Saturday, August 6, 2011

Summer Birthdays and School---A Mama dilemma & a Teacher frustration

* Let me preface this by stating this does not apply to ALL summer birthday children, but I have seen too many situations where it does to know that it is a problem, in my opinion.*

I started elementary school in 1982. The birthday cut off date was Sept. 1. We started school the first week of September (after Labor Day). That birthday cut off date is logical. Fast Forward almost 30 years later (29 to be exact)....... The year is 2011. Many Georgia schools start the first week of August. Others maybe the second week. Yet the cut off birth date remains Sept.1. WHY??? WHY??? WHY???

As a mom of a child whose birthday falls in mid-July, I am faced with the decision to send him on to school or wait a year. If I were not a teacher, I would send him on to school because he is "old enough". I wouldn't think about the developmental aspect of it all. But, because I am a teacher mom, I have chosen to wait a year. (Actually, I chose to wait a year last year. I will send him to school this year to begin Public Georgia Prek. He will enter as a 5 year old, but could have entered as a 4 year old last year. )

I find summer birthdays very frustrating as a teacher as well. I have come across many students who could excel so much more if they had waited a year before starting school, either because they needed another year to mature or because the needed an extra year of development. If it is ever mentioned to the parent that the student repeat a grade, it is naturally met with resistance from the parents. Society views repeating a grade as "failing". However, this is far from the truth. A child has not failed, he is just not developmentally ready. That in NO WAY is to suggest a child is developmentally "slow" or less smart than his peers.

Think about it like this, do all children begin walking at the same age? NO. Are all children potty trained at the same age? NO. But eventually, do all children (assuming there are no disabilities) learn to walk and use the potty? YES. So why is it that we can not understand this is how it works in education also? Not everyone will learn to read that the same time, but eventually (as long as there are no road blocks) every student will learn to read, tell time, count money, etc.

Now, consider that (at least in Ga.), many standards expected to be taught and learned in a grade level was a standard for one or two grades above that a few years ago, and very much so when I was in elementary school. For example, some of the math that I teach 2nd graders are skills that I learned as a 4th grader.

My point is this, standards and expectations in schools are becoming more challenging, but children are starting to school younger. Why do we not lower the birth date deadline to August 1 just as we have moved the start of school to August? This prevents children who may need a few more months of development to have a better chance at success. 

That's my spill as I begin preparing my 5 year old for PreK next week and answer questions such as "Why isn't he going to kindergarten?"

16 comments:

  1. Leigh...I feel your frustration. In NY the cutoff date is DECEMBER 1st! There was one year when I was teaching kindergarten when I had 9 out of 20 children start the school year as 4 year-olds. It is difficult. Never feel that you have to justify why or why not you send your own kid. I wish that more parents were as thoughtful about placement as you are!

    Lori
    http://itsthelittlethings-lori.blogspot.com/
    http://mrsfaasfirstgrade.blogspot.com/

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  2. I completely understand the frustration. In Ontario, Canada, we start school around the first of September. Our cut off date is Dec 31! That means that a student could start Kindergarten at the age of 4 and not turn 5 until December! This past year I had on student whose birthday was early January and one whose birthday was in December, making them a whole YEAR apart, but the expectations are the same.
    The students also expect everyone to be the same age. I have a little girl with Downs Syndrome in my class who is 2 years older than her classmates, but developmentally at the age. The kids just do not understand. It's tough!

    Back Hall Collaborators

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  3. Tough post... in CA, ours is December but they are phasing to Septemeber but bumping it up a month each year until we hit Sept 1st. My daughter's birthday is July 30th, so I feel your pain. She just turned 3, so we'll evaluate when it gets closer, but she will always either be the oldest or youngest in her class... ugh! I'm at least thankful that CA is moving away from December because those kids developmentally were way off from the kids who are already 5. My oldest was 5 in May and will be starting Kinder this year. I keep telling my husband that IF we have #3... it WILL NOT be a summer birthday! LOL!
    Cyndy
    Counting with Coffee

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  4. Thank you for your excellent post! As a Kindergarten teacher I applaud your decision! As a parent, I applaud your decision! I am the parent of a Summer birthday boy myself. In Texas, the cut off is also September 1st. Looking at other boys his age that started Kindergarten last year and I see several of his friends will be a whole year older than him in September. So, I also decided last year to wait a year. He just turned 6, but will be starting Kindergarten in August. His friends may be going to first, but I know it is in his best interest. He still plays with his friends and I know he will continue to play with them. For most children, right now they don't care how old you are. They like you for who you are. I also know as he gets older, kids are going to ask why he is older in his grade and I am going to tell him he can tell his friends his parents for started him late. Come Jr. High and High School I know he will thank me!
    Cheryl
    Crayons and Curls

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  5. I totally agree with you! In Florida the cut off date is September 1st for Kindergarten. Last year I had a student who was 5 for two weeks and then turned 6 the last day of August. He was developmentally behind his peers. I have a summer birthday June and went to Kindergarten right at 5 and so did my brother. But guess what...my brother ended up being held back another year in Kindergarten because he wasn't ready and my parents and the teacher thought it was best for him. It really was! He was always top of his class, focused, graduated from the Naval Academy and Post Naval Grad school. I think having another year to develop truly helped him succeed. Now I didn't get held back and did fine all throughout school. So it really depends on the child. I think you are making a great decision as a mom though. Do what's best for you child! They are going to grow leaps and bounds and why rush them into something they're not ready for. :)
    Rambling About Reading

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  6. Thank you for all the postive feedback. I'm glad to see other moms and teachers feel the same way. I know there is a devil's advicate that could be played in this circumstance. @Jenn, I agree, each child is different. IT is funny you mention your brother was held back but not you. I find that often, this effects boys more than girls. However, it is not always the case.

