Schooling and age appropriateness dilemma...

13 replies, Page 1

AjayMa 2008-12-19 08:30:29


I cannot believe it took me so long to actually realize I could post this question here and get some additional views...better late than never.

Some background...we came back from US last year and my son joined Grade 1 in Oct. Technically (from his age standpoint, April 2002 born) he was supposed to be enrolled in K. However, my dad thought that if they are willing to take him into Grade 1 then it should be ok, because we could always move him down a class if he is unable to cope up. He thinks the age requirement is overrated. Well, my wife was not too excited but succumed to his pressure and I was not sure which way to go, so I just went w/ the flow.

So, he was in a class where kids were almost a year younger, he had missed school till Oct and India was new to him and he had 2 languages to learn (Hindi and Kananda). However, we realized he was very comfortable w/ all other subjects as he had done those during his Pre-K. Thankfully, within a month or so he picked up and was doing extremely well in his class...although I should say the first couple months for him w/ languages was hard, but that would have been the case anyways.

Now, he is not happy w/ this school and so are we...he wants to talk about astronomy and no one seems to care (students or teachers) and he is frustrated that he is not able to expand in areas he is interested in, and I hate shunting kids curiosity. This is a basic tenet I always want to see in a School. And then we have more reasons which I am happy to share for those interested. So, we started looking at various school and zoned in on Vidyashilp. We loved their style of teaching, we loved the feedback we hard from parents, and we were looking forward to an admission. And remember, now he is in his 2nd grade.

However, in this school, I explained my predicament of he being in a class higher than what is prescribed and they indicated that if we had to apply it had to be for Grade 2, so he would essentially repeat. I explained that he is topping and that they can take tests and they explained it this way (I think it was a reasonable argument): Early classes are so overlapped that you can see a kid manage to step up to the next class, however as they go higher in class they will start feeling the pinch. Secondly, since they follow ICSE it will be hard on the kid and lastly they believe the kids are very smart there and so that also puts him in a lot more competetive environment. 

Anyways, this was not too important as we were waitlisted at 22. However, I asked if I could move him immediately in the middle of a year and they were ok w/ that for Grade 1. So, we now have that offer.

This question always bothers me whether I am doing the right thing to have him redo the class. I think it is better to do this now than at an older age, still, is this ok. One part of me tells that its ok because: In grand scheme of things 1 year does not mean much. A good education system and place is more important. And he will have this problem no matter which school he tries joining.

Anyways, we are thinking we will take the plunge and have him go to Grade 2 again. My wife is very happy as she always wanted age appropriateness and did not like the idea of pushin the kid too hard (although it did not feel that way and he has been able to handle it). I on the other hand agree w/ her, but, feel that he has coped so well and so should not have an issue, and does 9 months really make that big of a difference?

So, my question revolves more around age appropriateness and the impact it has, positive or negative.

Thanks for your time.



Sumo 2008-12-19 10:23:57


Hi AjayMa,

I empathise with what you are going through.  The point that age factor is over-rated in schools has some truth in it, but schools need some rules to stream line admission. 

On age appropriateness, there is overwhelming expert evidence that kids do well if they are NOT under-aged for a program.   But I also know of many kids who have done well throughout their academic career inspite of being under-aged!  I feel that apart from academic performance, a mix of other factors including social and emotional skills, environmental factors like school's attitude, parents' attitude and physical growth play a role here. I know of a kid who became shy and introverted because he was quite shorter than the shortest in the class.  I think it helps to have kids with similar milestones, physical or otherwise, together in a class.

On the other side of the coin, you may face a different kind of problem if you are older than most in a class.  I myself went through frustration in my 6th class as I was the oldest in the class.  I changed school, did very well, and encountered lot of jealousy - this resulted in snide remarks on my being oldest in class and that I may be repeating (though I was not); it left a very bad impression on me and I coped thanks to my parents and teachers and eventually all was forgotten and I became good friends with that gang. 

