Sunday, May 02, 2010

Eating my words about red-shirting (at least they're fat-free)

This week is kindergarten round-up at the elementary school across the street.

Sage is eligible. She turns 5 in September, and the cut-off in California is the first week in December.

But after a LOT of thought, a lot of evaluations and a lot of cursing my position as a grown-up having to make tough calls, I decided to give her what is known as the "bonus year."

That's right. We're red-shirting her. She's going to pre-K.

Even typing these words are difficult. I just hate that I have to make a decision like this, that other parents' decisions are influencing mine.

And yet.

blogged about this topic two years ago. I'd never heard of kids being held back. It just wasn't done when I was growing up back East. My Dec. 31st birthday was also the cutoff date. I was the youngest in my class, starting kindergarten at 4, graduating high school at 17 and starting college three months before my 18th birthday.

When I wrote that post, Sawyer was just getting ready to go to pre-K. He did great there, and I was really glad he missed the cutoff date for kindergarten so I didn't have to make a decision.

I still believe that if a child's ready, she's ready. The problem is, I'm not exactly sure what ready IS these days.

This is not her parents' kindergarten. It's first grade now, people. And it's full of first-graders.

Let me explain.

Many parents out here in The OC hold their kids with fall birthdays back a year from entering kindergarten. Some even hold them if they're born in the summer. Or May. So you have kids who are a year older - or more - than others in the same class. They're held for many reasons: maturity being the main one.

Kindergarten is also more academically demanding then it was when we went. If you're not reading, you're already behind.

I thought for sure I'd send Sage to kindergarten when her time came. She's a girl. She's a second child. She's tall and physically coordinated. She's smart and is starting to read. She does dance class with kids who are all 4-9 months older than her, but you wouldn't know she was the youngest.

David and I have gone back and forth, agonizing over what to do. Yes, it's only kindergarten, but it's the start of a long time in school. What's the best way for her to begin?

I decided to have her evaluated by a company in the county which specializes in kindergarten readiness. We went back in February, when Sage was 4 years, 5 months old. She didn't know why we were going, other than a lady was going to ask her some questions.

I sat in the next room and listened during the interview. I heard Sage ask if there was water so she could have a drink. I heard the woman ask her to pay attention. More than once.

It lasted about half and hour. They came out, and the woman commented that Sage seemed like a "young" 4 1/2. Apparently, one person's "young" is another person's "dramatic."

I received the official evaluation in the mail. It is done by age, and she was above age - in some areas by more than a year - in everything but two things, where she was marked at 4 yrs, 6 months. And based on that, she was deemed "not ready," because they want everything to be at least 4 yrs, 9 months.

I called for a consultation. I spoke to one of the owners, who does not do the actual interview, but reads the notes and makes her evaluation. Basically, after we talked for awhile, she said she thought Sage would be fine if she went, that she believes Sage is probably gifted. BUT she thinks that if she got an extra year for her maturity to catch up with her academic ability? She'd be a leader.

This is kind of what David and I had talked about. Do we want her to go this year and do fine? Or do we want her to kick ass? A little more confidence could go a LONG way.

Of course, her preschool teacher gave her a glowing evaluation. Sage does really well there. She can sit in circle time and participate, she "uses her words" with her friends, she gets along with everyone.

So then we started thinking that we WOULD send her. Clearly the teacher has a better idea of how Sage is than someone who meets her for 30 minutes - or someone who just reads about her. Still, I've noticed that Sage tends to hang back a little in a group. She also can be super-sensitive - and we all know how mean girls can be. Could she be better prepared with an extra year?

My last "official"  conversation was with the pre-K teacher. She's taught the program for more than 10 years. She said she'd never had a child who she thought should've been in kindergarten instead. She told me about another mom who was on the fence like I am and decided to hold her daughter. The girl is now in the gifted program in second grade.


I also thought about my own experience. I loved being the youngest in my class (except the part about not getting my drivers license until the second half of my junior year). But now, I wonder. I never felt like I exactly fit in. I was socially a little behind. I always seem to hang out with younger kids.

