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Kindergarten 'Redshirting': A Leg Up or an Unfair Advantage?

By: , – Michelle Stroffolino Schmidt, PhD
8/9/2012 10:00 AM   :  119 comments   :  36,077 Views

August is flying by. All too soon a new school year will begin, and with it will come the same mixed feelings and buzz of energy that surrounded the end of the school year. Besides the traditional anxieties of getting to the bus stop on time and remembering to pack a healthy lunch, for many parents of kindergarten-age students, there is another anxiety, this one with much higher stakes than being tardy on the first day of school: When should you enroll your child in kindergarten?   

When we were kids, most US children started school at 5 years old.  It's a much bigger decision now, with controversy and even politics on both sides of the issue.
I followed the old rule and kept it simple.  I enrolled my son in kindergarten for one reason: He was 5 years old, and being five meant going to kindergarten.  He started school two days after his late August birthday in 2009. To me, it was a no-brainer. From the start, there were good signs: In the first week of kindergarten he met his (still) best friend, and their birthdays are less than a week apart!  They were instant buddies. 

But the naïve bubble in which I was living soon burst. 

Their birthdays are within a week of each other, in two different years.  His newfound chum was an entire year older than him and there were kids in his class who were nearly 18 months older than him (At age five, that's almost a third of your life older!)  Evidently, it was not as simple as I thought.

How much did you (or do you) think about when to start your son or daughter in kindergarten?  Is your child one of the youngest or the oldest in the class?  Have you heard the term redshirting?

Redshirting, a term borrowed from sports, refers to the practice of postponing entry into school with the intention of giving a child a maturational advantage (or a "leg-up" as Morley Safer reported in a March broadcast of CBS’s 60 Minutes).

There are many perspectives on the issue.  Some parents have the "luxury" of agonizing over the issue of when their child should start school.  Others do not have that advantage.  It is often not a choice for parents on tight budgets, who are more likely to start their children as early as possible to eliminate child-care costs.  And, sadly, many of those kids begin school less prepared than those from more affluent households because they did not have the opportunity to engage in all of the kindergarten readiness "extras."  

Schools have an opinion on this as well.  Holding kids back might help with standardized test scores, which have mattered dramatically since the No Child Left Behind legislation was enacted.  That is the primary political issue related to redshirting.

There are "experts" on both sides of the issue.  Some advise starting your child early because they are ready to learn, are advanced beyond the preschool curriculum, and may be bored if they wait to begin school.  Others endorse starting your child late because they will have an academic advantage, will be among the bigger kids in their class (more relevant to decisions about boys’ entry age), will have more developed social skills, and will be better athletes and leaders.

I am first an advocate of starting your child "on time" at age 5.  If, for some good reason, that doesn’t work, I am an advocate of the in-between, "know your child" rule.  To expect that the reasons to start or not start a child in kindergarten at a certain age will result in some predictable list of outcomes is likely unrealistic.  Yes, some who start late will be at the top of the class and some will be at the bottom; some will be more behaviorally mature and some will not; some will be star athletes and some will not.  Similarly, among those who start on time, some will thrive in various areas and some will not. 

To make a decision when your child is 4 years old because of some expectations for the child (the best college, the best athlete) may not be the best approach and can lead to unfulfilled expectations for the child and  disappointment for the parent.  The law of averages would suggest that it all washes out in the end.  In fact, by third or fourth grade, some researchers have demonstrated that many of the early differences wash out. 

Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers, contributed to the controversy, but ironically, Gladwell later stated in an interview, "Will we look back and say, what were we thinking?"

Confused?  Or, just curious?  Consider the following:   
  • Socially: How does your child interact with other kids?
  • Academically/Cognitively: Does your child have the basics of letter recognition, colors, and shapes?  Look into your school district’s kindergarten curriculum and ask questions.  Also, look into state and local laws that govern the age range for beginning kindergarten—some do exist.
  • Emotionally: Can your child emotionally handle kindergarten?  Is kindergarten half day or full day?  If a full day is required, is your child ready for a seven-hour school day?  What is his or her preschool experience—some, none, multiple years?
  • Physically: One concern of parents who start their kids on the earlier end of the spectrum is that their kids (especially boys) will be among the smallest.  Are there any physical considerations that you need to take into account?
What do you think about redshirting?  Is it "educational quackery" as one expert stated on 60 Minutes, and done at your "child’s peril" as reported by The New York Times (September 2011)?  Or, is it providing opportunities for leadership and success as described by another expert in the 60 Minutes segment?

