Why am I telling you this? Because, she and I were two of the youngest children in our class. Her birthday was the same as mine, October 26. In those years, the end date for entering kindergarten in our district was October 31. That is, you had to turn five years old by October 31. She and I entered kindergarten while we were still four years of age.
Of course there were a few disadvantages, especially in high school, when we were the last in our class to reach driving age. But now I often speak to parents who are holding their children back, especially boys, almost two more years beyond my friend and me, to start kindergarten at six years of age. I have always felt that this was not a good practice because I have worked with many children who were underachieving more because they were bored in school than any other factor.
Now we have solid research indicating that this is the case. Sam Wang, a molecular biology professor at Princeton and Sandra Aamodt, a former editor of Nature Neuroscience share research in their book, "Welcome to your Child's Brain: How the Mind Grows from Conception to College," indicating that holding your child back a year before starting kindergarten actually interferes with their success in later life.
The research they cite indicates that the best way for your child to get ahead in school and life, is to start early, not late. Why?
SCHOOL IS WHAT MAKES CHILDREN SMART AND GIVES THEM THEM AMPLE TIME TO DEVELOP SOCIAL SKILLS AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR QUALITY TEAM SPORT EXPERIENCE
The authors highlight the research in their book and an OpEd in today's New York Times. They state that in a large study involving 26 Canadian Schools, first graders who were young at entering kindergarten made more progress in reading than those who were old for their year. They cite another study where the youngest fifth graders had higher I.Q.'s than fourth graders of the same age. The authors explain that the first six years of life are the time when the human brain is undergoing its greatest growth spurt, and nothing seems to increase that brain potential better than school. And one of the greatest benefits, according to the authors, is social skill development - especially among boys who otherwise tend to mature socially a little later than girls.
So what about sports? Many parents believe that team sport skills provide their child with one additional leg up for college and scholarship opportunities. They often hold their children back to get an advantage in selection and opportunity over other children in the same grade. The authors do not provide research on this topic but I have another personal example here as well. My husband Jim and his twin brother, who had a late September birthday, also entered kindergarten before five years of age. They both received full athletic scholarships, one to a Big-Ten university, the other to an Ivy League college. My husband was selected Academic All Big-Ten as well as an All-American basketball player . He went on to play pro-basketball before entering law school.
What about me, with my late birthday and early school entrance? I did not get superior grades in elementary school nor, as my golf coach would testify, am I a superior athlete. But my grades were good enough and I had a broad range of extracurricular interests: art, music, drama, and public speaking. My father would say I was "well rounded." That, I believe, enabled me to have a fulfilling professional life and a satisfying family life.
THE BEST WAY FOR YOUR CHILD TO GET AHEAD IN SCHOOL, SPORTS AND LIFE IS TO START SCHOOL ON SCHEDULE, NOT WAIT A YEAR. ACCORDING TO WANG AND AAMODT, "SCHOOL MAKES CHILDREN SMARTER"!