I mean, I have an older sister and brother, so it wasn't like I didn't know how to behave around older kids. It just didn't translate to being confident among my own peers. And I didn't have the issue of having kids more than a year older than me in class like Sage would. I wasn't competing to get into college against those older kids: most states have a Sept. 1 cutoff (if they had that cutoff date here, I guarantee you'd see kids held with January birthdays) so if we lived in, say, Florida, this wouldn't even be an issue.

I know other kids with similar birthdays who are going to kindergarten.

Of course, I can't compare Sage to anyone else - including her mother.

She is her own girl.

I can only try to do what I think is the best for her (and it's not the best for ME, let me tell you, I could use a year or two off from paying for preschool!).  I'm thinking it's one of those things where we might regret sending her, but we won't reget holding her.

Besides, I can still change my mind. But I won't. I don't think.

Where's the grownup when I need one?


Salt said...

I have never heard of a cut-off age being so early either. I always thought it was late December. (Then again, I'm also on the east coast.) I think it sounds like you put a lot of thought into your decision though. And yes you still have time to take it back, but I think you have good reasoning in place here. I think you would honestly be doing her a favor to not have her under more pressure before you're sure she's completely ready for it.

If I were in your shoes, I think I'd do the same thing.

Amy said...

Cheryl ... Here in Minnesota, the decision was taken away from me. Like you, I graduated at 17 and didn't turn 18 until September, when I was already in college. My girls will turn 5 on September 27 ... a meager two weeks after the cutoff for starting Kindergarten ... so they will be in pre-K one more year. Most mothers here do not think twice about it, they think this extra year is wonderful and I have mom friends who are holding back their kids from kindergarten when they turn five this summer ... just because it is close to the start of school.

They think starting young is horrid ... since I did it when I was kid, I do not get it ... like you ... but like I said ... no decision for me as it is the State mandate. I could fight it, but really, I hear that is next to impossible, so I will take the extra year and hope I get a leader or two out of it as well ... ((Hugs))

Candice said...

I grew up here and always thought if I had a December baby I'd keep them back to be the oldest in the class. Now with red shirting I think that it's even more important to do that for my December baby. E is actually 4 days after the cut-off, so if I wanted to I could make a big stink, but NO WAY!!!! E will 5.5 when he goes to K in Fall '11. The good thing is that J and E will be 2 years apart in school, which I think will be good for them to get their own identities. J is an end of June baby, and we sent him to K right after his 5th b-day. He was more then ready, so each child is different. I think that everyone making the choice either way does so with the best interests of their children. We do the best we can. You are doing the best thing for Sage.

Cheryl D. said...

It's definitely better to to give her the gift of the extra year. My daughter is in kindergarten this year. It's really tough! I'm totally floored by the things they are exposed to. My daughter is a January birthday, so we knew she'd be one of the older kids in her class. My daughter is very advanced academically, but has autism, so socially she's behind.

She does love kindergarten and prefers it to preschool. However, she is bored during some parts of it. (I kinda joke that your kid needs to have autism to keep up with the subject matter!). If your daughter is beginning to read, she might also be bored next year by the reading lessons. Just something to think about.

Sorry if I'm just muddying up the water!

kirsten said...

to quote the Little Einsteins, I CANNOT BELIEVE IT! This exact sort of post is my queue for this week - only, I haven't posted because I still haven't decided what to do.

In my case, I've got a boy (long dramatic pause) with a March bday - way before the cutoff - and I still hesitate.

The all-day K is what kills me. It is simply contrary to a five-yr-old boy's nature to sit still for an entire day. WHY is it ok for the day to be as long for a 5th grader as it is for a 5yo??

We're not doing the all day K, this I know for sure. Just haven't figured out Plan B.

Great post!

Judy said...

As a retired teacher, I can tell you it is not rare at all for children to be red-shirted. As a fourth grade teacher, I had some who were even 'skipped' ahead due to being 'gifted'. They struggled socially. On the other hand, my daughter was in the last birth month of her grade and after a rocky start, pulled ahead. Notice...a rocky start...she had a wonderful teacher and I worked at her school, so she had some things in her favor. Very tough decision.

Dorothy said...