I would say that in your case, you may want to compromise on the age and repeat, as you are avoiding the frustration of your kid not challenged properly in the present school.  When he is repeating the class, you could constantly check with him about his feelings, and may be take this as a good opportunity to introduce him to some other skill - sports or otherwise, if he feels bored at any point.  But it will be very important to talk and prepare your son for 'repeating' and convince him on why you are doing it; it will be better for him to hear this from you before hand rather than hearing some outsiders' comments on the same.  If he overwhelmingly feels against it, repeating may not be a good idea!

All the best for the admission and the transition process.



annu 2008-12-19 12:59:33


Hi..let's try and do a SWOT analysis - going to, a what you believe is, a better school but repeating a year...


  • This is a school that you feel fosters all round development and is more open, however it does not seem open to taking a child who is younger than an averagely prescribed time, so it may not be a strength afterall...


  • your child's interests are already intellectually ahead of the class he is currently in, with a younger batch the problems can get more acute.


  • You have a chance to set right something that has been bugging the child's Mom....if she is going to be the primary person looking after the child's education as in teaching at home and getting homework done, it is imperative that this opportunity of putting her at peace be grabbed!


  • One of the main challenges with little kids is developing their attention span, a kid who has to repeat one whole class, especially if he already is doing well, may fall prey to boredom and not stay interested in studies....that's a very very difficult situation to be in..Already in most schools and classes the pace of teaching is determined by the average and not the intelligent. Unless the intelligent kids are channelised into sufficient extra curricular activities, they may get really bored in class because the teacher keeps repeating what has been already done.

Personally, i don't think its a big deal to be the youngest in class...i've been that all my life...ofcourse then i went on to do my Masters after having kids and then became the eldest in class too...

If a child is coping fine, why disturb the status quo....regards his other interests, just help him make friends other than in school with whom to pursue those interests....and you know what that other friend need not even be a child, can be a benevolent uncle who has a telescope at home....

Honestly there are no right or wrong decisions in life, for every decision you take there will be a trajectory of growth that will take you to a different point. How it would have been in case you had taken a different course of action will always only be a conjecture. As i see it, the most important thing is for your wife and you to be on the same page regarding this decision. Overall, my personal take would be that if the child is overall happy and doing fine, don't change too much....


AjayMa 2008-12-22 18:46:53


Thank you both for your thoughts. Well, today we went ahead and accepted the admission and he will soon be starting at Vidyaship. I will definitely post howour experience is.

Another thing I gathered from the comments (which was very insightful and thank you both) is the following: In physical side of things, he definitely has room to grow and there is a large emphasis on this in the new school, so the repeat may not hurt him as much as it would have otherwise.

I did discuss it w/ him. His first reaction was "oh, if I have to go to I grade then I dont want to join". I explained t o him about the new system and better opportunities and he agreed that the new school is better. Although after joining I hope the school lives up to the hype I have set him to believe in.

Thanks for all the great suggestions!


tanujaravi 2012-01-13 15:22:17


Dear All,

Wish you all a very Happy New Year.

I have a query for which I need a solution.Kindly help me with it.

Do 9 year old children mug up answers or write    correct answers in their own words ?

I personally feel  a child must understand and write accordingly instead of muging it up and omitting it in the exams but  in my 9 year old son's case studying in class 3 ( I.C.S.E ) syllabus  he hates  byhearting answers and tries to write answers in his own words but most of the times the answer is improper or incomplete with spelling mistakes though the pronouncation is correct. He understands the text. He tells me the answers correctly in our mother tongue kannada but finds it difficult to write in english.He is good in reading english. Does this happen with other children too or my child is having some problem or  I am expecting too much from him.

In his school he has monthly tests for which no time table is given . He has to study all  7 subjects at one go.

I take his studies at home and I make him practise too.I frame different questions from the lesson and make him write the answers for the same. I make him write small answers in simple sentences then the ones given by his teachers which is too long so that it is easy for him to write in his exam paper.This time even his teachers have done a lot of revision but still he is finding it difficult to write the answers.He hates to byheart the answers , for him it is boring to read the question and answers many times.He ends up  in writing improper answers most of the times and  gets remarks like  " Improper answer - Learn the answers properly " by most of his teachers.

