Your child's best advocate is you
Is your child eligible for kindergarten next fall or is another year of preschool in the works? Are they the oldest kid in the class or the youngest? Are they getting everything they need out of their classroom experience?
It’s questions like these that are motivating the practice of redshirting, a parenting trend that involves keeping your kids out of kindergarten for an extra year. Having the additional time at home or in a preschool program gives kids more time to develop emotionally, socially, and physically. When they do enter kindergarten, those older kids are often perceived to be smarter or more advanced than their peers. A cumulative advantage builds throughout their K-5 experiences and into middle school and high school because those same kids will always be the ones to garner the most attention from their teachers, coaches, and fellow students.
Fair or not, there’s an implied advantage for a child who’s been redshirted. But what do you do if you’re not planning to hold your son or daughter back that extra year? What do you do if it wasn’t an option? Here are just a few simple hints, now that there’s only a short summer vacation between you and another school year.
- Find out the age range in your child's class. Will they be entering a first or second grade classroom with a significant gap between the youngest and the oldest? Knowing where your child sits on the age spectrum will help you anticipate any milestones or understand why they may be later in coming. Supporting your child’s education and learning is challenging enough without unnecessarily comparing their progress with others.
- If you can, make yourself aware of the developmental differences and learning gaps across the age ranges in class. It's not unusual to have more than a year separating the students in a single classroom. This can be a challenge for students and teachers alike, especially at the elementary level where the developmental difference between students who haven’t turned five and those about to turn seven is significant.
- Make sure your son’s or daughter’s teacher also knows where your child falls in the age range. Don’t take it for granted that your first grade teacher knows your child just turned six. Talking with your teacher about your child’s readiness or their learning milestones and making sure that you’re on the same page about what is expected will keep you both at ease.
- Get involved. More than a few classroom teachers will tell you, harassing them about your daughter’s daily experiences or how well your son’s peers are progressing doesn’t show them you’re interested in your child's education. Volunteering in the classroom, helping out with the school’s fundraising program, and reading to kids in the library does. That kind of involvement will pay dividends with your child, too. Being active and visible in the class and school environment can empower them and excite them about the experience of learning.
By no means exhaustive, this list will change and grow depending upon the needs of your child. But simple hints like these can help prepare moms, dads, and kids for the experience of kindergarten, elementary school, and beyond.