As a parent, you question your judgement constantly. Well, at least I do. How do you know when you’re making the right decision? What if you don’t? How will this impact my kids? My family? All of these questions have been on repeat in my mind since we started discussing the twins repeating kindergarten.
It wasn’t a decision we came to lightly, and it wasn’t without support. So, let me walk you through our process on how we made our final decision.
Research and school decisions for the twins have been happening for the last two years. It’s been stressful and challenging, but I think we’ve finally made it to the right place.
I’ve read articles, joined discussion groups, talked to teachers, administrators, and counselors. School is not something I take lightly because it is just so important. Not only are the twins learning academic skills that they need in life, but they are also learning the social skills that are so critical to their happiness.
In many of the articles I read, retention, or repeating a grade, was not looked upon with much support. They gave statistics and numbers about how it didn’t set the children up for success later in their academic careers.
However, every person that I’ve talked to in real life has never regretted their decision to have their child repeat a grade. This is especially true at the kindergarten level.
It was a really tough decision to send them to kindergarten in the first place last year. If they had been born when they were supposed to, they would have August birthdays. We would have almost definitely held them back.
But, they were born in May.
There are differing thoughts on adjusted versus actual age in the preemie world, but most doctors believe kids have caught up by the time they are three years old. The twins’ doctor felt as if they were caught up and developing with their actual age.
They had done a preschool program, and they had received speech/OT/PT services through the school district. We then put them in a kindergarten readiness program for the summer. If they did well, we were going to go ahead and send them. If not, we were going to do another year of preschool or something else.
By the end of the 6 week program, they were doing great. Their teacher told us they were keeping up with their classmates, and there weren’t any major issues.
I’m not going to lie. It would have been a huge financial burden to send them to another year of preschool. Our district does not have a free program, and 4K for two children is expensive. While I wish money wasn’t a factor in our decision, we did have to consider how it would affect the whole family, as well.
So, off to kindergarten it was.
There weren’t any major problems at the beginning of the school year. The twins seemed to enjoy school, although they would come home completely exhausted and cranky. It was a rough transition to full days of school, but I figured that was a common occurrence.
Their teacher was amazing, and kept me in the loop on everything that was happening.
By the time of the first teacher conference, the twins seemed to be doing OK. They were still getting speech, physical, and occupational therapy. We also had an IEP, Individual Education Plan, in place for both of them. This allowed us and their teachers to make special accommodations for the help that they needed. Both boys still had sounds they couldn’t produce, had weak core muscles, and needed more strength and dexterity in their hands and fingers.
They seemed to be keeping pace academically, but Little P was still very quiet in class.
Then, things changed. The novelty wore off, and they realized this was part of their every day life. They were no longer excited to go to school everyday, but wanted to stay home. There were messages about tears at school.
It wasn’t a reflection on their teacher or the school. They were doing everything to help them, but they didn’t always know what they needed. I didn’t even know what they needed.
First, it was my Little P. He was frustrated with things he couldn’t do, and couldn’t (or wouldn’t) communicate what was wrong. He got so upset at one point, he held his breath and almost fainted.
It would be small things, like not being able to open his water bottle, not being able to zip his jacket, or having to sit in a special seat because he was so small. He hated being different or asking for help.
Then, after Christmas break, it was Big C. Being home for a week seemed to trigger his separation anxiety. He didn’t want to get on the bus in the morning, and would start crying. When I would volunteer in art class, he would get teary when I left.
He was constantly afraid I wouldn’t come to volunteer time at school, or he would get lost from his brother during the day.
Trial and Error
So, we started sticker charts at home and at school. P got a sticker if he didn’t cry in school, C got one if he didn’t cry before school.
We had meetings and emails.
They made Little P a chart that he could just point to, so they could figure out what was wrong, if he was crying and wouldn’t talk.
As for school work, it was still OK. They enjoyed being read to, and also liked to figure out reading. They were making improvements in Math, but we never were able to do homework when they got home at the end of the day. They were too worn out.
As it neared the end of the school year, and their annual IEP meeting, I began to get really nervous.
How could they move on to first grade when they couldn’t emotionally handle kindergarten?
While they liked the kids in their class, and talked about them, they didn’t really form relationships. We didn’t have play-dates. They were too emotional and wild when they got home from school to even think about having anyone else over.
I wanted them to love going to school, not fear it. I wanted to set them up for success, not frustration.
I went to their IEP meeting armed with facts and reasons why they should repeat kindergarten. I was ready for a fight, as I had heard our district doesn’t normally allow retention. I just couldn’t picture my babies moving to first grade when they had so much they needed to work on in kindergarten.
We went through all of their IEP first, covering their Speech therapy needs, continued Occupational therapy needs, and their improvement in Physical Therapy.
Then, it was time for the big decision.
To my surprise and relief, there was no fight. There was support from their kindergarten teacher, from the school administrator, and school psychologist. They all agreed it was a special circumstance, and we needed to do whatever we could to help them succeed.
They didn’t want to see my boys struggle. Pushing them forward would be a mistake.