Classwork notebook answers given by teachers are of  6-10 lines but in the exam paper the lines given for answering is hardly  2 to 3 lines which means a child has to filter his answers using key words  in meaningful sentences.The questions asked in the exam are not confined to notebooks it can be any questions from a given lesson. He sometimes forgets the answers too which I am sure happens with all children of this age.

Here are few examples of  how he writes his answers in the exams

Yesterday he had his Geography exam and few answers of his were as follows :-

What is delta ?

His answer : - when river flows in many ways it is called delta.

Simple answer practiced by me :- Triangular shape formed by silt at the mouth of the river is called delta.

Notebook answer :-  A long answer which I myself don't remember right now.

He is a very obedient and sincere child.He completes his classwork and  homework most of the times without fail.He is loved by his teachers and friends. He has gained everybody's trust in his class. He is honest and never copies in exams , even when H.W is given in rough notebook he does it without fail though the teacher never checks it. Most of the children tell lies with respect to H.W but my child will do it sincerely.Till date there is no complaint against him from his school  or friends and I am really proud of him and want to help my wonderful child who makes me feel proud of him as a mother at  such a young age.

How can I help him in his problem? where am I going wrong in teaching him ?

Kindly do help me with solutions, ideas , tips  etc.







Pari25 2012-01-13 15:50:20


 Hi Tanujaravi,

It is good to know that you think highly of your child. Keep it up :)

Well, your child understands  lessons, which is good.

He is able to explain it in his own words (even if in your mother tongue), which is very good.

It is not his fault if he is not able to mug up answers. Mugging up is never a good idea. Thinking and learning are more important than blindly learning by heart. 

As you mentioned, you yourself cannot remember the long answer to the delta question. So, imagine a chld trying to remember several long answers of different subjects. Isn't it a lot of unnecessary pressure on children?

Unfortunately, many schools insist on this kind of approach to learning. However, we cannot do much to change the functioning of schools, can we? So, the next best thing to see would be if you can do something to make learning interesting for your child. You can do so many things at home.Do the same lessons that they do in school in more interesting ways at home. Get innovative. Get him to think and don't focus too much only on the answers.Let him think, experiment and express. Once that is done, get him to prepare for exams in the manner the school expects. He will probably develop more interest then. 

And don't worry, you are not doing anything wrong. You are doing your best to prepare your child as per the school's expectations. However, now you can also begin to do things to make learning interesting for your child. Try doing this and see if it helps.

Read my article to understand this better. Most of the ideas in my blog are specific to younger children. However, you can always implement something similar with your child. All the best!



tanujaravi 2012-01-13 19:30:00


Dear Haripriya,


 I  don't want my son to mug up answers but he is not able to write in meaningful sentences the answers in his own words hence thought that it is better to make him to mug up the answers for the lessons which he has already understood.Mugging up will at least help him to write answer  sentences correctly in his test paper. I take lot of efforts in explaining the lessons of all subjects in great detail only with the intention to make him understand the text .My main aim is to make  my child  learn and understand the concepts that are taught and  I channelise my efforts in the same direction but  technically it becomes important that he writes complete  correct  sentences  with respect to the question given though it may be in his own words. I want solution to the above part of my childs problem. Your reply  is not giving me answers to the specific problem stated above.

I want to know the exact reason as to why he is not able to frame his own sentences properly to write the answers.His sentences are always incomplete and improper.


He doesn't speak much in the class. He is a very queit boy.He never goes out to play with friends in the neighbourhood.He loves playing  at home. At home we all converse only in our mother tongue Kannada.

His reading is good but not very good. He gets stuck in reading hard  and long words. He likes listening to stories more then reading it on his own.

The pronouncation of  his spelling is correct  most of the times since he uses phonics  but the spelling is wrong.For eg  he wants to write the word " heavenly"

he will write it as " hevenly" which is a wrong spelling.

