Could delaying kindergarten be a detriment to your child?
posted by: Amber Johnson
Last year, I wrote about the kindergarten dilemma. Mainly, whether I should enroll my son on time or hold him back a year so he would be one of the oldest vs. youngest in class. It was one of our most highly-debated posts ever.
In the end, I enrolled him.
I have not regretted my decision. While it is still early in the school year, I am thrilled with how well he has adapted. He enjoys his peers, is reading at an advanced level and his writing/fine motor skills are growing leaps and bounds every day (which was my main concern). Much to my relief, I feel confident I made the correct decision for him because he is thriving.
I always felt unsettled about holding him back because his preschool teachers confirmed what I already knew: he was socially, emotionally and academically ready. While I understand parents wanting their child to be the oldest, biggest and smartest, for me it felt like an unfair (and unnecessary) advantage and that I would be doing him a disservice by delaying him a year.
Sam Wang and Sandra Aamodt published an article at The New York Times alleging this strategy of “redshirting” (delaying school) is actually counterproductive.
Teachers may encourage redshirting because more mature children are easier to handle in the classroom and initially produce better test scores than their younger classmates. In a class of 25, the average difference is equivalent to going from 13th place to 11th. This advantage fades by the end of elementary school, though, and disadvantages start to accumulate. In high school, redshirted children are less motivated and perform less well. By adulthood, they are no better off in wages or educational attainment — in fact, their lifetime earnings are reduced by one year. The question we should ask instead is: What approach gives children the greatest opportunity to learn?
The article goes one to say that in a large-scale study at 26 Canadian elementary schools, first graders who were young for their year made considerably more progress in reading and math than kindergartners who were old for their year (but just two months younger). In another large study, the youngest fifth-graders scored a little lower than their classmates, but five points higher in verbal I.Q., on average, than fourth-graders of the same age. In other words, school makes children smarter.
“Parents want to provide the best environment for their child, but delaying school is rarely the right approach,” said Wang and Aamodt.”The first six years of life are a time of tremendous growth and change in the developing brain. Synapses, the connections between brain cells, are undergoing major reorganization. Indeed, a 4-year-old’s brain uses more energy than it ever will again. Brain development cannot be put on pause, so the critical question is how to provide the best possible context to support it.”
Most people can agree that boys are known to mature emotionally at a slower pace than girls. However, the authors attest that this process can be helped by interacting with older children. By first grade, the difference usually evens out.
The initial redshirt advantage may disappear because children are not on a fixed trajectory but learn actively from teachers — and classmates. It matters very much who a child’s peers are. Redshirted children begin school with others who are a little further behind them. Because learning is social, the real winners in that situation are their classmates.
I still feel that every child’s circumstance is different and for some children, holding them back is the correct decision. But this article confirmed my belief that these instances should be in the minority, not majority.
“Parents who want to give their young children an academic advantage have a powerful tool: school itself.”
Do you feel that delaying kindergarten is a good or a bad idea?
Authors Mr. Wang, an associate professor of molecular biology and neuroscience at Princeton, and Ms. Aamodt, a former editor in chief of Nature Neuroscience, are the authors of “Welcome to Your Child’s Brain: How the Mind Grows From Conception to College.”