Repeating Kindergarten

Parent Q&A

  • Talk to me about repeating kindergarten

    (8 replies)

    We have a boy with a mid spring bday, he has always been a little delayed, actually stopped growing for a year at age 2, did parallel play til 4+, and has always been introverted and emotionally labile. Preschool was never worried about him developmentally or intellectually and he has always been interested and skilled at math and science but then COVID hit and school closed and there was no K prep. We put him in private school since we wanted something more personal given above concerns and over the year have discovered motor and speech delays, making it very hard to learn skills for reading. We have gotten many services for him (OT, play group, speech) but he still is behind his peers and the school and we are considering repeating K. I have read a lot about this but would love contemporary advice and perspectives on development, self esteem, how to manage parental pride, etc. thanks so much 


    I have a child that is one of the older ones in his class and I can tell how much it has benefited him. He did TK which is really just an shorter day of kindergarten. I would say if you have the option and it feels right for your family you should go for it. Me and my husband both repeated grades growing up and I would say it helped immensely. I wish the offer to repeat was given more often! Best of luck. --TBears

    My son is in 9th grade now and I don't regret holding him back.  Best decision ever made!!!  It was a HARD decision for sure at the moment, but now, I am very pleased we did!  Our son had a stutter, anxiety and OCD.  Our therapists insisted that we do it, but the school not so much.  Do the speech therapy with the school, but get a private therapist as well.  Schools these days can't do it all.  Too many kids and not enough money.  Many insurance companies will cover private therapy for OT and speech. BUT make sure you don't focus so much on school work.  Get him out to play and explore.  Find his passions and go from there.  He will do fine!

    Good Luck!

    I would listen to your gut. We have been through this and wish we had listened to our own instincts to delay the start of kindergarten. Instead we deferred to the preschool director and incoming private schools that all said he would be just fine. He wasn't and we ended up repeating 2nd grade. It all worked out but was much more complicated socially and involved moving schools to minimize the social stigma. That was 5 years ago and it has worked out really well for him. He just needed extra time to develop and is now at and above grade level in all areas. There are really are no downsides to repeating a grade when very young, especially in kindergarten. Think of it as giving your child a gift of time. Develop a quick on-liner for anyone who asks why they are repeating and be done with it. I'm not clear if you mean Spring birthday as in he is young from the grade or older. In our case our son has a summer birthday and was the youngest the first time around. Our son would say something like "it's because I have a summer birthday I was too young so I repeated the grade." Kids would just move on after that and didn't give him a hard time. We would say the same thing to any adult that asked but add that he was the youngest and reading wasn't coming fast to him so he needed extra time and repeated a grade. It never made me feel bad. In fact I think it made us look like parents who care deeply and are willing to make hard choices instead of just going with flow when the flow isn't working. Best of luck!

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Late bloomer - repeat kindergarten?

June 2004

I am looking for feedback from those families that may have had their child repeat kindergarten. our daughter is 5.5 and her birthday was only 2wks away from the school cut off for admission to K. My husband and I decided to place her in a private kindergarten class. The teachers had informed us that after completing a year in this class approximately 1/2 the students would be ready for 1st and the other half would gain from the gift of time. Socially she was reserved and introspective, sometimes they had to pull information out of her. Academically she did fair until approx. March where she really thrived. She reads well above reading level and mathmatically performs at avg with the class. The teachers all year had been encouraging me to give her a gift of another year, and it was only at my final meeting (3days before class ended) they said she would indeed be ready for first if we provided her more academic and social growth over the summer. They were concerned that she still lacked the confidence to assert herself in a large/demanding enviroment. Needless to say, I'm a little hesitant to send her forward with such guarded conditions and the fact she bloomed later in the year. I am curious if anyone else has been through this. How did your child handle going into K fully reading? In turn, if you did send your child on to 1st did them remain late bloomers and did it effect confidence. I really appreciate all the feedback. Worried Mom

