Dr. Michael McKenzie is one of those people in our lives that has genuinely altered the path that we could’ve gone down as parents. No one out there has all the right answers; I get that. But, this guy hasn’t let us down yet.
I’m pretty good about staying grounded in the fact that just because I already have two older kids, I don’t really know what I’m doing. There are times I have conversations with this guy when he recommends something that seems so contrary to what I would do, but he’s been right so many times that I just surrender and follow his advice 100%. Honestly, I can’t think of a single time in the last 5 years that his advice has let me down. It’s remarkable, but you really have to experience it directly to fully believe in just how good this guy is at what he does.
Yesterday, I took Bode and Harley Love to their physicals which I had booked, basically, at the same time. One was for 9am, the other at 9:30, but you can imagine that with all of us in the room at the same time, it all just sort of blends together…in good ways, and in not so good ways.
We’re wrapping up the appointment and the doctor says, “I know this is totally unsolicited, but it’s my recommendation to any child who’s birthday is after April and able to make the September cut-off date to enter Kindergarten this year, that they wait a year to start school.”
BOOM. I was, literally, stopped dead in my tracks. The thought of that had never crossed my mind. Not once. I guess I never even thought it was a debatable topic unless your kid had some sort of learning disability or behavioral issue. Now, Bode’s got plenty of “issues”, but none that you would think would be grounds to delay his entry into the school system.
We spent another 5-10 minutes talking about it in which he explains that the vast majority of kids aren’t physically, emotionally, and cognitively ready for Kindergarten at the age we are asked to put them in. As with all ideas that he drops on me like this, he had a long list of evidence backing his recommendation: personal experience, research, studies, etc.
The biggest ones that stuck with me were these.
- Kindergarten used to be set up where they spent the year teaching the kids how to read and write. They’ve bumped up the standard so much now that they expect kids to be able to read and write when they start in September.
- Kids aren’t truly ready to learn and absorb this level of education until they’re somewhere around the age of 7 years old.
- Finland doesn’t even start Kindergarten until their kids are 7, and they have a literacy rate of 99.8%. The study I looked at from 2014, had Finland 2nd and the US at 45th. While I get that studies aren’t a true reading on the real picture, I find that really interesting.
- If Bode ends up being 8 months younger than a lot of the kids in his grade, that’s a huge difference. It’s not like 8 months when you’re 40.
- The articles I read say the advantages of “red-shirting” your kid (starting them a year later) are even more impressive later in life (think high school and college) than they are when they’re young. Every article I’ve read so far has parents of red-shirted kids (which I think is a really funny term for what we’re talking about, by the way) 100% saying if they had to do it all over again they would absolutely make the same decision. And, they all say that if for nothing else, it can’t hurt…it can only help.
- It’s not that he can’t do it. Bode could certainly start Kindergarten in the Fall and probably do just fine. But, the real question is, overall, would he thrive for the rest of his life if he started school next year over this year? In the big picture, would the quality of his life improve if we waited another year or are there enough reasons that we should go for it and just start him in September?
Ben and I talked about it a lot last night and came to conclusion that we were both actually really excited about: we’re red-shirting Bode and starting him in 2018 instead of this Fall.