Almost all parents of school-age kids know this already, so I guess this is for everyone else.

There’s this weird phenomenon going on with parents in the Bay Area, which has long had an oversupply of insane parents. Back in my day, the thing to do was skip grades. If your kid was smart, it was a goal and source of pride for them to skip a grade (or two). I’m actually somewhat curious why I never did, since my mom pushed me to be above grade level even from first grade. But even at the time, skipping grades didn’t make a lot of sense to me, and now looking back, it still doesn’t. What’s the point exactly? Why the rush to finish school earlier? What does it accomplish? I don’t know the answers to those questions. I just know that skipping grades was seen as “good”.

So the weird thing that’s started to happen in the past few years is that now, all the crazy parents are holding their kids back. I’m not 100% certain, but I strongly suspect it’s the influence of Outliers. In that book, Gladwell notes that there are more Canadian NHL players who were born in the first 3 months of the year than any other months. The reason? The cutoff for junior league hockey in Canada is Jan. 1. Canada takes hockey really seriously, and starts training the best players in elite programs really young. But at that young age, the oldest players, the ones born closest to the cutoff, will tend to be better – the 11 months age difference between them and the youngest players means a lot in terms of physical maturity and skill. So from the beginning, they get more attention and are encouraged more. It’s not that players born in Jan-Mar are inherently better. It’s just that they tend to be better than their teammates when they’re young because they’re older, and that extra attention from the beginning perpetuates.

The takeaway is that in Canadian hockey, you get more encouragement and an advantage in life simply by being born at the right time, being the oldest on your team. And I think parents are applying that to education as well (it may be in the book – I read so much about it I didn’t bother to actually read it). As in hockey, they think that if they’re kids are older in their class, they’ll tend to perform better, get more attention and encouragement, and ultimately an advantage in life. And to be honest, I do think there’s something to that.

The problem is, if schools don’t have hard, firm age-cutoff dates, and enough parents ascribe to the kids have an advantage if they’re older in their class mentality, you end up having an arms race. And that’s exactly what’s happening around here. Now Kindergartens have all these 6-year-old kids turning 7 during the school year. 7-year-old Kindergartners! It’s gotten to the point that parents who send their kids to school at the normal time are being told by their teachers to hold their kids back. Because it’s absurd, 7-year-olds and 5-year-olds trying to play together on the playgrounds.

Joshua will be near the borderline of the cutoff date when he enters Kindergarten, and the dates are changing such that we can kind of choose which year to send him. I had most recently been thinking eh, just stick him in school as a younger kid. I figure he’ll be smart enough. But now, based on what we’ve heard from other parents, we may have no choice, as he might be in class with kids 2 years older than him. The teachers might not even let him enroll.

Bay Area, man. It’s crazy. I don’t know why it has to go to such extremes. Here’s a novel thought, crazy parents – how about instead of having kids skip grades or be intentionally held back to gain an advantage, just putting kids in the grades they’re supposed to be in?

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