Why I wanted my daughter to repeat kindergarten

It's been a confusing few months for our family regarding HJ's educational placement for next year. We began with a willingness to really hear what her school team had to say regarding their recommendations for next year. I also kept hearing over and over from other teachers I know and other parents, "Take their recommendations into mind, but remember, as the parent, you have the final say," or "No one knows your child as well as you do."

Well, it turns out that in our district, parents don't get the final word. Unless we want to go the route of due process, which I'm honestly reluctant to do.

We did hire a lawyer to help us navigate the IEP meetings, which in itself, was extremely helpful.

We also had an independent evaluation done from a developmental pediatrician, a psychologist, HJ's counselor, and an occupational therapist. All recommended that in HJ's case, repeating kindergarten for another year would be beneficial for her in the long-term.

Unfortunately, the school district did not agree.

At the end of our three hour IEP meeting, which was the continuation of a previous 2 hour IEP meeting, they recommended that she be moved up to first-grade. They did note that we disagreed with their placement recommendation, but at the end of the meeting, there seemed to be nothing else we could say or do to change their minds.

I am well aware of the research studies that show that retention does not have favorable outcomes in most cases. I realize that for some students, the short-term benefits of repeating a grade is only that, short-term. However, my husband and I both felt that, for our daughter, this research did not apply.

According to her IQ test, cognitively she is not having any problems. Her problems are social, emotional, and mostly rooted in her anxiety. Moreover, I cannot get over the fact that she came to us at the age of 15 months from Korea, and I have had a gut instinct ever since she came into our lives that she has been playing catch-up for that first year of her life. Whether that's due to the change in language and culture, or a broader adjustment she's had to make from orphanage life into a new family, it's hard to quantify. What I do know is that I would love to have given her the opportunity to build her confidence and give her "the gift of time" next year to catch up, rather than to be struggling year after year.

Honestly, I'm not advocating any big policy changes or even making a statement about retention in general. I am really only looking at my child, and trying to do what I think is the best for her. And it's frustrating when that desire comes into conflict with the educational system.

Tonight, HJ had an open house at her school where she participated in a concert and proudly showed off her artwork from the past year. I was thrilled to see her up on stage, smiling, playing the hand-drum to B-I-N-G-O, and dancing a German folk dance with a partner. I know HJ's come a long way. I'm completely happy with her current teacher and all the progress she's made, but all of these things don't indicate to me that she still wouldn't benefit from an additional year of kindergarten, particularly in a mainstream classroom next year.

I hope that I'm proved wrong. I hope that she thrives and excels in first grade and catches up to her peers and has fun and is challenged along the way. I hope that the counseling helps to manage her anxiety. I hope that the occupational therapy helps to regulate her emotions. And most of all, I hope that I have the patience and perseverance to parent her the best way that I possibly can.

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