My birthday is Dec. 28th. I started K on the East Coast (Washingtion DC) and I think I was in a combined class of 1st and 2nd graders. Moved out of state, was put into the 2nd grade class and HATED it. I did not talk to anyone. I was teeny TINY and so shy, looking back at the class picture. I was moved back in the younger class and flourished. We didn't have that decision with my son who has a late Sept. birthday (cut off in FL is Sept. 1st). I did ask if he was ready for K this year. I have a friend who is always bragging about how socially gifted her daughter is, how they want her to skip a grade, etc. The response was they just do not do that at his private school. Sure he was reading and writing early and has a great attention span, but socially was not as confident.Plus, when boys get together, they act like boys! I also saw him taking karate with kids almost 2 years older (that were in the transitional K class) and saw how he acted around them. So if holding him back would give him the confidence he needed and better communication skills with his peers I was happy with that decision. Plus, this was the third year he spent with his pre-school friends. It's just what he needs at this age, to be young and carefree. On a side note, his teacher's son pushed her summer birthday boy for K and sure he was reading at 3 too, but says he is suffering socialy now as he gets older. When I see him on the playground, he is smaller than everyone -even the girls, and he only plays with the girls. Anyway, Cheryl, you know your child best. I know you will make the best decision for Sage.

Kelli/Plangirl said...

September 1st here in Illinois and very difficult to fight. Not that we have to worry for the moment. Will was 5-1/2 when he went and it was perfect. Ryenne will turn 5 right at the cutoff (Aug 22nd) so it will be our decision. Since we have 2 years of preschool ahead of us still, we will play it by ear. I can't believe she is starting preschool this fall and am feeling she is a bit too young so we will see how that goes... I have an August birthday and was always the youngest (since the midwest is typically 9/1) and I was super shy when I was little but "blossomed" into a leadership role in high school. Not sure if it was the age or the experience, so so hard to say.

I think In would do the same if I were in your shoes....Sage will just get even more awesome, worry not! : )

Jessica - One Shiny Star said...

I think it is great that you are being forced to think about it, how ever hard it is. As a special education teacher I have seen kids who have amazing potential, but because they don't fit in other wise, they end up with more problems then they started with. Constantly being told to "be quiet" and "sit down" and all of those other things that teachers taking care of 20 - 30 kids say can really hurt a kid's drive to learn, turning them into the student no one wants. So, if you recognize that a little bit more "maturity" will help her in the long run, you are only setting her up for a better education in the long run.

the shoafs said...

Stopping by from SITS.

Our cutoff (in Florida) is different from yours out there. My son and youngest daughter have September birthdays, which will end up making them some of the oldest in their classes when they start kindergarten (which won't be for awhile), but my oldest daughter turns five this month and will start kindergarten in the fall. I was on the fence about this a little since she'll be a bit younger than her classmates next year (but she's totally's more my not wanting to let her grow up quite so fast!), but I just got transferred to what will be her school next year, so I'm going to go ahead and let her go.

You just have to do what you feel is right for your child.....which it sounds like you're doing :)

Andrea (PARENTise) said... just gave me a lot to think about. As a late Sept. baby I too was the youngest in my class - and today - I love that all my classmates are older! However, you really make some good points - I thought we had our plan all laid out and now you're making me rethink it all...I love that you got an evaluation done - that must make it so helpful to figure out what you should do - hard data instead of just anecdotal information.

Andrea (PARENTise) said...

Oh, and the cutoff here in PA is Septmeber 1st...little one is a late Oct baby and baby girl is July - if I hold little one back - they'll only be 1 year apart in school! Craziness!

just another Belle said...

I'm a full-time nanny so I get to sit back and watch the parents make the tough decisions and see the results. In my experience, the kids who are the youngest in the grade struggle socially. They all seem to catch up academically, but that social factor really matters.

There isn't really a "right" choice for your daughter, but the fact that you are putting so much effort into your decision is commendable! Your little girl is lucky that her mom cares so much. A lot of parents just send them right off to kindergarten to get them out of the house or off the daycare bill...

stopping by from SITS :)

Anonymous said...

