When Noah was in PK4, his teacher approached us in October of that year and mentioned some concerns she was having about our boy’s development.
She thought Noah needed speech therapy, help with his pencil grip, and maybe even some Occupational Therapy. A few months later, the Preschool Director met with Noah to administer the Gesell Developmental Observation and when we met to discuss the results, it became clear that they thought we should give Noah ‘The Gift of Time’ by having him repeat PK4.
This came to us as quite a shock, because, naturally, our son was “so brilliant” and why in the world would we ever hold him back in preschool? I also wrestled with ye old Mom Guilt that perhaps I didn’t do enough tummy time when he was a baby and that was why he couldn’t sit still in his chair – obviously. Not to mention wondering whether or not he would miss all of his friends or be bored out of his mind if we actually went through with it.
All of this was happening at the same time that Jethro was dealing with his own health and development issues and I was feeling a little fragile about everything in the world.
But the more my husband and I talked about it, the more we felt like having Noah repeat PK4 was the right thing to do (you can read about it HERE). A key was recognizing that “the whole child goes to school”, and often a child’s development is uneven – he may show great strengths in some areas but struggle enough in others that it makes giving him the gift of time the wisest decision.
3 years later, I can tell you that it was the best decision we ever made.
Now I am absolutely passionate about encouraging other families to consider making this decision for their child when warranted, and I love to help guide them through the process.
Because this journey doesn’t end with the decision to have a child repeat a grade. There are several important steps parents must take to help their whole family carry out this decision well. Here are 3 of the most critical tips I give to parents.
Don’t Wait Too Long
PK3 and PK4 are prime opportunities to make the decision to have a child repeat a grade because they are still young enough to not fully understand what is going on. This makes them more readily adaptable to new situations, friends, and classrooms. After Kindergarten, stronger friendships are formed and children become more aware of social dynamics. If your teacher suggests it, or your child has a summer birthday and is young for their class, or you are just wanting to prolong the inevitable empty nest another year, go for it as soon as you can! The longer you wait, the more challenging it can get for everyone.
It is NOT a Negative Thing
From my own personal experience with this decision, I initially thought that holding my child back was a bad thing. I thought it reflected poorly on me as a mom and on my child. Was he not smart enough? No. What he needed was more time to develop into the child God was making him to be! These early years help kids put the tools in their tool belt that they’ll need for coping with the next grade level. Upper school can be so stressful for the child who is not ready. ‘Readiness’ is really what it’s all about!
This point can be especially challenging for Dads to receive because men tend to want to push forward. The child should be able to suck it up and succeed – even if it’s challenging! I like to point out that giving a child the gift of another year is actually setting them up for success later in life. Appeal to the bigger picture – the child will typically be one of the oldest in the class, have had more time to develop appropriately and be ready for each grade level, and also to have one more year under their parents’ roof. Think of the huge advantages of having an extra year of maturity before hitting the halls of middle school, or taking on the challenges of college.
Also, one other thing I have seen often is that the kids who needed the extra year and didn’t get it are the ones who struggle every single school day with homework, and require lots of parent help because they are missing some of the tools that they didn’t get the time to develop, including the maturity and confidence to work independently. Parents who insist on pushing forward are sometimes setting themselves up for years of homework battles and let me tell you – that is NOT FUN.
If You’re Going to Do It, Do It 110%
This is the most important tip! If you decide to have your child repeat a grade, you must, must, MUST make the decision and then stand by it with confidence. Your child WILL sense your fear or hesitancy. Your child WILL hear you talking about it to your friends in a negative way and these things WILL affect their little hearts. When we decided to give Noah that extra year, I had to be a good pretender at first! I doubted our decision in the beginning – as most will – but I didn’t want Noah to know that. So I found ways to communicate my support and excitement to him.
Instead of sitting Noah down and having a dramatic conversation about him doing PK4 again, when he talked about moving to Kindergarten, I casually told him, “You GET to have another year in PK4! I am so happy for you to get to play and have fun!” I also had to be really careful not to say anything to anybody within range of his listening ears that I was worried he would be bored. Of course this was a concern of mine, but I didn’t want to plant the seed in his head that he would be bored and then have him walk around looking for opportunities to be bored. At these young ages 12 months makes a huge difference in who a child is, so the child starting his second year in PK3 or PK4 is so different from the one who entered that PK level a year before. Therefore he experiences it all differently. His readiness for that grade level is right on target now and he’ll love it all and feel smart and successful and will likely be one of the leaders of the class. And if the child remembers an activity from his first year in that grade, I have consistently seen it met with an attitude that says, “Oh, I remember this and can’t wait to do it again!”
A note for parents – if you make the decision to give the gift of time, I encourage you to make sure that your child’s new grade level applies across the board. Sunday School, choirs, sports activities, etc. need to remain with the child’s repeated grade level so you don’t carry on the idea (which could become a stigma) that “Well, he should be in kindergarten, so…”. Remember, commit yourself to this decision 110%.
Kids really take the lead from us on decisions like this. At the end of the day, you are the parent and you know what’s best for your child.
And let me tell you something – I have NEVER met a parent who regretted giving their child the gift of another year.
Have you had a child repeat a grade? What worked for you?