Monday, September 12, 2011

When Should Preemies Start Kindergarten?

As Gavin gets older, I find there are less and less resources to answer my preemie related questions. I love, love, LOVE the online board that I joined when Sam was born, and they have been so helpful in answering my questions and saving my sanity. However, Gavin is one of the older kids of the group - at least of those of us active on the board.

I received a comment on his birthday post about the decision to send him to school, rather than waiting. I thought it might be helpful to post my response on here as well, in case any other mom struggling with this decision is trying to find parents who have been in the same position. This is just what worked for us and the decision that we made based on the research that we did. Everyone needs to evaluate what will work best for them, of course.

To aid in my decision, I read a lot about pro's/cons of sending kids to kindergarten. It was not preemie specific, more about kids that are on the brink of that cut off date.

Everything that I read said that any disadvantage that they may have being young for their grade is pretty much eradicated by 2nd grade. Gavin did not attend the school district preschool (being our first kid in school and not having friends with kids that age, we didn't know how important this was). He had preschool type time at his day care, but probably not as rigorous as real preschool.

At any rate, I can see that the gap has closed big time between kindergarten and now. The neighbor girl was reading before she even started kindergarten and was way ahead and bored in school the last two years. I just talked to her mom last week, and she's not as far ahead as she used to be, and it's frustrating her (the child). Like the spelling list they sent home, she didn't know them all right away and had to study.

I also found it interesting that when I went to administer spelling tests last week, there was a boy in my "red list" group. The red list was easier than the green list (Gavin made the green list). This boy was in his class in kindergarten, and he was in the advanced group at that time - and this year he has the easy spelling list. So things are starting to even out, it appears.

Gavin's super smart, his issues were more non-academic that interfered with his abilities to perform (I believe). The first half of the year in Kindergarten he literally could not sit still during carpet time. Last year, he was having problems following through on directions and with reading comprehension - which doesn't just hurt language arts scores, but also math, science and everything else if you are not properly comprehending the instructions.

Would these have been any better had we waited a year to send him? I'm not sure they would be. I think he needed to be in that structured setting to be able to work on these skills, so I'm not sure holding him back a year would have really helped much. The key for me is taking the time to get to know the teacher, and to make sure they understand the history. I expressed my concerns up front with the teachers, told them some of the issues we saw at home, or from the prior year at school and regularly emailed/checked in with the teacher to see how things were going and what suggestions they had for us to work on things at home. That way they see you as the partner and (I think) work a little harder with your kid. I also volunteered in his classroom which kept me in touch with what they were working on as well as gave me perspective as to how the other kids were performing on assessments.

So in hindsight, I do believe we made the right decision, although I've questioned it every time he struggles (and likely will continue to!). In the research that I did, there is cause to hold them back if you think they are not socially/emotionally ready - they need to be able to use the bathroom, follow directions, communicate, get along with other kids, etc. 

The other reason I've heard anecdotally - I get this from parents of boys more often than I thought I would - is that they wouldn't send their boys that are young for their grade because they will be smaller and not as good at sports. While it seems superficial on the surface, I do think this could have confidence and social ramifications (and could certainly be more relevant in preemies that have still not caught up in terms of growth, but would have to weigh whether they ever will be).

Gavin was tall for his age by the time he started school, so I was never worried about his size. I never figured he would be a football player, so I wasn't worried about that either. All the local sports clubs (soccer, baseball, etc) go by age, not grade, so he is playing on teams with kids a grade younger. By the time he gets to high school and competing at a grade level rather than age level, I don't think that 1 yr will make a difference. He'll either be competitive or not at that point.

That's my two cents. If you happened upon this post because you are struggling with the decision yourself, best of luck!


The Vintage Iowan said...

Like many otherdecisions with children, if they are made with best info available, backed up with love and understanding, then they are the best decisions! You are a good Mom, and there are rarely any "irreversible" mistakes you can make as long as the above applies. Seriously.

Trish said...

Thanks for reposting this.
I'm happy to report that Robbie is finishing up his 3rd week of preschool, and he actually has been in the 4yo class (though he's the youngest 3yo) and is doing FANTASTIC. His teacher says he's doing well, and everyone has commented on how his speech and cognition of grown just in these few weeks.
I definitely feel like starting him in preschool was the right thing to do and am feeling more confident about kindergarten on time when that time comes.