I was a December baby - youngest in the class too. Always shrimpy, always a bit behind socially. But the other thing you might want to take into consideration, taking the long view, is what it will be like for her if/when she is the first girl in the class to get breasts, etc. I remember how miserable some of the girls in my class were made to feel because they stood out in that way. Not an easy decision whichever way you go!

Ciaran said...

Welcome to my world where my hands are worn out from the non stop wringing! I've faced this issue w/two out of my 4 kiddos. The answer is clear. Do not have any babies btwn June and December!!!

I don't think there are any right answers at this pt. I'm happy we red shirted M - now that she is in 7th grade and NOT the youngest in her class by any stretch. She struggled with academics due to dyslexia and was mere hrs from the cut off. She could have been in 8th grade but it would have been terrible for her. At this point there are kids up to a yr older than her. Red shirting has been the norm here in CA. Another yr for her is truly a gift.

Not so for my son who's school has a June 1 deadline that is preventing him from going to 1st grade next fall, even though he's turning 6 in August and reading on a 3/4th grade level and doing 2nd grade math workbooks from his sisters, for "fun". We've been told that holding him back may make him more well rounded human, a leader. We've been quoted to from "Outliers" and if I hear that "gift of a year" phrase one more time from someone, I may smack them. True he might be more emotionally secure if he's the oldest. But he's also likely to be so bored that he'd also be making trouble and developing lazy study habits for life as he'd never be challenged.

Of course I am talking specifically about F here - not S - as our school has it's own set of issues and he has his own academic/intellectual needs which we frankly hope will even out with peers in a year or two! I commiserate with you completely though. It's never an easy decision. You will revisit it over the yrs. But I do predict you will be happy in about 7 or 8 yrs, when she is a tween/teen and you realize she is not being rushed.

Carrie said...

I don't really have the concern you do since both my girls are summer babies so easily beat the cut-offs (whatever they might be, I'm not sure)

It would be a difficult decision to make and either way has benefits. The fact that school has become so much more competative at such an early age make me glad we decided to enrol our daughter in a Montessori preschool so she would get that little bit extra before going into full time school.

Visiting from SITS

Julie said...

I've posted about this so many times I don't really have more I can say. Except that, as a teacher AND a parent who "held back", as we call it here, you SO made the right decision. Seriously. I mean, you do what's best for your child because you do know best, but err on the side of caution and let her be the oldest.

Especially, in this case, because your cut-off date is SO much later than out here, where our cut-offs are now August and September. So when its time for college, or should you ever have to move, she's in with the rest of the country.

Big is over 1 year older than some of his classmates. And it shows. But in a good way in terms of maturity and capability.

Gotta run, but here's on of my posts about it.

JoAnn said...

What's the rush? I mean, who wants to stick their kid in a class full of reading and graphs and trig and frog dissections like the kindergartens of today entail.
She'll learn more living life instead of sitting in a desk. My humble opinion.
Oh, and please don't make her color things the socially appropriate color, it will KILL her art classes in college when she is asked to paint a lady bug and she realize that lady bugs aren't really red.

Kat @ said...

Tough one! Our cut off here is Aug. 1st (wow!) and my 2nd son (Sawyer!! Nonetheless) has a JULY 16th Bday.

I considered caving into the peer pressure, but hubby wanted NOTHING to do with it. He rarely puts his foot down, but this was something he was not 'into', as Sawyer really was ready.

I still worry about him... he's not very physical, but he was beyond academically ready. In fact, although the youngest, he's at the highest reading level in his class.

I'm just scared for the older years... hope he has the confidence to soar. Only time will tell. I wish hubs was "on the fence" as I was... then it would have at least been an option.

BTW - Sage is GORGEOUS!!!

The Mayor! said...

It's always interesting to me just how different....complicated??? competitive???....the school system is in the States. Red-shirted?? It's all so straightforward here, I've never even heard of "evaluating readiness", never mind fathom a company that makes a living doing that. We don't HAVE to send ours to school until gr. 1, but have Junior & Senior, or all day or half day to choose from. I kept my son out of Junior Kindergarten, because as my first, I wasn't ready, as a boy & my first, HE wasn't ready, & we knew we'd be moving towns halfway thru & didn't want him to suffer that upset. All I did was NOT register him, then for Senior Kindergarten in our new neighbourhood, decided between the Catholic & public school, went in & signed him up. Now in grade 6, not once did I ever look back & say I regretted that choice, or that he suffered for it. My girls are social creatures, & ready for Junior kindergarten at 4, (though I don't believe any 3/4/5 yr old should ever have to endure a 7 hr. school day, so I stick with half day programs!)but each kid is different, & a year or two down the road, when they just fit right in to the flow of it all, you'll know you made the right decision for her! She'll be great, don't worry, & all the agonizing you're doing just proves it will be the right choice in the end!

