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repeat kindergarten or move on to 1st grade

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 
My son is in kindergarten and I'm totally torn weather he should move on to first grade or repeat kindergarten. My biggest and actually only concerns are his weak reading and writing skills. He hasn't grasped the concept of letters and sounds yet and doesn't know all the letters. There are a number of kids in his class who can already read and, of course, ds knows this which seems to affect his self-esteem. Somehow I refuse to drill him because he is still so young and secondly as soon as he realizes that I try to bring in letters (games, pointing out letters) he blocks me. Not being able to do this as well as his buddies is a big issue for him and I try my best to convince him that one day he will be able to read and write and that some kids can do certain things faster than others.

I know there are studies out there that say that younger kids will catch up later (presumably 3rd grade) and that holding back actually could be more damaging to a child. However, I have friends whose children need to be supervised constantly. Homework is always a battle and they always have to be after them with their reading. I don't want that for my son but at the same token I'm worried that he will be somehow effected negatively by being held back.

His school is a very progressive school and his teacher is totally open to all my decisions. As of the last PT conference she didn't think that he should be held back but acknowledged that his reading/writing is at a lower level.

Any advice would be appreciated.
post #2 of 23

How old is your son?

It may be better to hold him back if he is younger rather than force him on to 1st grade when he isn't ready.
post #3 of 23
I know there are quite a few more k-garten students reading these days, but I think this is a new phenomenon. Remember when k-garten was about painting and naptime and snacktime and playing? The curriculum keeps creeping down, so that now parents like you feel like their child needs to stay back if he isn't doing first grade material by the end of k-garten! To me it sounds like your child is exactly where the "traditional" k-garten student (before the days of pressured academics) should be by this time in k-garten. I'm not an educator, and maybe some of our teachers will show up on this thread to give more educated opinions, but he seems fine to move on in my opinion. How is socially?
post #4 of 23
What does he want to do? If it were my child I would give him two choices. He can spend another year in kindergarten. If he is ok with taking another year to grow befor embarking on 1st grade then more power to him. How cool that he is able to be little just a little bit longer and he is OK with that. Another option would be to offer him the oppritunity during the summer to work on his reading and see where he is when school starts in the fall. Itis no big deal (and even if it is, it is what they do so they can just suck it up and do what they need to do) to move him to a different class if you decide your prediction was wrong. Third option would be to send him on ahead but let him know that he may have to repeat 1st or 2nd grade if he can't keep up. I wqould think that would be more traumatic than repeating K. ANother optionis to just homeschool him this year and then put him back in for 1st grade. That way he hasn't repeated anything. But he would have to agree to work with you for that to work. If you don't think he would work with you at home you could alwys try a place like Sylvan. Any kids I have ever known that have worked with teachers there have really enjoyed and benifited from it.

But i would start with asking him what his plan is. You never know he might have a perfectly acceptable one.
post #5 of 23

Re: repeat kindergarten or move on to 1st grade

Originally posted by racermom
My son is in kindergarten and I'm totally torn weather he should move on to first grade or repeat kindergarten. My biggest and actually only concerns are his weak reading and writing skills. Any advice would be appreciated.

What skills does your school expect kids to have mastered after kindergarten? Do they expect kids to be reading? I am a teacher, and I know that what schools expect of kindergarten students varries from school to school and district to district. In my school, they are expected to have mastered 100 sight words, plus score over 160 on the GKAPR (Georgia Kindergarten test). I would also look in to what your state expects of 1st graders, 2nd-3rd as well. With NCLB, schools are being forced to place more emphasis on early reading and standardized test scores. In my state, 3rd graders have to pass the state test in reading (which means reading on grade level in 3rd grade) to move on to 4th. Many states are doing this as part of NCLB. It's a lot of pressure on kids and teachers.

My thoughts about retention are that it is better for a child to be retained in kindergarten or 1st grade than later on. For one thing, it is easier for a child to catch up in the early grades than in the later grades. I believe that later retention can have negative effects on children's self-esteem and can even increase the possibility that the child will drop out later on. This does not seem to be the case for early retention, though.

But it all boils down to your child. You know your ds. What do you think would have the more positive outcome - promoting him knowing he will eventually get it, or retaining him a year to give him more time to grow? Also, this may all be a moot point depending on your school's promotion/retention policy. My school will not retain anyone except for failing test scores in grade 3 (my principal doesn't believe in retention, but grudgingly is going along with state law, because she has to).

