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Kindergarten redshirting: One mom's dilemma

Kindergarten redshirting: One mom's dilemma

1 hour ago

My daughter just turned 5 and while I wish my biggest worries had been about what her party theme was and how many kids to invite, there was a giant milestone that accompanied this birthday and it's still giving me great pause.


Sure, my daughter will eventually attend kindergarten. Whether or not she is ready is the issue that's been giving me trouble. A decade ago, when I was making this decision for her older brother, I didn't consider waiting a year. He had a spring birthday. Surely 5 and a half rendered him ready for a kindergarten curriculum. Over the past 10 years, however, kindergarten has changed. Full days have replaced half days and expectations have advanced. My gut is telling me my daughter isn't ready for that kind of rigor even if the state of Ohio, which has a cutoff date of October 1, disagrees.

One would think that as a former elementary school teacher and principal, I could make a confident decision rooted in experience and backed up with research. Unfortunately, it's the research that I find so contradicting. 

Some kids are ready for kindergarten...and some aren't.
Getty Images
Some kids are ready for kindergarten...and some aren't.

One of the more famous studies on the effects of redshirting, a term coined for children being held out of kindergarten until the age of 6, was conducted by Elizabeth Dhuey and Kelley Bedard of the University of Toronto. They found that the advantages of being an older student in a class has positive impacts on academic achievement. They are often put in higher reading groups and hone their skills, resulting in them being put in higher reading groups the following year.

Malcolm Gladwell refers to this phenomenon as the “cumulative advantage." In his book, “Outliers,” he extolls the idea that an extra nudge ahead when a child is 6 can mean the child is better positioned for not only academic but also social success at 7, which means he’s got a leg up at 8, and so on.

But then I read the research by Sam Wang, a Princeton associate professor of neuroscience, who warns parents in a 2011 New York Times article that holding a child back could negatively impact how a child learns to respond to challenges. Wang would rather see my daughter learning close to the limits of her ability, making errors and learning to correct them quickly instead of coasting through a curriculum that comes easily because she isn't being challenged.

Related video: Parents holding kids back from kindergarten

Since the research isn't clear cut, I turned to an experienced elementary educator.

Sally Koppinger, a veteran principal with 28 years of kindergarten entrance under her belt and a former mentor of mine, urged me to follow my instincts. "The decision to delay the start of kindergarten should always lie with the parent. You know your daughter best," said Koppinger, who teaches at St. Joseph School in Sylvania, Ohio.

She went on to caution me to pay careful attention to the reason for redshirting.

"If you decide to hold your daughter back because of a social immaturity, a delay could be warranted even in spite of her academic readiness. Where I believe a redshirting does damage is when a parent decides to delay kindergarten because their child is showing signs of developmental delays. When critical early childhood milestones are not being met, an 'extra year' out of formal schooling is actually a year of early intervention lost and can ultimately do irreparable damage." 

My concerns for my daughter have nothing to do with developmental milestones. I'm just not sure the kid can go to school five days in a row for eight hour days without collapsing from exhaustion. She still falls asleep every afternoon. In addition, I've noticed that she gravitates towards children a year younger than herself.

So, I’m following my gut and erring on the side of caution. I'm hoping an extra year of preschool will give her a chance to mature, and hopefully better equip her to excel both academically and socially through formal schooling.

Still, it’s not an easy decision to make, but as her mother, I’m the best equipped to make it.

Have you delayed your child's entrance into kindergarten? Have you started your child early? On what basis did you make your decision and how’s it going so far? Share you thoughts on our TODAY Moms Facebook page.

When not stressing about life altering decisions about her five children, Carolyn Savage can be found writing about her adventures in parenting at 

by on Apr. 2, 2013 at 9:04 AM
Replies (11-20):
by Platinum Member on Apr. 2, 2013 at 11:13 AM

Quoting terpmama:

My oldest is a December baby but a preemie... He's 4 and just tipped 30 pounds... He's tiny. My problem is he's wicked smart! Already reading and doing basic addition and subtraction (more importantly understands the concepts). So do I start him this fall or next? We've decided to start him next fall (2014)... He'll be 5 and a half and probably academically above his peers in some places (reading and math) but there is no way he'd sit still, pay attention or succeed if we started this fall. We are bumping his preschool to a pre kindergarten (more academic focus then routine and social focus). 

