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Plenty bright enough


A year ago, Dave and I were having many discussions with each other, with WJ’s teachers and school director, and with family members and friends all in an effort to make a decision about what to do about WJ and his schooling.

To send him to kindergarten or not?

I have been unable to avoid this desire from deep within my motherly pride to make it clear that this was never a question of intelligence.  So, here it is… This was never a question of my child’s intelligence.* 

WJ is “plenty bright enough,” was the message from the school.  Every indicator in front of us pointed toward a child who could learn easily, make connections, remember like an elephant on gingko balboa, and who was well equipped with pre-academic abilities. 

Plenty bright enough, but a little young. 

Whenever I wish on an evening star or a birthday cake candle from this point on, it will always be a wish for schools that start in January. WJ had been in school part-time for a year and a half when we made the decision for him to wait for kindergarten.  Many of you with children who have late summer birthdays may know the pattern we had already begun to see in the school year.

At the beginning of each school year, as the leaves changed colors and carpeted the ground with sweet smelling piles, I donned battle gear to cope with our morning routine and after-school exhaustion.  In the morning, WJ became Captain Loophole, devising clever strategies to avoid the getting-ready-for-school tasks.  When we finally got out the door (and it was a miracle if we reached this point with no yelling), we began the Walk to My Certain Doom. Six blocks of whining, dawdling, complaining, questioning, tugging in the opposite direction, sometimes even crying. 

WJ then proceeded to have a perfectly lovely day at school.  He loved his teachers, his friends, exploring the materials, singing the songs, playing the games.  Everything from 8:30 AM to 11:30 AM was pretty much golden.  He gave each day his very best.

But then his class walked down the stairs to the pick-up area and WJ immediately morphed into Mr. Crabby-Pants.  The three hours of sustained focus at school left him with no reserves.  And he saved his worst for me.

In the autumn, school was exhausting for WJ.   His resistance in the morning was a sign of things being a little overwhelming, a little too hard.  Again, not in terms of his cognition, but in terms of his stamina.  His inability to cope, the ease at which he dissolved into tears or spacey-ness, his continued long naps (which often lead to poor sleep at night—oh, the cycle!), his general afternoon malaise, these were all more signs that his school placement was not the strongest fit.

But then after the winter holidays, suddenly things would begin to change.  WJ got ready in the morning without the fight.  He would take his clothes into his room, wanting to surprise me with how quickly he could get ready alone.  We would have pleasant conversations on our walk to school.  His teachers would begin to talk about an increased energy and involvement in the classroom.  Our afternoons would become the stuff of a mother’s dream—reading together, cooking dinner together, minutes upon minutes spent playing happily alone while I read a magazine or got on top of my to-do list.

School was just a little too much in the fall but by winter it was a perfect fit.  If only schools began their programs in January.  Or even February—alleluia!  

But we are working within a well-established system.  And a year ago, as I thought about my child’s school experience, I was clear on this… I did not want for the beginning of every school year to be hard.  I did not want to live with a child who kicked into gear sometime before Valentine’s Day.  Plenty of experiences happen at school between September and January.  Who would want for her child to be struggling through the laying of the groundwork of the school year? Every school year?

It was instead my hope that WJ would meet each new school year with energy and strength.  And for that to happen, given the equation of his late summer birthday, the school calendar and its cut-off dates, and WJ’s unique cocktail of developmental growth, waiting a year to begin kindergarten seemed the best choice.

Stamina was one of the biggest reasons we decided to wait a year for WJ to begin a full-day kindergarten program.  (Other issues were at play as well, however, including physical and social development.  More on those in later posts.)

Stamina is a key consideration as you ponder the placement of your child in a school setting.  Stamina, physical and mental and emotional, does often increase with development and age in children. 

Is stamina an issue for your child?

*Note: If intelligence or cognitive functioning or a classifiable disability is an issue, most research actually points at not retaining a child.  Federal statutes protect children from being held back when another year in the same setting with no additional supports will not begin to skim the surface of the learning issues at work.  If you would like more information about protecting your child’s placement in a least restrictive environment, please go to

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Reader Comments (5)

Great thoughts. I have a girl and a boy who are late summer birthdays. I sent my daughter this year and so far have no regrets. My son on the other hand we will most likely wait with him - such a tough decision!

February 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine B

My son was born in October and we did see all of those issues - we dealt with them by deciding to homeschool him. The one thing that I was the most concerned about was the long term - I did not want my son turning 18 in October of his senior year of highschool. Good luck with your decision.

February 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterUpstatemomof3

Two very good points! Often kids who are socially or physically young do fine in a homeschool setting where the parent can respond to his cycles of energy. I think a lot of parents make the same decision you made. I wish more schools would move the cut-off dates to at least ensure that everyone is 5 before starting kindergarten.

That 18 yr-old thing was big for me too. When I realized that my son would not go to college until he was 19 if we waited, I was pretty much sold. All the better to go away from home to start school with a little more time and growth under your belt!

February 22, 2010 | Registered CommenterEmily

Thanks for the information. I have not thought of all of these ideas and was not familiar with the law you quoted at the end of your post. Thanks again for the well thought ideas.

May 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLauralee

I have twin boys who are late summer birthdays and am already thinking about many of these things even though they aren't even three. The more research I read into child development, and, by just being around them...I am already planning on a "late" 6 year old start for kindergarten. I never really though about it specifically, but I can see how stamina will probably be a big factor as well.

May 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTricia

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