kitchen table math, the sequel: more on redshirting Kindergarten kids

Saturday, July 19, 2008

more on redshirting Kindergarten kids

from the WSJ:

A new study draws attention to the social consequences of a decades-old trend in parenting: having kids start school a year later. For years, research showing the benefits of being an older first-grader, as well as the experience of countries like Finland where schooling doesn’t start until age seven, has encouraged parents and teachers to “redshirt” kids. In 1968, 96% of six-year-olds were enrolled in first grade or above. By 2005, that number had fallen to 84%.

[snip]

Harvard’s David Deming and Susan Dynarski, in an NBER working paper published this month, write that “increasing age at school entry intensifies inequality in human capital and social welfare.” Kids who start school a year late have one year less schooling before they reach the age at which they’re allowed to drop out, decreasing their average educational attainment and widening the gap in learning between rich and poor.

[snip]

Deming and Dynarski note that, in the last 40 years, almost every state has raised the age at which children can start school. “This change is remarkable,” they write, “given the strong evidence that, in the United States, starting school later decreases educational attainment.”

The Graying of Kindergarten'


a couple of interesting comments:


I agree that the extra year is especially helpful for boys. My son has the skills but not the social maturity to sit through all day kindergarten. I also feel that there should be some boundaries. My daughter had an eight year old in her first grade class. Bullying and sports are both a problem in that case.
Comment by Andrew - July 18, 2008 at 2:32 pm


I have a January birthday and was a good reader when I entered Kindergarten. My first grade teacher had me tested and based on my social maturity and age, I was moved to second grade after two months or so.

My mother years later said that some neighbors shunned our family because I got special treatment and their kids did not. Mind you, this was in 1959 when parents were less competitive about their offspring.

Later in HS, I felt socially immature compared to my peers and the fact that my puberty was delayed did not help either. That senior year was tough. But in college, it did not matter.

The intangibles of being one year off probably cannot be reliably assessed for 10 years.
Comment by Skipped first grade - July 18, 2008 at 2:49 pm


In my neighborhood there are two reasons parents hold back their children: 1) To give their child an academic advantage over their younger classmates so they have the honor of being in the gifted track; and 2) To give their child an athletic advantage in sheer size and speed over younger classmates.

To me it was very strange seeing several of my child’s classmates with adult teeth when they entered kindergarten.
Comment by John - July 18, 2008 at 2:55 pm


I have three sons, the third of which started a year late. The third is in his second year of high school and has been this highest achiever of the three. Had we entered him into school a year earlier, his relative immaturity and diminutive size would have likely caused socialization and confidence problems that would have resulted in a much different outcome.
Comment by Paul - July 18, 2008 at 2:59 pm


I love this: “increasing age at school entry intensifies inequality in human capital and social welfare.” Isn’t that the whole point of holding your kid back? It’s to give him a leg up and widen the gap between him/her and other students because good jobs are a scarce resource. Maybe on average kids who start later do worse, but not in the WASPY demographic of the WSJ. Face it people, we are trying to widen the gap between our own children and everyone else’s so they aren’t in a position to lose their job to a 3rd world worker. Ideal? No. Reality? Yep - welcome to America.
Comment by So Smart You're Stupid - July 18, 2008 at 3:33 pm
[this commenter must have read The Race Between Education and Technology...]


Have none of you really considered why many parents are starting their kids later…for sports. I know lots of kids who were held back by a year so by the time they reached high school they were a year older and more mature and developed than the competition, thus increasing the chances of being recruited for college. It’s sad but true that so many parents actuall do this.
Comment by Anonymous - July 18, 2008 at 4:04 pm


Parents who redshirt their children believe that outcomes in life are determined by relative achievement. For example, they feel that their children will be better served by becoming Little League All-Stars while competing against younger teammates. This is clearly sub-optimal for society, but it does strike me as rational. The Harvard researchers seem to have missed the fact that many parents would prefer their daughter to graduate from Harvard at age 23 than from State U at age 22.
Comment by John Sterling - July 18, 2008 at 4:16 pm


The problem here is how the data is being interpreted by the Harvard folks. When the dropouts are lumped in, on aggregate the picture looks bleak. The more interesting point, and the one that everyone seems to be alluding to in their comments, is what happens to the educational attainment of those children who do stay in school for the full 12 years; is it better or worse than a control group?
Comment by Professional Researcher - July 18, 2008 at 5:27 pm