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  7. As a mom of 4 kids (youngest 11) I agree with holding your child until they are ready developmentally, socially, and academically. You are making the right choice for your child!

    But as teacher I see the devil's advocate side. SO many parents hold their children out for a year (so popular here we call it red shirting LOL) it makes the age/developmental differences even more obvious in kindergarten...........I think the real problem is that kindergarten has become more developmentally inappropriate the past few years. Maybe they should change the cut-off to June 1st! (but then kids with April and May birthdays would be held out for a year LOL)

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  8. It's called the gift of time and you are doing your child an amazing favor by being courageous enough to give it to him! We started our August 15th boy at age 4 since the school year began August 11th that year - big mistake!!! By 2nd grade, our GT boy looked almost ED as he struggled to do what we wasn't ready emotionally or socially to do. It's a really tough conversation to have and an even harder decision to make later on, but we ended up giving him another year in 2nd. While data doesn't support retentions, I think of it as a replacement year for him since we messed up. Had we to do it all over again, we simply wouldn't have started him until 5 (almost 6!) He's starting his junior year in a few weeks and we wouldn't have it any other way!

    Thanks for posting this important conversation piece! Barbara

    The Corner On Character

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  9. I'm right there with ya friend! My little guy is repeating K, not for any academic concerns, but for emotional immaturity. Not an easy decision to make, but I know in my heart, it was the right one!

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  10. I totally agree with you!!! I teach at a private school, but I chose to hold my daughter back in 3K for another year. Her birthday is August 30th, 2 days before the deadline!!! We started school August 3rd. I worry about her getting bored, because she can count by 5's and 10's to 100, knows all her letters and sounds, cuts well with scissors, etc., etc. But, I know she is not physically or emotionally mature enough to be in PreK. Her behavior has a lot of room for improvement...lol. So, I will just ask the teacher to keep her academically challenged as much as possible (we do a Beka so there is a lot of curriculum to cover even though she is in the 3K class). I just decided as a teacher I would rather her be the oldest in her class than the youngest. Plus, that'll be an extra year I get to keep her at home before she goes to college. ;) I just wish parents realized how much better this is to do from the beginning or in PK or K than to wait and reap the consequences later. The 1st grade teacher beside me has almost half a room full of July/August bday BOYS!!! So they are REALLY immature. The parents said they may hold them back in 1st grade, but it's so much better to do it early on. ((HUGS)) mama...this teacher/mama thinks you did the right thing!!

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  11. Thanks still for all the positive comments.
    @Chloesmom----I laughed out loud at the "red shirt" comment. Too funny. I agree that holding a child back has become very popular. I also agree that this leads to alot of developmental ranges in the classroom, which makes it difficult for a teacher. And yes, if we bring the cut off date to Aug., July, or June....those with birthdays in April and May are likely to start holding back.
    But I think all of this "holding back" was born out of the fact that standards and expectations----academically, socially, and emotionally-----are becoming more rigerous, but children are able to start school at a younger age, when they may not be ready for the expectations. Where I stringly believe in challenging students, I worry that we are setting other children up for failure in the process. I would just like to see the expectations and developmental stages match up a little more. I *think* the Common Core Standards may do that a little better than our Georgia standards. I am excited to learn more about the Common Core Standards as our school begins moving toward using them.

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  12. My sons birthday is September 1st, which is also the cut off here. I did think long and hard about putting him in pre-k last year, and finally enrolled him. His teacher confirmed my decision, she said he was absolutely in the right place and he did very well in pre-k. This also enabled him to get the speech therapy he needed easily and set him up on an iep so we don't have to worry about that this year.

    But, the one thing that made my decision easier was knowing that Oklahoma has Transitional First. It is a grade between Kindergarten and First grade, specifically designed for those who have met kindergarten skills but are not ready for 1st grade in terms of maturity. Students must have a birthday after March 1st (adjusted for premature births), have a recommendation from their teacher based on classroom performance AND score between 4 1/2 -5 years old on a Maturation test. The class sizes are small (avg 15 students) and it is much more hands on and developmentally appropriate than putting those really young kindergartners straight into 1st grade.

    So, since we have this safety net, I didn't have to agonize too much over my decision. If it turns out at the end of this year that he isn't ready for 1st grade, I will just send him to T-1. There isn't as much stigma attached to it since a good handful of kids from each kindergarten class end up in T-1, and they're young enough that they don't really realize they are being "held back". I think it's a great program, I wish other states had it too!

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  13. One thing I forgot to mention - I was not happy with the daycare offered in my area. If I had had a wonderful daycare with a learning atmosphere, I might have chosen differently! Also, he is very large for his age, so I don't have to worry about him being the smallest kid in class, also a consideration lol!

    Jennifer @ Herding Kats In Kindergarten

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  14. Jennifer---good for you for making a decision that you feel is best for your child. I think as a parent, that is all we can do.

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  15. I totally agree with you. Sometimes it is best to give children just one more year to mature. This past school year one of my student's birthday was the first day of school. She was so lost, but by the end of the year she was where she should have been when we started. I wish she could have stayed one more year. But kuddos to you for choosing what is best for your child.

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  16. Yes, Yes, Yes.........I hope the common core standards help kindergarten become more developmentally appropriate. Since we all seem to agree that is the real problem. Of course I am in one of the few states that hasn't adopted the ccs. (Virginia)

    Like I said I applaud your decision.......it is difficult to make.

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