Photo Credit: The Modern Stitch
I didn't have time to read the story right there, but was eager to see what it had to say, and knew that Mrs. LIAYF would also be very interested in the topic. That's because, unaware of the national debate, we have recently been considering that very course of action for Lukas, who turns 5 around the 4th of July.
The 60 Minutes article was a brief overview of the topic, but from there Mrs. LIAYF found a Huffington Post article by Tom Matlack of The Good Men Project from last year, which goes into much deeper detail into the reasons many people choose this option, as well as the opinions of educators and parents on both sides of the topic. This is a terrific article and very informative, and I suggest that if you have a child who is a summer baby and kindergarten is in your future you really need to read it before deciding.
First off, I need to say that Mrs. LIAYF and I have not made a decision on this matter yet. We have participated in a lot of school visits in the past couple of months, both pubic and private, and are currently waiting to hear in the next couple of weeks from some private schools where we have applied. Then if we do get in to one, which is by no means a given with most having 10 plus applicants to each available spot, we have a tough choice on our hands regarding public versus private. And an important question to answer.
Would Lukas benefit from an extra year of Pre-K?
The Huffington Post article pointed out how many of the parents who are making this decision are doing it to give their child (overwhelmingly boys) a competitive advantage over their classmates. The bottom line being that they wanted them to do better at sports, and on tests, compared to their then younger classmates.
There is research, notably as referenced in Malcolm Gladwells book 'Outliers' (the Canadian Hockey players example) that boys who enter school as one of the older children, rather than amongst the youngest, do gain a level of maturity, both emotionally and physically, that gives them an increased opportunity to succeed.
Mrs. LIAYF and I have not at all been considering this under the pretense that it would be a way for Lukas to succeed at his potential classmates expense. Like most any parents would, we have simply been looking at what would be the best decision for him as an individual. And with that there are some sound reasons to seriously consider the Redshirting decision. And they are certainly not academic with Lukas. He is an exceptionally bright boy who had early verbal skills.
Rather, our reasons stem mostly from his size, and emotional maturity level. Lukas has yet to hit his growth spurt, and thus is much smaller than many of this classmates, even the younger ones. Additionally, he has always had very strong emotions, which can often lead to not only being very happy (a great thing) but often very hurt by perceived injustices as well, the fact that at 4 1/2 he still naps (without which, having two full time working parents would make his kindergarten day extremely long), and the fact that he doesn't currently do well in a learning environment where he is asked to sit still, and you start to get a picture of why we were independently considering this option even before becoming aware of these national articles.
Lastly, on top of all that, if we were to choose a public option, we would have to add to the fact that his day would be 7:30 - 5:30 and class sizes in many of our local options are going to push 28 to 1, with no teaching assistant. A huge jump from his current 9 to 1 ratio. Not out of the question, but certainly not optimal.
Concerns were raised in the Huffington Post article, and in the subsequent string of comments about whether this practice were fair to the younger children who start kindergarten at age 5. Perhaps not. But, I would also argue that any class would be much better served from having kids who are physically and emotionally ready to constructively participate in the classroom.
As for our experiences, we were particularly struck at many of our school visits by the number of huge kids, aged 6 or even older in the classroom and also by all the 5 1/2 year olds in the school application pools. For all intents and purposes, this trend is already happening to a large extent here in Seattle, and that only exacerbates those disadvantages for Lukas were we to make the decision to enroll him this coming Fall.
Like I mentioned, our decision has not been made yet, but you can see which way we are leaning. Of course that may change if the right private school opportunity fell into our lap. Either way, it will be a difficult decision tinged with uncertainty.
Oh, and I would be remiss not to mention my own experience in starting elementary school. I was a boy with a September birthday, and since my brother who was one year older and also a September birthday, entered when he was just turning 6, so did I. Then, after 1st grade my academic performance merited my skipping straight to 3rd grade....into the same classroom as my older brother.
Many difficult years ensued.
At this point I am fairly certain that had I stayed with my original class I would not have had many of the confidence issues that plagued me well into adulthood. That personal experience alone will serve as a cautionary tale when the time soon comes to make our choice. Stay tuned.
How about you readers? Were you faced with this choice? How did it turn out? Other thoughts?