I Underestimated My Daughter

By October 5, 2011Motherhood, My Life, Parenting

We always knew Sophia was going to be amazing.  Of course, we are parents and she is our daughter, our first gorgeous child.  You know.  How could she be anything else? Still, I underestimated her.


Sophia’s birthday happens to be just 20 days after the kindergarten cutoff here in Charlotte.  We have been thinking about this since she was moved from the 2’s to the 3’s in pre-school a few years ago.  We knew she would finish the 4 year old class and then watch her friends go to kindergarten.  We worried about it.  We watched her befriend kids a year or more older than her with ease.

So we called the elementary school.  We asked about early admission to Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools.  It is possible.  With a birthday so close to the cutoff we would have to get her tested in IQ, reading and math and then have her evaluated by the school.  She would not have to be a raging genius, she would have to score in the 98th percentile for kids her age in IQ and then in either reading or math skills and have the recommendation of the counselor who administers the tests.

We watched Sophia and asked her 4’s teacher about her “place” amongst her peers who would be attending kindergarten.  With no red flags and a little girl was begging to go to kindergarten, we decided to have her tested.

She was actually excited when we walked into the office for 2 hours of testing.  I was nervous.  Almost nauseous. As a parent, you know your kid has got something, but you never know what.  It’s just crazy to send a 4 year old for IQ testing.   We prepared ourselves for everything from major learning issue to genius to crazy unexplainable to average awesome 4 year old girl.  If I am being totally honest, after years of thinking she was just a little ahead, we actually did remind ourselves that having any expectations was unfair to her and not right as a parent.  Still, you always want the best news. She came out happy and chatty but we did not know anything for a few weeks.

When we met with the counselor we left with the knowledge that Sophia was in fact intellectually and socially ready for kindergarten.  She was fine in IQ and far above her peer level in math (we had no idea) and above average in reading skills.  However, there was a big but.  In Charlotte a good number of parents specifically hold their children, usually boys, back a year.  I don’t know why other than worrying they are not ready or wanting them to be bigger, but it raised concern for our Sophia going to Kindergarten.  You see, with all the kids being held back there would be an almost 2 year age difference between the youngest and oldest kindergarteners and the counselor wanted us to think about this not just in terms of elementary school but as she aged.  Would we want our 13 year old in class with 15 year old boys?  What about having a 19 year old pick our 16 year old up for a date?  You know I am all kinds of afraid of sex so this really got me thinking.  I should have thought more about Sophia and less about the other “stuff”.

At the end of the day, we decided to find her a transitional kindergarten and told her it was because her birthday was extra special and that she would be super ready for kindergarten when she went.

We have had a month of school and we regret our decision.  Not only is Sophia unhappy that she is not in kindergarten, she says she is bored all the time both at school and at home.  Her TK has not even started the workbooks she was so exited about.  At home, you know we always have a million art projects and fun things around here.  She wants to be in school with friends for a full day.  Those were her exact words.  At first, my feelings were hurt.  I wondered why she did not want to spend more time with me.  She said she loved me very much, but that she was just as grown up as her friends and she wanted to be with them.  I get it.  Sophia has been a social uber extrovert since she was a baby.  She thrives in large groups and likes a challenge.  She is friends with 7 year olds already.  She can hold her own.

I don’t know why we underestimated her.

Now, it seems that our school district has added a K1 class to help deal with the age issue.  The older and more advanced kids have been placed in a kindergarten / 1st Grade class and the younger normal kindergarteners are in regular old kindergarten.  Had we known this, our decision would have been different.  We would have met with the school to send her this year.

We are now faced with a decision.  Do we leave her in her TK class and try to find extra activities in the afternoon?  Do we proceed with trying to start her now, since it has only been a month since school started?  Do we find and pay for one year of private kindergarten and then send her next year with the possibility she will then be in the K1 class?  We honestly feel like she should be in “real” school now, but is it too late?

