kindergarten - Boston Moms Blog

In late August 2006, I gave birth to a healthy (albeit three weeks early) baby boy. He hit all the milestones at all the right times, entered his first year of preschool at age 3, and knew all his letters and sounds by age 4.

He was on track to enter kindergarten at age 5 like all his peers. But there was one problem. He wasn’t quite 5 when kindergarten began. He was 4. In fact, he didn’t turn 5 until a week after school started.

He wasn’t the first 4-year-old to enter kindergarten slightly before turning 5, and he definitely won’t be the last. But as a former elementary school teacher, I knew we were entering dangerous waters.

I had seen the youngest students in my first-grade class struggle not just with maturity, but also with reading and writing. One year, when I had the same first-grade students a few years down the road in fourth grade, I saw how their age had affected their progress and their social lives — especially the boys.

I saw how the late-August babies in first grade who were ready to move on to second grade (many were not) had an even harder time in fourth grade. Not only were they now visibly less mature than their peers, they struggled with complex comprehension ideas in reading.

I began to consider redshirting my son — having him enter kindergarten a year after he was “allowed.” But he was so ready to go — emotionally, physically, and academically — that I sent him, knowing full well I might hold him back after his first year.

But then he did well. Really well. He was one of the top readers in the class and was strong in all other areas. He didn’t seem younger than the other kids, and he certainly didn’t struggle socially.

So I (alongside my husband) agonized. I knew from my experience that while he was doing fine now, a few years down the road he might not.

I talked to what felt like every parent I could find in a similar situation. And I heard two overwhelming sentiments: “I didn’t hold him back, and I wish I would have,” or “I held him back, and it was the best decision I ever made.”

I decided I would hold him back.

I figured that as his mother (and the fact that in Texas, where we were living, you have the choice to NOT hold a child back if the teacher suggests it), surely I would have the choice TO hold him back.

But I was met with an uphill battle. And I fought it.

“He’s doing fine academically — there’s no reason to hold him back,” they said. To which my reply was, “Right NOW he is doing well academically. But what if when he is in fifth grade he isn’t anymore and he has to be held back then?! That would be devastating at that age!”

“He is socially similar to his peers — there’s no reason to hold him back,” they said. To which my reply was, “You’re right, but he won’t be when he is 17 going into college.”

“We can’t justify holding a child back for no reason to the board. That’s an extra year of tax dollars being spent!” they said. To which my reply was, “Then you tell me what my options are. Because he isn’t going to first grade next year.”

They suggested homeschooling or sending him to private school. Neither was right for our family.

And then it occurred to me. The district had a bilingual program, and it happened to be housed at his school. I asked if they would consider letting him do this program — starting him over in kindergarten. They reluctantly agreed.

He is now going into sixth grade. He’ll be 12 at the end of August. He’s one of the oldest in his class, and he is one of the tallest. But you’d never know he was “held back.”

He doesn’t remember being held back, but I do. And while it was one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made, I look back now and imagine how different his life would be had I not. Knowing what I know now about him, not fighting for what I, as his mother, felt was right for him versus what a school board felt was right for him is a scary thought.

Because when it all comes down to it, my gut instinct was right. And today, he is right where he needs to be.

Jacquelyn Eckmann
Jacquelyn (Jakki) is a Texas native who made the Greater Boston area her home several years ago. Jakki is the founder of Social Betty, a social media management and consulting agency, and runs the company with her husband, Chris. She loves the flexibility that being self-employed gives her, and truly appreciates that she is able to attend mid-day school events for her children, Caleb (11), and Kennedy (6). A lover of the written word, music, and makeup, Jakki enjoys a good book, concerts at small venues, and discount shopping. Though life is busy for her family (overcommitting to extracurricular activities regularly), Jakki and her husband make it a point to get to the city and enjoy a ride on the T, a craft beer, and dinner at Legal Harborside or Boston Burger Co.- both with the kids and without.


  1. Yes! My youngest is an August 31st baby. I gave him an extra preschool year for all of these reasons. He is now thriving as a Rising Junior in HS and I have never regretted a moment. 💕❤️

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