As the kindergarten year draws to a close, many parents are left worried their child isn’t fully prepared to take on 1st grade. Perhaps your daughter seriously struggled with learning letters or other concepts, or your son has a summer birthday doesn’t have the same emotional maturity of his peers. While current research doesn’t suggest that retaining children gives them an advantage, anecdotal evidence of retention success stories abound. So what’s a mom to do? There’s no easy decision, but many Circle of Moms members who have been through the experience have shared several points of view to consider.
Why Do Moms Support Kindergarten Retention?
Many Circle of Moms members support kindergarten rentention both for children who are behind academically or are socially immature. As Meghan H. shares, the extra year can offer a great confidence boost to children who struggled with kindergarten concepts the first year, and can reinvigorate their excitement about school and learning: “He is so excited when he 'gets' something and comes home and says he finished all his work. He is learning so much that he didn't learn last year and I think he would have drowned under the more strict schedule of 1st grade.” Indeed, moms like Amy regret not holding their child back for that very reason: “I wish we had had my daughter repeat kindergarten. I actually asked for her to repeat and was told no. She struggled so much in grade 1 and it took a huge toll on her self-esteem."
Other Circle of Moms members, including Jane H., are glad they retained their children for maturity reasons: “My 14 year-old son we held back because his social skills were lacking and he was the absolute youngest in his class. He was a little bored to repeat kindergarten academically but socially it was the best thing we ever did."
Marcia O. agrees: "I had my youngest son repeat kindergarten because he was fine academically but he wasn't mature enough. And that was the best thing for him. If I had to, I would do it the same all over again."
And while kids may at first feel bad about repeating the grade, as moms like Lisa F. argues, the stigma associated with repeating a grade is far worse as children get older: “Better to have him repeat kindergarten now and be fully and adequately prepared for first grade than have to be held back later on. At this age, kids don't realize the stigma of being held back like they do when they're older.”
The Case Against Rentention
Not all moms are in favor of retention, however. Despite the many successful rentention tales Circle of Moms members are sharing, current research doesn’t suggest that retaining children actually gives them an academic advantage.
As a result, many argue that the best response to delayed academic progress is not a second year in kindergarten, but rather summer tutoring and extra help on weak areas during the 1st year.
Moms also express concern that if their children are held back for social immaturity reasons, they won't be challenged academically. This is Nonie F. situation. Her daughter's teacher was worried that she wasn't going to be mature enough for first grade. "My only concern with this was that academically she's right on with the rest of her classmates and I didn't want her to get "bored" with doing the same thing next year (she's usually the first one done with her work and then starts talking/disrupting)."
Furthermore, even at the kindergarten stage, children may encounter negative comments or stigma about repeating a grade.
Making the Decision
Ultimately, kindergarten retention is a deeply personal decision. Circle of Moms members who have been through the experience encourage both seeking teacher input and also trusting your gut feeling. As Tracy J. advised: "Speak to his teacher and let her help to assess the concern. You do not want your son to become frustrated and have negative feelings towards school. And listen to your gut, it is usually correct." Jessica F. concurs: "Talk to his teachers and get their opinions but ultimately I would likely go with my gut instinct."
Explaining Retention to Your Child
If you do decide to have your child repeat kindergarten, realize that your child will take cues from you and others on how to perceive the decision. As Amanda K. shares: “We did have to explain to our son that he was a very smart child and that it was our decision for him to stay back another year and get better before he moved on though.” Similarly, Crissy R. shares: "I told her doing kindergarten again is not a bad thing at all it just means she has more time to study and practice.” Above all, keep things positive, Diedre S. advised: “Model for her how to respond to (or ignore) negative comments as needed, and tell her how proud you are of her.”
What do you think about a second year in kindergarten?