Staying Home An Extra Year?

July 26, 2012 at 10:31 PM 22 comments

In the state of Maryland you can no longer start kindergarten if you do not turn 5 years old before September 1st. That means any child born in September, October, November or December will not start kindergarten until they are nearly six years old.

I understand the need to ensure that children are capable of attending and succeeding in school, but the September 1st date seems as arbitrary as any other. By that rule a child born September 1st is ready for kindergarten but a child born September 2nd has to wait a whole extra year before attending.

There are procedures for early admittance to kindergarten, but a child must be born between September 1st and October 15th to take advantage of that option. Our son falls just shy of that date range, so early admittance wouldn’t even be an option for us. The state makes it very clear that any child falling outside of that date range will not be permitted to take the test.

I had no idea that the school system had changed the rules. (I guess I was living under a rock.) I am blessed to have my son and it is not the end of the world that he has to wait another year to start school, but it does mean I will have to stay home for an extra year with him or place him into daycare. Who knows what will happen five years from now, so I’m not going to project that far into the future, but a whole extra year of daycare costs or time out of the workforce amounts to quite a lot. (Of course, if we have another child I may well stay out of the workforce for an extra year anyway.)

I was surprised to learn that a lot of other states have created similar rules. The belief is that all day kindergarten is much harder on children. The rigors of learning to sit at a desk all day require an older, more mature student. When I started school kindergarten was only half day and we had students in our class who were born anywhere from January to December.

I wonder why the new rule was created. Did they really find that children born after September 1st were falling that much father behind their peers? Did that four month difference for a child born in December make him or her incapable of keeping up? If all day kindergarten is so rigorous does it not make you think that we should return to a half-day schedule?

I’m interested to hear from anyone who has a child born in the last quarter of the year. Does your state have similar rules and if so what was the impact on your child?

My son is only nine months old right now so school is quite a ways off for him. Who knows what the rules will be in five or six years. The good news is that he won’t be the only one held back from starting school. There will be lots of other children born in September, October, November and December waiting out an extra year alongside him.

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22 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Tamara  |  July 26, 2012 at 11:48 PM

    This is the same cut-off date that we had when my children started school. My oldest child has a November birthday. I thought it was great. So nice to have another year with him. So nice not to have to figure out whether to send him or “hold him back” like so many people do. And so nice for him to be one of the older kids in his class.

    The way our education system is set up, is to group kids by age, not by ability. I heard Salman Khan on the TED Radio Hour talking about our education model – we group kids together by age, and continue to move them along together regardless of understanding of the material. So that leaves the variable to be how well they learn it. He is suggesting that we fix a high level of mastery and let the variable be how long they take to learn it, and that is of course for each individual independently.

    Anyway, that might be slightly off topic. But the point is that if you group by age, there has to be a cutoff date somewhere. It is always weird for people that are near the date. But I don’t think this date is any worse than a later date.

    And one last side note, if you have not read Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers” then you may want to check it out.

    • 2. One Frugal Girl  |  July 27, 2012 at 8:57 PM

      I completely agree with you Tamara. It seems like the education system should be based on abilities and mastery more than age. I look forward to reading the Outliers. Thanks for the comment.

      I also must admit I’m not too sad to have my son with me for another year 🙂

  • 3. Andrea @SoOverThis  |  July 27, 2012 at 5:01 AM

    The cutoff here is October 1. My son’s birthday is in early August, though, so I didn’t have to worry about it. He started kindergarten 2 days after he turned 5. His motor skills and attention span were a little behind compared to his peers (who were all 5 1/2 or 6) but I figured it would even out after a year or so. However, now that he’s starting high school in 2 weeks (gasp!) I look back and wish I had waited another year.

    He’s a year younger than almost all of his classmates, and that means he hasn’t hit his growth spurt yet and is a foot shorter than everyone – even the girls. He’ll be a freshman the day after he turns 14 when the other kids are either turning 15 or about to turn 16. He won’t be able to drive until the spring of his junior year, while everyone else will be driving as sophomores. And he’ll graduate at 17, leaving him to start college mere days after becoming an official adult.

    I think all kids are different and my experience in no way means that all kids should start school at 6, but after growing up in a family of girls, I really underestimated the effects that starting school earlier would have on a boy. Just some food for thought!

    • 4. One Frugal Girl  |  July 27, 2012 at 9:00 PM

      Thanks for the comment Andrea. My son may very well have the opposite problem in terms of height. I’m at 6’1” and my husband is nearly my height. At 9 months my son is in the 95th percentile and I wonder if he won’t be a full head and half above the other children. I appreciate your comment though. I think boys take things like size closer to heart and it’s more difficult for them to fit in when everyone else seems bigger and taller than they are. I appreciate hearing about your experience.