I did retain both of my (twin) sons for a 2nd year of kindergarten, which they have just completed. It was a definite success. My boys also have birthdays just one week before the cut-off date, and we felt that the social/emotional implications of continuing through school as the youngest in the class was important enough to warrant retaining them. Now they are much more confident and comfortable at school, and ready to meet the academic expectations of first grade, so it was right for us. We too were told they could use extra reading help etc. to ''catch up'' if we sent them on to first grade last year, and that seemed a poor option, why should they need to ''catch up'' at all? They have developed early reading/writing skills in the past year w/o outside resources, as they matured. Feel free to call o! r email me if you would like to talk about specifics. Carrie

I can very much relate to your dilemma, as we were in the same situation 2 years ago. Throughout the kindergarden year our son's teacher indicated our son might do well to repeat kindergarden. Our son was adamantly against this. At the end of the year the kindergarden teacher indicated that perhaps our son could progress to first grade, assuming that we provided academic support over the summer. She also said that repeating kindergarden was still a viable option. My husband and I stressed over this decision, talked with others, and so forth. Ultimately, given our son's strong preference, we decided to advance him to first grade. Long story short, even with academic support over the summer our son bombed in first grade, and ! ended up repeating first grade. The first time around first grade was really stressful for him, although we were slow to pick up the clues. He developed stomach aches all the time, even on weekends, which threw us off. We started thinking food allergies...The second time around, thanks in part to a really terrific teacher, he really blossomed. And no more stomach aches! Good luck with your decision, whatever you decide is best for your child. Donna


Teacher recommends retaining shy kindergartener but ...

April 2004


My 5 year old daughter, whose birthday is Sept. 5, is one of the youngest children in her kindergarten class. Her teacher seemed to label her early on in the school year as ''young'', but I am not convinced that she is immature for her age, just that the other kids are a bit older and many are more outgoing. No one has any concerns about her academic abilities, attention span, following directions, or the like. However, based on her apparent lack of social skills, we are being told she would benefit from another year of kindergarten.

Her personality is such that she often takes a long time to ''warm up'' to new people and situations. She knew no one in her class when she first started, and though she doesn't have a ''best'' buddy in her class, she is friendly with most of the kids (all the girls, most of the boys). My biggest concern is that holding her back might not cause her to behave any differently next year and could actually make things worse by making her feel insecure. She is sensitive, perceptive, takes things to heart, etc.

My instinct is to send her on to 1st grade where there will be a different mix of kids in the class (there are something like 125 or more kids currently enrolled in K) and see how she does. She may not be so young compared to others next year. She may have a teacher who helps to bring her out of her shell. Her self-esteem won't be hurt by the idea of having ''failed'' at kindergarten for lack of being as social as others would have her be.

On the other hand, there seems to be a de facto age cutoff for entering kindergarten that is much earlier than the published 12/5 date. Perhaps she WILL always be the youngest in her class and that could prove to be a detriment down the road. Her teacher seems to think that being older and wiser than the other kids in her class (if she repeats K) would turn her into a leader, despite her shyness. She does have a strong young influence at home with her three year old twin siblings, and she does tend to be a ''leader'' to them.

How does a parent go about making this decision? What are the pros and cons to repeating kindergarten for purely social development reasons. What if nothing changes, or worse, what if there are negative repercussions? Is there any research out there on this topic? Sorry for the lengthy post, but it's nothing compared to how much time we spend thinking about this! kathi

As a school psychologist I would highly recommend against retaining your daughter. Research generally does not support retention in most cases, even in situations of academic delay. Retaining her will not change her personality if she is shy. However retention often affects students emotionally, and most students feel bad about it throughout their school career. Professionally I have seen very few successful retention cases. Most children we test for special education were retained in the past but continue to have academic delays a couple of years later. Your daughter does not have to be a class leader or social butterfly to be successful. school psychologist


Retention in Kindergarten for Young 5-year-old girl?

