Should Kids be Held Back Before Kindergarten?


Sample imageI have three boys, ages 16, almost 15 and just turned 13.  And we held all three out of school for a year before starting kindergarten.  

Two of the boys have summer birthdays and one has an October birthday.  The October kid was the easiest decision in the world since the state rule of school age decided for us.  (A child must be at least five years of age on September 1 of the school year. TEC §29.151 .) 

Boom.  Decision made. 

But the other two, especially Kid 1, made us give the choice some thought.  All my kids were in a great private pre-k program for 5 year olds, and that played a huge part in the decision.  Another part of the decision fell on their individual habits and maturity.  Kid 1 was ready to start school.  He was right on track to tackle the education part of kindergarten had he started at age 5, but he was still a big time napper.  (Big time napper, not rapper… that starts closer to middle school.)  Every day he was exhausted after the half day pre-k program, and a bit of a monster without a nap.  I still remember it well.  And I had to take that into consideration for him and for the rest of us.  If he wasn’t physically able to learn and not be miserable in a full day school program, in my mind he wasn’t ready.  And neither were we.  I had to consider the family dynamic – if every day was going to be rough on him, it probably wasn’t going to be any easier on the rest of us who had to live with him. 

And the decision for Kid 3 had many of the same factors.  He still napped, and he was doing great in the half day pre-K.  And it worked for the family.  But he was huge.  He’s still huge.  I have the funniest picture in the history of school pictures of Kid 3 and his classmates in pre-K where the photographer made the crazy decision to place him right in the center of the group photo.  And it was so bad that the other parents complained and asked for a retake.  And I totally get it because I saw the photo and couldn’t stop laughing.   If I’m having a bad day I can still pull that picture out and it’ll cheer me right up.  Imagine a group picture at the zoo where the zoo keeper lines up all the cute little birds and tiny mammals in two very neat rows and then places a giant, yet adorable gorilla dead in the center.  Yep.  We had to take that into consideration when choosing to hold Kid 3 out for another year. 

I’ve heard that some parents keep their kids out for reasons like better sports opportunities but that really never factored into our decision.  (UIL rules dictate the age that a kid may participate in school sports, public school anyway.  And 7th grade is the first year they are allowed.) 

And I thought ahead about the day that the boys would be driving.  And I wanted them to be driving before their friends so they could be the mature and responsible ones.  Looking at my 16 year old today, I may have counted my chickens before they hatched on that one. 

But what really made the final decision for us was a visit with the pediatrician who couldn’t make the decision for us, but offered this….. he told us to consider kindergarten as one more year of the work force and one less year of childhood.   And I knew we made the right choice for our family. 

Now…. this many years down the road, here are some things that have come along that we didn’t consider.  We found that the other kids at school never noticed that our kids were older than the rest of the class until about 5th grade.  And about that time, as everyone else was turning 10 and my kids turning 11, kids would start to ask them if they had failed a year.   And then my boys would come home and announce that the world thinks they failed a grade and it’s all my fault.   Hmmm.  Never saw that one coming. 

Then when Kid 3 started struggling in middle school and had the real live chance to not be promoted to the next grade, that whole situation made me start to do a big ol’ nervous sweat.  Because #1, refer back to where I describe him as huge and liken him to a giant, yet adorable gorilla in the pre-k class photo.  Had he been held back this time around, at one point he would look a little out of place in the public school system.  Good news is that, praise to the gods of last minute extra credit assignments and some good old fashioned studying, he is back on track and starting off fresh for the upcoming year.  And I’m still a little sweaty about the whole thing. 

And sports again….  keeping them out a year also keeps them out of school team sports for a year.  And way back when, we never imagined Kid 3 being so darn ready to play school sports that waiting for it would almost kill him.  He finally gets his turn this year as he enters 7th grade, but being an older 6th grader last year with dreams of an athletic career didn’t make life easy.   

And there have been a few other things that we never thought of… church was one.  The other kids their age got to go into the youth group and do awesome things while my boys had to be with the younger kids another year and do some more not so awesome things.  They want you to know that the struggle is real.

And Kid 2?  The one that the state’s age ruling held him back without us stressing over it?  He’s rolling along just fine with the whole situation.  He’s actually the smaller of the three boys in height and the extra year of childhood has given him a little more opportunity to be high school ready.  I can’t even believe that’s about to happen. 

And finally, I had someone ask if I worry at all about my boys being age 18 as seniors in high school.  Honestly?  Not until they asked me that question.  But adult or not, to me school is school and it will always be a priority in our family.  And rules are rules and those are the same no matter when their birthdays fall.  But I’m not even thinking about that yet.  Because, just another resemblance between me and Scarlett O’Hara, I like to think of tomorrow as another day. 


  1. Keeping my son back this year, since he just turned five. The deciding factor for me as a mother was the thought “I get him one more year.” Not as a toddler/child, but the extra year when he is 18 and not leaving yet! And my pediatrician said he had never seen a case where someone regretted holding back their son. I’m loving having my big boy with me this year!


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