At what age should kids start school?

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The big kids with their little sisters.

One of my school mom friends Jean and I would chat for a few minutes after dropping the big kids off (big as in Kindergartner.) We both had daughters who weren’t old enough for school and they loved to play together on the playground while we waited for morning assembly in the amphitheatre.

The school, St. Theresa’s, had a lovely tradition of welcoming parents to morning assembly, where each week a class was assigned the duty of reading Bible versus and announcements.

One day, while the youngers were on the swing sets, the kindergarten teacher asked us if we wanted our young girls to start school the next year.

“No!” I exclaimed. “She’s three!” My friend Jean concurred.

“I know they’re young,” the teacher said. “But I think they’re ready.”

Apparently our overly bright first-borns were making quite the convincing argument to start our second children early. But no. I wasn’t for that. It was around that time that another teacher cornered us on the playground because our darling little girls were heard using foul language! That’s a story for another day.

I read an interesting article today in the Washington Post about ‘Redshirting’ your kindergartner: Is it the right choice in the long run? This article by Lisa L. Lewis discuss the opposite approach. She talks about her own son, who she held back a year because he barely made the cut age wise and she didn’t think he was ready.

If all had gone according to plan, my son would have been one of the older kids in his grade throughout his school years. Even though he turned 5 by our state’s kindergarten cutoff date, we agreed with his preschool teachers’ assessment that he didn’t seem emotionally ready and “redshirted” him by delaying kindergarten for a year.

It worked well for a time, but by second grade, his teacher was regularly sending him next door to a third-grade classroom for math and reading. Just a few weeks into the school year, she told us he really should be in third grade.

I resisted. While the second-grade boys still had small traces of softness, the third-graders had none. Some were a head taller than my son. They wore Nikes, and he still wore Stride Rites. With his emotional immaturity and small-kid vulnerability, masked by a tart-tongued bravado, I worried he’d flounder socially with the older kids.

But he was already struggling, I had to admit, as I consoled him one afternoon during a fit of frustration. I asked if it was hard going to third grade. He said he wasn’t in third grade, or second grade, really, and he felt like he didn’t fit anywhere. He was crying, and it pained me that I’d inadvertently created a separate, lonely category for him, making him feel like an outsider in both classrooms.

As we learned, redshirting — even when done with the best of intentions and with input from educational professionals — may need to be reconsidered as your child develops.

The term “redshirting” originally referred to college athletes who sat out their first year to work on their skills without affecting their eligibility. The intent is similar for would-be kindergartners: By providing younger kids an extra year to develop physically, socially and emotionally, the expectation is that they’ll be better equipped to succeed.

Perhaps the most well-known arguments that support this come from Malcolm Gladwell, who devoted the entire first chapter of his 2008 book “Outliers” to the premise that being one of the oldest provides long-term advantages in school and beyond. In sports, just barely missing the cutoff date means you’re up to a year older than your teammates and likely more physically mature and coordinated. That increases the odds you’ll be a better athlete and thus given more opportunities, he argues, leading to what’s known as “accumulative advantage.” The same dynamic occurs in the classroom, he says.

More recently, a survey of data collected by Truven Health MarketScan Research Database between 2007 and 2015, which was published last year in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that older kids are less likely to be diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder than their youngest kindergarten classmates.

That’s in keeping with the results of a 2018 report in Health Economics that Thomas S. Dee, a professor of education at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education, co-authored, based on children in Denmark. He found that older kids were better at self-regulation than their youngest peers, who tended to be less attentive and had higher levels of hyperactivity. As Dee explained to me, the extra year “often gives children more extended exposure to play-based environments, [which are] really critical for children’s capacity to develop self-regulation.”

My daughter had several friends who were born the fall. Yes, they were young for their grade. The difference in their maturity was noticeable up until second grade. They didn’t seem to have impulse control or be able to sit still for long times. By third and fourth grade it all leveled out and I forgot they were younger. I think they would have been bored to tears if they had been in the grade behind.

As far as sports, I’ve heard of families holding their kids back to get an advantage. Fortunately in swimming that doesn’t work. You’re put in age groups according to your birthday, not your grade level. That’s one more thing why I like swimming. The age is the age and the time is the time. There’s nothing subjective about it.

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Swim team friends at the beach.

At what age do you think kids should start kindergarten? 

 

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Missing My Angus and Birthday Boy


robert

 

It’s my son’s birthday is in less than two weeks. I wrote this story a few years ago when he was still in college and Spring Break aligned with his birthday. It was always a treat that he could be home and we’d all celebrate. This year, I’m going to visit him in the Bay area and celebrate his birthday with him there.