After reading/scanning most of your comments I am baffled how parents have abdicated their responsibility in raising their children. Wake-up call: it is not the state’s responsibility to educate your children or set age limits, it is yours. Just because the state has taken over this job doesn’t mean it should be that way. And for those ready to ask me about the “socializing” of my children, here’s my answer: My children are socialized with a diverse group of people: older people, children from other countries, their parents and each other. They are certainly not the peer dependent children that the state/private school gives you back when you send your child there.
Comment by Homeschooling Dad - July 18, 2008 at 6:23 pm


I was an August birthday who started “on time.” I did fine academically, but my social and physical development lagged behind my academic development.
The problem isn’t whether a kid is or is not ready to start by a certain date, the problem is whether a kid is or is not more mature than their peers. The youngest kid in the class will always be developmentally behind the oldest, whether the youngest kid was born in December, August, or May.
Comment by Jim - July 19, 2008 at 8:36 am


just throwing it out there, but I repeated kindergarten then went on to graduate number 1 in my class from high school and magna cum laude from college. From my recent experience, the younger kids in my grade during high school were more imature and did not do as well on average. Most of the AP classes were older kids
Comment by another opinion - July 19, 2008 at 10:04 am


There are numerous comments from people who were the youngest in their class and did great. I've pulled the negative comments because they describe what we've experienced.

I had a funny experience this spring. I've long had the perception that the dominant boys in C's class are the older kids. But I hadn't thought about the ramifications of this apparent fact.

In C's class there are a couple of boys who routinely blow him & most of his friends out of the water on grades, etc. These kids also seem to be very well liked by the teachers.

This was always a bit of a mystery to me. Obviously these kids were very bright, but I didn't see the big difference between them and all of the boys in C's circle, who seem a tad underappreciated by my lights.

Then last May C and I were talking about something or other, and C mentioned in passing that "X & Y are a year older. That's why they're so smart."

He said this matter-of-factly, as if this were simply taken for granted by the kids at school.

I'm sure he's right.

My conclusion is that if your son is going into a highly competitive public school setting, a Richard Elmore-type "high-performing" school* in which parents are hiring tutors, there's nothing to be gained and plenty to be lost by allowing him to be the youngest in the class.

I suspect things are different in a DI or Catholic school, though I don't know.

Basically, any kind of sink-or-swim educational environment will handicap kids by age. I'm pretty sure.


* Richard Elmore posts t/k


relative age effect
high school leadership, wages, and relative age
redshirting kids
redshirting & tournament settings

30 comments:

concernedCTparent said...

Here's the problem: You hold off on enrolling your five year old until he/she is six and when they finally get there, they meet up with low expectations. Instead of getting ahead, they are actually even further behind thanks to the wonders of balanced literacy, Everyday Math, and good 'ole 21st century skills.

The other problem is that if you wait until your child is six, there will be another parent who wants the edge that decides waiting until their son is seven is even better. It's already happening in my district, probably many of your own as well. Some of them begin kindergarten at six or even seven and are held back for reasons having to do with maturity. The 'gift of time' is what we call red-shirting around these parts.

VickyS said...

We had a disasterous experience with redshirting, which our (Waldorf) school forced on us. Let's just say what works for a kindergartner might backfire as the child gets older.

Cranberry said...

One of our children has an August birthday, and started "on time." As he is undeniably gifted, this worked as a de facto acceleration for him, especially when we moved him to a private school. I've never heard of a child being allowed to skip a grade in our school system, so his relative youth was an advantage.

The private system seems to skew older, in that I have heard of them encouraging children to enter grades at an older age, or repeat a grade when changing from public to private schools. On the other hand, our local private schools seem to have curricula which are a year advanced, so the difference works out, that is, the 11 year olds learn about the Ancient World, whether in public or private schools.

I haven't tracked down the study, but I would be interested to know if they controlled for health concerns. For example, I know children who started kindergarten at an older age, but that was due to significant health problems in infancy, including prematurity, failure to thrive, etc. Children facing such challenges might be more likely to drop out, or take longer to complete their schooling, but being older at the beginning of the formal school career wasn't a cause of later difficulties, it was a symptom of a deeper problem.

I suspect many of the commenters on the WSJ page had children who fell on the older side of the spectrum.

