On a U Chicago mailing…

On a U Chicago mailing list I'm on, someone asked recently about when we'd all started kindergarten, and what we were doing with our kids. Jumping them forward? Holding them back? This is apparently a hot topic in the parenting community, especially among geeky parents, who tend to assume (perhaps wrongly) that their kids will be bright and possibly quite bored in school. Which can lead to serious behavior problems, starting to hate school, etc. and so on. None of which we want for our kids, of course.

My birthday is July 26th; I started kindergarten at 5, on schedule, and didn't skip at all. No pre-school. My mom tells me that she'd taught me how to read at home by age 3. I was vaguely bored for most of grammar school (Catholic), but the nuns generally let me grab a book off the shelf whenever I was done with my work, and that kept me occupied enough. It probably helped that I was a relatively quiet type back then. When I came home from school, I either went outside to play, often alone, or went up to my room to read, and was pretty content either way.

Kavi has a May birthday, so will be a little young for her class; Anand has a September one, which I think means he'll just miss the cut-off, and will be quite old for his class. They're almost 4 and 1.5 now, so these decisions aren't quite with us yet, but coming.

I suspect we're just going to go along with the standard schedule, though. Everything I've read suggests that trying to game the system by holding them back or pushing them forward has unpredictable results -- maybe helpful, maybe not, and impossible to tell in advance. If they end up being so bored that they have behavior problems, then we'll have to revisit this, of course.

I just hope the teachers let them read when they're bored. We moved to Oak Park for the excellent public schools -- hopefully they're as good as everyone says they are. And while we're not planning to do any kind of formal homeschooling, we certainly teach them things at home already, and will likely continue to do so. Kev and I work at home so much; the kids are going to get plenty of face time with their professor parents. Which may just make the problem worse, if they're far ahead of their peers at school. But I gather that there's an unusually high concentration of parents holding advanced degrees in Oak Park; maybe that will translate to a reasonable cohort of bright kids for them to hang with at school.

I don't really think it takes that much for a bright kid to be happy at school -- a few good friends, an understanding and flexible teacher. It doesn't seem too much to hope for.

Of course, they're still so young, we don't even know if they're going to be bright at all! So we may have nothing to worry about. :-)

5 thoughts on “On a U Chicago mailing…”

  1. We went through the same questions a few years ago–Megan is a September baby and also an advanced reader. Ultimately, we decided to follow the school district schedule, mainly because it’s a costly and time-consuming process to put your kid into Kg early, and if a teacher later suggested that they skip a grade, that doesn’t cost you anything. Plus, the OP schools each have a teacher who works with the gifted kids (for now–vote yes on the referendum!).

    OP has a higher percentage of gifted kids than the general population (15-20% VS 5-10%) so for the most part, there’s a decent amount of support for these kids. As for the regular classroom teachers, they can be hit-or-miss–Megan’s Kg teacher last year was awesome, but her 1st grade teacher can’t accept that any children would be bored in her class. So you may have to advocate a little harder for your kids at some times, but I suppose that’s true with almost every kid for one reason or another.

  2. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    Julie, this is so helpful to read — thanks!!! Interesting about the higher percentage of gifted kids; I’m not too surprised, but I hadn’t realized it was such a large discrepancy from the norm.

    I am not particularly good at beating up teachers, but I suppose I can learn. 🙂

  3. The public schools did not have kindergarten when I was a child. We began in first grade. So, I have never thought kindergarten terribly important. Apparently it is for some children, however. I managed to do my own grade skipping, eventually, finishing high school and undergrad school in three years each. I would gladly have skipped a grade or two, but finishing my B. A. at age 20 and Ph. D. at 24 was probably sufficient.

  4. Most of the parents I know are more worried about the age thing from a social standpoint, i.e., is my nine-months-younger-than-her-class child going to be emotionally ready for this, and at the same social skills and interaction levels of her older classmates?

    My brother says that he sees some parents debating whether or not to start their kid a year late in order to reap the athletic benefits. You know, your older kid will be more coordinated/bigger/better at sports than the younger kids in his class, which will be to his advantage if he seriously participates in competitive sports.

    My daughter is right on the border in terms of birthday and would be able to go either way. I would not put her in the later class for athletic reasons, but if it turned out she needed some time to develop more socially, I’d strongly consider it. She’s not quite two, so plenty of time to wait and see!

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