Wednesday, August 15, 2012

August Birthday Boys - Start School or Hold Them Back?

My firstborn is my only son and he was born in August.   I remember being at a doctor's appointment with him when he was about six months old and the nurse mentioned holding her son back a year since he was born in August.  I couldn't believe she was telling me this.  I couldn't even imagine my sweet baby talking or walking -- let alone starting school!

Fast forward a year and I had the smartest kid on the planet!  He knew all his letter - lowercase and capitals - at 18 months old.  He also knew all of his animal sounds at the same age.  Full disclosure: I didn't teach him any of that, but he loved Wheel of Fortune and Sesame Street.  At 16, if Sesame Street is on, he's glued to the television.

So, when the time came for him to enroll in kindergarten, I didn't think twice about it.  He was super smart and he did great.   He was pretty shy, especially with adults, but overall, we felt good about the decision to start him in school.  His grades were good and he understood the material.

Let's fast forward some more.  14 years old.  An age I couldn't imagine when he was 5, starting kindergarten.  He was 13 when he started high school band camp at the end of July, his freshman year.  He was barely 14 when school started.

Freshman year is a big adjustment for any kid, but for a younger boy, it's a lot of responsibility juggling the schedule and meeting deadlines.  It was a lot of pressure, but he did fairly well and his grades were pretty good.

Cougar!
Now lets talk about the girls.  Many of these freshmen girls do not look like freshmen.  Some are quite aggressive with the boys and the younger boys tend to think it's pretty awesome that an older girl likes him (I might be speaking from experience).  If he is the youngest in his grade, it's a good bet that she's older than he is and probably much more mature.  It will definitely get in the way of focusing on important things and cloud his judgement.

Next, if he is the youngest, all of his friends will drive before he does.  He will be in a car driving around with his friends at an earlier age instead of being the first to learn.

His friends will all be working the summer they are 16, while he is waiting around to be old enough to get a job.  They'll have money to go to the movies or to Sonic because they work.  Your son, on the other hand, will either be mooching off his friends and driving them crazy, or he'll be begging you for money so he can keep up with his friends.  Again, I might be speaking from experience.

He'll only have one summer at home (hopefully) of managing a job, money, time management, homework, etc. before leaving for college.  Learning to juggle those things on your own, away from home, is likely stressful for parents and son.  Many boys find themselves in debt.

While it might be trivial, many boys don't grow tall until high school.  Being the shortest and the youngest in the grade is a tough place to be for most boys.  You just don't know how tall he'll be at that age when he's starting kindergarten.  To be trying to keep up with kids that are up to a year older, plus looking younger, well, it might be tough on the self-esteem.

My husband is a September birthday and was the oldest in his grade.  He did great.  He was always a leader, not a follower.  I think age was part of the equation. 

Many parents, especially moms, are ready for their kids to go to school.  I was one of them!  I had several little ones at home and I was ready to push one out the door for a few hours for half-day kindergarten.  Don't judge me!  If I had had a crystal ball to see the future, I would never have sent him!  I would have held him back a year.  My husband was opposed to that, and even as I've express my regret over the years, he would always assure me that it's fine that he went "early".  Since starting high school, and especially since being 15, he has changed his tune.

If you are in this position, I hope this post helps you get a glimpse into what you are looking at 10 years down the road.  It's all about informed consent, right?  Let me put it this way, I never hear parents say, "I really wish we hadn't held him back," but I often hear the opposite, as is our case.  Hold on to your babies as long as you can.  The payoff may not be immediate, but 10 or 15 years down the road.

My "baby" at almost 15.




16 comments:

The Quinns said...

I have a July 19th baby girl. She's my second baby. I've been thinking we would start her as the baby of her grade in preschool and let the teachers tell me what they think before first grade and if needed hold her back a year. Any thoughts on being the baby for a girl? I'm pretty sure she will hate me when it comes time to get her driver's license and turn 21 to have a beer! But other than that I was just planning to let her social and academic development lead us by first grade. Great post! Oh and my husband was a late June baby of his grade and says it never bothered him until a friends dad tried to talk his mother into having him repeat 9th grade so he could grow more for sports!! Nevermind that he was taking advanced placement classes already! He lived in the country with horses and cows and 'worked' for his family so he didn't have to wait to be old enough for a job. But that's a really good point about the young boys only having one summer at home with a job to learn the responsibilities that entails. Thanks!

