I mentioned last month that Colin is done with his ABA school and is in regular preschool now five days a week. This has been a big transition, but we’re preparing for an even bigger transition next year: kindergarten.
Only we’re not sure if we should send him to kindergarten… The cut off date for kindergarten is September 1st. Colin turns five on July 9th. The trend these days seems to be to hold kids back who have summer birthdays, especially boys. 60 Minutes even did a special on it earlier this year:
It’s called “redshirting”: holding your 5-year-old back from kindergarten ’til he’s 6 so he’ll be among the oldest and smartest kids in class. Parents of a 5-year-old with a late birthday despair that little Johnny will forever be a failure if he has to compete with kids six or eight months older so they put the fix in; hold him back a year so he has the edge in class and ultimately an edge in life…
It used to be that everyone started kindergarten at age 5. Today nearly a quarter of some kindergarten classrooms are populated by 6-year-olds. Kindergarten redshirting has more than tripled since the 1970s. Boys are twice as likely to be held back as girls, whites more than minorities and rich more than poor.
In Colin’s case though, we are getting some mixed advice. Because Colin has an IEP, our township strongly suggests we send him on time. They say that it would be better for him to model older peers instead of younger ones.They warn that if he ever had to repeat a grade, he would end up being much older than other kids in his class. There is also some research that shows kids who have been redshirted are more likely to drop out (though others point out this may only be true because 18-year-olds can drop out without their parents’ consent).
We asked Noah and Zoe’s kindergarten teacher what she thinks. While she would not come out and tell us to hold him back, she suggested we think about what things would look like for Colin in high school. If we send him on time, he would be the last one to get his license. He might not start dating as early. He might be smaller and therefore not as competitive in sports (and we DO really hope that sports will be an outlet for him).
His preschool teachers say there are no “red flags” to make them think Colin would not be ready for kindergarten next year. He recognizes letter sounds, numbers, shapes, etc, and understands classroom rules. However, saying that he could go is not the same thing as saying he should go. They are only saying he could go.
Most parents who are redshirting are doing so with typical kids. Since Colin may have some challenges, would we be doing him a disservice by sending him on time, making it even MORE difficult on him?
We have come up with three options: 1. Send him to the preschool Explorers class, 2. Send him to kindergarten the “normal” way, or 3. Send him to kindergarten with the intention of sending him twice.
Sending him to the Explorers class:
Colin is in the Fours class this year, and he can go on to Explorers. Although most kids in Explorers are those who did not make the kindergarten cut off, several are kids whose parents are holding them back, so he would have some same-age peers. In fact, this class usually has many more boys than girls since boys are more likely to be held back. When Zoe was in the class last year, there were five girls and ten boys.
With this plan, he gets to be a little kid for another year. He’s been in pretty intense ABA therapy since he was two, so maybe it would be good for him to have a “play” year? On the other hand, what if he regresses during that “play” year and loses some of what he gained from ABA?
I’m pretty certain he will need ADHD medication once he starts kindergarten. We tried medication earlier this year, and it worked well, but there were side effects. It was a patch and it irritated his skin. It also suppressed his appetite and he lost a few pounds. If he stayed in preschool, we could definitely keep him off medication for another year. (Obviously we will only do medication when it is necessary, so it is possible he could go to kindergarten without it. It’s just that I know for sure he could do preschool without it.)
The schedule is not ideal. Preschool is from 9am-2pm. Noah and Zoe are in school from 8:30am-3:30pm. It would be really nice to have them all on the same schedule, especially since they have been in three different schools for the past couple years. Also, right now he has speech and other services separately. I take him to a 90 minute speech and language group every Wednesday. If he were in kindergarten, he would get services during school and we would not have the extra weekly appointment. All of this would really help with my work schedule. Of course, we won’t do something that’s not right for Colin just because it’s convenient, but it all makes the preschool option less appealing.
Sending him to kindergarten the “normal” way:
If he starts kindergarten, the schedule will be better, he will get services at school , and he will be able to model older peers. We will have a bit of a buffer if he has to repeat a grade later. He will be challenged, and we won’t have to worry as much about him regressing (although he will be in a class of 25 kids instead of working one-on-one with a therapist like he did in ABA).
On the other hand, he is not as mature as some kids his age and I don’t want that to make things hard for him – now or in high school.
Sending him to kindergarten with the intention of doing it twice:
This has all of the advantages of sending him to kindergarten, but also means that things might look better for him in high school (driving, dating, sports, etc). And, this leaves our options a bit more open. If he excels and at the end of the year and everyone agrees he should go on, we can send him to first grade. If he still needs to catch up to his peers, he can do kindergarten again.
I have asked the principal if we would have the option of holding him back. (It was important to this plan that we have that choice.) While she didn’t promise anything, she said they have much more flexibility in a case where the parent wants to hold a child back and the school thinks the child is ready than they do when the school wants to hold the child back but the parent thinks the child is ready.
One concern here is that we’ve heard it can be socially difficult for a child to do kindergarten twice in the same school. However, in our part of the township, there are two schools. We’ll call them School A and School B. While our school is School A, all kindergarteners from the School A and School B areas go to School B. At the end of the year, half of the kids go to School A and half to School B. The whole class does not move on to first grade together, which might make this easier. There are eight kindergarten classes, so he would definitely be able to be in a new class. Besides, I really don’t think Colin would care. He just doesn’t have that kind of personality. I think he would be OK with making new friends. He also has a cousin who is doing this, so there is a precedent. We can just say he’s doing kindergarten twice like his cousin because they both have summer birthdays.
There is a charter school near us that we’re investigating. (We were also looking at Catholic school, but we have ruled that out. They don’t recommend sending kids born after May.) There is no guarantee that Colin would get in since they work on a lottery system, but if he did get in, he could do one year of kindergarten there and then go to kindergarten at School B (or he could go to School A for first grade if we decided he was ready). We would have to provide transportation (and Colin would be disappointed that he wouldn’t be riding the bus), but it’s workable.
Noah was born in January and Zoe was born in November. That was so much easier! We didn’t have to worry about this!