Thursday, November 29, 2012

Parenting Anxiety Attack #95234: On Kindergarten Redshirting

Oh no, I'm having a(nother) Parenting Anxiety Attack.

I just finished perusing my younger son's kindergarten class Share Journal, where you can see all the kids' writings and drawings about an item they chose from home to bring to their classroom. Reading the journal supports my belief that we should have waited a year for him to start kindergarten. 

The Jumbo Pencil
Photo credit:
Nolan started this year at age four and has found himself in a classroom with some kids who are seven years old. I was unsure about him starting this year since he has a late September birthday, is small for his age, is quite shy and has significant asthma and allergy issues. (Will he be too shy to speak up for himself around foods he cannot eat?) 

On top of that, academic redshirting seems to be the norm in the area we live in, I've now learned, especially for boys. We live in Silicon Valley, in an area where the majority of parents are Asian immigrants who prize academic achievement. Many parents work at Google, Apple, Yahoo, etc. 

My husband has a late September birthday too, though, and assured me that being small and young isn't a big deal. Besides being the last kid in his class to graduate from the fat pencil to the skinny pencil and requiring extra scissors practice at home, my husband did fine academically and caught up with his classmates in size in a few years.

This year, I made sure to volunteer in Nolan's classroom. I'm there one to two times a week and I have seen how he fits in with his classmates. Once we got past the rocky first week of school, he adjusted well. He's the smallest in his class but he seems to blend in with the others. I think he's the only one who needs his teacher's help putting on and zipping his jacket, but when it comes to the schoolwork, he is OK. Identifying and creating patterns seems to be his specialty.

Still, I started to feel alarmed again when we received a kindergarten-wide email to parents early in the year. It was in regard to Reading Racers, a program that develops children's ability to recognize and read simple words. Here's an excerpt from that email:
This program was not designed to be a contest but to differentiate to our students' individual needs as our students are budding learners at all different levels. Also, please remember that children are listening and watching your reactions to their work. Comparing lists after school with other parents could potentially be hurtful to individual students which could affect their self-esteem and confidence when they see that some students are at a different level than them.

Apparently, some of the kindergarten parents were getting competitive about Reading Racers. (Note to educators: Perhaps consider not calling it Reading RACERS if you don't want to encourage competition.)  

And now we have the Share Journal. I was quite surprised to see that some of Nolan's classmates are practically writing novellas and illustrating their essays with beautiful, complex drawings. Nolan has very faint, wispy penmanship and writes short four-word sentences, e.g., "The dog went home." He draws very basic stick figures, often accompanied with hearts and balloons, no matter what the context.

Look, I really don't want to be a Tiger Mom, but what am I supposed to do when I'm surrounded by them? I was raised by Asian immigrant parents myself, so I know the Tiger parenting style very well. I don't want that for our family. But now I find myself second-guessing myself again. I'm tempted to inquire about Nolan repeating kindergarten next year. 

Am I out of my mind? What would you do?