Talk to your son's teachers, talk to your son. Finally, go with your gut. Personally, I don't believe many 5 year olds are developmentally ready for reading. I think some early "readers" later have difficulties with comprehension. Decoding and comprehending are two different things. Also, truth is, no matter what the bureaucrats think, kindergarten is there for social development - not academic. It is preparation for learning. The most important skills kindergarteners learn are getting along, taking turns, etc. Unfortunately with all the focus on academic achievement, many K classes aren't getting the time to spend on these important social skills, and so what we are seeing in older grades are kids who have not mastered the basic social skills supposed to be learned in kindergarten.
post #6 of 23

reading in kindergarten


Have you considered finding a school based on the Sudbury Valley School in MA? There kids learn to read when they are ready. My own children attends a school in Colorado (Alpine Valley School). Both of my kids are learning how to read. My daughter is far passed her older brother, which supports the often heard generalization that boys are not ready for reading until much later. Another thing to consider is whether his eyes are actually ready for the kind of close up work required for reading. Our optomistrist has told us that the eyes of boys are often not ready until they are 10 years old!

Another thought I have for you, is to suggest a book -- The Wonder of Boys by Michael Gurian. I found this book very helpful in understanding the rather substantial differences between boys and girls. By the way, as fits the generalization, my daughter is picking up reading very quickly and with virtually no outside instruction. She is simply spending time at her school reading.

Hope this helps.

post #7 of 23
This is based on my husband's experience as a kindergarten teacher and my own knowledge of elementary school and early childhood ed.

I think it is ridiculous for kindergarters to be expected to know things that are on the early side of developmentally appropriate. I've seen a good handful of second and even third graders for whom reading has all of a sudden clicked. I really believe they just weren't ready until then.

It seems like no matter what kindergarten is like, reading is a really big deal in first grade -- the teachers main job is to teach reading. So, if your son is stressed already, I'm not sure first grade will be the best placement. In my husband's school, they have a pre-first grade where students that aren't quite ready can learn in a classroom that has a limited number of students. The program is more individualized, and if a student happens to reach all or most of the academic goals as a first grader in a "regular" class, he would move up to second grade. Does your school or school district have anything like that? Maybe another school has a program and you can move him for the time being (I know that is disruptive, too). Maybe there is a first grade teacher in your school that is better suited to help him or is better at handling different abilities in his/her classroom.

I worked mainly with 4th and 5th graders, and I know that I've been told by a number that they don't like being the ones to struggle. I think there is something to be said of holding a child back if it will help them be/feel more successful. But, there can be a stigma, especially if friends move on.
post #8 of 23
Thread Starter 
Thanks a lot for your input. I agree with all of you that the standards set by the states are ridiculous. Even his teacher, who has a Waldorf background, told me that it's beyond her comprehension why kindergarteners have to do all of that. My son is a very social child. He gets along well with other children and has made one really good friend in his class. From that aspect I think he's doing fine. He's also able to focus on things without being distracted easily and his fine and gross motor skills are very well developed. It's really just the reading and writing part that doesn't seem to click AT ALL.

I once suggested to him once that he could stay in K for another year if he wants, but of course he wants to go to 1st grade like everybody else. The schools is very pro-retention and sees an extra year in K as a gift to a child rather than a punishment or stigma.

The teacher also suggested a first-grade teacher who she thinks will be very good for my son. I guess I'll wait till the end of the year and decide then.

And yes, there is a difference between boys and girls. The kids in his class who can read are almost all girls.

Thanks again,
post #9 of 23
Well it sounds like everyone is working for what is best for him. I would meet with the teacher that was recommended, work on what is required over the summer (with my dd it really did just click one day), and then make the final descision when school starts.
post #10 of 23
My son could barely read at all when Kindergarten ended. He still missed a few of the letters, too. He did pretty good in math, though, and had the social skills he needed to go to first grade. He is young, his birthday is 15 August, but we decided to go ahead and move him up. Up until about a month ago we were considering holding him back in first grade, and then he just blossomed. That is the only way I can describe it. He started reading out of nowhere and we can't believe we considered holding him back.

You have a little bit of time left. Talk to his teacher and talk to the first grade teacher she suggests. You can also talk to them about ways to help him at home without putting him off. I agree that sometimes holding kids back can do more harm than good, and I think unless there is some major issue that is usually the case. Most likely he WILL catch up all at once at some point. Also, you want to be really careful that you don't rub in the difference between him and the other kids. My husband and I did that without even realizing it. Once we dropped it, my son did much better.

