When you recall your kindergarten years, your memories may be centered around the play sessions with your friends, recalling singing or dancing to nursery rhymes, or group activities with your friends. In the past, the idea of repeating kindergarten wasn’t such a common idea.
Today, with our more structured form of education (and active involvement of the education and learning process) holding child back for kindergarten has grown in popularity. So if you’re also a parent who is now debating whether you should have your child repeat kindergarten or not, then here are some things that you may want to consider before you make your final verdict.
Should I hold my child back in kindergarten?
Repeating or holding back your child in kindergarten can be one of the toughest decisions when it comes to your child’s education. We all expect that kindergarten should be easy and light, but nowadays, kindergarten has already become an essential stepping stone towards the grade school years. It is during kindergarten that some of the valuable skills that the child needs for the first grade will be taught. Some examples include basic handwriting skills, recognizing letters, shapes, numbers, and colors, and knowing how to do self-care and socialize with people other than their families or family friends.
Though the final decision to hold a child back to kindergarten will still be up to the parents, this is often preceded by the recommendation of the kindergarten teacher based on his or her observations and assessment of the child.
According to experts, if a child is recommended to repeat kindergarten, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are behind in a particular area of intelligence, such as memorizing the alphabet or counting numbers. No ris it necessarily a measure of their overall cognitive ability. Rather, it talks about the child’s readiness to enter the more challenging world of the first grade. Readiness is often assessed using the combination of the physical, cognitive and socio-emotional factors. Here are some examples:
- Physical build, including height and weight
- Fine motor skills like holding and scribbling using a pencil
- Gross motor skills like walking, jumping, skipping or reaching out to grasp objects
- Ability to follow simple instructions
- Completing a simple task without getting frustrated or distracted
- Showing interest to what is being discussed or shown
- Familiarization of the basic academic skills like their name, the alphabet, and numbers 1-10
- Sharing and taking turns with peers
- Language and communication
- Engaging in group activities
- Ability to cope with slight frustrations
- Self-care abilities such as going to the bathroom, eating by himself, or zipping a jacket
Note what is not in this list – namely measure of intelligence, nor the types of assessments used to measure results in the later grades. If your child’s kindergarten teachers recommends holding them back, this doesn’t mean that your child is any less capable than their peers, or will suffer challenges as they age.
Repeating kindergarten pros and cons
So if the kindergarten teacher is considering to hold back your child in kindergarten, he may be behind in any of the areas mentioned above. These areas are often required for kids to strive during their first grade. So the next big question is, will it be a good idea for my child to repeat kindergarten? You may want to consider the pros and cons of repeating kindergarten before taking sides. Here are some of them.
Gain more maturity
There is a broad range of age when it comes to entering kindergarten. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, children in the U.S. must be at least 5 to enter the program, yet the compulsory school age is somewhere between 6 to 8 years old. It’s one of the reasons why other parents delay their child’s kindergarten entrance for one more year or so, maybe to give them some age and academic advantage over their peers.
This also means that if your child started on his 5th year, he or she may be a lot younger than others in their class when it comes to aspects like age, physical build, and socio-emotional development. Holding students back in kindergarten can allot more time for these children to mature and become more prepared to face the new challenges in grade school.
Mastery of the curriculum
Spending twice the time in kindergarten will promote more familiarity with the lessons and values that are being taught. This can give your child an edge in performing better the next time around.
Confidence in participating with the activities
If your child is shy and didn’t volunteer much in class, there will be a greater chance for him or her to gain more confidence and get involved in activities the next year. Familiarity with what’s going on and how to do the activities is more likely to encourage active participation in the future.
As kindergartners learn that active participation isn’t anything to be feared, this may set the foundation for increased involvement as they progress through the later grades.
With the familiar setting, children may be encouraged to take a few steps forward in socializing with their peers. Repeating kindergarten may give a socially-withdrawn child the chance to participate more in group activities, discussions, and play. It may also help them make more friends with their classmates.
This is one of the common concerns of the parents of retaining kindergarten students. With the competitive world we are living today, it is not unusual for parents to get discouraged if it is recommended that their child is held back for an additional year. It may create a social stigma that their child is not as intelligent or not as bright as the other kids, which shouldn’t be the case – and definitely isn’t always true!
Risk for developmental delays
Children achieve their developmental milestones at different rates, but it is important that they stick with the recommended span of time to achieve the basic skills that are needed for their age.
In this span of time, many children can simply be “late bloomers”. There is still a chance for them to cope with their peers during the latter part of the school-year, over the summer, or during the first few weeks of the first grade. In this case, some experts believe that confining the child in the kindergarten classroom may be a reason to delay their development even more, rather than giving them a chance to make it happen at their own pace and time.
Risk for poor performance at grade school
In a study published by the National Center for Education Statistics on June 2000, children who repeated kindergarten have significantly performed worse than their peers during the first and second grades in terms of concentrating, learning to their capabilities, taking turns or sharing and disrupting the class. Note however that other areas saw an improvement.
According to some experts, spending two years of kindergarten doesn’t necessarily mean double the skills and learning. Sometimes, it can overlook the need to focus on a particular weakness of the child, because everything is simply taken twice. This can result to poor performance in the first grade because the need to intervene that particular weakness is not met. There is also a chance of these children to get bored or disinterested in school later on.
When is it a good idea to repeat kindergarten?
So will all these ideas on what is expected for the kindergartners along with the pros and cons, it may be worthwhile to consider another year in kindergarten if your child:
- started younger than his classmates
- is significantly smaller when compared to his peers
- is struggling for self-regulation (like inattention, hyperactivity)
- is significantly delayed in the developmental skills for his age (for instance, can’t hold a pencil or can’t talk)
- has significant self-care deficits (like frequent bathroom accidents)
- has difficulty handling mild frustrations
While familiarization of their previous kindergarten school can ease out their anxiety, some experts recommend that it will be better for the retained kindergarten student to take another year in another school, with another teacher, and of course, with a fresh group of peers. This can help minimize the social stigma that can take a toll on the child and offer a fresh new start where he can be more confident in learning and socializing. These differences will also help to keep the child engaged in the learning material.
Considering other options
If you feel that your child is lacking some skills or needs to focus on some areas to be developed, repeating kindergarten isn’t the only solution.
For instance, if your child has developmental delays, many experts suggest that it would be best to conduct an assessment of the child with their pediatrician or child psychologist. This will help figure out the exact problem and allow the specialist to give an individualized therapy for that particular delay. Occupational therapy before the child enters grade school would give better chances for him to improve those skills and do even better in the first grade.
Another thing that you can consider is a summer class or workshop. There will be a huge difference in what your child can do over the course of these months and he can be better off prepared for the opening of school year.
Deciding whether to hold your child back for a second year of kindergarten may sound tough. In the end, it is your child’s happiness and development that matters most.
There are lots of kids who excel after repeating kindergarten, even outperforming those in their original kindergarten class. There are also many children are also faring well even if they advanced to 1st grade, when it wasn’t originally clear if they should.
Just remember, every child is unique and there’s no one way to teach or let them learn. Yours may have a special way to learn things. The most important thing is to be patient and supportive along the way!