Tuesday, April 12, 2011

On to the next one...or not?

It’s that time again…time for Dustin and I to figure out what the best move will be for Ryland next year. There are pros and cons to each option. Being a parent is mentally, emotionally and physically exhausting. We think about it constantly. It rears its head in everything.

Here are the facts:

• He’s adorable.

• We met Ryland almost a year ago.

• He spoke NO English when we met him.

• He knows all his letters & all his numbers.

• He can orally count to 100 and can write all numbers to 100.

• He knows the sounds of all letters.

• He knows tons of sight words and is starting to sound out words.

• Can read easy books with assistance.

• Starting to write sentences on his own (of course his fave is…I like to play hockey.)

• He is a very young Kindergartener…one of the youngest.

• He had no structure before Kindergarten…no pre-school, daycare, etc.

• He’s silly, goofy, funny and a cut-up in general. He loves to run, dance and be on the go.

• Did I already mention he’s adorable?

He’s right there…he’s right on the cusp. We’re just not sure what to do. Do we push him into 1st grade and continue to work hard at getting him caught up? We know it will be a struggle and challenge for him. Or, do we let him repeat Kindergarten and get a firm grasp on the fundamentals? Will he be bored? What will this do to his behavior during school?

These are the thoughts swirling around in our heads constantly.


  1. As a first grade teacher (and please, please, please know that I know YOU know your child better than anyone!!!), and hearing that he knows letters, sounds, some sight words, and is already reading easy text, I would say go ahead and send him to first grade. (He sounds REALLY smart!!) In my opinion, if you are going to repeat a grade, first grade is definitely the one. If at the end of first grade he is not ready to go, let him repeat first grade. That way, he gets a FULL dose of phonics/phonics rules, and if he needs a double dose, no problem! Do you know what reading curriculum Ryland's school uses/will use? As always, your little bitty COULD NOT be cuter!! Just ADORABLE!! :)

  2. Anxiously awaiting all the responses on this. Alex will be almost in the same position as Ryland - although he's one year younger and will going to K this coming fall as a young Kindergartner. At that point he'll have been home 5 months, with no pre-school at all, so I'm a little concerned about how it will all go. I've really enjoyed following Ryland's progress - sounds like he's doing great!!! ... and is cute as ever!!!

  3. Hello. I follow your blog on the lots of kaz blogs site. I also teacher 1st grade, and I fully agree with Brook. He sounds on target to be at grade level. If he was able to make that much growth in a year, I would anticipate he will grow even faster as his mastery of the English language improves. Good luck!

  4. I really appreciate the comments so far. I've heard from a couple sources now that if there is a grade to repeat it's definitely 1st grade. I'm going to schedule a meeting with a first grade teacher at our school to get their insight.

    Brooke - I don't know what reading curriculum they use - but I'll find out.

    Thanks so much - Dustin & I need all the help we can get on this!!!


  5. As a former second grade teacher, our collective advice as a staff, was always to hold that child, if there is any doubt. This is often especially true for the younger boys in class.

    Despite what the others have shared, I would suggest doing it now, rather than later. Psychologically speaking, its an easier transition to hold them in K than in 1st grade, where their awareness of "holding back" grows expotentially.

    With that being said, it sounds like he is doing remarkably well, especially given no previous English. Is it possible to find a summer program for him or individual tutoring? A Montessori program might also be an excellent fit!

    Children lose a lot over the summer and First grade is a huge jump in terms of overall expectations, the structure of the day ( much less play based, etc. ) He will be sitting for much longer periods and there are social expectations as well.

    That's just my 2 cents. Our little guy is a late summer birthday too and also right on target. We will have to make the same choice down the road, so I agonize right along with you. :)

    P.S. Our nephew was not held in K; a summer birthday, academically on target, but young maturity wise; school was a struggle his entire life and my Sister often wishes she had made that choice right then to give him a leg up so to speak!

  6. Cortney,I'm with Anonymous above.

    My son is a summer birthday and I have struggled with this decision since he was two. I can't tell you how many conversations I have had with educators and other parents. I'm not sure what is "common" in Texas, but here in Virginia, the vast majority of parents hold their summer boys back to give them an extra year to mature. As a result, if not held back, the youngest children may end up being nearly 18 mos or more younger than most boys in their class. I certainly did not like those prospects for my son, particularly as he got older.

