When Your Child Needs To Repeat
When to start your child at school is a dilemma facing every parent of a child with a marginal birthday.
By “marginal” I mean a child who’s birthday falls anywhere between February and 31 July of the same year.
When I was a kid, if you were turning 5 on or before the 31 July you went to school, no questions asked, no muss no fuss. Which meant most of us started school when we were only 4 turning 5. Things were very different back then.
Now the norm is to hold your child back a year to ensure that they are ready, therefore most kindy kids are now starting school aged 5 turning 6.
In 2003 when our eldest daughter started school she was 4.
She was the youngest in her year, not turning 5 until the June of the same year. However she breezed into school life. Absorbed herself into everything academic and simply thrived.
When it came time to start her sister 2 years later, we also started her at 4. After all it worked fine before, so why should this time be any different?
Accept it was….
Miss E settled into school well, she made many friends and was extremely sociable, that wasn’t the problem. What stood out for us was her immaturity compared to the other children. It also became obvious to us that she just wasn’t ready to learn, finding the classroom environment difficult.
She struggled in the classroom, her attention was flitting and she just wasn’t absorbing the information like she should.
You hear people talk about their kids thriving and absorbing information like a sponge. In Miss E’s case it was more like a sieve, nothing sank in and it went straight through.
We struggled through kindergarten and moved into year 1, where it became even more apparent just how behind she was academically compared to the other children. She was also starting to struggle a bit more socially. The girls she were playing with were starting to isolate her, choosing not to play with her, she was just too immature.
Discussions with the teachers began half way through the year about the possibility of repeating her.
We met with the school counsellor and had her assessed by speech pathologists. Her results came back rather surprising. She was actually showing as “gifted” in her verbal communication, however her receptive skills were showing at a year behind her classmates.
We decided then and there that we were definitely going to repeat her in year 1.
Choosing not to tell her until the Christmas holidays were about over was probably the best decision. We didn’t want her dwelling on, or feeling anxious about her return for the new school year. We wanted her to enjoy her holidays without constantly thinking about school.
Once we eventually told her she accepted the decision quite well. There were a few tears and cries of “I don’t want too” but I think even she knew she was struggling compared to her classmates, even at the age of 6.
Surprisingly she settled in really well and after a few weeks she had established new friendships.
She was much happier and confident. Finding that she could actually do the work (considering she already had a head start on the rest of her classmates).
As her primary years progressed, she just blossomed. She was selected in school teams for netball, went to zone cross country and athletics and gained selection in the school concert band, all these things she would have struggled to achieve had we left her floundering.
She received the most improved award in year 4, was a house sports captain in year 6. She received the teachers choice award for her amazing attitude towards her studies and school life at the end of year 6 and at the completion of this year was well and truly ready for high school.
Year 7 and starting high school, we could definitely see, that now having the maturity and being one of the older ones in her year was a definite advantage leading into the teenage years.
Now in year 10, she has thrived at high school.
She has represented the school in netball for the last few years and is off to New Zealand for an inter school competition in April. She has also been selected as a representative for her year on the School Council for the past couple of years.
She has discovered a love for debating and public speaking and interestingly enough, this same girl who once struggled with reading and spelling and was in fact a whole year behind her classmates, now finds herself in the 2nd top English class.
How Do you know If your Child Should Repeat?
Every child is different, just because they are young for their year, doesn’t mean you should repeat them, however that is a consideration for some parents.
So what are some tell tale signs that repeating your child should be a great idea?
- They have trouble making friends and other children don’t want to play with them due to social immaturity.
- They are really struggling with the class content and class environment
- They are far behind their classmates
- Their confidence and self worth is struggling because they feel “dumb” when compared to the other children.
- Their chronological age is far younger than their classmates.
I know most teachers discourage repeating.
I also know there are many horror stories that parents and children have experienced when repeating.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
If the school and the families work together repeating can be beneficial to everyone. We are living proof of that.
In the end teachers end up with an enthusiastic student eager to learn and improving. Parents end up with a happy and confident child. The child ends up on par with their school mates, never feeling the need to play catch up all the time and they can actually enjoy school for a change, instead of it being an endless struggle.