Don't think of retention as holding kids back. It offers lasting social and academic benefits.
Q: My twin boys are in kindergarten. I met with their teachers and they feel that my sons need to repeat this year. I feel that they are doing well. What should I do?
A: Whether or not to repeat kindergarten is a big question for many families every spring — and an important one. The first thing you should do is to sit down with your sons' teachers again to get some more information. What are they noticing that makes them feel the boys are not ready to move on?
Ask for examples of both social and academic progress. Children can be socially or educationally immature or both. It is important to find out which is true for your twins. You also want to ask what the requirements of the first grade program and teachers are. Some schools have very clear expectations of the skills essential for entering the next grade. If the expectations would be difficult for your children to meet, then an extra year in kindergarten may be the best option.
Think of the repeat year as a "gift of time." Your boys are just starting out on a long road. Like many children, they may benefit from an extra year of play-based education to prepare them for the journey. There is so much pressure ahead! In a second kindergarten year they can be the experienced kids and feel on top of the world. I have seen children who repeat kindergarten totally blossom during the extra year. They went from being the youngest to the oldest and the most secure.
Don't think that your children won't learn anything if they do the year again. Actually, they will learn more. As children mature, they meet activities from a higher level of thinking. So they learn more and different things the second time around. Have you ever read a technical book and then returned to it a year later and found that you didn't remember reading parts of it before? Our brains allow us to take in information that we are ready for. So your children will learn things in another year of kindergarten that they may have missed this year.
Ellen Booth Church is a former professor of early childhood education, an education consultant and author.