The Quinns said...

I have a July 19th baby girl. She's my second baby. I've been thinking we would start her as the baby of her grade in preschool and let the teachers tell me what they think before first grade and if needed hold her back a year. Any thoughts on being the baby for a girl? I'm pretty sure she will hate me when it comes time to get her driver's license and turn 21 to have a beer! But other than that I was just planning to let her social and academic development lead us by first grade. Great post! Oh and my husband was a late June baby of his grade and says it never bothered him until a friends dad tried to talk his mother into having him repeat 9th grade so he could grow more for sports!! Nevermind that he was taking advanced placement classes already! He lived in the country with horses and cows and 'worked' for his family so he didn't have to wait to be old enough for a job. But that's a really good point about the young boys only having one summer at home with a job to learn the responsibilities that entails. Thanks!

Belly Up said...

My youngest has a bday on Sept 1- the deadline day (rule here is on or by Sept 1). He is not the smartest, heck he will be 3 in a few weeks and barely talks,
let alone knows his letters or colors. We will be holding him back for sure!

Susan Skok Martin said...

I have an October girl- I am most like holding her back if she chooses to go to high school (we homeschool now and can go at her own rate.) My sister was a September baby - my mom said that putting her in early was the biggest mistake she ever made; my sister never did as well as me or my other sister in school (I think that gave her the self-image of not being smart enough) and that was way back when when the schools weren't a gnarly as they are now days. My mom made sure to hold my younger fall sister back and it made a major difference.

My oldest just started high school yesterday. She is a March baby so that wasn't an issue, but I can definitely attest to the difference of high school; after going through all the papers to sign for each class, the different syllabus's and each teachers private website, and helping my daughter get the required stuff together for each class -- I was ready to cry and I'm an adult. High school is waaaaay different from the rest. Definitely a good idea to give a thought to the future -- it's challenging.

Krista Eger said...

Though my son is super super smart (also learned alphabet lower case and upper case by 18 months, he could sound out letters and read simple words before his 3rd birthday (technically JUST before. About a month). His birthday is in June and I plan to homeschool, but I'll be starting nursing school around the time he is supposed to go to school so I will have to rely on babysitters (luckily my MIL is moving back here and she doesn't have a job or kids at home) but if I really was going to send him to school I would hold him back a year. Totally. June is just on the border on when it is ok to do that. So it will also be a great excuse as to why I'm not putting him in school yet haha!

Unknown said...

The book "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell makes some reference to this issue, and points out that one of the reasons for some people's success (especially in athletics) is that they were the oldest in their class. There is really no need to rush children into elementary school; there's so much stimulation that can happen at home or at an alternative-type school like Waldorf or Montessori that don't focus on age as the determining factor, but rely instead on careful observation of the child's development. The fact that a child can recite numbers or letters does not mean that they are mentally or emotionally ready for traditional education.

WoozleMom said...

My son will be three on September 2. We're definitely not sending him right when he turns 5! A lot of that comes from experience: my husband and my brother share a birthday, September 5. My parents agonized about sending my brother but ended up holding him out for a year, and he did great. My husband's parents sent him when he was 4-almost-5, and he ended up repeating first grade because he was not socially mature and the teachers recommended keeping him back a year. He did fine with all the work! He says now that he's so glad they decided to keep in first grade the extra year.
I also have a cousin who is one day younger than my brother. Her parents sent her when she was still 4, and she always did great. So call me sexist, but I do think it's a gender thing, at least to an extent.

Sarah said...

I learned to read before I started kindergarten, and my mom credits Wheel of Fortune and Sesame Street too!

I'm glad to have read this, thanks. :) I worked in child care for years, and my kids are still young, so I've only seen the beginning of the progression. I would never have thought of the results of sending a child to school early. I do think it's partly gender also; my best friend in high school had skipped first grade, so she was a year younger than any of the rest of our friends, but it never seemed to make a difference. But, every individual is different! Again, thanks for helping me see the other end. :)

Cat said...

