Wrapping Up Our "Bonus Year:" Final Thoughts On Red-Shirting Our 5 Year Old.
It was around this time last year that I had begun to tackle one of the biggest parenting decisions I would make in the life of my 5 year old: whether to send him on to Kindergarten as recommended or offer him a "bonus year" of repeating Pre-K 4.
As we begin to wrap up that bonus year, I wanted to share a little bit about how this was the best decision we could have made for him (and for us) and in doing so, perhaps provide a little help, support and insight to those of you who may one day find yourselves full of worry, questioning everything in the same situation.
Looking back, one of the best pieces of advice I was given when struggling with this decision was this:
"You will never regret giving him an extra year to grow, both emotionally and physically but should you not take advantage of this opportunity now, you may regret it down the road."
Facing the decision to have our son repeat preschool was much easier, I imagine, than having to decide whether or not to have him repeat Kindergarten (or any other primary grade for that matter). Purely from an emotional standpoint, being able to introduce our son to a new preschool school, a different atmosphere, new friends and teachers, made this decision supremely more easy for us.
Had we sent him onto Kindergarten and been faced with making the same decision then, I don't think it would have been nearly as cut and dry. After all, he would've been much more cognizant of his friends moving onto to upper grades and wouldn't necessarily be afforded the same option of a new school, new teachers and a new atmosphere.
Waiting until Kindergarten to offer him a bonus year might have had him feeling singled out, broken and left behind, therefore, I'm so glad we were able to afford him this extra year to grow in a much more play-centered preschool environment.
That said, if pressed to have any of our sons repeat Kindergarten, I couldn't think of a better, more fun, less stressful grade to repeat (aside from pre-K!)
Last year, I went into much greater detail as to why I thought an extra year of pre-school would benefit our sensitive, emotional, first-born son with a late summer birthday but to give you a quick recap, I truly felt that he would benefit not only this year but for years to come, from having this extra year to mature both cognitively and emotionally.
Not once did I make this decision with the hopes that he would be the smartest in his class or the fastest on the field. I made this decision because ultimately I wanted him to love school. I wanted to set a foundation early on that would foster a love of learning. That would encourage him to be excited about attending school each day. that would provide a classroom atmosphere that he would always feel safe and comfortable in.
I wanted to give him a fair chance at succeeding alongside his peers and for him, for us, the only way to do that was to give him a bonus year. An extra year where school was still mostly fun. An extra year in a relaxed environment where he could grow emotionally, cognitively and physically and not feel rushed or pressured beyond his five little years.
When the decision was made to have our son repeat pre-school, it has to be said that we also decided to enroll him in a private school that both my husband and I immediately fell in love with upon touring. I would be lying if I said this school didn't play a huge roll in our decision, because it most certainly did. The family-centric community, the quality academics, the Catholic identity and enrichment programs, were all things that we knew we eventually would want in a school for our sons and having found them in where our oldest attends, is icing on the cake.
So, how does our son feel about attending Kindergarten next year or how has this "bonus year" truly benefited him?
He LOVES his school. He comes home every day (EVERY DAY) beaming about what he learned, about what activities he took part in, and especially about what "special" he had that given day (art, phys-ed, library, music). The light that shines in his eyes and the excitement that plays in his voice as he talks about sight words and addition is priceless. He sings the songs he learns for church in the tub at night or while playing trains with his brothers. He joyously leads dinner time prayers and I can't quite describe what it's like to see him interact with his peers. The confidence he exudes, the self-esteem his carries himself with- I can only hope doesn't ever diminish. He can't wait for his younger brother to start school there in the Fall and when his brother is privy to this kind of palpable excitement, he becomes excited too.
This is exactly how I want him (and all of my sons) to feel about school as they embark on their Kindergarten career and I don't think this level of excitement would be the same had we thrust him into Kindergarten when I truly believe he wasn't 110% ready.
Finally, I'm ready and I'm sure that sounds selfish and slightly insane but the thought of sending my oldest baby off to full day Kindergarten last year was almost too much for me to handle. I wasn't ready and knowing he wasn't ready made that potential transition even more difficult. Now that we've had this bonus year, these additional five half days per week where I wasn't the constant teaching him, consoling him, encouraging him and easing his fears, I'm ready. I'm as ready as I'll ever be to send him out into this world to learn how to love others. To be kind. To fight for what he believes is right. To spend more time away from me than with me.
Thanks to the bonus year, we're both ready for Kindergarten.