Eating my words about red-shirting (at least they’re fat-free)

by , posted on May 2nd, 2010 in Uncategorized

This week is kindergarten round-up at the elementary school across the street.

Sage is eligible. She turns 5 in September, and the cut-off in California is the first week in December.

But after a LOT of thought, a lot of evaluations and a lot of cursing my position as a grown-up having to make tough calls, I decided to give her what is known as the “bonus year.”

That’s right. We’re red-shirting her. She’s going to pre-K.

Even typing these words are difficult. I just hate that I have to make a decision like this, that other parents’ decisions are influencing mine.

And yet.

blogged about this topic two years ago. I’d never heard of kids being held back. It just wasn’t done when I was growing up back East. My Dec. 31st birthday was also the cutoff date. I was the youngest in my class, starting kindergarten at 4, graduating high school at 17 and starting college three months before my 18th birthday.

When I wrote that post, Sawyer was just getting ready to go to pre-K. He did great there, and I was really glad he missed the cutoff date for kindergarten so I didn’t have to make a decision.

I still believe that if a child’s ready, she’s ready. The problem is, I’m not exactly sure what ready IS these days.

This is not her parents’ kindergarten. It’s first grade now, people. And it’s full of first-graders.

Let me explain.

Many parents out here in The OC hold their kids with fall birthdays back a year from entering kindergarten. Some even hold them if they’re born in the summer. Or May. So you have kids who are a year older – or more – than others in the same class. They’re held for many reasons: maturity being the main one.

Kindergarten is also more academically demanding then it was when we went. If you’re not reading, you’re already behind.

I thought for sure I’d send Sage to kindergarten when her time came. She’s a girl. She’s a second child. She’s tall and physically coordinated. She’s smart and is starting to read. She does dance class with kids who are all 4-9 months older than her, but you wouldn’t know she was the youngest.

David and I have gone back and forth, agonizing over what to do. Yes, it’s only kindergarten, but it’s the start of a long time in school. What’s the best way for her to begin?

I decided to have her evaluated by a company in the county which specializes in kindergarten readiness. We went back in February, when Sage was 4 years, 5 months old. She didn’t know why we were going, other than a lady was going to ask her some questions.

I sat in the next room and listened during the interview. I heard Sage ask if there was water so she could have a drink. I heard the woman ask her to pay attention. More than once.

It lasted about half and hour. They came out, and the woman commented that Sage seemed like a “young” 4 1/2. Apparently, one person’s “young” is another person’s “dramatic.”

I received the official evaluation in the mail. It is done by age, and she was above age – in some areas by more than a year – in everything but two things, where she was marked at 4 yrs, 6 months. And based on that, she was deemed “not ready,” because they want everything to be at least 4 yrs, 9 months.

I called for a consultation. I spoke to one of the owners, who does not do the actual interview, but reads the notes and makes her evaluation. Basically, after we talked for awhile, she said she thought Sage would be fine if she went, that she believes Sage is probably gifted. BUT she thinks that if she got an extra year for her maturity to catch up with her academic ability? She’d be a leader.

This is kind of what David and I had talked about. Do we want her to go this year and do fine? Or do we want her to kick ass? A little more confidence could go a LONG way.

Of course, her preschool teacher gave her a glowing evaluation. Sage does really well there. She can sit in circle time and participate, she “uses her words” with her friends, she gets along with everyone.

So then we started thinking that we WOULD send her. Clearly the teacher has a better idea of how Sage is than someone who meets her for 30 minutes – or someone who just reads about her. Still, I’ve noticed that Sage tends to hang back a little in a group. She also can be super-sensitive – and we all know how mean girls can be. Could she be better prepared with an extra year?

My last “official”  conversation was with the pre-K teacher. She’s taught the program for more than 10 years. She said she’d never had a child who she thought should’ve been in kindergarten instead. She told me about another mom who was on the fence like I am and decided to hold her daughter. The girl is now in the gifted program in second grade.


I also thought about my own experience. I loved being the youngest in my class (except the part about not getting my drivers license until the second half of my junior year). But now, I wonder. I never felt like I exactly fit in. I was socially a little behind. I always seem to hang out with younger kids.

I mean, I have an older sister and brother, so it wasn’t like I didn’t know how to behave around older kids. It just didn’t translate to being confident among my own peers. And I didn’t have the issue of having kids more than a year older than me in class like Sage would. I wasn’t competing to get into college against those older kids: most states have a Sept. 1 cutoff (if they had that cutoff date here, I guarantee you’d see kids held with January birthdays) so if we lived in, say, Florida, this wouldn’t even be an issue.

I know other kids with similar birthdays who are going to kindergarten.

Of course, I can’t compare Sage to anyone else – including her mother.

She is her own girl.

I can only try to do what I think is the best for her (and it’s not the best for ME, let me tell you, I could use a year or two off from paying for preschool!).  I’m thinking it’s one of those things where we might regret sending her, but we won’t reget holding her.

Besides, I can still change my mind. But I won’t. I don’t think.

Where’s the grownup when I need one?

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