I have triplets that were born nine weeks early at the end of July. Their due date was the end of September. They're only three, but we've already decided to hold them back a year. We have two girls and a boy. Lately I've been second guessing that decision because they already know so much. Until this post, I hadn't even thought much past kindergarten in terms of their age and what it would mean and I certainly hadn't considered high school! Thank you! We'll stick with their age 6 school start date.

Renise said...

I am a mid Sept baby and at 4 my mom enrolled me in a private school as the public school cutoff was Sept 1. I struggled all through school and had I been honest with myself, I would have waited a year or two before going away to a 4 yr college. I wish my mother's circumstances had allowed her to keep me in daycare an additional year but I was able to get a scholarship to the private school at 4 so that was much better than her having to pay for 2 kids in daycare. Lesson learned - if my kids are born in the fall, I won't mind holding them back a year. I'd rather they be held back early on than struggle through school like I did.

Emmaleigh Gray said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Assistance Center of Collin County said...

Please help! I started my August bday boy in K at age 5 because the principal told me I couldn't hold him back. She lied. Now he's about to enter 2nd grade and I'm regretting the decision. He's struggling quite a bit with reading. I'm considering having him repeat 1st grade to get him back where we wanted him originally. We will be changing schools, so hopefully that would ease the transition. Has anyone else done this and were you happy with your decision? School starts Monday ... I have to decide by TOMORROW! Thanks in advance!

Donna Ryan said...

I posted your question over at the band from baby showers Facebook page. Let's see what others have to say about this. I would definitely hold him back now while it's much simpler to do so. Good luck!

Unknown said...

Wouldn't kids born in August be around the middle in age of their class? December kids are the youngest in the class.

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Anonymous said...

I would like to offer my perspective as a 35 year old man who was born August 16th, 4 days before the cutoff for starting school, and who's parents decided not to hold him back.

In talking to my parents, their reasons for sending me off early were both because they were fatigued and anxious to get me out of the house all day -- I was their first child -- and the fact that I was a precocious learner, and was ahead of my age in reading. They thought that meant I would be okay academically.

They weren't wrong. I did above-average in elementary school, when children grow relatively uniformly. But around the age of puberty, there began to be major problems.

A year's worth of physical change during puberty is substantial even for normal teenagers. But I suffered from severe constitutional growth delay as well, or what is usually called being a "late-bloomer." This meant I was not just 1-2 years behind my peers physically, but 3+, and that much difference in age around 11-14 is enormous.

This was psychologically catastrophic. Physical appearance and stature is immensely important to teenage boys self-esteem. Boys who hit puberty early relative to their peers are seen as stronger, more competent, more attractive, and more valuable. Those who hit it late are seen as weak, inadequate, unpopular, and flawed. (Note: the opposite is often true for girls.) Being reassured that I was "just a late bloomer" by parents and counselors actually backfired, because it taught me that I was fundamentally inferior and powerless to fix it.

The result was deep social withdrawal. I quit all physical activities because I couldn't keep up with my peers. I was severely bullied by both other boys and girls. I lost all of my friends. I felt deeply inadequate, sexually broken, confused, and flawed. I fell into severe depression and anxiety, culminating in multiple suicide attempts over 4-5 years, and my emotional and sexual development halted completely for well over a decade.

At this stage in life, I am an objectively successful Fortune 50 executive, and have been told that I am of above-average physical attractiveness and intelligence. No one would ever imagine that I once had any problems at all. And this is what most parents are concerned with, on the surface, when debating whether or not to hold their kid back.

But in terms of self-image and psychological development, I am still severely scarred. I was unable to even attempt intimacy with another person until age 34. I still suffer from deep feelings of inadequacy, depression, and a distorted self-image. Years of counseling has given me mechanisms for coping, but cannot fix the problem, as these feelings were burned into my identity during the most important years for a child's developing self-image.

So while I can't speak for girls, I beg you from first-hand experience: please hold your August boys back a year. While there's a good chance it won't matter either way, if you start them early and the roll of the genetic dice means they also hit puberty late, you can cause deep and long-lasting psychological issues.