Are we too concerned with what we think our children should be?  Or is that our job?  What are the advantages or disadvantages of starting "on time"…of starting later?  Specifically, do you think starting "on time" puts kids at a disadvantage if they are grouped with kids who are starting significantly later?


Michelle Stroffolino Schmidt is Chairperson of the Department of Psychology at Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Her research focuses on social and emotional development in childhood and adolescence. She has published research on parent-child attachment, friendship, peer relations, bullying, and mentoring. She has also done consulting work with schools as part of their bullying prevention and intervention programs. Michelle recently published the book Friendships in Childhood and Adolescence (Guilford Press), which explores the significance of friendship from toddlerhood through adolescence. The book examines factors that contribute to positive friendships, how positive friendships influence children’s lives, and interventions for those who have friendship difficulties. Michelle is the mother of a 7-year-old son, William, and a 2-year-old bulldog named Eve. She enjoys yoga, kayaking, writing, and cooking.



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Comments

  • 119
    I agree that it should be up to the parents to know when their child is ready to start school. I was homeschooled k-1 and then 5-12th grade (2,3,4 were in a private school while the family rode out some major health issues). At 27, I can now appreciate both the advatages to homeschooling and the disadvatages. Prior to high school I agree whole-heartedly if you can do it-then do it! I know that a large part of my ability to do independent research and study, not to mention taking notes and good study habits in general were learned in the grade school years I was at home. Even in private school I was forced into academic boxes by teachers who had no time for an intelligent youngster who was eager to learn. What I would stress to parents is when it comes to high school is really really really think hard (if you are homeschooling) about keeping your kids home. In my case, though I got a fantastic education, I would have been better off in high school. Now before anyone thinks that my parents holed me up and never let me out- let me assure you that was not the case at all. Where I could have most benefited from public school was in learning the politics of dealing with groups and reading teachers (or persons 'in authority'). I am still learning this at 27. Don't get me wrong I got great grades in college and have no issues at work but there is a kind of 'tribal knowledge' learned in high school that we carry into our adult lives that I never had a chance to learn. Would have starting school at a different age helped? I doubt it. I started at the 'normal' age and was still at the top of my class and quite often bored. My point is simply two-fold. One: parents know their children best and the needs of said child may not stay the same as when they were in the younger grades and two: do not rule out the importance of the non-book knowledge learned in schools from an early age. - 7/10/2014   3:06:29 PM
  • 118
    It seems that you are resentful of parents who chose to do what was best for their child. Sure, parents sometimes have the luxury to make better choices for their child, but they shouldn't be ridiculed for doing it. As a 4th grade teacher, I appreciate that parents take consideration for starting their child in kindergarten when it is developmentally appropriate. For some, 5 years is the right time. For others, especially boys, another year at home makes a world of difference.

    And for the record, this is not because of the No Child Left Behind Act (which has since been demoted and actually "left behind") or because of standardized testing.

    Here's the thing- I try not to be frustrated by parents who view schools as a cheap alternative to babysitting. Why don't you try to view teachers as not just a political bargaining chip.

    Maybe that would make the world a better place. - 5/9/2014   5:46:32 PM
  • 117
    I know you made a point about childcare costs, but my school district has half day kindergarten. 2 1/2 hours. That does NOT save on childcare costs. They talked about full day but it would have been too expensive. The school day for first through fifth grade is only five hours. We have no bus routes because they cut that. I homeschool my kids. This district did all this after passing a levy that increased property taxes heavily. I had my son in kindergarten with the district and I was so disappointed that people told me he was not ready because he was five years old.....really? He was reading at the third grade level. He was writing and doing math. Let's put in perspective for this school district. His kindergarten class had THIRTY, yes 30 kids. Absolutely ridiculous! - 5/9/2014   4:20:36 PM
  • 116
    Another issue that many don't think of is the other end of school from kindergarten. Let's face it, some teens rebel. If the student starts kindergarten "late", and are a rebel, it opens the door to them dropping out of high school before completion. Late starters become an adult while in high school. They can make their own decision. It can also put them in a precarious situation legally. If they make an unwise decision to drink, do drugs, or involve themselves sexually with a younger peer, it can put them in a problematic situation with the law. They are an adult, the others are not. - 5/9/2014   1:28:41 PM
  • 115
    My oldest's birthday fell two days after the cut off so she was 6 when she started. My middle will be a late 5 when he starts, and my youngest will have turned 5 2 weeks prior to the start of the year. He'll of had 2 years of a developmental preschool behind him, and they won't send him to kindergarten unless they think he's ready for that... so mostly I'm prepared to do what they think is best, unless at that time I see something that makes me want to hold him back a year. My middle child has had 2.5 years of the same preschool and is more than ready to go to kindergarten. - 5/9/2014   11:38:21 AM
  • 114
    I was almost six when I started kindergarten, due to a fall birthday. It wasn't such a big deal when I was younger, except that everyone was constantly telling me how smart I was because I was so far ahead of my class. In reality,I was just older. For a girl who struggled with embarrassment over being "so smart", it was a huge blow when I got older and realized that I was just older than the rest of my class, not smarter. It destroyed my self-esteem for several years. I'm not saying that this experience is typical, and there were other things going on in my life that affected my outlook, but it is something to consider when deciding to hold a child back. - 5/9/2014   9:38:41 AM
  • 113
    In our school where redshirting was practically the norm, the kindergarten teachers were spoiled by it. My son it one of nature's wigglers so it was devastating to see him being taught that there was something wrong with him for not being able to sit still. We changed school districts and it was interesting that most kids are in the expected age for their grade, instead of most of the boys and a surprising number of girls being older. - 3/6/2014   11:00:26 PM
  • 112
    Love the article!!!!