Right now I am exploring all of our options while the thought that I failed my daughter tickles my brain.  These cutoffs are meant to send the kids to kindergarden who are supposed to be there, and we knew that is where she belonged.  We knew she would love it.  We knew our own daughter.  At the end of the day, as parents, we know our small children better than the counselors or the schools.  I need to remember that as we enter into the days when our kids are gone as much as they are here.  It is my job to pay attention and be an advocate for my child.  As a parent who plans on sending my children to public school, it is my job to be as active as possible and make sure that she and her classmates are getting what they need.  It is my job to fight for my kids when 20 days on a calendar keep them from what is right for them.   I want to listen to my kids and take them seriously when the matter is serious.  She told us what she wanted, she tested appropriately to move ahead and still we doubted her.

It is a mistake I hope we will not make again.

Question:  When do your kids go to kindergarten?  Do you have similar issues with age gaps due to holding kids back?  I am curious as to how the world works for school aged kids outside of Charlotte.  Thanks!

Join the discussion 19 Comments

  • Loukia says:

    I think you should try her in kindergarten. She’s ready, she’s asking for it. Better she be learning instead of being bored and not loving where she currently is, right? It’s hard for us as moms to have our children in school full-time – that I totally understand. And my oldest son started kindergarten when he turned 4. (His birthday is in August, school starts in September.) My youngest is 3.5 years old and he’ll miss being able to start kindergarten when he’s 4 – because his birthday is January. So he’ll be 4.5 when he is able to start kindergarten. In the next year or so our city and province will be transitioning half day kindergarten to full-day. I don’t totally love that, and know my now first grader wouldn’t have loved a full-day of kindergarten, but we’ll see how things go with my little guy.
    Your little girl is very smart… and totally adorable, might I add.

    • Brittany says:

      Thank you Loukia. We are definitely moving ahead with some sort of change. The kindergarten may not let her start late and we may need to pay for another option. I think it is so odd that our schools start kindergarten so late. From what I have heard around twitter it is almost a year later than most places. Our little ones will be 5/6 and some turning 7! Most places seem to start at 4/5. That would have been so much better for us! Good luck with the full day switch. Here it is full day and some parents do not like it. Sophia is like some kind of energy ball that goes all day and could stay up late too without even blinking!

  • IASoupMama says:

    My Violet has a birthday 6 days before the kindergarten cut-off. She’s the youngest in her 4-year-old preschool right now and we’re planning to send her to Kindergarten next year, with the idea that if she struggles, she can repeat it instead of going on to first grade. We made this decision with the idea that K would be more academic than another year of preschool and that if she can handle the academic challenge, we’re pretty certain that she can handle the social challenge of being young in her class. She has an older brother and her daycare buddies are a year older than she is, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that she will be fine.

    But I am worried about the 2 year age difference, no question…

  • Kmama says:

    In michigan, the cut off is December 1st. If your child isn’t 5 by December 1st, they have to wait until the next year. of course, that only applies to public schools. If the kids aren’t 5, the schools don’t get funding for that child. You can pay to send them to a private school for a year though.

    My oldest has an August birthday, and although academically ready, he was a bit immature and much smaller than the other kids his same age. We decided to send him to kindergarten anyway, with the idea that we’d have him repeat if necessary. When it came to the end of his first year, his teacher passed him on to 1st grade, but we made the decision to hold him back. It was a hard decision, but he was still immature. He was mad that he wasn’t moving up with his friends, but we told him that he was going to be the leader of the class, etc., and he eventually got excited.

    It was the best decision we could have ever made. If I thought he was immature compared to his peers at the ages of 5 and 6, I can only imagine how immature he’d be at the ages of 15 and 16, when it gets really scary to have an immature child (especially a son).

    This year, he’s in a 1st/2nd grade split and is doing awesome. He’s being challenged with the 2nd grade classwork and he’s on a level playing field, maturity-wise, with his peers.

    • Brittany says:

      I am such a huge fan of these split classes and like you, I am hoping that if Sophia cannot go until next year she is put in the K/1 class so she is both challenged and with her social peers. I am so glad it is all going well for you!

