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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 (21-30):
by Platinum Member on Apr. 2, 2013 at 5:03 PM

 Yes, this maturity difference grows until the late teens (and possibly later). 

My daughter is about a year and a half younger than all classmates, and at the top of her classes and a stellar academic performer.  I still regret sending her to a so-called classical high school early because it was a negative social experience, though she did well academically.   

Quoting GLWerth:

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 on Apr. 2, 2013 at 5:24 PM

My son is a November baby. The cut off when he started was Aug 1st. Making him nearly a year older than some of his peers and a full year older than some now. We are military so we have moved a couple of times, the cut off is different here. He is now in middle school and although he excels academically, always has, socially there is a newer problem. Kids who know his age assume he was held back a grade. He has even been teased for it, even though that is not the case. Just my own two cents, but consider Future social issues as well as present...

by Ruby Member on Apr. 2, 2013 at 5:26 PM
My daughter cannot wait for the day she can get on the bus with her big brother and go to school. If we feel she's mature enough, we'll have her tested in. If not, that's okay too.
by Ruby Member on Apr. 2, 2013 at 5:30 PM

Some religious-connected forms of education have actively encouraged this for a long time. I was the product/ am the product of being held out of school until 6. It didn't help me, although I was the oldest in my class, I was held back while in school to accomodate the others and ended up doing poorly in school as a result. 

This isn't magic. 

by Member on Apr. 2, 2013 at 5:44 PM

I was placed into Kindergarten at 4 1/2 and i never had any issues, I do however remember crying the whole first week as soon as my mom left the school

by Platinum Member on Apr. 2, 2013 at 5:47 PM
3 moms liked this

I've got to go on record as being against sending five year olds on a mission on the surface of an unexplored planet, too few of them come back, damn it, Jim. 

by Khaleesi on Apr. 2, 2013 at 5:57 PM
I'm the oldest of 3 kids. My sister, (middle child), and I were both more than ready for kindergarten at 5. My brother, however, who is 15 years younger than me and 10 younger than my sister, was not. Like, really not. My Dad who is an elementary school teacher saw this and told my Mom, who proceeded to throw a massive fit. Of course her baby was ready, both the girls were, why not him? He'll be fine once he starts, she said. They fought about it for months. She won, he went, and he was held back at the school's insistence. He had to repeat kindergarten, and it completely devastated him. I'm not exaggerating, it destroyed the kid emotionally. My little brother was never the same after that, he changed from a super outgoing happy kid to a serious introvert and began a now life long battle with self esteem. He's kind of a weirdo now at 21, he's a freaking "Brony" on My Little for Gods sakes. It all goes back to that hold back in kindergarten. My Mom blames herself for not listening to anyone and for ignoring all of the evidence that he wasn't ready.
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by on Apr. 2, 2013 at 5:58 PM

IMO it depends on the child, the district and the parent's expectations.

by guerrilla girl on Apr. 2, 2013 at 10:26 PM

I agree. You have to take it by the child.

DD#1 has a birthday a week before the cut off. We made the decision to wait for kindergarten until she was 6 because while she is smart, she was socially immature and still napping. We home schooled her for pre-k and she started Kindergarten at 6. It was the right decision. She would have suffered being the youngest and has flourished being the oldest.

DD#2 will be 5 mos older when school starts for her and we have no problems sending her. She doesn't nap, has endless energy/curiousity and is highly social. She is going to full day pre-k when she is 4 1/2 this fall. I would never have considered it for my oldest. You have to make the best decision for each child.

Quoting coolmommy2x:

All kids are different. Some need that extra year, some don't.

Last year I was anxious for my 6th grade DS to go to middle school whereas I knew my 2nd grade DD could go to middle school tomorrow and be fine. She has more common sense.

Neon Washable Paint

by on Apr. 2, 2013 at 11:13 PM

It's an individual call that parents should make according to their kids.  My son was born Oct 2, and our school's cutoff is Sept 30, so he is always the oldest in his class.  However, he is autistic, so that's actually helpful.  I was an Oct 3 birthday and my mom sent me to private school for first grade so I could then be in public school, and I was always the youngest person in my class.  It was appropriate for me, since I didn't have delays and was quick academically.  

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