Taking care of your children is the hardest job, but it is also the most rewarding. While we always say that we love our children just as they are, it is not uncommon for parents to feel twinges of guilt, uncertainty, and even jealousy when we are in the midst of parenting. One major area of change from our parents generation to our children’s generation is education. Our primary school aged children are expected to understand mathematical expressions and reading comprehensions that their grandparents did not learn until at least junior high school. Not that our extended knowledge is a horrible thing, mind you. Instead of a child who has special learning needs or certain social hindrances being labeled as a “problem,” schools today are able to utilize a special education department in ways like never before. Even in my day, the children who were considered “special ed” were children had some sort of handicapped physical diagnosis instead of a child who had a hard time learning to read. Lack of focus was reprimanded as “daydreaming,” and learning hindrances were passed off as “lazy children.” What about our children who are very academically inclined, and yet still struggle in the classroom due to social immaturity?
My middle son is going to repeat 4th grade next year. Why? He is on the honor roll with the help of his inclusion teacher who helps him focus better on his school work. He is in a regular general education classroom 99% of the time. He only leaves to take tests with a smaller group of students. My middle son is simply socially immature. He is liked by his peers and invited to play at recess, but no real bonding takes place. While other students are talking about sports they enjoy, my son is still wanting to draw pictures of certain cartoons he still enjoys watching on Nick Jr. Due to his social immaturity, his anxiety level within the classroom has risen. He knows how to do the work from an academic stand point, but it is not until he is working one on one with his inclusion teacher that his anxiety melts away, and his academics shine through.
My son was born in July; and as most teachers and moms will tell you, girls mature faster than boys, boys born in the summer usually need to stay in a primary grade such as kindergarten or first grade twice, and the majority of boys born in the summer have repeated a grade at some point. I truly struggled with so much guilt about not having my son repeat kindergarten, since repeating at that age is the norm and usually does not cause too much of a disturbance in the child’s life. However, since my son’s issue was social immaturity, which contributed to his classroom anxieties, we realized he had not bonded with his fellow classmates enough to care that most of them would be moving ahead while he stayed behind. When my husband and I broached the subject with our son, he instantly agreed that he wanted to stay in 4th grade one more year in order to, in his words, “learn this stuff again, without so much worry. I bet I can focus better next year.” That was my sign from God that I had made the right decision.
Parents, we are always going to make mistakes by one person’s standards or another. Heck, I have a family member right now who still holds true to the idea that students who repeat a grade are doing so, because they are not good enough or smart enough to move forward with their peers. My son is in a regular general education classroom 99% of time, and he only has an inclusion teacher to help him stay on task. His grades have never been the problem. His problem is he is always the youngest child in his class. As his classmates celebrate birthdays and get older during the class year, my son turns the age most of his classmates already are and does not age at all during the class year. Hence, he has a tendency to relate to students who are one year below him. Another point to go along with my son’s birthday is the fact that children begin school if they are a certain age by September 1. I argue that the September 1 date should be pushed back to May 1. Think about it, there is a huge difference between a child who was born on September 2 and begins school at age 6 and a child who turns 5 in July and begins school within the next few weeks.
Holding my son back was a very tough decision, because the stigma of “my child has to repeat a grade” has clung to my psyche for far too long. This decision is best for my son. I want him to be healthy and happy. Perhaps his need for any sort of help in the classroom will slowly diminish as he in placed with the class group I feel he should have been with all along.