    I've heard from many educators and parents that parents who have held their child back have almost unanimously never regretted it, some citing it's the best decision they've made; whereas many who have opted to send their child have ended up regretting it and dealing with issues they may have avoided. It has also been said that it doesn't necessarily affect them right away, but is more likely to catch up with them in a few years, then again as they enter middle school, then again as they enter high school, all at times where most children may likely hit a rough patch anyway.

    One educator told me she calls it "the gift of a year" and urged me to give it to my son. The expectations and demands of young children as they enter grade school are increasing (as compared to when you or I were in school).

    Despite all that (but clearly taking it all to heart), I did not want to just make the decision based on what everyone else was doing - I wanted to make a decision based on my son's abilities and likelihood of succeeding if I went ahead and sent him.

    At the end of the day, I now know my son will clearly benefit from an extra year of maturing. Cognitively, he's a smart boy, but only recently (at 5.5) showing real interest in learning and applying himself. The focus and interest just wasn't there. But his emotional maturity level has been lower than I thought it should be for real success in a focused learning environment. I opted to keep him in a private kindergarten this past year to give me more flexibility for the coming year. I've now decided he will repeat kindergarten at his new school in the fall. I feel great about my decision and feel confident that I've given my son a better chance at not only succeeding academically but handling himself well with his peers. I also believe my son, who I think has innate leadership tendencies, will ultimately have more confidence as a result and in fact, end up being a leader among his peers rather than just a follower.

    It's a tough decision, no doubt, but I'm sure you'll do what you feel is right for Ryland.

    Good luck!
    Best, Pam

  7. Looking back, if I could do one single thing over, it would be to hold back two of my children. They both turned 5 in November of their kindergarten year. They did well, but I was encouraged to have them repeat, just because of age-related stuff. I didn't do it, and by sixth grade, it was obvious they could have benefitted from an extra year of emotional maturity. I think they would have done better in high school over all too. The age really made a difference for them; neither had a driver’s license when their friends did, and they both graduated at 17, which was very young looking back. Good luck. Listen to your heart!

  8. I'm a Grade 1/2 teacher from Canada. I've been reading your blog for a while, but this is my first time to post :)

    I agree with the poster above who mentioned the "gift of a year." We ask a lot of little boys in Grade 1 and 2. It is very hard for them to sit still and work at their tables. They really need to be able to get up move around. Unfortunately, Grade 1 and 2 classes aren't usually as good at this as Kindergartens.

    Ryland sounds very bright and definitely on track academically. However, I think more time in kindergarten would really help with rules and routines. Grade 1 is challenging enough as it is! It's much harder for the youngest kids in the class (especially the boys who at that age can be about a year behind the girls in some areas.)

    Good luck with your decision! Whatever you choose, it will be right for you.


  9. I have to tell you I am so glad we waited the year for Nicholas. He is probably where Ryland is academically, but I feel he would have struggled as he was promoted up through school. I am pleased we gave him an extra year to get ready for Kindergarten.

    With Claire, we sent her early and although she is bright, mature and a wonderful reader, she has had some struggles socially. I have also seen the other 'younger' kids struggle in school and I often wonder if they would still struggle if they were held back a year. I would think it would be better to hold back a child earlier rather than later as kids start to understand what that means.

  10. Just to clarify to your other readers, Nicholas was almost 4 when we brought him home from Kazakhstan (our girls are bio). We gave him an extra year of preschool (here in CA the cutoff is Dec 1st). He will be almost 6 when he starts Kindergarten in August.

  11. This might sound silly, but speaking from an entirely different standpoint, if he is really into sports and gets good at them it'll be a huge bonus for him to be one of the older, bigger kids, rather than being small compared to his peers. Not that this should be your only considerations, but my friends son just got a football scholarship and he would never have gotten that scholarship after his junior year (his mom held him back a year in kindergarten). My cousin has a son with a borderline birthday and she left him in preschool a year this year so that could mature before kindergarten.

  12. Also, you know how he responds to things--does he like being pushed or would he rather work be a bit easy for him? Some kids thrive on challenge and some kids get frustrated by it. That's key to making sure he doesn't get sick of school always being "hard."