Part of all this is the "halo effect" of early or late reading. If a child is reading well in second grade, what does it matter if he began reading at 4 or at 6? And yet, a child's relative maturity at 5, for example, is used as a marker for later success. Having enrolled several children at different schools, the questionnaires all ask about such things as a difficult birth, delayed speech or motor skills, and so on. While the impulse may be praiseworthy, to discover those children who will need more support, what about the knock on effect of knowing that a child was slow to talk? What would happen if third grade teachers, for example, could not read notes from the teachers from earlier grades, and had to judge students anew as they entered the third grade classroom? If someone were to tell me that "Bob" is a drunkard, for example, I would find it very hard to keep the knowledge from coloring my reaction to "Bob," even if my original source were mistaken.

Anonymous said...

My youngest was born right on the cutoff, so I had the option to hold off without it being labeled "redshirting". We had the choice of him being the youngest in his class or the oldest. We chose the latter. If he had been born in August, I would have still made the decision based on his maturity level, and just dealt with any bad consequences later.

At the time (pre-school to pre-K)the other kids seemed so much older, so cooperative. My son was a full year behind the oldest in the class. These kids were playing well together and interested in pleasing the teacher. My son didn't seem particularly smart (which is kind of funny now) and was only interested in sitting in a corner playing with the Mr. Potato Head bin whilst wearing a red fire engine hat.

I was chastised by the school principal at the time.

He still doesn't seem like the oldest, but more middle-of-the-pack. However, if the school had not had a gifted program, there would have been a problem, for sure.

So, my son is only a couple of months younger than Catherine's, and yet they both faced very different expectations from teachers. Even with the extra year, the complaints about my son were always about organization and general maturity issues. I can't imagine how much worse it would have been if he had been a full year younger.

Success in grade school has become about executive functions almost more than grade level academics. Unfortunately, I had to protect him as best I could.

SusanS

concernedCTparent said...

Success in grade school has become about executive functions almost more than grade level academics.

Absolutely. I also you think you nailed it when it comes to formulating expectations based strictly on the child's chronological date. It just doesn't work that way.

If your child is younger, the expectation is that any issues are due to a lack of maturity. If your child is older, the expectation is that your child should be more mature than he/she is.

The most recent Dan Willingham article is very relevant to this discussion, I think. To quote Willingham, "There is a developmental sequence
(if not stages) from birth through
adolescence, but pinpointing where a particular child is in that sequence and tuning your instruction to that child’s
cognitive capabilities is not realistic."


You can read the entire article here:

http://www.aft.org/pubs-reports/american_educator/issues/summer08/willingham.pdf

VickyS said...

Success in grade school has become about executive functions almost more than grade level academics.

A gem of an observation. Good executive skills are needed to navigate college (and life in general) so they push them into high school. They are needed in high school, so they are demanded in middle school to prepare the kids for high school, then demanded in elementary school to prepare the kids for middle school, ad infinitum. A prime example is the multiplicity of concurrent long term projects required of elementary and middle schoolers.

There are at least two problems with this thinking. First, kids who are not developmentally ready to exercise executive function (i.e., they simply cannot do it, and at the early grade levels this translates into most kids) are nonetheless expected to exhibit it (enter parents). Second, I'm willing to bet that the eventual development of executive function has little to do with efforts to demand that kids exhibit these skills earlier and earlier, but instead is facilited by focusing on *other* aspects of development at the earlier ages (nightly homework, neat handwriting, multiplication tables, tidy intellectual habits of all sorts).

With schools expecting executive skills at ever younger ages (which, incidentally, discriminates against boys in general), I can see holding back kids to protect them. However, in our case, the intellectual damage that resulted was worse. Plus, I was not on board at the time...I should have followed my intuition. I solved our problem by homeschooling my son for a 7/8 year (I was lucky enough to be able to do that) then enrolling him in high school. He finished 9th grade last year and frankly, it seemed like the organizational demands were almost less than in middle school. Go figure. Moreover, he magically developed the organizational skills that the schools were trying to bludgeon into him for the last 5 years. Why? Because developmentally, it was finally time for them to show themselves! I was very worried b/c our homeschool year was completely ad hoc. No long term projects, no juggling. The only structure he had was in his math curriculum. And yet, come 9th grade, no problem with managing 7 classes, projects, extra curriculars, band, etc., because he was, truly, developmentally ready.

Catherine Johnson said...

The other problem is that if you wait until your child is six, there will be another parent who wants the edge that decides waiting until their son is seven is even better. It's already happening in my district, probably many of your own as well.

Is that right?

You have people holding their kids out for two years?

I've never seen that.

I assume there's some kind of natural ceiling on this...though I don't know.