Kindergarten is so hard for parents and the kids. I can't believe I have to go through it two more times.
post #11 of 23
My son is too young for me to add any personal experience.
but what I can tell you is something my friend told me...

her son is 15 and they started him, she believes too young. because he is now the smallest in the class. she said that when he started it was fine,he was 4.5 when he started k. he was fine then but now as a teen he is 'out of step' with everyone...size etc. she said she wishes she started him in k at 5.5.
post #12 of 23
I'm going through the same thing right now with my 6.5 year old who is in Kindergarden. She cant grasp the concept of stretching words out to read, she writes all her word backwards. Shes the only kid in her class who cant read. Shes also the oldest because shes an oct. baby and missed the cut off. The teacher is pussing pre-1st. I have mixed feelings right now, she already the oldest kid in her class. We did move half way though the year to the school she at right now where they were already reading, from her old kindergarden where they were still just learning thier letters. So we think it may be just a catching up problem were she got thrown into a more advanced class. Before we decide about pre-1st, we are going to start sending her to the Kumon learning center, just like the sylvan one, afterschool a couple days a week to if that helps her catch up any and continue that over the summer. To be honest I'm really not concerned with her reading, the way I see it no kid graduates school not knowing thier ABC's but a lot os kids graduate not knowing empathy, moral, respect etc.. so thats what I mainly focus on teaching her. Thats something you dont always learn at school.
post #13 of 23
Thread Starter 
that's a good point. Eventually every child will figure it out. I was just more concerend about his self-esteem because I know that he knows that othere kids master it already. In a way, he is very competetive without realizing that some things take a lot of time and effort. However, holding him back may effect his self-esteem a lot more than the struggle he's going through right now. Or is it more my struggle?

By and large I just wanted to say that I want elementary school to be a good experience for him. THe way I see it is that primary eduacation lays a foundation for everything that comes later. I loved elementary school and when my grades began to slip later I always knew that it wasn't because I was stupid or didn't get it but because I was lazy and had other things on my mind.

Then again, I didn't grow up here and compared to what is expected from him I probably grew up on a "playground".
post #14 of 23
I vote repeat. Repeat repeat repeat!

I have two late summer babies. The first one is a girl that we repeated k with. She is just sooo awesome right now. She is the leader in the class. She reads well above her grade level. She understands and grasps things right away so there are no self esteem issues. I will say that I started her in K at 4 years old and it was one of the worst things I've ever done. By the end of the year, when the children began doing 1st grade work, she freaked! She was chasing me down the hall, screaming. She started pulling her hair, had mouth ulcers and vomitting. It was horrible. The thing is, is that she knew other kids were "getting it" and she wasn't. At least not at the same pace anyway. It almost ruined her self-esteem.

I do understand what you mean about expecting children to do so much, so early. But the fact is, it is expected. And if the bar is raised and most other children make the bar, then your child most likely will have to hit that bar as well.

My oldest is in 4th grade and I can't tell you how many summer babies that are in 4th grade that are tutored all year and all summer. It gets harder. Trust me! Also, children after 1st grade children equate repeating a grade with a death in the family!

My other summer baby, is a boy. Boys are such a disadvantage in the public school system! Boys don't even have the same nerve endings developed in their finger tips at 6 that girls do! Biologically, boys need 5 recesses a day!

Anyway, we knew going into his school career that we would repeat k or 1st. His pre-school teacher begged me not to do T-K, she said he would be too bored. So we went on to K. I was pretty confident that with his personality, he would have no trouble with school. This kid has more confidence and charisma that Bradd Pitt! He's the third baby for pete's sake!

He really started struggling at the end of school last year. We went ahead and went on to 1st grade. He has some issues now and it is clear that he will repeat 1st grade. He struggles daily. He refuses to bring books home because he doesn't want his friends to see him getting the 'baby' books. He has been called shrimp, his teeth aren't falling out (sounds silly I know, but it so important to him that he loose a tooth), he doesn't complete class assignments on time because he doesn't work as independently as others. And the sad thing is, he knows he struggles. He told me a few weeks ago that he was useless!

My son did start clicking just in the past month and his reading is taking off. But next year he will face different work and struggle with those concepts. He will click probably around Dec. But I don't want his self-esteem and confidence taking constant hits from August through Dec every year until he graduates. And lets not even discuss end of grade testing. OH! You wouldn't believe the stress these kids experience. No joke, you can literally cut the tension with a knife during May EOGs. My 4th grader doesn't blink an eye! Things are easy for him, he doesn't even study for tests. I want my ds2 and dd to have fun in school and not stress and struggle. Am I making any sense? The statistics that show older children more likely to drop out are those children who failed a grade, not held back in K.

