Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Mom Was Right

Back in the 1960's, most of the children I knew went to school when they were six-years-old, first grade. A few of us attended kindergarten, which was not part of the public schools, at five. I have a February birthday, so there was never any question about me, but when it came time for my younger brother to start, my mother, quite controversially, decided to "hold him back" a year. Today, this is a common practice, but at the time it was a fairly radical notion. It all made perfect sense to me as an older brother. She said she thought it would be better for him to be one of the oldest children in his class rather than one of the youngest.

I don't think either she or my brother ever regretted that decision. When my own daughter began to approach school age, I asked mom about it. She said, "Once your children have left home, they're gone forever. I think it's best to keep them with you as long as you can." This is the advice I give the parents at Woodland Park when they ask me to weigh in on the issue of "red shirting," a practice that is much more common today, albeit still controversial.

Of course, there are a host of pedagogical and developmental reasons for waiting a year and every child and family is different, but when it comes right down to it, I have no problem with placing the emotional one ahead of the others, but to each his own. This is a decision best made by parents, although I will point out that in the US, at least, the curriculum being pursued in our public school kindergartens much more closely resembles what we were doing in first of even second grade back in the 1960's.

At the same time, we've seen an explosion of very young children being diagnosed with "disorders" and conditions that impact what we call self-regulation or self-control, ranging from struggles with inattention and hyperactivity right through ADHD and related things. It has become such a "problem" that in some age groups nearly 10 percent have been labeled with a diagnosis and close to 5 percent nationwide are on medications designed to control it (in some parts of the country the prescription of medications is close to 10 percent of the entire population of boys enrolled in public schools).

Of course, many of us teaching in the early years say that this explosion is really just an indictment of a school system that is increasingly forcing young children into developmentally inappropriate situations, that it is unhealthy to expect even children who appear to "handle it" to be to sit at desks and focus on directive tasks for so much of their days.

A recent Stanford University study seems to support this point of view:

According to the study . . . children who started kindergarten a year later showed significantly lower levels of inattention and hyperactivity, which are jointly considered a key indicator of self regulation. The beneficial result was found to persist even at age 11.

 In other words, mom was right.


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Anna said...

Barbara Zaborowski said...

We went through this with my daughter, who has a September birthday (5 by Sept. 1 is the cut-off here in Arizona.)She was tall; she was out-going; she was reading. Our pediatrician wanted us to get her tested and put into kindergarten early. We didn't and I spent her whole senior year thinking "She'd be gone already!" Why would you want your child gone a year early?

Sheri said...

If I knew then what I know now, I would have held my November baby back a year before starting her in kindergarten at age 4. (Our cut off is 12/1.)

Uba Babs said...

I think it is good at times for someone to delay his or her child a bit late to starting school,though,it depends on the nature or ability of such a child to cope because,we have individual differences.

Dave said...

The quote from the Stanford study made me wonder. Redshirting is a luxury -- parents who are struggling to pay for daycare probably don't have a choice but to get their child into public school as soon as possible.

So then, if students who are held back perform better, how much is because they were held back, and how much is because they come from a family that can afford that luxury and where the parents are conscientious enough of education that they know the choice is available to them?

Either way, it's still Monday morning quarterbacking. I can't fault any parent for making the best decision possible at the moment they need to make it.