He hardly gets time to play. In a day  he goes to school from 8 to  4. By the time he comes  from school and settles down ,  it is already 6.00. Then he does his H.W which takes him about  2 to 3 hours, it is already 9.00. Then he goes to sleep so that he can get up early next day to go to school.

The activities that you stated are really good and interesting  but  the child must have time to do those activities or even to focus on those activities because his brain is really tired by the day's work.There are lot of things to do in a day like   writing , yoga , physical education , projects , heavy bags to carry etc. poor child is  bearing huge pressure everyday.Hence I have not put him in any classes as of now because I don't want to pressurise him further. Nowadays life is hectic for children too.

We need to see from the  child's perspective too. Where do we fit the interesting activities described by you in the busy schedule of the child.

We can imagine lot of good ideas but  only practical implementation of it  will help otherwise it is just on paper.For practically implementing we need to have time, the child needs to be free and relaxed but in this hectic life that we all are in  including our children it is difficult.l!!!!!!!!!!!!

Kindly give me solutions which is practical and easy to implement too.

For innovative thinking , experimenting and expressing  a child needs a lot of time and his mind shoud be relaxed  to  grasp the required info and enjoy the learning too.

Please don't get me wrong or misunderstand me. These are the hard facts of life which most of us are going through.







Pari25 2012-01-13 20:13:38


 Hi Tanujaravi,

My reply was based on your child's perspective and how he must be feeling about learning, but I'm sorry if it did not help you. Once children develop real interest in whatever they do, progress becomes visible even in areas that need improvement. Without knowing a child's learning history, it is very difficult to say why they may be lagging behind in some areas, in your son's case, it is not forming proper sentences. 

Also, these suggestions are based on practical experiences, tried and tested with lots of children over time. Time will always be a constraint for everybody and all of us face problems with our children. But if something needs attention, then it is up to us as parents to make time for it. 

I respect your views and you are the best judge for your child. Wish you all the best. 




tanujaravi 2012-01-15 18:07:35


Dear all,


I just want to know from other parents having children of similar age whether their children are able to form their own  complete and proper sentences for questions asked in exams. Kindly other parents do help me on this .I am not asking this because I want to compare my child with other children but I want to find out  whether it is very common for children of this age to make mistakes in  answer sentences for question and my child may overgrow this problem as he grows older  or  my child's  inability in not forming  proper sentences is a sign of some problem for which I need to consult a doctor.






mizzs 2012-01-23 17:54:37


Tanuja, there are several aspects to your question...

You say your son can answer in grammatically correct sentences in Kannada but is unable to do so in English. That is because he hasn't yet developed equal fluency in both languages. Medium of instruction is not the same as being bilingual and this is how all of us (in India) learn English...It takes about 2 1/2 to 4 years to develop basic fluency (similar to native speakers) and about 7-11 years for academic flency. As we continue to use the language our skills improve and eventually (based on our residence in some cases), it becomes the dominantl anguage. In English speaing countries there are specific researched methods for non native speakers to learn English-they start with the different phonemes and eventually hit the difference in syntax, etc. Most Indian languages have some level of syntactic varations from English-as a result we use our native sentence/descriptive attributes when we rephrase our thoughts in English


In fact your son's answer on the definition of delta is pretty good if you look at how he has analyzed the visual information. A delta looks like his description. What he needs is a lot of practice in creative writing.

You have to work on this two fold-

1) to see how you can help him in his currect assignments and tests

2) improve his over all skills (which means you have to work on non school work related materials)


For your immediate need:

Do you work on identifying the main points?

Do you work on sequencing-beginning, middle and end or first, second...last?

Do you work on summarizing?

Identifying the main points will help your son limit the information. Sequencing will help him put the info in order. summarizing will teach him to rephrase the same information (originality as opposed to mugging).

Then practice writing these sentences at home...

Condensing 6 lines into 3 lines is an advanced skill...he will need lots of practice before he can do this by himself.

Side by side you must work on increasing his vocabulary...this increases fluency. Find information texts (formerly known as non fiction..hehe) on these topics and that will expose him to language used by native speakers. There is a difference in how our authors write (most of them) and native speakers write...what he needs is lots and lots of exposure to fluent language.

