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Elementary School Kids Elementary School Kids

I 'Redshirted' My Kindergartner & Never Regretted It

Posted by on Aug. 2, 2014 at 9:32 AM
  • 80 Replies

I 'Redshirted' My Kindergartner & Never Regretted It

by Linda Sharps 

redshirting kindergarten boys

My oldest son's birthday is on August 31. When we lived in the Seattle area, that was the kindergarten entry cutoff date -- meaning, if he'd turned 5 one day later, he wouldn't have been allowed to start school without petitioning for early entry. At the time, we were faced with a dilemma: did we want him to be the very youngest child in his class, or the very oldest?

I hemmed and hawed but ultimately made the choice to keep him at home for another year, primarily because I felt in my gut that he wasn't quite emotionally ready for a full day of school. In the years since, I've never once regretted doing so. He flourished the next year, and now at nearly 9, he seems exactly where's he's supposed to be.

Our decision seemed so personal, and so obviously beneficial for him, it's always surprising to hear that holding kids back -- a practice commonly referred to as "redshirting" -- has become a source of increasing controversy.

Wikipedia defines redshirting as "the practice of postponing entrance into kindergarten of age-eligible children in order to allow extra time for socioemotional, intellectual, or physical growth. This occurs most frequently where children's birthdays are so close to the cut-off dates that they are very likely to be among the youngest in their kindergarten class."

That hardly seems like a nefarious parenting choice, but as Slate puts it,

The practice of keeping young athletes on the bench until they are bigger and more skilled is highly controversial. The National Association of Early Childhood Specialists and the National Association for the Education of Young Children fiercely oppose it, saying that redshirting “labels children as failures at the outset of their school experience."

Wait. Young athletes on the bench? Aren't we maybe confusing the choice of not sending a barely-5-year old into kindergarten -- which, by the way, is hardly the play-and-color environment it used to be -- with the collegiate sports definition of redshirting?

Still, some claim that parents are choosing to hold back their kids in the hopes that starting them older will give them an academic and athletic leg up. I suppose this does happen, but don't lump me into that category. I had exactly zero plans to press pause on my child's kindergarten entry in order to somehow mold him into a harder, faster, stronger, better version of himself. What I was listening to was a quiet unease in my heart that told me, simply, that he wasn't quite ready.

Research is all over the place on the long-term effects of redshirting, probably because 1) people do it for so many different reasons, and 2) kids are unique beings who don't necessarily react to environments in the same way ... WHO KNEW?!!

Personally, I wouldn't care if a million studies came out telling me that redshirting was worse than letting my kid mainline two liters of sugary soda while sitting saucer-eyed in front of a Keeping Up With the Kardashians marathon. I know it was the right choice for our family because I see how my kid has been doing in school, which is to say: great. He's not at the very top of his class academically, he's not blowing everyone away in sports, he's not become some sort of charismatic leader ordering all the younger kids around like a mini Jim Jones. He's just ... happy, social, and pretty much right on target learning-wise. Looking at him compared to his classmates, you'd never guess he's likely the oldest one in the room.

And here's the kicker -- when I think about him heading back to school after he turns 9 on August 31, I realize that if I hadn't waited, he'd be going into fourth grade a couple weeks later. Fourth grade! That may not sound crazy to you, but it sure does to me. I can say this with perfect confidence, he's in the exact right place to be heading into third grade. If that's controversial ... well, I guess I can't be bothered to give a hoot.

What do you think about kindergarten redshirting?

Did you have to make a similar choice one way or the other if your child was born close to the cutoff date?

by on Aug. 2, 2014 at 9:32 AM
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Replies (1-10):
mjande4
by Platinum Member on Aug. 2, 2014 at 10:12 AM
2 moms liked this

I have taught high school students for over two decades. I have NEVER met one parent who regretted waiting the year, but I have met PLENTY who wished that they had. My kids' birthdays are all mid-year so it was never a question, but I wouldn't have hesitated if they were spring/summer. You can't teach maturity and school is about A LOT more than just academics.

JanetteA
by Bronze Member on Aug. 2, 2014 at 10:27 AM
1 mom liked this

Unfortunately the kids that tend to be red-shirted are the kids whose parents can afford another year of quality preschool (or quality at-home teaching).  The kids who could probably benefit from red-shirting the most are usually packed off to kindergrten as soon as they are eligible.

