Articles and Topics
Should our son repeat kindergarten?
Q: When, if at all, do you think it is beneficial to let a child repeat kindergarten? Our son has taken his time to accomplish everything, from walking to potty training. He is very imaginative, and we read to him constantly, but he is not reading yet. He started kindergarten right after his 5th birthday. He is a little behind, and with the year half finished is just grasping phonics.

Now the children are expected to write sentences and take a state reading test. I’m worried that each grade will be a struggle and he may fall behind. Do you think holding him back would be a negative?
A: Probably the person best qualified to answer your question, Carmen, is your son’s kindergarten teacher. Although the transition from kindergarten should be smooth and seamless, it often doesn’t work out that way.

For a long time elementary placement was guided by a “non-graded plan” that would allow for big individual differences—all entirely normal—among young children in the ages at which they achieve various academic skills. Close monitoring of progress at each grade level, including kindergarten, has now tossed the non-graded plan in the trash bin. It has also forced kindergarten teachers to be more concerned with early phonics and printing than with speaking, listening and essential social skills.

In trying to arrive at a decision I would consider your son’s entire development, including size and rudimentary physical skills, like tossing or catching a ball. If he is very small, an extra year to allow him to grow in stature and master a few more physical skills might be very helpful. If he is already tall and well-coordinated, a second year in which he would tower over the other children would probably not be a good idea. Whichever decision is made, I would enroll him in a summer program that would allow him to continue working on his writing and early reading. A summer might be as long a catch-up period as he would need.

Finally I must comment that this decision might not rest in your hands. The school personnel might insist that it is their prerogative to say which grade he should be assigned to in the fall. If that is the case and you disagree with the arrangement, you always have the option of enrolling him in another school.