    I tried to get my daughter into the school system a year early, and was told that I could not. She was already reading at a 2nd - 3rd grade level and was proficient in math and was writing when she finally started kindergarten. They tested her at the beginning of the school year. She aced it - 100%. They still kept her in kindergarten and just gave her booklets to read on her own.

    Result: after one year of school, she started forgetting unused math skills, her reading level did not change and she picked up bad habits from other kids. We also risked her being held back for excessive tardiness (recurring tonsil infections) and her teacher hides when she sees me.

    Public school attempted to dummy my daughter down to the level of the rest of the class rather than challenge her because it is easier to teach when all the students are at the same level.

    We might be financially hurting a little now that she is home-schooled, but it is worth it. Now, she spends half the time studying while learning more and she still has fun with her home-school friends!

    School is for learning, not competition. Let the kids go at their own pace! - 2/12/2014   11:07:31 AM
  • 111
    You really have to check out the schools but I loved teaching at home and also did it at a school - 1/9/2014   11:00:45 AM
  • PJANAKES
    110
    I homeschool my children, which is turning out best for them. I have one who has childhood speech apraxia (she didn't learn to talk until she was 3 1/2) and one who has a hard time with reading. They are both super smart, but I feel that if I had put them in kindergarten when they hit 5, they would be at many social disadvantages. As it is, I am able to teach them at their own pace, without having to worry about them holding back the rest of the class because they were not "ready" or having them be bored because they already know everything being taught. They might be at kindergarten level in reading, and second grade level in math, etc. The school system forces everyone to the same level, and heaven forbid any child should be an individual or excel in a subject to the point of being able to advance early!
    - 2/28/2013   4:29:10 AM
  • 109
    I have only seen the advantages of holding them back a year. I wish I would have done so with my oldest. She was not emotionally or socially ready for all day school despite 3 years of quality pre-school. Now we are trying to address social and emotional issues that I think may have not been a problem had we let her mature. - 1/27/2013   5:43:12 PM
  • 108
    In Ontario Canada, we have all-day, everyday kindergarten including junior kindergarten so we have kids who are still 3 all the way up to kids who have turned 6 in the same combined kindergarten classes. That is a huge age difference in one class. - 1/25/2013   7:48:57 PM
  • 107
    I agree - there is no "one size fits all" answer here. Be honest with yourself about why your child should either be held out of kindergarten for a year or why you might think s/he should attend school early.

    When my son was four years old, he attended a local preschool and his teacher reported to us that he regularly ran games for his classmates and was generally comfortable in a "teacher's assistant" role. Since he had read at 2 1/2 and was strong academically (along with the maturity factor) we had him tested to skip kindergarten. He scored well above the threshold for early admittance and the school psychologist who tested him was completely comfortable recommending that we (his parents) make the decision. We decided to enroll him early and it was the right thing to do in his case. He was socially on par as well as excelling academically.

    Long story short - He's 23 now, and in grad school for his doctorate in Biochemistry. He is self-supporting, a good citizen and now teaching chemistry to undergrads. I feel blessed to have been able to make that decision for him and support each parents' decision for their individual child. You know your child best! :-) - 10/21/2012   7:01:06 PM
  • 106
    I believe that parents own the right and responsibility of making decisions that meet the individual needs of their child.

    That said, as a parent of two school aged children, I have experienced the effects of when parents have chosen to "redshirt" their children. I fear, that by starting children at different age intervals, we lose consistency. We are now not all playing from the same rule book and problems seem to arise.

