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I Put My Son in Kindergarten Against His Teacher's Recommendation

Photograph by Twenty20

At 4, my son wasn’t quite old enough for kindergarten, but was rounding three years in preschool. I thought he had everything he needed to move up to “real” school. At his Montessori school, teachers cared less about age and more about the child’s individual progress. So, I was surprised when his teacher recommended he stay in preschool another year. I considered her suggestion for a week. Then I decided to ignore it.

The past few years, I’ve read article after article about the benefits of “redshirting” kindergartnerswaiting an extra year to put your kid in kindergarten to allow him to mature and become emotionally ready. Others hold their kids back because they are concerned about their child being the youngest in the class.

So, why did I want to do the exact opposite of that?

Most of the research on redshirting so far indicates that while waiting an extra year to start kindergarten may have some immediate advantages, they are typically short-lived and tend to dissipate as the children get older.

My son’s teacher was well-meaning and a veteran teacher, but she was still fairly new to my son. His school had swapped out teachers midway through the school year, meaning the teacher he’d developed a relationship with—the one who had taught and evaluated him for the last year and a half—was gone. It’s easy to look at him and see a small kid who preferred to play with his friends instead of putting together a map puzzle. And it’s much easier to let a strong-willed child choose to practice cutting with scissors for a week instead of guiding him toward a more difficult task.

It’s the very real situation that many of us moms find ourselves in, taking for granted that a teacher, an administrator or a doctor knows our own children better than we do.

His teacher had a tough task: Come in as a stranger to a class full of students and try to evaluate them within a matter of weeks. But I had to look at what I thought my own child’s capabilities were. I relentlessly Googled what skills children were expected to have before entering kindergarten. He knew his colors, numbers, alphabet and letter sounds. He could write his name, but his writing definitely needed work.

I was so determined that he would attend kindergarten this year, I took matters into my own hands and spoke to staff at my eldest son’s school. It turns out the district offered early entrant testing for kindergarteners who would turn 5 by Oct. 31.

I knew it would be difficult. One person told me that students rarely passed the test. Even the registration form itself made clear that less than 30 percent pass. Undeterred, we paid the fee, got him tested and well, hoped for the best. We got the results two weeks before school started—he would be going to kindergarten.

This isn’t an ode to my son’s intelligence. It’s not even a testament to how well I’ve taught him (truth be told, I’m kicking myself for not having him practice writing his letters more). It’s the very real situation that many of us moms find ourselves in, taking for granted that a teacher, an administrator or a doctor knows our own children better than we do.

It’s the growing mentality that our kids have to be coddled. It’s the unfounded sense that our kids just aren’t ready. It’s high time that we give our kids a little more credit and recognize and help satiate their innate curiosity. That we acknowledge that kids are more resilient and less fragile than we think. That we give them the chance.

Because if we as parents don’t do it, who will?

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