Saturday, June 09, 2007

Does the Second-Guessing Never End?

My J is smart. Really. I don’t just think so because I’m his mother. He’s a smart little guy. So when he turned five (last July), I sent him to kindergarten, like I thought I was supposed to do. But as it turns out, apparently most people don’t send five-year-olds to kindergarten anymore, and he’s quite young compared to the rest of his class.

His teacher says he’s “one of those kids who are on the fence – I don’t really recommend you hold him back, but it wouldn’t hurt if you did either.” On one hand, she said that his fine motor development is less than the other kids as is his ability to sit still. But on the other hand, she said he’s bright and able to learn and grasp concepts the same as everyone else. Plus she said, “J has great parents and that’s the most important predictor of school success.”

My husband and I gave each other a puzzled look, “He does?” we asked. “Do you know how we could - like - get hold of these people? Maybe they could give us some pointers or something?”

J went to Montessori Preschool when he was four. If you’re not familiar with it, kids can sort of mill around and choose whatever they feel like working on. After his first week of “regular” kindergarten I asked him one day what he did at school and he answered in disgust, “We just have to sit there – we just sit around, and sit – and just sit there – the whole day!”

And the semi-crunchy, touchy-feely, Montessorian in me thought for a second, gee that’s terrible, maybe I should send him to Montessori school or homeschool him or something, because, really, it’s unnatural for five year old boys to just have to sit all day, right? But, evidently, when push comes to shove I’m old-school at heart, because when I opened my mouth to respond, I said, “Well Honey – that bites – but you’ve got a good sixteen years of sitting around ahead of you, so just get used to it.”

Stellar parenting, I know.

On a good note, it gives my husband and I something to agonize over – we always like to be able to do that. I said, even if he’s smart enough, what happens if he wants to play football someday and he’s smaller than all of his classmates? What if he turns to steroids – I hear they’re very popular among teenagers these days. And my husband said, “He’s an awfully good Chess player for a five-year-old, let’s hope that means he won’t be the football-playing type.”

And I said that now I sort of wish we’d waited a year, but I’m afraid that holding him back now would be socially devastating – all of his friends are going to first grade next year. I fear that holding him back could be far more likely to diminish his confidence in himself than his inability to write his letters as perfectly as the rest of his classmates has been. In fact, I don’t think he’s noticed that he doesn’t write as well as most of them do – he’s too busy running around the classroom and socializing. So we're going to move him forward and hope for the best -- his little brother also has a July birthday, so we'll get to fret about this all over again next year -- yippee!


Melissa said...

No, no, you weren't supposed to hold him back. You're supposed to feel smug and superior now because you didn't knowingly contribute to the unjust social achievement gap! That's what I'm going with, anyway.

Anjali said...

Good God, I don't know why anyone would want to hold their kids back. Don't parents want to finally get some sort of a life?

If I could have, I would have sent Mira a year early. ;)

annie said...

Hi Staci,
Just discovered your blog and it's cracking me up! Thanks! As to this post, I hate to tell you, but: No. The second-guessing never ends. MY child is almost 16, so I think I have a little authority on that. Maybe. See?! Actually, I had a similar predicament with my August baby. I remember feeling like Anjali, but that was not an option. so when the time arrived I eagerly sent her. Then I hit your sitution and somewhat reluctantly ended up pulling her out entirely and homeshooling for a few years. At the time it was right. But then again, NOW I'm wishing I could figure out a way to accelerate her through high school... See? Second-guessing. It's all part of the ride, so hang on and try to enjoy it!

Jill said...

For what it's worth, the Director of Elementary Education at the School District where I work is VEHEMENTLY against 1) red shirting summer birthdays and 2) retaining any child at any level. She says the research is clear that the age difference will even out after a few years and the negatives associated with holding back vastly outweigh the positives. I'm not certain that I agree with her in all cases (especially since we retained our August birthday son the year after we adopted him), but she is pretty persuasive.