Anyway! I know every child is different. I realize that every family is unique. My main point in telling you this is that school does not get easier.

This is just my experience. I really wanted to point out to you the later years. Lots of people have definate opinions on how their kids are doing in K, but the real test comes in 2nd, 3rd and 4th grade. Do you really want your child hitting a wall then and having to repeat? You just can't repeat at that age, it is devastating to a child, you have to tutor or work harder and how fun is that? I don't even want to think about my son hanging out with older kids in junior high or high school. He could potentially be 14 years old hanging out with 16 year olds!

Sorry if I've come on too strong!

Just my .02!

post #15 of 23
A few weeks ago we were in your shoes. I agree with all of you as far as the standards being set too high for kindergarten. This is the second year that Maine has offered all day kindergarten and now that we're more than 1/2 way through the year, he's getting worn out.

Alex struggles in three areas: reading, writing and understanding circle instructions. His teacher commented that part of it was his immaturaty. He is 4 months younger than the next yougest student in his class. (Dh and I now regret putting him in school this past year, because of his age).

He often get's frustrated because his classmates understand concepts better than he does. However, we are always quick to point out the things that he does extreemly well in. Such as computer lab, attention to detail with his art, and his amazing hand/eye coordiation. His teachers have commented on these areas as well.

We've had lengthly conversations with him about listening to instructions and asking questions if he doesn't understand, and I think he's done a complete 180, he comes home daily and explains what happened during circle instruction and he's so proud that he paid attention..

We were offered a learning assistance tutor during the summer, it starts the beginning of July and ends towards the end of August, three days a week for one hour. His teacher said either we let them help through out the summer, or she'd recommend he stay back. We gladly accepted the tutor, because I think this will help him focused and prepair him for what is to come in 1st grade.

This certainly has opened my eyes for the near future, I have another late summer baby that turns 4 in September, Maine allows children who will turn 5 by October 15th to enter kindergarten. I don't want to send my 4 year old to kindergarten if he's gonna struggle like Alex has. (
post #16 of 23
post #17 of 23
Just to offer another perspective on younger children, it is not always the case that these kids will struggle and struggle more over time. I was a summer/fall bd child (turned 5 in Sept. of my kg year) as are both of my girls (turned 5 in late Aug. & late Sept. of their kg years). Both of my girls are doing very well and my older one has continued to perform better and better as the years have gone on as did I.

Yes, age did affect where she fell in the class as far as achievement earlier on (although, I admit, she was never struggling), but ability, not age, has made the difference as she has gotten older. She is in 2nd grade now and at the very top of the class. The other child in her class who is at the same point, or close to it, also has a summer bd. From my observations and the studies that I have read, age only makes a difference for the first few years.

As far as retention, my older brother was retaining in 3rd grade and it did not damage his self esteem b/c he was on board with the idea. I can totally understand the idea that it would be less of a blow to do it at this age, but, like the other posters who mentioned their or other children just taking off at some point in 1st or 2nd grade when it just "clicked," I do see as how it may just be a developmental thing. He may not be ready to read yet, but that doesn't mean that he won't be next year or the next and then catch up just fine. I'd hate to make a decision about his long-term capacity to perform at grade level and deem him not capable already; that's what retention at this young age feels like to me.

If you do decide to send him to first grade next year, my major priority would be finding a teacher who agrees with the idea that he isn't developmentally there and does not try to force the issue. The most important thing in early elementary school is that your son likes school, feels successful and isn't turned off to the whole process.

eta: Duh! I just noticed that this thread is like 2 years old! Sorry! I should look at dates before responding.
post #18 of 23
The trend is here is to "red-shirt" summer babies, especially boys. Meaning, keep them out an extra year so they start kindergarten or first grade a year later than average. I can't tell you how many "big" kids my kids have gone to school with. They make my average winter born kids look small.
post #19 of 23
I think it has to do with the fact that academics have been moved down from 1st grade to Kindergarten. It used to be if you didn't read until 3rd grade that it was okay but now if you are not reading by 1st grade, you are behind. Not everyone is ready to read by 1st grade just like not everyone walks exactly at 1 year. In general, this is less of an issue with girls than it is with boys.
post #20 of 23
Do we know how RacerMom's son is doing?

I would love to hear her update.

oh, Racermom.....Racermom.....
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