Private schools call it "the gift of time"!

Catherine Johnson said...

Vicky - what went wrong in your experience (unless that's too private, obviously)

What I've seen is that having a 14-year old boy in our middle school is VERY tough.

Catherine Johnson said...

Susan - that's funny!

Boy, you were so right.

The irony is that I would probably have held C back a year (that's what I had always assumed, because I knew boys were having trouble in schools before I had children - I had even written a magazine article about it).

His due date was September 26; he was born August 15. We were constantly told that preemies "catch up," but in my experience they don't. Six weeks is six weeks as far as I can see.

We ended up putting him in as the youngest in his class because his twin was autistic and had to start SPED. We didn't think it would be "good" for C to be a year behind his autistic brother!

We weren't really thinking at all, to tell the truth....we just sort of went with the way things were.

Catherine Johnson said...

Success in grade school has become about executive functions almost more than grade level academics. Unfortunately, I had to protect him as best I could.

Our K-5 experience wasn't like this at all, though I'm hearing that it is now. Kids have big projects to do; they're supposed to revise papers; they get sent home with math problems to do without having been taught how to do them, etc.

That didn't happen to us.

Middle school was ENTIRELY about executive function, and executive function was defined as character.

If you're organized & remember things you have good character; if you're not organized and you don't remember things, you can't take accelerated classes because you "aren't responsible" or you "don't have the maturity level."

Our middle school openly places kids in classes based in teachers' perceptions of a child's "maturity" and "responsibility," and these qualities trump ability.

Worse yet, families and kids are told that "The team met and said X. isn't responsible."

Catherine Johnson said...

If your child is older, the expectation is that your child should be more mature than he/she is.

I don't think that happens so much -- at least I haven't seen it.

I'm not sure teachers necessarily know the older kids are older.

I had no idea myself.

As far as I can tell, people "judge" by the grade a child is in, not the age.

If a student is in 6th grade, teachers & parents expect him to have the maturity of a 6th grader.

The fact that he's 12 years old instead of 11 doesn't seem to raise the ante.

Catherine Johnson said...

Moreover, he magically developed the organizational skills that the schools were trying to bludgeon into him for the last 5 years.

boy, that frosts me

Catherine Johnson said...

First, kids who are not developmentally ready to exercise executive function (i.e., they simply cannot do it, and at the early grade levels this translates into most kids) are nonetheless expected to exhibit it (enter parents).


ENTER PARENTS, INDEED!

concernedCTparent said...

Catherine, I should certainly clarify. From what I can tell, the kids who are 8 in first grade (there are a number of boys in this situation), were first redshirted by their parents entering kindergarten and then held back by their kindergarten teachers or first grade teachers. These are, in many cases, non sped kids of at the very least average intelligence (probably higher) being held back for maturity issues. At what point does academics trump maturity?

concernedCTparent said...

As far as I can tell, people "judge" by the grade a child is in, not the age.

My eldest has a December 2 birthday. She makes the public school cutoff in California by the very skin of her teeth. Private schools, however, seemed to be another matter. Nevertheless, knowing my child as I did, I enrolled her in kindergarten at four. This is a child whose motor skills my have been slightly behind the child who was a year older but who craved and required acceleration. I have to say her birthdate was a major hurdle. All administrator's had to do was look at her birthdate and they started talking to me about the gift of time.

Later on, even through fourth grade, each time there would be any frustrations, challenges, or issues that probably had mutliple and sundry explanations, the best the schools could come up with was my daughter's young age. It turned into the excuse for everything.

-------

My sister in California recently went through kindergarten placement with her son who turned five this month. She had him tested for her local Catholic school half-day kindergarten program and they suggested the gift of time without really pinpointing how that would significantly change the outcome. He is more than ready for a half-day kindergarten program (he's reading, adding/subtracting, extremely verbal, social, etc. Out of curiosity, she had him tested at another Catholic school that is known as extremely academic and that offers a full day kindergarten. Apparently he passed the testing with flying colors. They had almost no openings for out of parish families, but they were willing to give him one. The gift of time was never even a fleeting thought at a more rigorous school with a longer kindergarten day.

I have a hard time understanding how the same child could be ready for a full day program that is clearly more rigorous and yet not ready at another, more play based, half day program. Clearly, the school that said no came back to his summer birthday as the only explanation. That's just not good enough.

My point? They do pay attention to birthdays. Adminstration prefers an older class, kindergarten teachers seem to prefer older students, and the kids know which kindergarteners are already 6 and a half in October.

