by Laura Birks, Staff Writer
Last March when we sat down with our twins’ teachers and the principal of the school, we already knew what they wanted to talk about. We knew they were going to suggest that our smart, very energetic boys repeat kindergarten. They were barely five when they entered full-time kindergarten and really didn’t have a lot of structure beforehand. It was still a hard pill to swallow. They learned so much, and came so far! They were learning to read and could almost stand still for more than three seconds!
Their teachers explained that despite being smart and sweet, they lacked the organizational skills to move on to 1st grade. They still needed to be reminded to clean up and wanted step-by-step instructions for simple tasks. They feared 1st grade would overwhelm them. They feared that it would change their views on school in a negative way. If we were being honest with ourselves as their parents, we knew all of this. We saw the same things at home. Yet, we really struggled with the decision.
Ultimately, we agreed with the professionals. Our thinking was, “Better to keep them back in kindergarten than in 5th grade.” Besides, we really liked their kindergarten teachers; we weren’t sad about spending another year with them. When we told the boys that they wouldn’t be going to 1st grade like the rest of their friends and classmates, they were confused. We explained that they were special. They were chosen to stay and help the new kids coming in adjust to kindergarten and that they would be the leaders of the class. They loved this idea. We also explained that they started school super early. They noticed that all their friends had turned six, some even seven and they were still five, so the following year they would be the older kids.
I wasn’t sure how this second year of kindergarten would go. Would they be bored? Would they miss all their friends that moved onto first? Would they be teased by other kids for repeating? It turns out, this was the best decision we could have ever made for them. There were times when they were bored, especially in the beginning of the year, but they had great teachers that challenged them too. They made new friends and still see their old classmates. No one makes fun of them (probably because they are extremely confident little boys), and finally, I got a free pass this year. It’s like I am on autopilot.
Reasons it was great my twins repeated kindergarten
–That extra year really helped them develop their school personalities. They are learning their strengths and weaknesses. They are better equipped to handle common school problems.
–They have matured. They enjoy school so much more being the older, wiser kids. The fact is, they are the same age as their classmates, however, because they already know what to expect, the other kids see them as older.
–It’s an easy year for me, as a parent. I already know the drill. I know what the field trip is going to be, I know what to expect from the homework, and the teachers and I are on a first name basis! They are practically a part of our family now.
–The boys’ confidence is through the roof. Last year, Alex was very shy without his brother in the same class. This year he is on fire! His personality has exploded like Ben’s did last year.
–We are super close with their teachers, the staff, and the principal as a result of having to make such a big decision.
–They are able to truly master each skill in kindergarten before 1st grade. They have honed in on their handwriting and their sight words, their listening skills, and they can even stand still for two whole minutes! (So their teachers say; I haven’t seen it yet.)
–They have made a whole new group of friends. Now they have two grades of friends. Sure, we don’t see their 1st-grade friends often but when we do it’s like no time has passed.
–Did I mention what an easy year for ME this has been? Homework has been easier, reading has been actually enjoyable, and I am the older wiser mom who has been there, done that. It feels pretty good (even if it can only last for a year.)
-Last year they were the smallest in their class. This year they are right in the middle, height and weight wise. I really wish that this didn’t matter, but I know that it is something that bothered them last year.
-The most important reason: they feel ready to move onto 1st grade now. They are ready. They are excited to learn more and experience more. Last year, that was not the case.
I have trusted the professionals from day one. When I asked if they thought I should separate Alex and Ben for kindergarten, and they said yes, I was nervous, but we did it. Ben shined that first year when previously, he had clung to Alex. When they suggested we hold them back, we did it, begrudgingly, scared that we would make the wrong decision. Ultimately, they were right again. Have faith in your school administrators and teachers. They want the best for your kids too.
Laura Birks is a freelance writer and essayist. She lives in New Jersey with her twin boys, a dog, a couple of cats and a husband. When she’s not doling out medicine or cleaning up vomit, she is writing. Her house is in a constant state of disarray and the laundry is never put away. She likes to pretend she is superwoman but the truth is, she is a mere mortal with a messy house. Find her on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.