The Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go” has been on repeat in my brain. Oh so much more than an earworm. It’s been a constant back and forth, back and forth since Peanut was three and started preschool.
Should he start kindergarten when he was eligible in 2011 or should we hold him back until the 2012 school year?
His birthday is August 10th and in these parts, his birthday consistently lands during the first week of school. Technically, a child need only be 5 on or before September 1st. Peanut meets this requirement by a couple of weeks. But this year, school starts on August 8th. He would be 4 when school starts. It just didn’t sit right with me.
And, then, I read “Outliers.” Yikes!
It’s not uncommon for folks, especially where we live, to keep their barely five year olds out of kindergarten for a year. Yet still, I waffled. Peanut is academically ready for school. He has a natural interest in letters and numbers and excels in this area. I have no doubt in my mind that he’ll be reading before he sets foot in our school’s primary center if we hold him out a year. We haven’t pushed him in this area, we simply followed the lead on his interests and here we are. Maybe we should send him so he can continue to be challenged? Would he be bored with another year of preschool? He should definitely go to kindergarten.
But socially? Emotionally? Well, that’s another story. This kid is nowhere near ready. He’s not bad. He’s not a disruptive student. He’s simply him – a four year old boy. He focuses when he needs to, but in the downtime between tasks or while walking down the hall, he’s all over the place – along with most of the other boys in his class. He’s fidgety and doesn’t always want to wait his turn, especially when he knows the right answer. He likes to try to tell other students how to do a project. He should definitely not go to kindergarten.
Yes, he’s confident, and I love that about him. He’s naturally curious and quickly grasps new concepts. But what if we send him and his inability to sit still makes him a discipline problem? Would this stifle his curiosity? Would this bias a teacher negatively towards him? Would he be able to make friends with students who are older than him, or will they bypass him for slightly more mature play mates? And what about when he’s in older grades and barely 14 going into high school?
Ironically, one of the first projects I did for the PR firm I worked for was a story for the National Institutes of Mental Health on whether children were socially and emotionally ready for school. I love it when my working life and my mothering life intersect in such a concrete way.
Our parental instincts, our son’s preschool teacher recommendations, my educator aunt’s perspective and my experience with the NIMH report all pointed us in one direction: we are holding Peanut out of kindergarten this fall. He, and most of his summer birthday preschool classmates, will attend a special pre-K class designed for these older kids at his preschool. He’s got the rest of his life to spend in school, what’s one more year of preschool and afternoons of playtime?
Do I still wonder if maybe he would do okay in kindergarten next year? Sure. Do I think we’re making the right decision anyway? Definitely.