    One quarter of the parents in my son's Kindergarten class held back their child so that he/she could mature, with the specific goal of creating an advantage for their child. By allowing them to mature emotionally, intellectually and grow in physical size, they created what might be viewed as an unfair advantage. With my son now in High School the difference is evident. I don't know whether I should feel cheated or tip my hat at their farsightedness.

    - 9/17/2012   1:05:22 PM
  • 105
    From the beginning of our public education system, truancy laws have read that a child must be in entered in 1st grade at the age of 7. That is starting kindergarten at the age of 6, not barely 5. Many of our students who are considered "behind" are actually preforming at an age appropriate level. They would be strong students if they had not been shoved into school before they were developmentally ready. That has nothing to do with their intelligence, it has to do with growth and development. - 9/4/2012   2:01:24 PM
  • COWKID
    104
    In our case, our oldest and youngest (Sept and July birthdays respectively) were held back a year and actually are right in the middle of the pack age wise for their class. Our middle child (March) started Kindergarten at 5 1/2. None of our 3 kids were sent to preschool. We just feel that kids have to grow up way too fast these days as it is and kids learn so much in everyday activities with their parents. Counting cows, naming tractor colors, learning about irrigating by playing by Dad while he works, and just learning by playing is also a great way to learn. Why push them out of the nest any earlier than necessary, as when they get out a little more mature, they may have a better idea what they want to do with the rest of their lives. True I did have to pay an extra year of daycare when I worked, but I don't think of school as a cheap daycare anyway. - 9/3/2012   11:40:11 AM
  • RACHELCA2
    103
    My child had her first STAR (California Standardized Test) this past May when she was only 7.5-years old. Some of her peers were 8.5, a whole year older! I wish that standardized test scores would also reflect the age of the child at the time of test as well as grade level. A whole year more of maturity and experience will certainly be seen in those test scores. I wish there were data on this. I wish scores could be adjusted by age as well. (This comment is meant for typically developing kids whose parents decided to redshirt in order to give them an academic advantage, not children on the spectrum etc.) - 8/31/2012   2:25:51 AM
  • 102
    I think this is so totally a your-mileage-may-vary question... why not base it on your child? The school district my children are in has a hard-and-fast 1 August cutoff date and my daughter (November baby) the year before they would let her go and my son (August 7) needed the enforced wait. - 8/16/2012   1:51:43 PM
  • 101
    My son is in the exact position described in this blog. His birthday is in early August and the cutout is the end of September. My husband wanted to hold him back an extra year so he would be "bigger for football." I told Hubby that was a stupid reason to keep him out of school when he was so clearly ready! He is an only child and I really wanted him to get more interaction with other kids his age.

    His best friend's birthday is 4 days before his, but his friend is a year older. At this age, it doesn't seem to have made any difference, and judging from my 16 year old cousin who is in a similar position with a birthday in late September, it won't make a difference in the future either.

    My son is about to start second grade this year and he is doing fantastic (as I knew he would). He was reading at a fourth grade level last year...as were many of the kids in his class. I am already concerned with him being not given enough attention in school because he is well-behaved and intelligent. If I had held him back a year, I think we both would have been miserable.

    In retrospect, it was also a good financial move because last year our school district started charging $190 per month for all-day kindergarten. We would have really struggled to pay for that.

    I agree wholeheartedly with the "know your child" approach. A parent is the best person to determine whether or not their child is ready for school based on behavior, eagerness to learn, social maturity, and any other relevant factors. - 8/15/2012   8:32:57 AM
  • 100
    I agree with you. My grand son is beginning kindergarten this year exactly on his 5th birthday. He's had 2 years of preschool and is bored with it. It makes no sense to hold him back. - 8/15/2012   3:45:55 AM
  • 99
    I don't think this article addresses the "no choice" of the starting late side either. My son has a December birthday and does meet the cutoff of turning 5 by Sept. 1st so he was almost 6 by the time he started Kindergarten. I had no choice on that. Do I think it's benefited him given the other considerations? Yes I do. But still, don't try to say that all "late starters" are by choice and affluent...that couldn't be further from the truth. - 8/14/2012   4:18:30 PM
  • 98
    I am a substitute teacher and I feel that the problem happens when parents put their child in school early because of an agenda of their own (wanting to put them in school with a cousin, save on childcare, etc.) There are a lot of problems with children who are too young when they enter school. They don't focus, don't really understand why they are there, and in general, are quite disruptive.

