I saw this article in NY Times a few weeks ago and it really caught my attention:
Holding children back was not something that I had really considered prior to starting my student teaching. Beginning in my first practicum, I have seen and even taken part in discussions about whether or not to hold a child back (or in the case of preschool practicum, delay starting Kindergarten).
I have not formed a clear opinion on the topic yet, but here is what I do know and some questions I have:
- Some children may just not be ready for kindergarten yet. Despite age, social and developmental skills may need some time...especially for late birthdays.
- The decision to hold a child back should be a joint decision between parents and the school.
- Some children are ready early for school. Once in school, we expect that not all children will be on the same level, but at what point do you hold a child back? Can development be achieved in a different way (extra attention by teachers, tutors, family enrichment)?
- How will the child be affected socially/ emotionally?
- How do you explain repeating a grade to the child? It is important that the child realize that repeating a grade is not a punishment and does not mean that they are stupid. How do you make them understand this?
My current first grade class has two children who repeated kindergarten, one who is in our class repeating first grade, and one who went back to kindergarten. The situations of these children are all unique and each brings forwards concerns and challenges. One challenge in particular is the resulting age range we have among our class. Our youngest student will be turning six in a week and our oldest student will be turning eight during the year. That is a HUGE age range when working with young children and can at times present challenges, especially on the social dynamic in the class.
Another challenge that we have right now is working with a child who is repeating first grade not because of academic skill, but based on parental preference. This can be difficult to keep him from becoming bored or "giving away" answers to things he has seen before. The last thing we want is for him to become frustrated or to feel like we are wasting his time. I think it is also harder to explain to a child why they have to repeat first grade when it is not based on academics.
What about the children who are advanced socially, but not academically? This was the situation for a student in my kindergarten practicum. It was an equally, if not more difficult decision. How would this child feel about being around much younger children? How would this affect his social situation? Would he become frustrated and act out? Is it better to send him ahead without the needed academic skills or hold him back and risk social isolation?