  • StephanieNelson says:

    I don’t have kids, so know that none of this comes from experience. But I do know that you made a decision, based on the information you had, in an effort to do what was best for your daughter. To me, that means that you in no way failed her. You’ve got new info now, so you have to make the decision again. As long as you’re doing what you know in your gut to be best, no one can ask any more of you.

  • Ashley says:

    Oh what a tough spot to be in! I think you proceeded with caution, something you have to do as a parent. I think, if I were in your situation, I would go meet with the school now. If she’s bored and not stimulated, then that could be just the thing.

    Good luck however you move forward!

  • I root for Kindergarten. As a former K teacher in the Tulsa Public School system I saw too many kids get bored far too early with school. If she’s already bored, it’s a bad start. Good luck! Parenting decisions are rough 🙂

  • This is a hard one.

    I would definitely caution you about the age difference when she is older. She would always be the last one to get her driver’s license, to turn 21, to reach puberty, etc. I think being a tween/teen girl is really hard (I have one right now and I feel her struggles everyday) and I can’t imagine being with a group of 12 year olds and physically and emotionally being 10. Yikes.

    It is much easier to stimulate her now at 5 then to work out all those sticky situations at 11 and 12.

    I have confidence in you, though and know you will make the right decision for her.

    Oh and here in Massachusetts children need to be five by September 1st and the schools are very strict. They hardly ever make an exception.

    • Brittany says:

      Thanks! I actually sort of never want her to drive 🙂 I am from NY so this letting kids drive at 15 thing freaks me out! Anyway, we are nervous about the age thing and right now are proceeding with caution as we talk to the school. I do think that the age difference would be primarily with boys, as almost no girls are held back here. While she may struggle with some physical stuff I am actually much more concerned about her being bored and emotionally she seems to get along best with girls 1 to 2 year older.

  • Ellie has the same issue with a Sept 29th birthday. My plan is to homeschool her for as long as we’re living here — I think CMS is too big.

    • Brittany says:

      Good for you! Sophia would literally kill me if I mentioned home schooling. She thinks anything with less than a dozen potential friends is frightful. All of my kids have this awesome but slightly terrifying uber social nature. Good luck!

  • anna says:

    I started kindergarten at 4 and didn’t turn 5 until december. I never felt younger than my peers and did well throughout school because of how much I loved to learn. I’m sure sophia will be fine as a 4 since she is socially and mentally on target. Worry about the boys when she’s in 7th grade and beyond

  • Miss M. is five days past the kindergarten cutoff. Last year, we decided not to test her and go through the hassle of “proving” she was advanced. It just left a bad taste in my mouth. So we did a transitional kindergarten too. Difference is, Miss M. loved it. She felt comfortable and secure there, and certainly not bored.

    I think your little one is telling you that she’s ready. 🙂

    • Brittany says:

      Oh I am so glad Miss M loved TK. That is SO what we wanted for Sophia. This whole thing is now a big mess and we are struggling to figure things out. We will get there, but this stuff is tough!

  • blueviolet says:

    My son just barely made the cut-off and we did put him in. He did fine all the way through school, but yet I would still probably keep him back if I could do it over. Actually that might be based more on the fact that I miss my kids so much, and wish I had them still glued to my side, so I’m probably not a fair judge on this.

    I don’t know whether I’d put her in the school, but I’d definitely move ahead to fill her time in some way.

  • liz says:

    Here they need to be 5 by September 30th to go, but we start August 8th, so I guess you would need to shift that timing a bit for your calendar.

    I really have never heard of moving a kid forward, just holding back. And, like you, it seems to be boys and so they are “bigger”.

    I think you guys were wise to push further and not just take the cut off as the cut off.

    Since we start so early and Maddie’s b-day is the end of July, she will be turning 5, but only by less than 3 weeks before she starts Kindy (2 more years on that). Any time you get so close to a cut off, there’s no easy answer.

  • Rachel says:

    Can I contact you? We are currently thinking about having our November daughter tested–I’m interested to hear your thoughts and who did your daughter’s testing, etc.

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