    I feel that some kids can handle it. My best friend (in college) was not only a year ahead of me in school, but her mom put her in school early. But Val was really smart and could handle the work. So much so that she skipped the third grade. I didn't realize that my buddy (and at times mentor) was actually younger than me.

    I rarely see that in the schools. My sister (a July baby) regretted putting her daughter (another July baby) in school on time because her daughter struggled being the youngest person in the class. It takes her until late Feb/early March to catch up with the rest of the class (it's a private school).

    All in all, I think that parents should get to know their kids and base what they are doing on what's best for the child. Some kids should wait until they are more mature. Some don't need to. - 8/14/2012   3:37:41 AM
  • 97
    Here, in Ontario my son was only 3 when he started Junior Kindergarten. He has a December birthday. He is the youngest in his class. I thought about keeping him home another year, but his speech therapist said it would help him if he went. I am so glad I sent him, because in addition to his hearing/speech issues, he had vision difficulties and problems with fine motor skills that we wouldn't have discovered till another year later. Now, with early intervention and a lot of work, his vision is improving. Yes, he will always be the youngest in his class, but he is getting the help he needs at school. - 8/13/2012   5:11:33 PM
  • 96
    Because of my own experience, I will not hesitate to send my child at age five if he or she shows signs of being ready. I was ready to start at five, but because my birthday falls in July, I had to wait. By the time I started at six, they tested me out of Kindergarten and put me in first grade. While I was ready cognitively, I didn't have the training to be a student so my study skills (another important skill learned in Kindergarten) or the emotional maturity which really effected my career as a student. By first grade they expect you to have those student "skills" and do not spend the time teaching it. I think the loss of that was far more harmful than being a year apart from other students or just a little behind emotionally at first. Those things can be caught up on or overlooked. Bad study skills can haunt a child through college. - 8/13/2012   4:16:40 PM
  • 95
    My birthday is in May and I started when I was 5. I was ready to go and I have loved school ever since (always teacher's pet.) As I got older though, I hated that my birthday was about a week before finals. :( Also I never went to pre-school; I had my mom and sisters to play with.

    My older sister is MR and she started at 5 as well. When I started, she transferred to my school and they let her repeat kindergarten because the school was starting a new Special Ed. program. I think it was a good decision because we had some classes together in elementary school and I think it helped us both develop socially for us to be together. - 8/13/2012   2:42:53 PM
  • 94
    First of all, this isn't a new issue. I can remember this being discussed by my parents almost 40 years ago when my younger brothers were approaching school age.
    Second, I really feel it is a personal decision to be made by the parents, based upon the actual readiness of the child for school (and not on some idea of what they might be in some nebulous future).
    One of my brothers probably should have been kept home for an additional year (he was later held back a year in school -- repeated 2nd grade). And his birthday was well before the cut off date. The other brother did just fine but because of his birth date, was already one of the older kids in the class.
    My sister and I, on the other hand, while we both started when we should have, making us among the older kids in the class, were later both skipped a grade, making us the youngest. And we were completely fine with the age issue as long as we were being challenged educationally.
    Different children, even within the same family, are going to be ready for school at different ages. Parents need to look at the child's maturity, social skills, and interest in and ability for learning, and if there are concerns, perhaps consult with a pediatrician, and then decide when is the right time for that individual child to start kindergarten. - 8/13/2012   10:20:51 AM
  • JESSICAMARIE12
    93
    My daughter is 4, and will be 5 in Septmeber (the 19th to be exact). In the state of Texas, they require all children to have turned 5 by September 1st to start school. No exceptions!! This frustrates me as a parent, because my daughter is EXTREMELY intelligent! She NEEDS to be in school. She's learned so much from me and her father, as well as the women at her daycare she was going to. We've been told by so many people that she should start school this year - but we can't. We can't even put her in Pre-K because we don't meet the States qualifications: she must be huspanic, or have issues with english speaking/comprehension, be mentally incompetent, or be the child of an active duty service member (which she WAS until May - so we TOTALLY got screwed). The only "option" we have is putting her in private school, which is outragiously expensive, and we just can't afford right now - even if we financed her tuition.

