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Repeating kindergarten won't scar a child
Living with children

Q: Even though he had an early-August birthday, we started our son in kindergarten this past fall at a private Christian school. They did some testing prior to the start of the school year and told us they thought he would do okay. Now, however, they are telling us that he is "somewhat immature" and would probably benefit from another year in Kindergarten. We’re upset that they accepted him in the first place, but also feel that some of his problems were due to a young and relatively inexperienced teacher. We’re reluctant to hold him back out of concern that doing so may contribute to a negative self-image. Any thoughts?

A: I’d be inclined to cut the school some slack. I can’t imagine that they would have accepted him already knowing he was at high risk of having to repeat. In all likelihood, they simply gave him the benefit of doubt, which I recommend you return to them.

I’m not a fan of the rather widespread practice of postponing school entrance for late-birthday boys. In my estimation, the practice is counterproductive. If starting school is postponed for boys with birthdays after, say, June 1, "immature" boys suddenly become those with birthdays after March 1. Backing up the "not quite ready" date could go on forever. Furthermore, while delaying school entrance may benefit some late-birthday kids, it will be a disservice to others. One’s birthday is not necessarily a reliable indicator of immaturity.

For both reasons, I’m generally in favor of establishing a birthday cut-off of Oct. 1 and admitting to kindergarten any and all kids whose birthdays fall before that date. Some of the late-birthday crowd (say, after June 1) will need a second "growth year" and some will not. But then, some kids whose birthdays are not late will also need to repeat. Let’s face it, repeating kindergarten is not apocalyptic.

You may be right that the primary problem is an inexperienced teacher who is not skilled at "herding cats." Insecurity concerning her classroom authority will certainly compound any immaturity problems, especially with typically highly-active boys. That is, however, water under the proverbial bridge. It may be that your son would not have "made the grade" even with a very experienced teacher.

All things considered, I would lean strongly toward accepting the school’s recommendation. If a "growth year" is called for because of immaturity, and you choose to ignore the recommendation and move him into first grade at another school, there is significant likelihood that he will be identified as "having" attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. I put "having" in quotes because despite mental health propaganda, ADHD is not a physiological reality; rather, it is nothing more than an unscientific, non-objective construct. You do not want to get on that merry-go-round. (For interested readers, I’ve covered this topic in The Diseasing of America’s Children, written with a nationally-known pediatrician.)

My only caveat is that on the assumption that your son’s problems were exacerbated by an inexperienced teacher, you definitely do not want him with her again next year. If the school he’s attending has only one kindergarten teacher, then I’d recommend that he repeat at another school. That may be a hassle, but it’s worth whatever hassle may be involved, believe me.

You need not be concerned that repeating kindergarten might constitute a threat to your son’s self-concept. One of my grandchildren repeated kindergarten. He graduated high school with honors and was admitted to a highly-ranked state university that experiences significant enrollment pressure, where he is doing splendidly.

You merely want to tell your son, very matter-of-factly, that you’ve decided to let him repeat. Reason? "We think it’s best." The simpler the explanation, the better.

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