Catherine Johnson said...

My eldest has a December 2 birthday. She makes the public school cutoff in California by the very skin of her teeth. Private schools, however, seemed to be another matter. Nevertheless, knowing my child as I did, I enrolled her in kindergarten at four.

wow!

That is YOUNG.

Of course, it's not young in terms of ability to LEARN.

Catherine Johnson said...

They do pay attention to birthdays. Adminstration prefers an older class, kindergarten teachers seem to prefer older students

it's always worse than you think

actually, I'm sure this is true at the Kindergarten level (though I had no idea --- )

What do you think in middle school?

Are teachers likely to be strongly aware of which kids are older?

I'm sure they could be.

I had NO idea, though, and I've known these kids forever.

Of course, I don't see the kids very often. I'd figured out that C's circle of friends is awfully young -- but I hadn't realized that there were apparently more than a few kids who'd entered a year late.

Catherine Johnson said...

From what I can tell, the kids who are 8 in first grade (there are a number of boys in this situation), were first redshirted by their parents entering kindergarten and then held back by their kindergarten teachers or first grade teachers.

OH!

Interesting.

I haven't seen that -- I don't think it happened with kids in C's class.

At what point does academics trump maturity?

Never, as far as I can tell.

I wish I'd known this going into middle school.

The first time the idea of refusing an academically qualified kid entry into Earth Science due to "immaturity" came up I was so astounded that I didn't manage to knock that one down.

Plus, I was outnumbered, because there was a parent in the room making the argument strongly, citing her work with developmentally delayed kids.

SIGH!!!!!

I HAVE DEVELOPMENTALLY DELAYED KIDS!!!

I know from developmental delay.

concernedCTparent said...

Oh Catherine, thank you for reminding me why my children should never go to middle school!

I'm sure you're right. Age may become much less of an issue in middle school when the more vague "immaturity" issue takes over. It's certainly a big deal in the early grades, though.

I have a feeling that in a K-8 setting you would see stuff like this much less than in our current hyper-segregated models (K-4, 5-6, 7-8). You get a better view of the whole forest and don't miss it for the trees. You take a look at the kids one grade up and think, "Oh, they still do that?" or "Oh, they still can't do that?" "Maybe it's not a maturity issue. Maybe I need to look even deeper for the answer."

Ben Calvin said...

...her local Catholic school... suggested the gift of time...she had him tested at another Catholic school..Apparently he passed the testing with flying colors.

I think there may be more variability between parochial schools. Our school was pretty open to admitting kids who are technically too young, as long as they passed the evaluation criteria. The option was that if they weren’t ready to move on they could just repeat kindergarten.

Of course the school had a couple of years where enrollment was light (my son’s class has around 21 students). Don’t know if that has changed now that they’ve had a couple of bigger classes.

Interestingly, one of the best students in my son’s class is one of the youngest – excelling in math, reading and soccer. By age he s/b a year behind. I'm sure he would be going crazy with boredom if he was in his proper cohort.

Anonymous said...

"From what I can tell, the kids who are 8 in first grade (there are a number of boys in this situation), were first redshirted by their parents entering kindergarten and then held back by their kindergarten teachers or first grade teachers."

If we are only talking about *ENTERING* age for first grade, I think you pretty much need one of the teachers to hold back the kid.

But ... my son is 7½. He misses the California cutoff age by about six weeks. If we had held him back a year, then he would be entering 1st grade this upcoming year ... and would turn 8 half way through the school year, in January.

-Mark Roulo

VickyS said...

Catherine, what went wrong with the redshirting of my son is pretty simple. He's an early June birthday, and in our state the cutoff is Sept. 1. He's always been a very big kid, physically. And he's also always been mature for his age, and pretty bright. He was redshirted solely on account of his summer birthday.

During his elementary years, well-meaning adults would often ask things like "what grade are you in, 6th?" when he was in, say, 3rd or 4th. He would have to explain that he was held back due to his summer birthday ("I used to go to a school that held everyone with a summer birthday back a year" --true) but was sure they all thought he was stupid. So, this resulted in a continuing assault on his self-esteem.

Moreover, when we had finally remediated all the defects from the Waldorf years, he was underchallenged academically.

Finally, he has always been more mature than even his age cohorts. Not by measures of executive function, but by social skills. He's always done better with older kids and adults.

This all led to alienation, victimization at the hands of bullies, isolation, etc.