That's my DS. He'll be 5 in May and is only 33 lbs. :( He's at least a year ahead of where his sister was with reading.  

by Member on Apr. 2, 2013 at 11:16 AM

I am thankful that my kids BDays are in December and I have no choice in the matter.

by on Apr. 2, 2013 at 3:44 PM

All 3 of my children are summer b-days. We chose to red shirt one for very specific reasons. He is doing well. We chose NOT to redshirt another one. We saw no reason to. He is the youngest in his grade but  doing  well. My youngest will turn 4 this summer. We have not decided whether to redshirt him yet. Every child is different with unique needs and they should be looked at individually.

by Tea on Apr. 2, 2013 at 3:58 PM

Both of my children are December babies, and the cut-off in their district is Dec. 1st. Basically, I had to face the choice to push my daughter through a year early or not (her birthday is the 4th)

Ultimately, I chose to abide by the cut-off, and I'm glad I did. She wouldn't have been ready, and my son would not last in a classroom right now. 

Do you bury me when I'm gone? 
Do you teach me while I'm here? 
Just as soon as I belong 
Then it's time I disappear

by Queen K on Apr. 2, 2013 at 4:04 PM


Quoting romalove:

My son is born on October 12 and the cutoff was October 31, making him one of the youngest in the class.  He struggled with his peers as being smaller and younger and when everyone was driving he was behind again.  I think I should have held him back and feel badly that I didn't.

 My DD birthday is October 13 and in NC, you have to be five by August 31 in order to be able to register for Kindergarten. I hated that because she was more than ready to go to school. She is use to the acadmeic setting and because the pre school she goes to is amazing with the kids, she is reading and writing.

by on Apr. 2, 2013 at 4:11 PM

If I were sending my DS to the local public school I'd hold him out till he was 6. As it's going to be private school I think we'll be fine for age 5. I worry about his social abilities but then he's only 2 so we've a long way to go. He just doesn't like new people. Doesn't like most people in general. Hopefully school won't overwhelm him. 

by Gina on Apr. 2, 2013 at 4:13 PM

My middle son has an August birthday. I chose to send him to Kindergarten rather than Prep-K. He's doing fine, but I can definitely see a maturity difference between him and the other kids in his 5th grade class. He's the youngest in the class by 6 months.

My little one is 4 now and will turn 5 in September and I'll probably send him to Prep-K instead of Kindergarten. PK in our school is all day, but it generally only has 8-10 kids in the class and I think he'll benefit from a smaller class size and more individual attention before he gets thrust into a class of 18-20 kids.

by Ruby Member on Apr. 2, 2013 at 4:27 PM

Sometimes parenting is a crap shoot. Some kids could use a little more time, some kids are ready before they are 5.

I think the problem is the level of agonizing parents do, rather than the choices they have. In most cases, it's not going to make or break a child's academic success.

by Platinum Member on Apr. 2, 2013 at 4:30 PM

My son has a May 13 bday.  School suggested he enter  the 2 yr kdg program.  After much thought, research, and prayer we decided to send him to regular kdg.  Studies show any advantage gained by the extra year evens out by 3rd grade.  My son agrees with the studies.  He did struggle some and used Title services in kdg and half of 1st.  He is now a straight A 3rd grader receiving no extra assistance.

by Platinum Member on Apr. 2, 2013 at 4:57 PM

I read in Gladwell's book that nearly all professional hockey players are born in the first couple of months of the year.  Hockey is played by birth years, so yeah...there is a huge difference in the younger years between a player born in January and one born in December.  As you move on up through the years, almost all the better players are those born early in the year, because they are more physically and mentally developed.  This advantage sorts them out by teams and opportunities, so it is rare for a late-in-year birthday kid to play at high levels. 

The same is true with academic development.  There will always be exceptions, but generally boys mature more slowly than girls, and it is also true that Kindergarten has gotten ridiculous in its demands on 5 year olds, and with almost NO longstanding benefit.

Most early performers level out by third grade unless they are gifted, in which case they stay advanced on through the years.  However, not all gifted kids perform well academically in the early years.  They can be geniuses and there will be evidence early, but that same kid still might have a problem with reversing letters or simply not being ready to sit in a chair for long periods of time.

I think the way school is done today in this country is a travesty, and is little more than early warehousing for working parents.   Not to mention that it allows little downtime and playtime for very young children, whose job it is to play.

Home schooling by an educated and prepared parent is the best way to go in the early years, I believe (and I realize few will agree with that).  Absent that, if  both parents MUST work (instead of wanting to work for that nicer house and car), I'd use a loose approach in the early years, because it pays off later when kids kick into that rhetoric stage around 10-12, where they can make huge leaps in academic learning in a short time. 

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