Cheryl said...

Salt - Thanks for your support!

Amy - I was really glad Sawyer missed the cutoff (by about a week) because I might have sent him and he clearly - in retrospect - was so not ready! Sage is so much more ready than him at a younger age. Girls!

Candice - Now Sawyer and Sage will have a year in between them at school. Like you said - not a BAD thing.

Cheryl - I totally have thought about whether she'll be bored in K. She's not really socially behind, I'd just like to see her be more confident.

Kirsten - K is half-day here, so no issues there. Altho I do remember Sawyer complaining about going every day - even tho his pre-k was every day!

Judy - thanks for your input. I'm trying to avoid the rocky start! ;)

Dorothy - I still can't get over kids reading at 3. Three! Sawyer is six and is still struggling. I am trying to make the decision for her. I suppose she can always blame me in therapy later! ;)

Kelli - I always worry! LOL What's funny is Sage will only be three months older than Sawyer was when she starts K.

Jessica - thanks for stopping by! She doesn't have issues behaving in class, but like you say, a little more confidence can go a long way!

The Shoafs - I just wish I *knew* if Sage were ready. But i guess if I DON'T know, than she's not!

Andrea - Ack! Sorry! The LAST thing I want to do over here is make someone think! HA! ;)

Just another Belle - To be honest, I did think about how nice it'd be not to have to pay for preschool - we've been paying now for four years (including two tuitions last year!). But I can't let that be the deciding factor.

Anonymous (hmm...) - If she takes after her mother she will not have to worry about developing until she is pregnant!

Ciaran - HA! Gift of a year! As if! F is a very special case, tho. Just think: once you figure it out for F, you'll know exactly what to do with L!

Carrie - Helping my decision is that the pre-k program is really amazing. And I am VERY thankful that X is a March baby! Altho he won't be eligible for the pre-k program (cut-off is Feb. 1) which pisses me off!

Julie - You are my go-to girl on this stuff! ;) Do you think Big is challenged enough?

Joann - Did you ever see my post about the picture of a penguin sawyer colored? The teacher's note asked him to do it in the "real" colors. I called her on it and told her I asked him what color a penguin is, and he said black and white, and that he just liked to make it colorful. Ack!

Kat - there's a kid currently in pre-k who's reading chapter books, but the teacher said he struggles socially. You just never know. I want her confidence to equal her academics, and she's got a little ways to go. Oh - and thanks for the compliment! We need that extra attitude to help her fight off the boys! LOL

Mayor - It is nuts down here. I blame Canada! (can I be any more immature?) We are lucky in that most Ks out here are half-day. My gf's son is doing a Spanish immersion kindergarten and it's full day - she says he's exhausted all the time!

Double Wide Mom said...

thanks for stopping by the double wide! We surprised my daughter for her 18th birthday with Wicked! we actually had our nine year tested and bumped a year to get out of the "New Grading System" that is awful. He's doing great!

Ms. Understood said...

I like you started Kindergarten at four. I don't think we had a cut off date because my birthday was in April. So I basically spent the entire year of Kindergarten at age 4. Fast forward several years. I skipped 12th grade (due to test scores and academic achievement) and went from 11th to my Freshman year. If you think she can do it, let her do it. Starting early won't keep her from being gifted.

Cheryl said...

Ms Underwood - Interesting! She'll always be gifted academically, so if her confidence matches up, she'll be President one day!

Anonymous said...

"She is her own girl."

indeed. i constantly have to remind myself of this with ava and she's only ten months. funny how they surprise you and create who they are even from such a young age.

you're her mother - you know her best. you'll make the best decision and i wish you luck. :)

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