At the beginning of the school year, you send your child on the big yellow bus, blinking back tears as your baby ventures out into the wide world of kindergarten. At the parent teacher conference, the teacher mentions something about trouble concentrating, and you think, "Duh! He's in kindergarten!" And so, towards the end of the year, when the teacher mentions repeating the class, you feel like you've been sucker punched. Now what?
Is Repeating the Right Choice?
It's highly unlikely that the teacher is suggesting that your child repeat kindergarten because she doesn't like him -- or you. She probably has valid educational concerns -- so ask her to share them. What, specifically, tells her that your child isn't ready to move up?
Ask for a meeting with the teacher, a school psychologist, and the first grade teacher. Talk about the skills your child needs and why they feel he isn't ready for the challenges of first grade.
Often, teachers recommend holding back children who are younger or physically smaller than their peers. This is sometimes the right choice -- smaller children may feel lost or intimidated in a classroom of larger students. But if your child's academic and social development are normal, don't let age or size be the sole factor in your decision.
On the other hand, academic level is a critical factor in deciding whether kids are ready to move into elementary school. Remember that no one is saying that your child isn't smart or can't ultimately succeed. They're saying that right now, he's not ready. This is not an indicator of his intelligence. His development may be perfectly normal, but he may just need a little more time to catch up. Is it better for him to struggle for a few years, or would you rather have him experience success? There's no one right answer for every child -- you have to work with the school and your child to make the right decision.
Another important factor is social development. Has your child made friends this year? Did he wind up in a class of tough kids and struggle to find his place? Or has he established some close friendships -- and his place in the group? While social skills aren't the most important consideration, they are undeniably significant, and you shouldn't overlook them.
Talking to Your Child
If you ultimately decide that repeating the year is the right choice, talk to your child about it. Make sure your child understands that he didn't do anything wrong and he's not being punished. Let him know that an extra year in kindergarten will help him be really ready for first grade.
Talk to the teacher, too, about giving your child a special role in the kindergarten classroom. As someone who is somewhat familiar with the routine and rules, he can help other kids adjust
You can also explore working with your child in areas where he is weak -- perhaps his fine motor skills haven't fully developed and a little occupational therapy will give him the confidence he needs to start writing.
The decision to repeat kindergarten certainly isn't one that should be made lightly, but it's also not something you should agonize over. Stop and think: in your entire adult life, have you ever asked anyone you know if he or she repeated kindergarten -- or any grade? And if you happen to know that someone did, do you care? Work with your child and his teachers, make a decision, and move on.