My mom adventures in Fort Collins

We’re back in the saddle again

I know as parents we all have our different issues–the weird things that bug us or the loose thread that keeps us up at night. Well, for about five months–from January to May–I had a serious itch about Kindergarten. Scout is my first kid, and this is all new stuff to me. Even before Kindergarten registration loomed on the horizon (it was February 9th, that date is etched in my brain), I had long heard about how many children with summer birthdays are “red shirting” Kindergarten. Where I come from (Wisconsin) this was generally reserved for kids with late August or early September birthdays, but perhaps the times have changed or Colorado is just a different gig because I have met many people who casually asked when Scout would be going to Kindergarten. Would it be this year or next? The implication being, in my experience, that if you had a kid with a summer birthday, it was a toss up.

After agonizing for months (read about the preliminary thoughts here), registering her for BOTH Kindergarten and Pre-K, doing research and reading what I could get my hands on, we made the decision in May. (And I can’t speak for Cory, but I did casually contemplate it again and again all summer.) On Tuesday we headed off to Round 2 of Pre-K. She has a new teacher and a slightly different schedule, but she’s at the same wonderful pre-school and she has the added bonus of two friends from last year’s class also in her class this year.

My girl mugging for the camera on the “First Day of School”

On the first day of Pre-K, there is “orientation,” which basically means that the kids come with their parents and only stay for an hour. Wednesday, in essence, was the first “real” day. At orientation, a mom was talking to another mom and it came up that Scout and two other kids in the class were back for another year of Pre-K. This is no secret, and I certainly knew this would come up. The mom found out the birthdays, and then simply asked me, “So, you just didn’t want to have the baby in the class?” (Scout’s birthday is early June.) I do not know this mom, and she genuinely seems incredibly nice, but I was stunned for a second. Certainly this mom would never assume that such a decision could be summed up by a “yes” or “no” answer, so my guess is that she was just trying to make conversation. In response, I said, “Well, in a way, but it was a lot of factors and it took me months to decide.”

If given the chance to explain in more detail to this mom, or anyone at all, I might have said any of the following:

1. I put more thought into whether Scout would go to Kindergarten as a young 5-year-old or a young 6-year-old than I did into deciding where I would go to college.

2. Truth be told, there is no “right” decision. Whether or not delaying Kindergarten by a year made all the difference for her remains to be seen. (Which is why I struggle with feeling 100% confident in this decision.)

3. Early in the summer, Scout would freeze when she couldn’t do something she had previously done with ease, like zip up her coat: “Mom, I can’t go to Kindergarten! I need to know how to zip up my coat before I go to Kindergarten.” Now this had no bearing on our choice, as the decision to wait a year was already made, but it is an example of the anxiety she deals with on occasion. I have learned that pushing her becomes quite literally pushing her (and pulling her, and carrying her, etc.). As a parent, I want her to love school. I feared that introducing Kindergarten before she was ready for the challenge would create unnecessary anxiety for her and result in an all-out-stress-fest for all of us.

4. Remaining as objective as possible is hard when you’re making this decision. I love my daughter, and of course I think she’s smart, creative, and capable of great things. I had to look at my daughter in a different light, asking such hard questions, like: Can she keep up academically/physically/emotionally/socially? When I observed class, it was January. It’s very difficult to determine where Scout could be in terms of her development in an entire year’s time. If I decide she’s not ready for Kindergarten, does that mean I’m letting her small amount of shortcomings overshadow her incredible gifts? I spoke with everyone that I knew who might have some insight on the subject. I was so grateful that everyone was incredibly supportive. What ultimately swayed my decision is that I am not looking at her gifts/shortcomings in a vacuum–I’m looking at them in an elementary school classroom. Ask any teacher who thrives in a classroom, and it is the kid who is mature, confident, able to ask questions for clarification-sake, focused, and has great social skills. Given that she is prone to anxiety and she can be shy, wouldn’t a year to grow and gain confidence benefit her in this regard?

5. In the end, we erred on the side of caution. In all likelihood, she would be fine either way, but no one I spoke with said that there was ever going to be any harm in giving her another year of preschool. In fact, to the contrary, there were a few parents who said that now that their child is older, they second-guess their decision to send their children to Kindergarten simply because the clock had struck 5-years-old. (It could be purely anecdotal evidence, but it did impact my decision. The people I spoke with who advised sending her to Kindergarten all claimed that “she’ll be bored.” However, they are my peers, and I’m not sure that they are the best judge of the current state of the rigors of elementary school.) My logic is that it is far less complicated to repeat a year of pre-school and delay Kindergarten than it would be to repeat Kindergarten or any other grade level.

So, I guess the short answer is: There were many different factors in our decision to give Scout the gift of another year.

Scout herself is aware that many of her friends have moved on to Kindergarten, and even Tuesday after orientation she shocked me by saying, “Don’t call my class Pre-K. I don’t want to be in Pre-K, I want to be in Kindergarten.” WHAT??? I told her that she can call her school whatever she wants, and I mostly just call it “school.” I was flabbergasted (see #3 above). Clearly, I can’t win, but I’ve got to put this thing to rest. We made the best decision that we could with the information we had at the time.

Parenthood is nothing if not humbling.


3 Comments so far
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I had a late birthday too, and started kindergarten early. While I never had a problem keeping up academically, I did struggle with some maturity issues, and it was hard to be the youngest person in my class (like when I was the very last person in my grade to get my driver license). I think either choice would have been fine for her, but I’m glad that you’ve got the decision made. Another year will very likely be a wonderful gift for you all!

Comment by RFL

Thank you for this. I love hearing about everyone’s different experiences. I am pretty lucky that nearly everyone has been incredibly supportive and kind when they speak with me about it. I will start acting extra confident that this is the absolute best decision ever very very soon. Or at least I hope to.

Comment by jaymers

[…] more acquainted with it, since we will be signing up for kindergarten on February 7th. Since I did the back-and-forth-dance last year, I have lovingly put to bed our school decision. We know that we’ll be sending Scout to our […]

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