March 2004


My 5-year-old daughter is in Kindergarten. Her birthday is at the end of November, just a couple of days before the cut-off date. She is bright, bilingual, is learning to read sentences with three words and is doing fine. However, she is the youngest in her class and doesn't follow the teacher's instructions very well. She likes to play with her friends instead of paying attention to the teacher. During classwork, she looks what other kids are doing to make sure she's doing right. The teacher and the school's principal think she's not mature enough to move on to first grade. I don't know what to do because she is doing well academically. Researches say that the kids retained in their grades are more likely to drop-out of school when they have legal age for that, and after a couple of years, the delayed students appeared to be doing no better than other 1st and 2nd graders. Nowadays, the schools are trying to hold children so they are older and the schools get better ranking (this way they are considered ''high standards''). Also, retention might bring other psychological issues, but I would like to hear your experiences, and process all that information to make the right decision. Thank you for your feedback. A Mother in a Dilemma

Hi, I can't totally address your concerns but I thought I would share my experience with you. I was retained as a kindergartener for reasons that are similar to what your daughter is experiencing. (My birthday is Nov. 19 and I am 32 now.) When I finished my first year of kindergarten, I was at or above grade level academically but very, very shy, and not yet socially ready for 1st grade, so my teacher recommended that I stay back. I did and have to say that I don't think there were any long term negative consequences. My parents told me that I was repeating so that I could be with the other kindergarten teacher, who I liked very much. I would go to first grade for reading every day. (I have vivid memories of this because my best friend would come escort me--we went to Glenview and I can remember walking up the stairs.)

As it turned out, we later moved and I went to a school that had combination classes (1/2, 2/3, etc.). This worked well for me because even though I was in first grade, I was able to do the second grade work. Then we moved again, and even though I was finishing second grade, I had already done the third grade work and was able to move up to fourth grade at the new school. So I ended up skipping a grade, which put me right back where I started. I graduated high school when I was 17, just like your daughter will if she is not retained. (I hope this explanation makes sense...I know it's a little convoluted.)

Anyway, it all worked out well for me. Two more points in favor of retention: 1. My understanding is that the research has generally shown that the oldest children in a class do better than the youngest children. 2. Better to retain earlier than later. Social pressures will be much greater as your child grows older and she will be much more likely to feel ashamed of staying behind. I have no memory of ever feeling badly about repeating kindergarten. (Also, think several years into the future when her peers start thinking about boys and other pre- teen issues and your daughter is not yet ready for this. It could potentially be isolating for her if she's not interested in the things her classmates are interested in.) Hope my experience helps! Aimee

It seems like your child is just not mature enough for first grade yet. With a birthday in November, your child is probably just younger than the other kids in the class. I realize your concerns about being delayed, but from a parenting perspective, you would not want this to continue into the later grades (like 4th, 5th and 6th grades). Maybe she's doing well because the older kids are helping her get through rather than her truly learning things for herself. While she may not have problems in 1st grade, it will get progressively harder as there will be more work, and the work will require more independence. It wouldn't hurt to let your child be held back and be the ''leader'' for a change so that the younger kids can follow her and she can feel more confident in herself rather than turning to older kids for support. Just my 2 cents... you should always do what you think is best for your child regardless of what other people say. Rochelle

I think there are several factors to consider before retaining a student, but I do believe strongly that the readiness to learn skills need to be in place. Regardless of well she is capable of doing academically, if she's not able to access the curriculum by sitting, listening, and following directions, then she won't be able to either build upon her academic skills or to show what she is capable of. It's a tough call, but don't automatically rule it out becuase you're skeptical of the school's motives. Really think about whether your daughter will be able to handle the increased expectations in first grade. Good luck! anon

Don't hold her back! You said she would rather play with her friends then listen to the teacher-that discribs almost all elementrt school children and almost all Kinder-Frist graders do! At home, encourage listening skills. It is not to be expected of a child to already know to sit still and listen to the teacher in Kindergarden-they have to be taught. The teacher may not be trying hard enough and because your daughter may be not as quiet as some of the others so her teacher is dismissing her as ''not ready''. She sounds like a sweet, very bright little girl who would do fine in the first grade. May

A decision about retention in K needs to take into account the social and practical demands that first grade will put on the child. These can vary a great deal from school to school. For example, at a large elementary school, the move to first grade may not JUST mean that the school day is longer, daily homework is expected, and the bathroom is down a long hall rather than right off the room, but that the child switches teachers--and classrooms--as many as 12 to 15 periods per week for grouped activities, recess is shared with a large number of kids up to 4 years older and supervised by adults who may be unfamiliar, and the like. In a smaller school, the changes may not be so radical. In any event, it may be helpful to gather not just the perceptions of the kindergarten teacher, but also of the prospective first grade teacher. Mom & Educator

Another Year of Kindergarten for immature 5.5 year old?


