Some Implications of Skipping a Grade: Pre-K or K?

Originally posted June 8, 2008

I responded to the following query posted in one of our discussion forums, but wantedto highlight it here as I think a lotof parents wrestle with thesame conundrum:

“I’m the mom of an exceptionally bright 4 year old who just completed Preschool. He enjoyed the socializing aspect of preschool but had to be challenged daily because he is so bright. He has been reading for a year now and currently reads and comprehends on a 1st grade level. He knows all the letters, letter sounds and can write all the letters. He sounds out words and has quite the vocabulary. He can write several words. He can count and is grasping addition. He is probably more computer savvy than me. I can’t take any credit for any of this. It has all come naturally.

The issue in our household is whether to send him onto Pre K next year (he will not turn 5 until November) or to have him tested for Kindergarten. My husband thinks his little brainiac should go to Kindergarten but I, on the other hand, realize that my little Einstein is a bit immature and may benefit from another year with peers his own age.”

As a family therapist and school counselor I often get this question. My bias is generally to keep kids with their same-aged peers, as academic development is not the only focus of the school experience. Kids also need to develop as emotional and social creatures, and this can bechallenging if theyregularly attend school with older kids. Consider that many parents in our area already have their kids begin K a year late for various reasons, chief among them an apparent desire to make their kids more competitive as they age (sports, academic scholarships, etc.) — though some have valid concerns about their child’s maturity or readiness for school.

Whatever the reason for their choices, consider too that girls generally mature more quickly physically and sometimes emotionally — so a boy leaping ahead of his age-mates could have classmates a couple of years advanced in areas besides the academic. This isn’t wholly negative, but it means that you’ll have to contend with certain issues earlier. Your child’s friends may be driving cars, considering sexuality, or experimenting withsubstances earlier than you may be comfortable.

As for your child’s academic needs, there are wonderful programs already in place inmany Illinoispublic schools that challenge kids who need or want additional challenges. Nobody wants your child to be bored, which cannet a number of results: you might get a fidgity kid who ends up acting-out, causing observers (teachers and parents)to misname the problem, or even find that a child who isunderwhelmed andunderstimulated ironically performsbelowtypical grade-level expectations. These are interesting possibilities worth thoughtful exploration.

No matter your decision, remember that you are the expert on your child (though the final decision about grade assignmentmust bemade in collaboration with your school district, based on a number of variables, including resources).

For me,while there are endless whiny days when I just wanna drop kick my offspring to the moon (or to college a little early…), I’m occasionally jealous of those parents who thought to keep their kids back a year before beginning kindergarten. Oh, you know, they get toenjoy their sidekicksat home another year, and canrevel inthe cozy illusion a tad longer thatthey can actually insulatetheir babies from the harsher realities of ‘real life’ beyond the nest.

So I’ll put the question to all of you veteran parents out there, who’veperhaps already faced this concern and have some kernels of wisdom to pass along. How do wecapitalize on the school experience as an opportunity to bestmeet the academic, social and emotional needs of our children?

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