I can’t help but get sentimental and nostalgic for when he was a young boy. He called me “sweetheart” because he thought it was my name. When we went to “Mommy and Me” at the Palm Springs Pavilion, there was a “good-bye” song at the end of each session. When his name was called, he’d toddle to the teacher and plant a kiss on her cheek. He was so sweet. Still is.

robert 1In honor of his birthday, I’m reposting a story I wrote when he invited 50 kids to his second grade party. Originally published in the Los Angeles Times Kids’ Reading Room, it’s about Angus our yellow lab of 15 years, who shared my son’s birthday.

A Birthday for the Dogs

“MOM, I’m inviting 50 kids to my party.”

“What, Robert?” Mom said. “That’s too many. Do you know 50 kids?”

I sat in the back seat while Mom drove home after school. My eighth birthday was in two weeks. 

“There’s my class, plus Cub Scouts, and playgroup.”

“I can’t afford to take 50 kids skating or bowling. And I don’t want 50 kids in my house. What about the city pool? It’s heated, open year-round, and it’s only 50¢ a kid,” Mom said.

“A swim party, that’s cool!” I said.

“I’ll say yes to the party, but no to presents. Fifty presents is too much for one 8-year-old. It’s decadent.”

“What’s decadent?” I asked. Mom used words I didn’t know.

“Self-indulgent, corrupt.”

I sat silently and thought I’d be sad with no presents. Then I remembered Angus. Mom got him for me as an early birthday present. We were on a waiting list for two years with Guide Dogs of the Desert. He was being trained as a companion dog for people who couldn’t see. We got him because he had poor hips and couldn’t be a working dog. Angus was big, yellow, and I loved him. We shared the same birthday.

“I have a great idea!”

“What?” Mom asked, glancing at me in her rearview mirror.

“I’ll ask for money for Guide Dogs of the Desert.”

“Ah?” Mom made a weird swallowing noise.

“It’s Angus’s birthday, too.”

Angus5

In the rearview mirror I watched Mom dab at the corner of her eyes with a tissue, and nod her head in agreement.

Two weeks later, I had a great birthday. Fifty kids came with bathing suits, towels and money. Instead of opening presents after cake, we counted dollars they had stuffed into a large jar decorated with photos of Angus. 

Together, we raised more than $1,600 for Guide Dogs. Mom called me a “philanthropist” – whatever that is.

Angus8Happy birthday, son! We miss you, Angus!

Celebrating a birthday at the beach

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Carpinteria State Beach.

We had a great weekend and I loved every minute of it. We went to one of my favorite places, Carpinteria, to celebrate a dear friend’s birthday. I was asked to bring a veggie platter and was shocked to find out how many people would be attending the party. But, when I think about how wonderful my friend is — and the close call she had in August — it makes sense that everyone in her life would want to be there.

I enjoyed meeting her mom and sister plus reuniting with the sister I’ve known. They flew out from the East coast. I also enjoyed talking with all the people in her life and marveled at how many friends she has and how they’ve known her for years and years. She’s a good friend to have and I’m honored to be in her number of friends.

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She made a joke before blowing out her candles that she knew everyone at the party was afraid she wouldn’t make it to her birthday this year. That is so true. She had passed out while at the gym the last time we were in Santa Barbara. She had a blood clot lodge in her carotid artery and a stroke! She was so fortunate to be here to celebrate this birthday a few short months later. And guess what she did for her birthday? She drove to Las Vegas to ride in an 80-mile bike ride! One of her sisters met her there and after the bike ride, they drove back to Santa Barbara in time for the party!

In addition to spending time with friends, I was able to spend a little time doing my most favorite thing which is sitting on the beach reading a book. Also, we found a cute condo we rented on VRBO that was great. I hope to be back for my friend’s birthday next year, too!

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Waffles with the beach dogs where my friend had her birthday party. Photo above is of my dear friend and my daughter, sailing in Santa Barbara.

“A Birthday Day for the Dogs” and Other Reasons to Celebrate Today

robertIt’s my son’s 22-year birthday. I’m having a hard time wrapping my brain around that fact. On the bright side, Spring Break allows him to come home to celebrate. This year he brought his girlfriend, too. This is all overwhelming and exciting at the same time.

I can’t help but get sentimental and nostalgic for when he was a young boy. He called me “sweetheart” because he thought it was my name. When we went to “Mommy and Me” at the Palm Springs Pavilion, there was a “good-bye” song at the end of each session. When his name was called, he’d toddle to the teacher and plant a kiss on her cheek. He was so sweet. Still is.

robert 1In honor of his birthday, I’m reposting a story I wrote when he invited 50 kids to his 2nd grade party. Originally published in the Los Angeles Times Kids’ Reading Room, it’s about Angus our yellow lab of 15 years, who shared my son’s birthday.