    I think they should have testing to see if a child is ready for school. At least in cases like ours where our daughter is obviously ready to start school, but because her birthday is 18 days past the cut off, she gets penalized, and won't be able to start until she is almost 6!! :( - 8/13/2012   9:51:24 AM
  • VBRANNAN
    92
    My son has a December birthday and would have started Kindergarten a whole year ago in Canada (where I grew up), but instead, is starting next month. I have been so frustrated by this extra year at home because he really should have been in school. He is very bright academically, and very social, but has some pretty serious behavioral problems. In fact, the solution for him was preschool. He spent half of last year in a public preschool with a special needs teacher and it made a huge difference for him. For a lot of kids with ADHD, oppositional defiant disorder, and other behavioral issues, the sooner they get into school, the better because a teacher can get very different results from a parent. Before I had kids, I was a preschool teacher, but I could hardly teach my son anything because he fought so hard. Yet, after a month in school, he was drawing detailed pictures instead of scribbling, writing his name and whole alphabet, recognizing words spelled aloud, and so much more. Just being in a school environment unlocked something in him and he started learning. Now, being in a special needs preschool was a lot of what helped him: his teachers worked with him to control his behavior and give him a chance to learn. This fall, he will be in a regular kindergarten class with occasional help from the special needs teacher who will pull him into the resource room when needed. Obviously, he ended up getting what was best for him, but I still feel like a regular kindergarten class last year would have helped him more than spending the year at home fighting against my attempts to teach him. Holding him back until he is six would have been disastrous for our parent-child relationship, and probably for his ability to learn in general. I really wish there was more of a range for parents and schools to work together to decide the best timing for children to start school. If it was based on readiness, starting a child early or late wouldn't be such an exception and the issues of size and age would be minimized.

    I had the opportunity to move ahead a grade between grade 1 and 2. I had been one of six grade 1 kids in a 1-2 split. After a month of being sent to do art projects when the older kids did more difficult work, we were all frustrated and demanded to be part of the class. By Christmas we were all doing the exact same work. I wanted to move up with my class and go into grade 3 instead of grade 2, but my mom held me back with my age group-- she had skipped a grade and was always the youngest/smallest. But she was a November baby and was already the youngest in the class. I was born in Feb and was one of the older kids-- I could have easily moved up age-wise. I had the same teacher the next year for Grade two and she spent most of the next year getting me work from the grade 3 teacher because I was bored. In grade 3, I was in a 2-3 split and my teacher was forced to go find material from the grade 4 teachers. My whole academic life, I never made friends with kids in my grade-- I always hung out with the kids a year ahead of me (even though we moved around a lot and it was never the same group of kids), and even ended up graduating high school a year early. I wish my mom would have listened to me back when I was 7 and let me stay with the older class.

    So there are two examples of pushing ahead-- I would never want my son to skip a grade-- he would flounder if he was put in grade 1 now-- I just wish we could have started a little earlier. And for me-- while i had an academic edge by being kept with my age group, I was bored and frustrated by school and probably would have been a lot happier if I had skipped (though maybe not-- even being one of the older kids, I was physically more on par with kids two years behind my by the time puberty rolled around). Either way-- it should be a decision between the parents, the school AND the child, and it should be based on academic, social, and yes, maybe physical readiness, NOT their birthday. - 8/12/2012   9:46:27 PM
  • 91
    Ah, if only the schools in the UK really were as good as that. In the UK, the government doesn't trust people to raise their own children to be well socialised members of society so we see parents told it's in the child's best interests to be in some sort of educational setting as early as possible (preferably from birth): Readiness doesn't come into it at all. Pre-schools etc. are often just seen as a dumping ground so mothers can be pushed back into employment where often none exists. There is also little investment in quality of teachers at pre-school/nursery and the courses and examinations for this level of teaching are often designed for girls who are not academically bright. Standards of teaching are often (by no means always) very low in state schools and so are expectations for kids from certain backgrounds (working class, unemployed people, one-parent families, gypsies and travellers etc.). Sad thing is, the state has been raising our children for a long time now, but when things go pear shaped, e.g., during the riots, the parents still get blamed. The media and politicians all shout about a need for greater discipline at home, but the kids are hardly at home; they are being socialised in schools which means that they are being socialised as pack animals because so many teachers gave up on discipline in schools long ago. "Lord of the Flies" springs to mind here.
    As for tailoring to bright kids, I had to push very hard to get my daughter to be allowed to take her Maths GCSE early despite the fact that she was way ahead of her peer group. The reason given was that she had to take her SATS. As I pointed out, that was purely about the school's statistics, not about my daughter's education or what was in her best interests. It's more inportant to have everyone attaining 'average' than to focus on those who could excel. Sadly, that's what it's all about these days - education tables, ticking boxes and P.R. spin. Good luck finding a good school through all the meaninless statistics and P.R. work. Education is more about what industry and politicians say it ought to be than what is in the child's best interests (recent news states that the British PM is going to force ALL schoolkids into compulsory competitive sports!).
    If you are fortunate enough to be in a position to do what's in your child's best interests, then do that. Don't listen to 'experts'; they all have different opinions anyway. If I were doing it over again, I would definitely home school. - 8/12/2012   11:09:48 AM
  • 90
    I was 4 when I started kindergarten with a December birthday. I was always the youngest in my class, but it didn't bother me. My daughter will be starting in a couple weeks at 5 years old with a February birthday. Our school district wouldn't allow her to start at 4.5 years old, but I think that she would have done well.

