not help them. it is so damaging to their self esteem that it is a negative.. if she needs extra help get her help. but another year of athe same lessons will not help her learn them.



answers from Dallas on

My biggest question is how long will you be living over there? If it's goign to be quit a while you might want to hold her back because not grasping the native language could hinder her from learning all she needs to learn. But if you don't feel right holding her back move her up and revisit it next year. We didn't hold my son back till 2nd and have had no issues with his adjustment to it at all. It's the best thing we could do for him. Good luck!!!



answers from Salt Lake City on

I will not write a long story, but I have to say while being in the military with our travels over the last 28 years, we have been in and out of a lot of schools. Every where is different. There is NO WAY I would hold her back. It would be better for her to move up with her friends and save her wonder of why she is not going to first grade like the others. She will do GREAT catching up in first grade and staying with her class, then to go backwards and start over a whole year.



answers from Great Falls on

Without addressing any of the school/teacher issues, I just have to say: If you have ANY doubts on her readiness to move on, don't push her. No one cares if a child repeats Kindergarten. If that child is held back at a later date or proceeds to struggle through school, though, it creates a much bigger, more upsetting stigma for him/her.

I debated whether to send my barely 5 year old to Kindergarten. I finally decided to wait and I am SO happy I did. He will be totally ready next year, rather than struggling. He was bummed at first as his whole preschool class was moving on to Kindergarten, but I know this will benefit him in the long run. He made new friends in preschool this year and none of his preschool or kindergarten friends care that he is repeating preschool.

Some things teachers pointed out to me:
-He'll be bigger and better at athletics (I couldn't care less, though! I think school should be about academics...)
-He'll be more mature in middle and high school. More willing to stand up for his beliefs and be a leader, and hopefully less of a people-pleasing follower
-He'll be older and more mature when he graduates. Hopefully this will benefit him when thinking of college and a career

It's so hard, isn't it? We want to do what's right for our kids, but sometimes it's difficult to determine what that right thing is. Good luck with your decision!


answers from St. Louis on

I wouldn't hold her back. Here is why, she doesn't fully understand the language (instructions) she probably does know how to do whatever she is being taught.

When she does get the language she is going to be bored to tears in school. That is a recipe for disaster. Instead of holding her back see if the school can provide you, or give you a list of, language tutors. They can go over her homework with her, bridge the language gap.

Next question: Learning Two Languages.