Thursday, August 4, 2011

Which grade? The dilemma of a summer birthday.

First of all, thank you so much for your positive responses to yesterday's post. I think we'll have a lot of fun with pre pre-school this Fall, and I'll keep everyone updated on how it goes! :)

As promised, today I'm going to address an issue that I brought up yesterday about why we have decided to hold Evelyn back a year in school. Age in education is actually quite an interesting topic to study and read up on. I'd like to preface this post with saying that these are our personal opinions based on our research and own life experiences. I wouldn't dream of trying to persuade a parent to hold their child back if they didn't feel it was completely necessary. With that said I'm going to share the pros and a few cons of keeping a child with a summer birthday home for an extra year before beginning school.

There are three main areas that age can affect when it comes to putting children in a certain grade. Age can make the difference:



Every child is different in the ways and the pace in which they learn. Eric and I were both summertime babies and both among the youngest in our classes. (His birthday is June 3, and mine is August 23. Our school district had a September 1st cut off date.) Eric had no problems whatsoever keeping up with the coursework; I, on the other hand, was an average student at best. I could never understand why all of my classmates seemed to be able to comprehend what the teacher was saying with very little effort while I felt like I was drowning in too much information - especially in Math. It wasn't until I entered higher levels of education and could take courses suited to my ability level that I began to understand that I wasn't a poor student, but that I was taking classes above my comprehension level all along. Once I finally evened out the score, Math became not only easier but enjoyable for me. It felt good to be able to keep up!

It all clicked for me one day in a college Education course (I was an Education major for three years) when I realized my birthday had more to do with this than anything. Think about it this way: Some of you are getting ready to have (or have just had) itty bitty newborn babies. (Yay!) And your newborns could possibly be in the same class as my Gracie, who is almost walking and rounding the corner to her first birthday. <-- That's nuts. Look at a newborn and a one year old and you can SEE the developmental differences.

There were kids in my class with birthdays in the first week of September...which means I was sitting next to classmates who were literally one week shy of being an entire year older than I was. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out there are going to be huge learning gaps there.

Studies have shown that by about the Third grade these gaps begin to close, and developmental age differences slow down a bit. But here's the problem: By the time a child enters the Third grade, they are already established in their learning patterns, and they have already developed a reputation among their peers AND teachers. The ones who picked up on concepts easily from the earliest age will feel infinitely more confident in their learning abilities throughout the rest of their school days. Teachers will quickly pick out the children who struggle and the ones who excel, and will often pass this information on to the child's future teacher(s). Schools usually have "gifted" programs for the students who seem to be above their academic level. In other words, there is a lot of unintentional "hand picking" of the kids who will get the most attention academically and the ones who will sort of fall in line (or fall behind.) We'll see that the same thing happens in sports in just a minute.

With all of that said, birthdays don't necessarily HAVE to affect a child's ability to keep up. Eric was one of the youngest in his class and he was considered "gifted." Things come pretty quickly and easily to him, and he had no problems whatsoever picking up new concepts alongside his older classmates. Heather also mentioned yesterday that she was younger and she had no problems, either. So obviously it's possible to be younger and keep up just fine. Lucky ducks! :)

And there could be CONS to holding a child back for a year academically. If your child is really bright it is highly possible that they could become bored with their coursework. What could be a super fast pace for some may feel like a snail's pace to your son or daughter. Bright but bored students run just as much risk for bringing home average grades as a child who is struggling, because they will simply lose interest.

So why did we come to the conclusion to hold Evie back based on these academic reasons: Personally, I'd rather challenge my bored child with extra activities at home than to have to deal with the struggling and self esteem issues that could come if she felt behind. We would rather give our child a possible head start instead of a possible handicap. (That's not to say she WOULD have a handicap, but we're not going to take that chance.)



I used to get my feelings hurt as a kid when people would tell me I didn't fit in with my friends. It was only when I grew older that I realized that I actually didn't, haha. But it wasn't because I was a weirdo (at least I think not) but because I was hanging out with kids who were slightly more advanced socially than I was. It was no wonder that once I got to high school my best friends were all ONE YEAR younger than I was and in the grade I probably should have been in anyway. I connected more with them than I did with people my "own age." I even married someone younger than me. :)

Social interaction is one area where kids tend to be pretty even among their age group, so it's important that they are placed with kids who are the closest to their age group. First graders will probably love Spongebob...Fifth grade girls will probably love getting into makeup...and Eighth grade kids will be boy/girl crazy. All of these things are natural interests, but if some of these things happen too soon for some they could just end up feeling confused (at the least) and pressured (at the worst) to do things they're not ready to do.

There are also situations to think about for down the road. Will your child get their driver's license as a Sophomore in high school or a Junior? How will this affect their social life or status among their friends? Do you care? (Haha.) Do you prefer your child to graduate from high school and prepare for college at 17 just turning 18 or 18 just turning 19? I can tell you from personal experience that that one year makes a HUGE difference for some kids. I was NOT ready to leave home at 17 and go to off college on my own. (I was still 17 at my college Freshman orientation. Nuts!) Oh, and let me just mention that there were kids in the class under me who were OLDER than I was. It sucked being in Driver's Ed with the class below mine, haha.

The only con I can think of for holding a child back a year socially is that they could feel like they are among less mature people than themselves.

So why do we want to hold Evie back a year socially? 

If the worst case scenario is that she is more mature than her classmates, then I see that as being an advantage. She'll easily interact with her peers and probably fare better with her teachers as well. She'll likely be ahead of the pack when it comes to social readiness and not behind, which I pray will make it easier to avoid peer pressure and temptation. I realize this will never be completely taken out of the equation, but usually the older kids set the precedent.