    You should do what is right for your child. If they are ready send them to school on time, if not keep them at home and work with them so they will be ready next year. - 8/11/2012   11:34:17 PM
  • 89
    I was parent with a child who saw his letters "up side down", to him they were correct, & they were a mirror image of the letters I would write. I was very concerned about the effect getting all his little papers marked with incorrect answers would have on him, and it had me in a tizzy. What to do... I decided to hold him back in order for us to work through his problem. I took the advice of his doctor who said it would straighten out in time, which it did. He excelled in everything he did, graduated an honor student and excelled in college. I don't think he would have done so if I had sent him on to school just because of his age. I do think the "I can't get anything right syndrome" would have had a negative effect on him and he could not have been the bright young man that he is today. As someone who works in a school, I say it is a matter of maturity at the time school starts and should be judged on an individual basis. It is OK to let your child stay home an extra year or even two if that is what is needed. I would suggest however, that a parent work with their child and the basics of colors, shapes, counting, numbers etc. be taught at home. You don't want them to be behind, you want them to be ahead. - 8/11/2012   6:08:04 PM
  • 88
    I can see how redshirting could benefit children who are not mature for social interaction with their peers and teachers. Otherwise, enroll children on time - especially if they want to go to school. - 8/11/2012   5:36:08 PM
  • 87
    In the UK kids are in kindergarten at age 3 and by age 4 the kindergarten starts what we call pre-school training. At age 5 they start school proper, abeit what we call infants school. The next step up is at age 7 when the kids are considered juniors and then at age 11 they move up to senior school. There are different systems for doing this dfepending on which part ofthe UK you ;ove, butthe format is basically the same. There are two entries to school proper; both are geared to those who have birthdays between certain times of the year which makes the playing field more even. The same applies throughout so that pupils move up at more or less the ame age. It is a system that works well and during the formative years there is no discrimination. Once a student reaches senior level this changes. Pupils tend to start off the same but by age 14 are streamed into peer groups of their level. This means that those who are academically bright can get the tuition they need and those who are not can look to find a niche inwhich they excel, such as some form of skileld manual work. Not everyone is destined to be good enough for university or college but doing it this way ensures that all pupols are given the chance tor each their full potential. There is an exception to this rule and this is where parental sdecisions also have to be made. Some pupils do show signs of being more educationally mature than others and need to have more challenges set them or given the opportunity to take more advanced exminations ata n earlier age thanthe norm. This is achieved by teachers identifying such pupols and tailoring their education to meet this challenge. Unfortunately, this happens more often in privaye schools rather than state schools as calss sizes can preclude this in state schools. Having said this, it is not beyond possibility thata child can be dentified and at a pretty early age as well. getting abck to the subject inhand though, it is up to parents when or even if they put their children to kindergarden. Nine times out of ten a parent will scrimp and scrape in order to do this, but some are unable for financial reasons. It is so unfair on these children as they are so far behind when they finally do have to go to school. So, whilst a parent makes the choice, it will have an impact on their children in the future. I thought i would contribute here just to let you know how things work inthe UK as they are somewhat different it seems to thoe system of the US. Having said that, i belioeve that ALL chikldren should be given theopportunity to start at as early an age as is practicable. Children often can get bored at home and we do not always read the signs. Giving them the opportunity of learning and playing wth other choldren will not only give them a good start in life and but keep them occupied with new challenges and social skills and set tehm on a course whcih will give them the building blocks for the rest of their lives. - 8/11/2012   1:52:29 PM
  • BEAKIEBEAN
    86
    We waited a year with my daughter-she was an late August birthday so it was either enter school right after turning 5 or right after turning 6. We decided to wait because although she was bright and capable of doing the work we thought she could stand an extra year of emotional "seasoning." We've never regretted our decision. I really think it just depends on the child and their emotional maturity. I don't doubt that she would have been ok if we'd started her at 5 but that extra year she matured so much I think it really helped her. - 8/11/2012   1:22:13 PM
  • 85