  • 5. Ellen K.  |  July 27, 2012 at 7:19 AM

    My twin daughters were born in November and will turn 4 this fall, so they will have two years of preschool beginning next month; the kindergarten cutoff here in Missouri is Aug. 1. This is fine with me, because I grew up with twin brothers who had August birthdays and a Sept. 1 cutoff and my mom kept them back an extra year; their preschool teacher didn’t think they were ready for all-day kindergarten. There’s a very considerable social advantage to being one of the oldest boys in the class, as Andrea mentioned above. My husband, who has an October birthday in a time of Dec. 1 cutoffs, was not kept back and was always the smallest, youngest kid in his class. He had a very late growth spurt, and so he was especially small throughout high school. Thirteen years of this will take its toll. He still struggles with an inferiority complex that he attributes to feeling behind everyone. I very much wish his parents had kept him back another year rather than send him to school at the earliest possible date. His parents weren’t very clued in to his emotional needs, so maybe some of this could have been avoided if they had tried to find ways to give him more confidence. His nephew is also the smallest (but not youngest) in the class, but he’s very athletic and outgoing.

    Most daycares will bill classrooms for 3 year olds as preschool, so kids who have an extra year might have an educational advantage. I’m a SAHM and I can attest that by the time your boy is almost 4, you might think an extra year of preschool is a blessing! ; ) And there are plenty of flexible preschool options, though not always through the public school system. My girls will go to preschool two mornings a week this year and three mornings a week the following year.

    • 6. One Frugal Girl  |  July 27, 2012 at 9:04 PM

      Hi Ellen –

      Thanks for commenting. It’s interesting to read about your husband’s perspective. My husband actually had the opposite experience. He was held back by his parents and felt strange being the oldest kid in the classroom. This hasn’t impacted him as an adult, but it is one of the things he’s mentioned many times about his childhood. My husband’s case will be different from my son’s because in my husband’s case he was the only child held back. In my son’s case anyone born in the 4th quarter of the year will also start a year late.

      We will definitely look into preschools that can provide educational opportunities for my son. I do think it would be nice to have a more gradual approach to a full day of school. I like your suggestion of going a few mornings a week and helping him to transition.

  • 7. Pam  |  July 27, 2012 at 11:03 AM

    My daughter’s birthday is Oct. 17. The cut-off for our school system is Oct. 16, so she is the absolute oldest child in her class. I never fought it and now that she’s a junior in high school, I’m glad I didn’t. She certainly could have done the work, but she would have been going off to college at 17. I really think the extra year will help her to be a good bit more mature when she does go off to college.

    • 8. One Frugal Girl  |  July 27, 2012 at 9:06 PM

      Hi Pam – My son is actually born October 16th and he is one day past the cutoff to apply for early acceptance. I appreciate the comment. Like many other commenters it seems that the parents whose children started later don’t regret the idea of waiting out an extra year.

  • 9. Michael  |  July 27, 2012 at 11:12 AM

    I don’t have a kid in that category, but I was one. With a December 1 birthday (the cutoff when I was a child) I was always the youngest in the class, and thus less adept both physically and socially. In retrospect I believe I would have been much happier and more successful in school had my parents waited a year; as it was I didn’t reach my stride until my college years.

    My experience as a parent and longtime volunteer in various youth sports and activities is that daycare is a big asset for a child. The kids who attended daycare are much more likely to have good social skills than the ones who stayed home with Mom until starting school. I suggest you get him into a daycare situation at an early date, so he can begin figuring out how to interact with his peers. You can probably find a daycare cooperative where you “pay” with your time instead of dollars if budget is an issue; we didn’t do that but a stay-at-home-mom friend who did found it a pleasurable and educational experience.

    • 10. One Frugal Girl  |  July 27, 2012 at 9:10 PM

      Hi Michael – Thanks for commenting. I appreciate the perspective of a male reader. As I mentioned in an earlier comment my son will probably be quite tall, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be big and strong. Both my husband and myself were quite scrawny as children.

      As for daycare. I’m not sure when I will return to the working world, but my son will certainly be involved in both mommy and me groups and early preschool/school activities if I do not return to work. I completely agree that all children need social avenues even as very young children. They don’t necessarily need daycare, but they do need to interact with children on a regular basis.

  • 11. Justin @ The Family Finances  |  July 27, 2012 at 12:26 PM

    Here in Indiana I think our cutoff is August 1st, but you also have the option if waiting an extra year. Like some of the other commentors I think that waiting that extra year can be very beneficial. Being one of the oldest rather than youngest can play a big role in how a child does in school.

    Our little boy is a year and a half old, and my wife stays at home. We don’t have a daycare bill. So for us another advantage would be an additional year to make contributions and earn interest on his 529 plan. Though if you’re paying for child care it would offset that.

    • 12. One Frugal Girl  |  July 27, 2012 at 9:12 PM

      Thanks for the comment Justin. Will your son need to wait an extra year or his birthday before August 1st? I hadn’t thought about the extra year of savings. That is one good way to look at it from a financial perspective.

  • 13. TW  |  July 27, 2012 at 2:24 PM

    Many parents, particularly of boys “red shirt” them even if their birthday falls before the school cut off date in their area. Otherwise they tend to fall behind socially and aren’t ready neurologically for schoolwork that is more advanced than what we did in the early years.

