school age: GUEST POST by mommy

Posted by kyden on Thursday Oct 10, 2013 Under Uncategorized

california is pushing up the date by which a kid must turn 5 to enter kindergarten.  it used to be dec. 2.  starting last year, the change is being phased in one month at a time over three years.  by next year (when kyden will turn 5), the date will be september 1.   he will miss the cutoff by 1 month.  my thoughts?  i’m disappointed that he will not be in the same grade as his cousin zoey (who lives in our neighborhood and is only a few months older than him).  it would have been nice to be able to call my brother and ask “hey, what was their math homework for tonight?  kyden lost his assignment sheet.”  other than that, it doesn’t really make a difference to me.

i had always thought that the “tiger mom” thing to do would be to get your kid into school before the state-approved age.  you know, pushing your kid academically with little consideration for social development, emotional maturity, athletic performance, or anything else that isn’t math, science, or reading.  or piano.  can’t forget the all-important piano.  i know these moms (and dads).

however, a couple of weeks ago, i learned about a phenomenon called red-shirting.  prior to that, i had only heard that term in the context of college sports.  here, it’s the same concept, but with kindergarteners.  parents are holding their kids back so that they will be older, bigger, and more advanced than their peers.  i couldn’t believe that this was an actual thing.  it took me awhile to wrap my head around the idea, but i get it now.  these parents believe that they are giving their children the best chance for success.  while i don’t know any parents who have held (or plan to hold) their children back, i know some who look forward to their children amongst the oldest in their class so that they have a “greater chance to take leadership roles at school”.

to be clear, i’m not criticizing or judging other parents.  at all.  they are making decisions that they feel are best for their children.  so what’s my point?

kyden’s teachers have always talked about how bright he is, how well he understands complex concepts, and how it’s obvious that we work with him at home.  (we don’t).  they felt that he was ready for more of a challenge at school.  but if he advances to pre-K now, what will he do next year?  he will be too young to start kindergarten under the new age requirements.  so, what to do?

we did nothing.  when the school year started (in september), almost all of his friends advanced to pre-K, but he stayed in his current classroom.  so he became the oldest in his class.  he was more advanced than his peers.  he became the teachers’ helper (and teachers’ pet).  he loved being at the head of the class, and it was great for his self-confidence.  (maybe it would have happened anyway, but he now has the confidence to speak up for himself, like ordering his own meals at restaurants or asking store clerks where the restroom is.)  kyden was loving school, and that was the most important thing.  all good, right?

well, fast forward one month, and kyden’s teachers continue to talk about how advanced he is.  and as new kids are turning 3 and moving up into his class, the gap between him and the rest of the class is widening.  the teachers do their best to keep him challenged in his current class, but they continue to tell me that he is definitely ready for the challenges of pre-K.  so what to do?

well…  i see a lot of myself in kyden.  curious.  super smart.  phenomenal memory. incredibly LAZY.  my parents did everything they could to keep me challenged at school.  i skipped a grade.  i moved from public school to private school, to a GATE program, and then to a different GATE program at a magnet school.  i took college classes on a UC campus while i was still in high school.  and if you’re wondering, yes, i did plenty of extracurricular activities, too.  i played the alto sax (and piano), i ran track, i volunteered at local elementary schools and convalescent homes.  but as hard as my parents tried to keep me challenged, school always came easy to me.  the other day, my dad told me that it always frustrated him that i was such a procrastinator — i never started working on a project until the night before it was due.  so i asked him, “did i ever not finish?  did i ever not get a good grade?” no.  i didn’t need to start those projects early because i knew i could knock them out in one night.  all of this reinforced my laziness.  it made me grow up not believing in studying for exams.  (what was the point in studying?  i knew the material, or i didn’t, right?  and as it always turned out, i did know it.)  i see myself in kyden.  already.  and i do not like it.  i do not want kyden to skate through life thinking that everything will always come easily.  I DO NOT WANT KYDEN TO BECOME ME.  (i also don’t want him to become that one annoying know-it-all kid that every class has.)  so what to do?

so we thought about allowing kyden to move into pre-K now, and then having him assessed to start kindergarten next year.  assuming he’ll be allowed to start school early, what would that mean?  kyden is a small kid as it is.  being the youngest kid in class would exaggerate that size difference.  would he always get picked last for the dodge ball team because he’s so small?  would he be bullied because of his size?  maybe he would be bullied regardless of when he starts school, but if he starts a year later, would he be more mature and better able to handle it?  when he gets to high school, will girls in his class not want to go to prom with him because he is younger than they are?  these are the things that keep me up at night.

<FLASHBACK>

i was 4 years old, and i had just started kindergarten at the local elementary school.  i was completely bored.  my teacher and parents agreed that in order to provide me with more of a challenge, i would be allowed to join the 1st/2nd grade class for reading and math lessons.  so, while all my kindergarten friends went home at lunch time, i stayed through the afternoon.  i still have vivid memories of sitting alone on the playground with my white vinyl holly hobby lunch box, eating lunch by myself.  every day.  i hated it.  so after a lot of thought (and criticism from family and friends), my parents made the decision to let me start 1st grade.

</FLASHBACK>

so yes, i started 1st grade at age 4.  i was always the youngest and smallest kid in class.  it never bothered me.  not once.  the only time i was really aware of the age difference was when my friends started getting their driver’s licenses and drove me all around town.  i couldn’t return the favor, and i knew i wouldn’t be able to for a long time.  oh, and in college, i needed a fake ID to get into DV8, an 18 and over club.  but overall, i did fine.  my peers were always 1-2 years older than me, but we barely noticed.  but is it because i was a girl?  would it be different for a boy hanging out with older girls?

20131008-IMG_1838as a parent, i have always been extremely confident.  when i was pregnant with sienna, mike asked me if there was anything that i wanted to do differently with sienna than we did with kyden.  i said no.  i believed that every decision that we made as parents was 100% right.  not right for every family, but right for ours.  i have been confident in every decision we’ve made for/about our children.  until now.

this week, kyden is transitioning into the pre-K classroom.  academically, i know this is the right decision.  socially, he fits right in.  but what about the longer-term effects of all of those things that keep me up at night?  i just don’t know.  at the end of the week, we will need to make a decision about which classroom kyden will stay in for the remainder of the school year.

like any other parent, i just want what’s best for my kids.  and for the first time, i have no idea what that is.  anyone have a crystal ball that i can borrow? 🙂

comments, criticisms, and any other feedback are welcomed and appreciated!

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