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Ready for School? Why You Shouldn't Hold Back Summer-Born Kids

The Short of It

Wondering if your summer-birthday or prematurely born child is ready to start school or if you should wait a year? Many of us assume delaying (also called "redshirting") is usually best, but a new study says that practice could actually cause kids to have poorer test scores later on.

The Lowdown

The study, published in Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology, followed 999 kids in Germany, some who had been born preterm, and some who started school at a later age than usual. Researchers observed their math, reading, writing and attention scores (as rated by their teachers) in both their first year of school and at age eight.

The surprising findings: Kids who started school later did fine in the first year, but tended to have poorer test scores later on than the kids who'd started school on time. (Note: The researchers don't say that the delay actually caused the poor performance—just that there's a link.)

"We found missing one year of learning opportunities was associated with poorer average performance in standardized tests at eight years of age for both preterm and full-term children," explained study co-author Julia Jaekel, of the Department of Developmental Psychology at the Ruhr-University Bochum in Germany, in a press release. "Future research is needed to determine the long-term effect of delayed school entry on academic achievement, but our results certainly give parents and educational providers food for thought."

The Upshot

This is something I wrestled with myself as a mom of an early-September baby—I knew my son was academically ready for school but possibly not as mature as other kids. We decided to start on time. Recently, he asked me why he was smaller and younger than most of the kids in his kindergarten class. That's in part because some of his classmates' parents did choose to delay entry, making them a full year—or more—older. (Plus, he's just small, as my husband and I both are!)

In the end, I feel we did what's best for our child. Every family should make their own decision based on their individual child's readiness, and their own instincts. Check out the American Academy of Pediatrics' article on knowing whether your child is ready for school if you're making the decision.

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