By the way, saying that we're holding Evelyn back a year seems misleading when you think about it. We're technically bridging the gap of 3 months - from June to the September cutoff. :)


If sports are any kind of big deal to you at all, then having your child be one of the oldest will definitely give them a head start. Malcolm Gladwell shares some interesting facts in his book "Outliers" on this topic. Did you know that the majority of NHL players have January birthdays? Followed next by February and then March? Why in the world is that? Is it because they are cold weather months and those kids are naturally better at ice skating? Haha. No. But for the longest time no one could figure out why so many professional hockey players had birthdays in January and the first quarter of the year.

Finally, someone used their brain and figured it out. It's because in hockey, a contact sport where size matters, the age cutoff for young players is January 1st. Most sports have cutoffs in the Fall to coincide with their grade levels, but not hockey. So naturally, the biggest, fastest players were the ones who excelled in the sport early on, and the biggest and fastest were almost always the oldest. And just like it happens academically, the players who show early talent will almost always get the attention of the coaches. More one on one time with the coaches means that they will hone their skills faster and easier than their fellow teammates. By the time size and speed evens out, the ones who showed talent early will have had more practice and attention and will almost always come out the better players. 

I'm sure this translates over into other sports as well. Think again to the developmental differences of a newborn and a one year old. While I realize this is an extreme example, it helps to visual the difference a year can make in physical ability.

Do we care about holding Evelyn back a couple of months for physical ability?

Honestly, Eric and I could care less about sports, but if Evelyn wants to be involved than we will be right there beside her cheering her on and encouraging her. Once again it's about giving her every possible advantage we can. :)

So there you have it! Our reasons for choosing to hold Evelyn back a year. We reserve the right to change our minds, but I don't think we will. :) Is it the end of the world to be the youngest kid in the class? Nah. I didn't like it, but I survived, and I think I turned out alright. We just keep coming back to the reasoning that if we can give our daughter a head start then why wouldn't we? It's really easy for us to make this decision, because I stay home with our girls. I don't have an extra year of daycare bills to pay, and I'm sure that makes a huge difference in the decision for a lot of parents. But based on my experiences as a kid, I just want Evelyn to feel like she fits in and isn't ever falling behind. I can't force confidence onto my daughter, but I can encourage it and and help it along by giving her a leg up from the beginning. :)


Sarah said...

Very interesting from a summer baby's viewpoint. Never looked at it that way. I didn't really mind being the youngest though. When all my friends are 50, I'll still be 49. Whose laughing now? LOL

I'm not trying to suade you any other way, because you have very valid points. But I think Evelyn is just as/even more advanced than Luke and he will be one of the oldest in the class. Either way you go, I don't think you are making a bad decision.

Mr. and Mrs. W +1 said...

Dang, I just wrote a long comment and it just magically got deleted :(

Anyways, Charlie wants to hold Ethan back a year in the worst way (he has a may bday). He has all of the same reasoning as you, only his greatest emphasis is on physical... for sports reasons. Its some sort of unwritten law in Texas - if you have a potential football player as a son, hold him back. High school football is king here and they like their boys older, bigger and stronger. Apparently "it will make all the difference".

My biggest concern is him being bored at school. I was sooooo bored all the way up until Jr High, when my school district started separating the grades into remedial, regular and accelerated classes. My parents supplemented learning at home as much as they could, but during school I had a hard time paying attention because they were going at a snails pace. I just hope that doesnt happen to him. So we will see... we still have a few years to think about it.

Great post today, I loved reading your insight.

Heather said...

Thanks for putting all of the points out there. It was interesting to read. My personal beliefs is that most of it depends on your childs individual attitude and matter what your plans are for them.

I was a summer baby (July) and the youngest in my class. I did fantastic in grade school, and tested off the charts when they did the IQ tests or whatever those horrid "color in the 9 million circles" tests were...but when it came time for high school I was lazy, stubborn and cared more about hanging out with my friends than doing homework.

My sister was a summer baby as well (June) and the youngest in her class and was on the honor roll most of her academic life and is now making 4 times as much as I do.

I remember the guy who was the oldest in our class was a slacker that smoked pot at lunch in his car and is living in a trailer in an itty bitty town just East of here, spending most of his time in a bar.

I think all you can do is make your best judgment about what you think is best for your child, and then cross your fingers that they will take what you have given them and use it to their advantage. I think it's awesome that you have spent so much time on this issue instead of just doing what the school system tells you to do.

Adrien said...

Thanks for your quick feedback!

I forgot to add one other factor that's going into our decision as well. We would rather have Evie and Grace follow each other through school being just one grade apart rather than to be separated by two grades. :) I want them to experience more of their older school years together.

Anonymous said...

Adrien, Good Valid points! I agree with you. It is up to you and Eric to make the decisions on what is best for your children. And like you said- God chose you to be their parents and he leads you on the path of the right decisions on every one you have to make for them!

Jackie said...

I never thought about it that way!...Intresting! I don't think that I will have to worry about it because Loreli is a March baby...I think that it could be a hard thing to decide.

Adrien said...

No, I wouldn't worry about it Jackie. :) I think it gets cloudy for June/July August birthdays. For those kids there is no hope of finding middle ground...they are either going to be the absolute oldest or the absolute youngest. We feel their are pros and cons to both, but for us the older option is the better option.

Cassie said...

ha, well considering this momma is relying on her boy to be the next football star, looks like you have convienced me to hold him back. bahaha - TOTALLY kidding. but extremely valid points. thank you for this post. i even made my husband sit down and read it. i really appreciated it!!


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