I've seen a lot of posts on the UCB Parents list recommending that boys stay back a year before starting kindergarten, but has anybody had any experience with boys starting kindergarten and then not succeeding and leaving kindergarten?

My son is a young 5.5 year old (emotionally very young according to his teachers). He's having some problems with kindergarten mostly associated with that and being disruptive during quiet and meeting times. His teacher seems to think he needs another year before kindergarten. I'm not sure what to think, but I'm willing to consider this as an option. Has anyone done this? How did you handle it?

Another possibility I have been investigating is a private kindergarten and then seeing where he is after that. Does anyone have any experience with the kindergarten at LakeShore Children's Center, Beacon Day School or the Junior Kindergarten at Redwood Day School?

To the parent with a 5.5 year boy in kindergarten. If you think about private school for kindergarten, Montessori school may be the good choice for your child. Family Montessori school in Berkeley has a class for age 4.5 yo 6 yo. So your child can stay there this year and then next school year, you and teacher can see if your child is ready to move to first grade or not. If not, he can just stay there for another year. I think this is better to send him back to preschool and you get a second chance to evaluate his readiness next year. Maryann

Leaving Kindergarten--Lakeshore Children's Center The kindergarten at LCC is the oldest group of about 8 kids, who meet separately in the morning for about an hour with Joni, who is absolutely wonderful and still my son's favorite teacher ever. The rest of the day they're w/ the other preschoolers. The year my son was in the group (95-96) about half the kindergarteners went on to first grade and the other half went to kindergarten. I think this could be a great arrangement for your child, because he wouldn't be going back to his old preschool, but wouldn't have to stay in a bad situation. My son was a bit confused about why he was going to kindergarten again after LCC, but we just explained that that was kindergarten for little kids and then he was going to kindergarten for big kids. I feel strongly that if his kindergarten is not a positive experience you should take him out. The school my son attended after LCC just did not work for him, and I really regret that I stuck out the year instead of taking him out mid-year. Deborah

My son goes to a behaviorally-oriented public school in Oakland. They usually do a Gessell test before admitting children into kindergarten, but we came the year of the Oakland public school strike and they didn't do testing. His preschool teacher never directly told me to keep him back. He wasn't really a disruptive child he just checked out or did his own thing and other behavior that was young. Anyway, I sent him on to kindergarten and in retrospect I am sorry I did. Kindergarten was miserable until April and so was most of first grade. First grade could have been the teacher, but his kindergarten teacher was great. I read alot of books, some from the Gesell Institute, they are real believers in readiness (they write those books your one year-old etc.) and I also read a book that I liked alot called right brained child in a left brained world Anyway we had a two hard years, which I now feel could have been avoided, He was already in first grade when the issue of keeping him back came up and since it there wasn't an academic problem and he was olderI decided against it. After all the anguish and guilt I went through I wish I kept him back in kindergarten or preschool, we both would have been alot happier. you are only a child once, what is the hurry please feel free to e-mail me if you want to talk directly in more depth. Andrea

Hi everyone! I've just read the discussion on the website regarding when to start kindergarten. While I agree that it largely depends on the individual child, I guess my fears are for the future. My son has a November birthday. I think he will be ready next September while still four, but I wonder what the implications will be when he enters the dreaded state of teenager-hood. Our pediatrician (for whom I have a great deal of respect) says to consider the decision carefully because he is also *very* big for his age, if held back would literally tower over his classmates for the next several years, and not to underestimate the negative effects this could have on him. He also said kids are pretty adaptable, and that current studies do not support the idea that waiting the extra year gives them any advantage. On the other hand, most of my teacher -friends feel that boys shouldn't start K before age five. I was leaning towards waiting but am now unsure. So, anybody out there have a crystal ball I could borrow? I'd love to read more comments on this subject! Lee