A Birthday for the Dogs

“MOM, I’m inviting 50 kids to my party.”

“What, Robert?” Mom said. “That’s too many. Do you know 50 kids?”

I sat in the back seat while Mom drove home after school. My eighth birthday was in two weeks. 

“There’s my class, plus Cub Scouts, and playgroup.”

“I can’t afford to take 50 kids skating or bowling. And I don’t want 50 kids in my house. What about the city pool? It’s heated, open year-round, and it’s only 50¢ a kid,” Mom said.

“A swim party, that’s cool!” I said.

“I’ll say yes to the party, but no to presents. Fifty presents is too much for one 8-year-old. It’s decadent.”

“What’s decadent?” I asked. Mom used words I didn’t know.

“Self-indulgent, corrupt.”

I sat silently and thought I’d be sad with no presents. Then I remembered Angus. Mom got him for me as an early birthday present. We were on a waiting list for two years with Guide Dogs of the Desert. He was being trained as a companion dog for people who couldn’t see. We got him because he had poor hips and couldn’t be a working dog. Angus was big, yellow, and I loved him. We shared the same birthday.

“I have a great idea!”

“What?” Mom asked, glancing at me in her rearview mirror.

“I’ll ask for money for Guide Dogs of the Desert.”

“Ah?” Mom made a weird swalloing noise.

“It’s Angus’s birthday, too.”

Angus5

In the rearview mirror I watched Mom dab at the corner of her eyes with a tissue, and nod her head in agreement.

Two weeks later, I had a great birthday. Fifty kids came with bathing suits, towels and money. Instead of opening presents after cake, we counted dollars they had stuffed into a large jar decorated with photos of Angus. 

Together, we raised more than $1,600 for Guide Dogs. Mom called me a “philanthropist” – whatever that is.

Angus8Happy birthday, son! We miss you, Angus!

Missing Angus at the Beach — a Good Dog Story

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ANGUS

AUGUST 7, 2014: I’m missing Angus a lot lately. We’re on vacation at the beach in a little cottage where Angus slept on the front porch with his head sticking in the doorway into the living room. Every morning at this cottage for nine years I took Angus for a walk up the hill. In the evenings, the family took him for his nightly swim in the ocean. He’d jump through the waves chasing a tennis ball. Everywhere I look, I miss him. So, I’m reposting this story I wrote in honor of my son and Angus’s birthday last March.

MARCH 14, 2014: Next week my son turns 21 years old. Officially an adult. He shared his birth date with Angus, our yellow lab. But, sadly, this year Angus isn’t with us. He made it from my son’s 1st grade birthday to his sophomore year in college.

 

My kids with Angus at the beach.

My kids with Angus at the beach.

The following is a story I wrote when Robert invited 50 kids to his second grade birthday party. It was published in the Los Angeles Times Kids’ Reading Room. 

Angus1

Camping with Angus in Carpinteria.

A Birthday for the Dogs

“MOM, I’m inviting 50 kids to my party.”

“What, Robert?” Mom said. “That’s too many. Do you know 50 kids?”

I sat in the back seat while Mom drove home after school. My eighth birthday was in two weeks. 

“There’s my class, plus Cub Scouts, and playgroup.”

“I can’t afford to take 50 kids skating or bowling. And I don’t want 50 kids in my house. What about the city pool? It’s heated, open year-round, and it’s only 50¢ a kid,” Mom said.

“A swim party, that’s cool!” I said.

“I’ll say yes to the party, but no to presents. Fifty presents is too much for one 8-year-old. It’s decadent.”

“What’s decadent?” I asked. Mom used words I didn’t know.

“Self-indulgent, corrupt.”

Angus2

Angus watching the kids on the playground at Ruth Hardy Park.

I sat silently and thought I’d be sad with no presents. Then I remembered Angus. Mom got him for me as an early birthday present. We were on a waiting list for two years with Guide Dogs of the Desert. He was being trained as a companion dog for people who couldn’t see. We got him because he had poor hips and couldn’t be a working dog. Angus was big, yellow, and I loved him. We shared the same birthday.

“I have a great idea!”

Angus

Angus at his front porch post at the beach cottage.

“What?” Mom asked, glancing at me in her rearview mirror.

“I’ll ask for money for Guide Dogs of the Desert.”

“Ah?” Mom made a weird swallowing noise.

“It’s Angus’s birthday, too.”

Angus5

At the cottage.