    My youngest (now 13) has a mid-August birthday and she’s always been the youngest in her classes–many are nearly a year older than her. This has led to a number of teachers suggesting she is immature for her grade level. (even at the same time she is very socially able and at the top of the class for grades)

    • 14. One Frugal Girl  |  July 27, 2012 at 9:15 PM

      Thanks for the comment TW. Interestingly I have never known anyone other than my husband to be held back, though I have heard that it is more common for boys to be held back then girls.

      Perhaps the school systems are trying to limit the number of children being held back, but enforcing new dates that simply state that a child cannot start school if they are not a certain age. After reading all of the comments the majority of commenters seem to be in agreement that waiting an extra year should be viewed as a positive thing.

      I think there are many misconceptions about children. I was always tall for my age so teachers expected me to be more mature even though I was the same age of everyone else in my classroom. It’s interesting how teachers view your daughter’s behavior.

      Thanks so much for the comment!

  • 15. Betsy  |  July 27, 2012 at 11:50 PM

    I have two sons who are late summer babies. We live in Texas which also makes Sept. 1 the cut-off date. I waited for both to turn 6 before starting Kinder and now that the oldest is in fourth grade, I see it has turned out well. As I tell others who are pondering this question, I was in K in 1976. What I did in first grade back then is what K is like these days. You can only help your little one by giving him the gift of time to develop more before starting K.

    That said, I have also seen that little girls in similar date situations usually do just fine. They develop at a different rate and often ready to start even if they are a young five. For my boys who work to sit still, practice fine motor skills and listening skills, that extra year really helped.

    As for daycare, I am a SAHM so didn’t do full-time daycare but I did start them gradually in preschool: one day a week at age 2, twice a week at 3 and so on. Other friends did longer programs but that worked for us. Your miles may vary but I’m sure this will give you food for thought. 🙂

    • 16. One Frugal Girl  |  July 28, 2012 at 10:20 PM

      Thanks for the comment Betsy. I will probably do a gradual transition to preschool too. I like the idea of getting my son accustomed to it over time. I have also heard that little girls do a lot better than boys at starting school early.

  • 17. Another Reader  |  July 28, 2012 at 12:17 AM

    Back in the late 1950’s, the cut-off date was December 1. I was born near the end of December. Kindergarten was not as widespread in public schools, so the issue was first grade. I remember my mother arguing with the school district that I was already reading at an advanced level and would not benefit by staying home another year. They would not give in. So, my parents enrolled me in private school for first grade. Once you passed first grade, the school district would admit you into second grade, no matter how old you were. Problem solved.

    • 18. One Frugal Girl  |  July 28, 2012 at 10:21 PM

      I actually looked into this. In MD though it looks like most private schools are now adhering to the new calendar as well. As my son gets older we can always investigate this solution if it seems that he is ready to start school early. At 9 months it is definitely too early to tell 🙂

  • 19. christeen  |  July 29, 2012 at 1:55 AM

    Hi, We had a big rule change for schoosl in Queensland Australia that is very similar. The government in it’s “wisdom” decided to add an extra year of school called Prep. Not a bad thing but then they adjusted the age. June 30th was the cut off. My daughter was born July 12th. She was 6 in Prep when, before the rule change, she would have gone straight to year 1. Now she is the oldest in her class having just turned 10 in year 4 with a couple of kids that just turned 9 in mid June. Prep was a total waste of time for her as it is, as the name suggests, preparing for school with play based activities. Emma was reading chapter books and writing before she got to prep! Now she is bored at school and as we are at a state school we can’t advance her and private school is out of the question. Not only is she acedemically ahead she is also physically more advanced than all the girls in her class. This is what worries me the most actually.

    • 20. One Frugal Girl  |  July 30, 2012 at 4:28 PM

      This was my fear for my son. Although at 9 months it’s certainly too soon to say, but at this age is already in the 95th percentile and with my height I’m sure he’ll remain at the top of the growth charts. I’ve also read a lot about this subject in the past few days and found that many older children get bored as the years pass. I wish your daughter the best. As another commenter said I wish the school system was based on abilities not age, but I realize it would take a lot more time and care from teachers and administrators to figure out exactly what our children were capable of. Good luck to you.

  • 21. Kay  |  July 30, 2012 at 4:29 PM

    Redshirting..i.e holding abck kids a grade… There’s been a lot of discussion on this on the internet.. Take a look at it.

    These happen much much more than what we think and these are what prompted the school districts to advance the age of kindergarteners.. if you look up redshirting in wiki, it will tell you that kids born on later part of year are more often redshirted..

    It’s got nothing to do with your kid, but they do what’s better for most kids!

  • 22. » Will I Ever Need to Work Again? One Frugal Girl  |  April 9, 2013 at 10:41 PM

    […] son was born in October and in our state he can’t start kindergarten until after he turns five. If I wait until he’s school age I’ll be out of the workforce […]


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