So, here we are. School starts in about a week. We are actually meeting their new teacher today.
I’m still nervous, but I know we made the right decision. I do not regret putting them in kindergarten because they learned and grew so much. While they struggled a lot, they also made progress. If they would have done another year of preschool, I’m not sure they would have been prepared for kindergarten this year. I think it’s going to be really good for them. They will have more of an academic background, so they can concentrate on the emotional aspects and relationships.
I also learned a lot, including that I need to trust my mommy instincts.
Thanks so much for sharing. I think having the twins do kindergarten again sounds like the best plan – and it’s true that they can focus more on social and emotional needs this year since they’ve already done the academic stuff. My sister went to kindergarten two years in a row, and a couple other kids in her class did too, and obviously they are all doing just fine as grown adults. I think it can really only help! I’m glad the school was so nice and accommodating though so you didn’t have to fight the issue. I hope all your boys have a great school year!!
Thank you Lauren! And thank you for sharing that about your sister! It’s always good to hear!
Hi Shann, I think you are making the right decision for your boys! I have heard too many times that parents push their kids to the next grade level and regret it because they were not ready socially!
Thank you so much Rochelle!
Poor little guys! I always advise parents that it’s best to keep little ones – especially boys – in a play based learning environment for as long as possible. The modern kindergarten has taken on what 1st grade used to teach and there is less time for play. Kindergarten, from a developmental standpoint should be almost all play, which it definitely is not. Now we are seeing more and more mental and emotional issues in our children due in part, I believe, to the early academics being pushed. I wish your little ones the best and hope they can recover from such a stressful year.
Thank you Jen! Yes, it’s definitely a whole different kindergarten experience these days.
Jenna Cerrati says
I think you have made a great decision. Our story is similar to yours. My boys were born in June but were supposed to have been born in September. We looked at it as, if they had been born on or near their due date it would have been a no brainer to hold them back from starting. But we did have them wait to start Kindergarten until they were 6. They are THE oldest ones in their grade now (just started 3rd grade today at age 9) but it was definitely the right decision and they are doing great!
I know you didn’t come to that decision lightly, but it sounds like you are doing the best thing for the twins. I think you have definitely done the right research and I think they will do wonderfully. You are a wonderful mom!
It’s so important to do what’s right for them. They are what matter 🙂
Shann, From a teacher and mom standpoint, I think you really made a wise decision. I agree that pushing kids forward for the sake of keeping up with others their age is not in the best interest of the child. Kids develop differently and kindergarten is the perfect place to try again because the stakes are low. They will make great helpers for the things they already know which will hopefully build their confidence. This sounds like a setup for success both now and in the future. Your blog is well written and I appreciate the agony and research that went into your decision. Prayers for a successful year for all of you.
Thank you so much Shawn-Anne. As both a friend and a teacher, that means a lot to me. Best wishes for a successful year for you and your family too!
Charlotte Klein says
Aww, Shann… thank you so much for sharing and I’m sure it wasn’t a decision you came to lightly. It seems as though a lot of sleepless nights were involved, and wondering whether you are doing the right thing, etc. I think the fact that the administrators recognized the circumstances and agreed that this would be best should have been a huge sigh of relief. And I hope that you continue to grow as a parent and that you trust your judgement. Momma always knows and you are doing an excellent job with your boys <3
Thank you so much Charlotte 🙂
Charlotte Klein says
Oh no! Did my comment disappear?! That keeps happening to me lately 🙁
Thank you so much for sharing this, Shann and I’m glad that you are beginning to trust your parental instincts. It’s hard to know what is right but it should be reassuring to know so many other people agree with your decision and are excited to see your boys excel, whatever the circumstances. That’s the most important! Sending all my <3
Nope. It showed up. Thank you for all your support! You are the best XXXOOO
I am reading your post totally understanding every word, and feeling a bit bewildered about the future. My little IUGR preemie is five next year but I’m not confident at this stage that she will be ready for school. I can imagine her coming home exhausted every day also and I worry about things like who will help her if she can’t open her water bottle or take her shoes and socks off (let alone put them on). Thank you for sharing, it helps to hear of someone else going through a similar situation and knowing I’m not the only one awake at night thinking about these things!!
You are definitely not alone! Is your daughter in any type of preschool program right now? Does she get any special services, like speech or OT?
Larson Larson says
Could you offer some advice on how to explain this to kids. Our family is going through the same decision process and I feel the triplets are going to be devastated as they are so excited about going on to grade 1. Their teachers recommend a repeat for social and emotional growing and they are doing well academically.
Hi! When we talked with our administration and teachers about repeating, they offered to have our guidance counselor talk to the twins to help explain the transition. Is there someone like that in their school that can help you? We made sure to point out how much fun they would have, the new friends they would make, and the new teacher they would have too. Will the triplets have a different teacher? I think it’s really important to emphasize all of the things that they are good at, and just let them know this extra time is going to help them to do a great job in first grade. I hope that helps a little bit!
Ramya Abhinand says
As I always say, the parent knows best whats suited to the child. And as much as the decision may be complex, it has to be done for the benefit of the child.