In our upper-middle-class area, nearly all the boys with summer birthdays, and most of the girls with summer birthdays, are held back.  Heck, my DD (now going into senior year of high school) has a girlfriend with an APRIL birthday who was held back.  Her dad is a principal and thought she "wasn't ready."  Ha!  The girl has been in honors and gifted classes all the way through school.  My guess is that if she had started on time, she would have been well above average-- just not "gifted." 

Dodie702
by Doriane on Aug. 2, 2014 at 10:35 AM
I have never thought about doing it. Dd's b-day is in May and she was more then ready to start and ds' s b-day is in November so he has to wait to start already.
quickbooksworm
by Bronze Member on Aug. 2, 2014 at 10:53 AM
My birthday is Aug 30 and I wasn't held back. My mom did prevent me from skipping an grade though. It was actually a benefit to me when I got a little older, like high school and early college, because people just assumed I was younger due to skipping a grade so I must be smart.

My son has a July birthday and he was not held back. He was at the top of his VPK class in terms of academic skills and his teachers advised him going to kindergarten. I asked about holding him back and they saw no reason to do so. The kids at our school who were red shirted do no better academically than the other kids. The kids who are behavior problems have some common underlying factors but it isn't age.

I do remember reading about some experimental school who divided up their grade by birth dates. They had good results, I just can't remember where I read it.
eztwins
by Member on Aug. 2, 2014 at 11:02 AM
I really think it's a personal choice and on child basis. I know a handful of people who held off for the reason of "leg-up" shall we say but most were due to the cut off date and proximity to birthday. It's hard decision to make and I err on the side that most parents are truly doing what they feel is right.
anotherandree
by Bronze Member on Aug. 2, 2014 at 11:08 AM

This is very true.  My kids were VERY close to the cut off and while we felt that they were ready for kindergarten, we did not really have much of a choice, in that it was either stay home with me (where we did basic stuff but nothing curriculum based) or they could go to school and be taught properly.  Would could NOT afford pre-k or anything like that.

Quoting JanetteA:

Unfortunately the kids that tend to be red-shirted are the kids whose parents can afford another year of quality preschool (or quality at-home teaching).  The kids who could probably benefit from red-shirting the most are usually packed off to kindergrten as soon as they are eligible.

In our upper-middle-class area, nearly all the boys with summer birthdays, and most of the girls with summer birthdays, are held back.  Heck, my DD (now going into senior year of high school) has a girlfriend with an APRIL birthday who was held back.  Her dad is a principal and thought she "wasn't ready."  Ha!  The girl has been in honors and gifted classes all the way through school.  My guess is that if she had started on time, she would have been well above average-- just not "gifted." 


mom2boys664
by Member on Aug. 2, 2014 at 11:23 AM

I don't think its something I would ever do. I have a June birthday AND I skipped a grade, so I only turned  17 a couple of days before I graduated hs. It was one of the best things that ever happened, being able to start college so young and having time to try different things before I settled down.

aj23
by Silver Member on Aug. 2, 2014 at 11:42 AM
1 mom liked this

I'm torn. I know some kids who would have have benefited from it but it's gotten so common that when the kids here go on time when they are 5 they are put into classrooms with a lot of kids who are turning 7.

The first year my son went to kindergarten he turned 5 in May and school started in August. He struggled keeping up with other kids (a lot of factors were in play) and right before school got out I discovered that 5 of the 16 kids in his class were already 7 and 2 of them would be turning 7 over the summer. His birthday came after he last day of school and there were 4 kids including him that were still 5 on the last day of school. That's a large gap to have in one room when it's not planned that way.

He repeated kindergarten which I do regret some because not much changed other than he got much better in the areas he was already doing good in and the areas he was struggling with stayed about the same. At least he had an amazing teacher the second time around and she changed the way he viewed school in general which made it worth it and now we know why he's struggling so hopeflully first grade will be better.

Liz132
by Member on Aug. 2, 2014 at 11:45 AM

 I think it's the right choice for some kids. My dd has a September birthday so she was four when she started kindergarten but she was ready, she already had two years of pre k and was very social. She did great in school starting on time was the right choice for her.

conweis
by Member on Aug. 2, 2014 at 11:47 AM

I told my ex we should red shirt ds3 but he didn't listen. DS3 seem to do OK at first but he had some behavioral issues. In first grade those behavioral issues were still there. He is being held back to first not because he is not smart enough but because his teacher did not feel he was mature enough for second grade.

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