One strategy is to use word cards. Ask him to phrase the him edit it so that it is grammatically correct. Then write the sentence on a sentence strip (or just any long piece of paper) and cut the words out. Now he has to put the words in order to make the sentences. You will use the usual punctuation rules (A sentence starts with a capital letter..find the word which begins with a capital letter...etc). In this activity it is the rephrasing which will help with the creative writing. Rearranging the words will make it interesting and he will recall this sentence in the classroom and in tests...

Do you have the puntuation rules posted near his study area? After writing his sentences ask him to check his own work against these rules. You can also give him a small checklist to keep beside his desk. That way he can mark off the applicabe rules in the sentence.

For the long term, give him ceative writing prompts...let him complete sentences. Let him write stories. The only way he can internalize these rules is by repeated practice. Also, work on idioms and phrases...If you use non school related experiences for creative writing then he will be motivated..otherwise he will get bored.

Reorganizing sentences...give him a sentence where the word order is jumbled. Help him rearrange the words in the correct order.

Give him open ended sentences..."Last night I saw an elephant on..".he has to work on completing the sentence...can he give more than one ending?

The same cloze writing can be restricted with a specific part of speech..."I rode the---to school today." (table, bus, paper). You can form these sentences for verbs and adjectives as well.





tanujaravi 2012-01-24 09:31:44


Dear Mizzs,

Your writing and detailed explaination made a lot of sense to me. It opened new avenues for me to work with my child in improving his english .

I will definately work on the guidelines provided by you.

Thanks a lot for such a wonderful useful information.

Right now I do help him to find out key words of the answer and genaralize the topic for him by phrasing  different questions from the given lesson and making him write the answers for the same.

Yesterday I got all his test papers and he has scored very well.




mizzs 2012-01-24 11:08:00


You're welcome Tanuja...

Here area  few other thoughts...

At this stage of learning, children will tend to be more literal in their description. Play language games with him...

use similies and metaphors...if you can get him to think in a descriptive manner he can come up with the sentences even in new contexts. 

Play guessing games where you describe 3 characteristics of an animal or object-he has toguess the answer. Then he takes a turn and describes three traits of an object.

Work on those idioms...there should be sites on the web with illustrations idioms.

Tell tall tales...make up really exaggerated stories. Add a twist to this-include facts in the stories. He has to identify fact vs fiction-what do you think is real?

Give him two/three word phrases and as him to make sentences..he has to add new words to make it meanigful...this will get him thinking about the sentence structure. see if he can make more than one correct sentence.

Take a jumbled sentence and ask him to illustrate it. Next, correct the sentence. Have him illustrate this and compare the two illustrations . This will give him an idea of how the meaning changes with different word order. This can be very funny and cute-will definitel appeal to a 9 yr old.

I am not sure about Kannada but English has the word order SVO-subject-verb-object. Now Tamil for example, has SOV-subject object verb. (over simplified...but to give you an idea). I guess schools start teaching grammar for 9 year olds? See if you can work on noun/verb/adjectives and introduce the concept of subject. You'll be a good judge of whether it is appropriate at his age. You can substitute your own terms to help him understand the concept.

Write down nouns, verbs and adjectives on color coded cards/paper. Give these to your son and ask him to make sentencs. He'll see the word order pattern in the sentences.

Have fun.


tanujaravi 2012-01-25 12:54:29


Dear Mizzs,

I  got  deep insight on the above topics from you.

You have added one more feather to my Knowledge Cap!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

" Rumba Nandri " ( means thanks a lot , hope I am correct )

Just wanted to thank you in a different way hence googled it  and learnt  how to say Thank you in tamil.

I am surely going to have fun with my son using the above stuff. 





mizzs 2012-01-25 18:57:33


You are welcome (yes, romba nandri is correct). Speaking of linguistics...there is no appropriate phrase or word in tamil for you are welcome...what we do have translates to 'it doesn't matter'...which sounds so lame:)



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