The homeschool year (7/8) was heaven. Plus, there was really nothing to worry about academically because the other kids weren't learning much in school during those years anyway. He couldn't really fall behind!

I have a second son (October birthday) going into 7th grade this year. He's in a better school than the older one was at that time, but I'm still thinking about putting him into 9th the year after. If I did, he'd be turning 14 in October of his 9th grade year. I think that's just fine.

Everyone always told me--just wait for high school, it gets so much better. I think they were right. So why spend any more time in middle school than the bare minimum?

Catherine Johnson said...

thank you for reminding me why my children should never go to middle school!

One of my closest friends from childhood, who was the first person I knew to homeschool, told her kids the ONE thing they would not be allowed to do was to attend middle school.

If they wanted to go to public elementary or high school, fine.

No middle school.

Catherine Johnson said...

Vicky --- omg

what a mess

It's intriguing, though, that different places may have different....values?

Tall kids here seem to do well, period.

The one boy I know well whose parents redshirted him for reasons of maturity (only reasons of maturity - not sports or learning) - told his mom that the instant he was taller than the teachers people started treating him better.

Catherine Johnson said...

Everyone always told me--just wait for high school, it gets so much better. I think they were right. So why spend any more time in middle school than the bare minimum?

I'm completely against middle schools at this point, for two main reasons (will get a post up at some point).

In a nutshell, those reasons concern age segregation, which I think works against kids this age or perhaps any age (don't know) and "path dependency," i.e. middle schools all grew out of the middle school movement, and it shows.

Catherine Johnson said...

I have a feeling that in a K-8 setting you would see stuff like this much less than in our current hyper-segregated models (K-4, 5-6, 7-8).

"hyper-segregated" is a good word for it

We have a K-3 school, a 4-5 school, a 6-8 school, and a high school.

K9Sasha said...

he has always been more mature than even his age cohorts. Not by measures of executive function, but by social skills. He's always done better with older kids and adults.

My son is gifted/learning disabled and has Asperger's Syndrome. There was no right grade placement for him. By academics, he should have been a year ahead in elementary school. By social skills, he should have been two or three years behind (or maybe ahead as he did better with older children and adults).

For middle school, he attended a small charter school where students were placed solely depending on their academics, not age or grade level. As such, he was able to take advanced high school classes. On the other hand, that left nothing for high school, and so I pulled him out and started to homeschool him for high school.

He's been homeschooled for three years now, and each year I ask if he wants to go back to school - no way! He likes being able to learn on his schedule and at his own rate. And in terms of maturity, my son is now more mature than most boys his age or even older, and both his Boy Scout leader and his Aikido sensei know they can depend on him, and do so on a regular basis.

Catherine Johnson said...

My son is gifted/learning disabled and has Asperger's Syndrome. There was no right grade placement for him.

Oh boy

There is NO PLACE for those kids, as far as I can tell.

The good thing is that those kids have a place as adults ---- childhood is the hardest part for them (at least, that's the way it seems to me...)

K9Sasha said...

My son is gifted/learning disabled and has Asperger's Syndrome.


The good thing is that those kids have a place as adults ---- childhood is the hardest part for them


Yes, I figured out pretty early on that my son would do fine as an adult, but it was getting him there that was going to be the hard part. I look at him now, at 17, and just marvel at how far he's come. He's such a polite, responsible person and most people wouldn't be able to tell he has AS at this point. Of course, he still doesn't have friends, but he gets along with others and doesn't have major temper tantrums anymore (except occasionally with Mom and Dad). The older he's gotten, the better his life has become, and I expect that trend to continue.

wordsmith said...

The situation hasn't changed much since 40-some years ago when I was set to enter kindergarten. I had managed to read on my own before setting foot in school. My parents saw me reading at four, and wanted me to go into kindergarten a year early. (My birthday is in January, and the cutoff for our schools at the time was 11/30.) My parents took me to school to talk to the administration about starting early, my parents' chief concern being that I would be bored academically if I entered with my peer group. I remember being brought to the teachers' lounge to demonstrate my reading skills. However, my parents' request was ultimately denied, on the grounds that I'd be socially disadvantaged from being out of my peer group; only one teacher advocated my parents' position. An attempt was made to quell my parents' concern; promises were made that I would be sufficiently challenged academically while I remained in my peer group.

Looking back, however, I don't believe that to be the case, and ever since I found out, I have regretted the missed opportunity to start school a year earlier. Too bad homeschooling wasn't really a viable option in the late '60's.