In the rearview mirror I watched Mom dab at the corner of her eyes with a tissue, and nod her head in agreement.

Two weeks later, I had a great birthday. Fifty kids came with bathing suits, towels and money. Instead of opening presents after cake, we counted dollars they had stuffed into a large jar decorated with photos of Angus. 

Together, we raised more than $1,600 for Guide Dogs. Mom called me a “philanthropist” – whatever that is.

Angus8

The birthday boys, Robert and his dog Angus.

 

Here’s a link to a video of Angus doing his daily chore of getting the paper.

Oh, Folly! No More Follies!

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The Fabulous Palm Springs Follies is closing after 23 years. The economy has been bad since 2008 and according to Riff Markowitz, Master of Ceremonies and Founder of the Fabulous Palm Springs Follies, “small theaters across the country are running out of money and closing.” His is no exception.

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My son turned 21 this week and he mentioned that he’d love to see the Follies since he was born in Palm Springs, lived here his entire life — until college — and has never gone to see it.

My dad, 82 years old, also wanted to see the Follies before it closed. But, his desire was driven by the great Darlene Love of Oscar-winning 20 Feet from Stardom and He’s a Rebel fame. She happens to be the last headliner ever of the Fabulous Palm Springs Follies.

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Tuesday night we went as a three-generation tag team to see the Last Hurrah of the Fabulous Palm Springs Follies with Darlene Love.

Riff singled my son out of the audience for being a “young person!” He made Robert stand up and asked if he was “being punished.”

“How old are you, Robert? Twenty? Look at these shoes,” Riff said pointing to his feet. “These shoes are 11 years older than you!”

He asked to see Robert’s “old persons” and asked if Robert was our “seeing eye driver.” We laughed and cried — Riff was that funny.

Darlene Love knocked us out with her amazing voice and transcending performance.

imgresThe dancers of the Follies are aged 56 to 84 — all Broadway professionals, loving their craft. It’s a crying shame that their careers will be cut short when the Follies close!

It was a delight and I urge you to make the trip to Palm Springs to see it while you can. And if, you can’t, make sure you watch the movie with Darlene Love, Twenty Feet From Stardom! I insist!

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Have you ever been to the Fabulous Palm Springs Follies? Have you seen 20 Feet from Stardom?  Were you as impressed as me?

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My Son Invited 50 Kids to His Second Grade Birthday Party

Angus7Next week my son turns 21 years old. Officially an adult. He shared his birth date with Angus, our yellow lab. But, sadly, this year Angus isn’t with us. He made it from my son’s 1st grade birthday to his sophomore year in college.

The following is a story I wrote when Robert invited 50 kids to his second grade birthday party. It was published in the Los Angeles Times Kids’ Reading Room. Photos are of Angus and my kids.

Angus1A Birthday for the Dogs

“MOM, I’m inviting 50 kids to my party.”

“What, Robert?” Mom said. “That’s too many. Do you know 50 kids?”

I sat in the back seat while Mom drove home after school. My eighth birthday was in two weeks. 

“There’s my class, plus Cub Scouts, and playgroup.”

“I can’t afford to take 50 kids skating or bowling. And I don’t want 50 kids in my house. What about the city pool? It’s heated, open year-round, and it’s only 50¢ a kid,” Mom said.

“A swim party, that’s cool!” I said.

“I’ll say yes to the party, but no to presents. Fifty presents is too much for one 8-year-old. It’s decadent.”

“What’s decadent?” I asked. Mom used words I didn’t know.

“Self-indulgent, corrupt.”

Angus2

I sat silently and thought I’d be sad with no presents. Then I remembered Angus. Mom got him for me as an early birthday present. We were on a waiting list for two years with Guide Dogs of the Desert. He was being trained as a companion dog for people who couldn’t see. We got him because he had poor hips and couldn’t be a working dog. Angus was big, yellow, and I loved him. We shared the same birthday.

“I have a great idea!”

Angus

“What?” Mom asked, glancing at me in her rearview mirror.

“I’ll ask for money for Guide Dogs of the Desert.”

“Ah?” Mom made a weird swalloing noise.

“It’s Angus’s birthday, too.”

Angus5

In the rearview mirror I watched Mom dab at the corner of her eyes with a tissue, and nod her head in agreement.

Two weeks later, I had a great birthday. Fifty kids came with bathing suits, towels and money. Instead of opening presents after cake, we counted dollars they had stuffed into a large jar decorated with photos of Angus. 

Together, we raised more than $1,600 for Guide Dogs. Mom called me a “philanthropist” – whatever that is.

Angus8

 

Here’s a link to a video of Angus doing his daily chore of getting the paper.