Let me begin this article by telling all the moms out there whose children are the youngest and who are very successful and have never struggled that this article is NOT FOR YOU!
However, let me also tell those moms that as a younger child myself, and a teacher (both in the classroom and privately) of many many many younger children who struggle, consider yourself blessed because this doesn’t happen often.
“My child is about to start school and their birthday is in the Summer. Should I hold them back?”
You have no idea how many times I had friends and family ask me this question, and almost every time I said YES!!! If you have this doubt, then you should definitely hold them back. I am going to tell you my reasons why, but first I want to tell you my story
My birthday is in September. Which means, I would have been the oldest in my class. When I entered Kindergarten, I was a reader. As in, I already knew how to read mini chapter books. I was evaluated and the results came back that I was gifted.
At the time, the solution my school had for me was to take me out of my Kindergarten class after a little while of being there and move me to a First grade class. Folks, I did not complete Kindergarten. I went straight to first. But now, I was no longer the oldest, I was the youngest in my class. I had the mental capacity to be in First Grade. I was probably even more advanced than some of the kids in my class. But, was I emotionally ready for it? Probably not. I don’t remember many things about my childhood, but I remember vividly the day I was taken out of Mrs. Morales’s class and placed in Mrs. Hobb’s class.
Imagine how much emotion was attached to that day, that I still remember it vividly. I remember the walk to the first grade class, the way it smelled, the lights. And if I really think about it, my memories of my Kindergarten class were bright and colorful, and first grade is yellow and dim. I remember longing to be in Kindergarten and seeing the classroom everyday as it was a separate building adjacent to the PE courts.
Throughout my career as a student, I was somewhere in the middle. Sometimes the higher middle, sometimes the lower middle. I had the capacity to get A’s, but I was getting C’s. A lot of times, I was a discipline problem because I talked too much. I chose not to be in gifted, and frankly thank goodness I did, because I wouldn’t have survived.
Socially, as the years passed I remember being bothered by always being the last one to achieve all the age milestones. And by a lot. Looking back I realize that had I been left in my Kindergarten class, my outcome may have been a different one. Why? Because despite my learning intelligence being above average, my social intelligence was not, and in turn I suffered in my career as a student. Everything I gained in moving up a grade was lost because I was not ready for it.
I have found in my years of teaching that if a parent has a doubt about holding their child back, then they absolutely 100% without a doubt should do it. I have had parents whose child is the youngest and was probably one of the quickest and brightest in the class, and for that child retention is not a good idea. However, I have also had the parent whose child is verbally quite advanced, and who could possibly read before Kindergarten, and yet they struggle every day because emotionally they are not ready.
One of my largest demographics in my tutoring service are boys who are struggling with keeping up in their class and they are being misdiagnosed with ADHD because they are exhibiting the same symptoms. The Washington Post published an article that states that according to a study conducted in States that have a September 1st school cutoff date, children whose birthdays fall in August and therefore are the youngest in the class were 34% more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD. (You can click and read the article at the end of this one)
Now my question is: Do in fact these children have ADHD or were they just not ready to learn the foundations of reading and math, and are now reaping the consequences of learning gaps in their foundation?
From what I have researched with my own students, I find that do not have ADHD, but are exhibiting very similar symptoms and this is because they are frustrated and anxious that they can’t keep up.Can you for one minute place yourself in a situation where you understood most but not all of a topic. Say you are attending a conference where doctors are discussing the procedures they use to perform a surgery, but you are not a doctor. How would you feel? What would you do? I can probably say that I would take out my phone and find a way to distract myself. Or I would become frustrated to be wasting my time with something I didn’t understand.
Let me give you an example. I have a male who we will call Tom. Tom is in 2nd grade, and has a June birthday. Tom is having a real hard time keeping up in school, especially in Language Arts. He strives beautifully in Math.
Tom’s mom came to me very frustrated because he was not producing any work. He was avoidant of all tasks that involved reading, comprehension, writing and spelling. His teacher is fed up (with reason) because he cannot produce, and she is recommending him to be evaluated for ADHD. He is inattentive, he does not sit still, he cannot produce an assignment, and he gets overwhelmed with his assignments.
When I evaluated Tom, I realized that he does not know how to differentiate his long and short vowels, he doesn’t differentiate his consonant blends (sh, th, wh, ch, sp, sk, st, cr, dr, fl, etc), and he has no idea what an r-controlled vowel (AKA the “bossy vowel” -ar, -or, -er) sound makes. When he gets a reading assignment, it is extremely difficult for him to read it because his fluency is very slow. I have been re-teaching these concepts to him and his fluency has increased. Tom should have been held back in Kindergarten or First Grade because his window of literacy was not open and ready to learn and now he is struggling to keep up.
There is a silver lining. With the proper re-training your child can get back on track. You can help your child fill in those gaps they have and your child will catch up. I know that while you are in the thick of it, it is very frustrating. Yet, I have seen success story after success story when the child’s brain is re-trained to learn the things they missed.
If you are a parent of a younger child in Pre-K, Kindergarten and First Grade, and you have the doubt of whether or not your child will succeed better if you retain, DO IT!! I promise you won’t lose anything by doing it. On the contrary, you will set your child up for amazing success.
Washington Post Article:
A mom of 2 beautiful children, 2 amazing step-kids and I have a wonderful and amazing partner who is my number one fan. I am a teacher with 15 years of experience. I have a Masters Degree that helps me create the tools I need to tailor education for children who learn differently. I know the struggle of working full time and coming home exhausted to continue part 2 of your day. Your child’s success in school is tied to the tools you give them at home. Let me give you the keys you need to unlock success for your children at school.