Holding back your Kindergarten-age Child: Will it Really Give him an Edge?

By Kate Agliata:

The issue of grade retention has been a controversial one for many years. Yet in today’s world, the truth is that more parents than ever before are giving serious consideration to retaining their kindergartener, or holding back another year their preschooler so that he or she will wait until the age of six to enter kindergarten. Statistics show an increase in the number of parents who not only consider this action, but are also following through with the decision to hold their child back. According to findings from the National Center for Educational Statistics, about 5 percent of kindergarten-aged children repeat the year and another 7 percent are being held back in preschool before beginning kindergarten.

With retention statistics steadily increasing every decade, research indicates a growing number of people in favor of holding their young children back a year. Yet, how do the benefits stack up against the risks? What exactly are the factors being weighed? For parent and educator Amy Mascott, a Washington D.C. area reading specialist, and founder of the online parenting resource, We Teach, the decision to hold back her five-year-old son, Owen, was not one in which she and her husband came to lightly. There are an overwhelming amount of factors to consider, all of which merit incredible thought—after all, the direction a child takes at this stage in the game is pivotal in their future educational career, as well as their social well-being. “We thought that extra year would be beneficial to him in the long run,” says Mascott. Owen, who was born in mid August of 2007, will begin kindergarten this coming school year. “He will now be one of the older kids in his class vs the youngest, and we think that will eventually work to his benefit academically and socially.” Mascott says she and her husband spent hours deliberating their decision, talking with one another, their friends, Owen’s teachers, and other family members. “Everyone we spoke to said the same thing: that those people who held their kids back only had good things to say about doing so; the only negative we heard was from people who said that they wished they would have done the same for their own child.”

In addition to your own ongoing observance of your child at home, talking with his or her teacher or day care provider is one of the best places to begin when trying to form an initial assessment of your child’s learning abilities. Not all children of the same age progress at the same rate academically, or socially. In fact, as parents, many of us have observed at one time or another the vast differences within young children many months apart—especially with as many as 11 months apart in age. Therefore, a boy who enters kindergarten at the age of five-years-old and one day, may be at a completely different learning stage than a boy who begins the school year at age five years and 11 months.. These same children may also come to school with varied abilities, some can already read and write, while others still struggle to recognize letters in the alphabet.

Parents also need to consider the long-term impact on their child whether or not they decide to retain him or her, or allow them to progress to the next grade. Mascott, who is also a former High School English teacher, explains that her experience as an educator allowed her to see the potential differences in Owen’s academic future. “I could also always tell my younger ninth and tenth grade students—the boys, especially, were more needy when it came to group work and in social situations. That experience also helped to shape our decision for Owen.”

No matter what decision you come to when faced with whether or not to retain your child, make sure that the number one motivator is always in the best interest of your son or daughter. As for Mascott, she stands strong behind the decision she and her husband made on Owen’s behalf. “I know clearly that socially, emotionally, and academically, he’s ready. I will be so incredibly sad when he walks into the school next fall, with his classmates, but my sadness will be overshadowed by the confidence I’ll feel that our decision to hold him back for a year was the best fit for him. I’d personally rather feel confident that he’s ready than worried that he wasn’t.”

About Kate:

Kate, a freelance writer and mother of two, most often finds creative inspiration in writing, but occasionally at the bottom of an empty wine glass. She has hijacked her family’s former lifestyle and is in the midst of creating a simpler and greener approach to life. To follow her family’s challenges and successes in this endeavor, visit her blog, at Kate’s Musings. She and her family have lived in Birmingham since 2009.

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