    Readiness is the only criterion which matters. I entered kindergarten at 4 and turned five on the last legal day for that year - December 1st. I was a little immature socially, but ahead of the game academically. As a mother, teacher and Sylvan tutor (who has to deal with students who are "behind"), I agree with those who say that you must know your child and be prepared to change your mind if the child is overwhelmed or vastly unhappy. - 8/11/2012   12:57:33 PM
  • 84
    Wouldn't holding your kid back to start kindergarten at 6 be unfair for their 5 year old classmates? They could potentially outperform their classmates in everything. I learned to read at age 4, so my parents got me tested and sent me to kindergarten. I turned 5 in October. I had no problems academically; in fact, I remained in the top of my class throughout all of my schooling. However, I was teased about it and dreaded my birthday every year. - 8/11/2012   12:25:11 PM
  • 83
    Know your child. Don't let anyone tell you for any reason what to do. I have three girls, all very different. They all started schools at different times based on who they are and are all doing well. It WAS hard finacially, but it didn't last forever and I know it was worth the sacrifice. - 8/11/2012   11:10:33 AM
  • 82
    My older son has an April birthday and he's tall for his age so he started Kindergarten at 5. He did well and will be going into 1st grade this year. My other son doesn't turn 5 til this December so he has to wait the extra year. Academically I think he could handle it, but socially I think he needs the extra year. Also, he's a little short for his age. I have a September birhtday so I made the cut-off. I did well academically and was one of the taller kids in the class, but socially I had a really hard time. I never went to preschool b/c it wasn't really the thing to do when I was a kid. I was really shy and I see that in my son too so he will be waiting til he's 5 and will start Kindergarten 3 months before his 6th birthday. - 8/11/2012   8:00:21 AM
  • 81
    My oldest daughter is the youngest in her class. She has an end of August birthday, but multiple teachers evaluated her and said she was more than ready to start with her class. She has always been at the top of the heap academically- reads 2 grade levels up, etc. and has definitely held her own on the social/emotional aspects as well. She has been identified as a "leader" by 3 different teachers now (she is going into 2nd grade). That being said, I can definitely see some issues coming- like when her friends are able to drive almost a year before her...stuff like that. I'm sure there are benefits and drawbacks of both ways. I think we made the best decision with her, and I think that's all you really can do with your own kids- know their strengths and weaknesses, decide, then go with it and don't second-guess yourself. - 8/11/2012   6:00:59 AM
  • 80
    My DD will be teaching first grade, and I will bring this issue to her attention to see if she notices this trend in her students. - 8/11/2012   12:45:49 AM
  • 79
    My daughter is an August birthday just as I am so it was very natural to start her at 5! She did well though she was extremely shy in 1st grade. My son presented more of a problem. He has an October birthday. I considered putting him in the year he turned 5 making him one of the youngest in his class. He was gifted in reading and math but not emotionally ready so we put him in just before he turned 6 (the year he would normally have gone). It also turned out well. Ironically, when he was a senior in HS he started college as part of a dual credit program and did very well. Thus graduating from college at the age he would have been if he started 1 year earlier. He is now grown and doing fine. I did feel sorry for his 1st grade teacher who had kids who didn't even know their alphabet and my son who was reading at the 3rd grade level in the same class, but he was an excellent teacher.
    As a side note my mom who is 364 days younger than her older sister insisted on starting school with her sister, and everyone let her, so she started at 4 and was always competing with her sister. They both did well too! - 8/11/2012   12:13:14 AM
  • 78
    I have been a pre-k teacher for 25 years. (I also have two productive, healthy, happy adult daughters.) I live in a small community so get to see my pre-k kids grow up and have seen them graduate from high school and college. In the end the greatest determining factor should be the child's readiness to enter school. If a child is ready socially, emotionally, physically and cognitively then they should start school. If they are not ready then another year at home or in pre-school is the best option.

    If I had a dime for everytime I had a parent say to me, "my child is extremely smart" I would have retired years ago. The fact is most children are average children and given the chance to live a normal life they will grow up to be normal, productive, average adults. Take those same kids and push them and they will grow up to be neurotic adults. We have become a nation so obsessed with pushing our children into sports, school, etc. that we are not turning out healthy minded children... we are turning out self-centered, neurotic, annoying adults. - 8/10/2012   5:31:56 PM
  • EMMA1013
    77
    I went to Kindergarten when I was 4 and I turned 5 in October. I had no issues. My son will start Kindergarten at 5 with a July birthday. I agree it needs to be accessed individually but we have so many teachers and schools encouraging they be held back it is frustating. It was actually said in a Kindergarten Orientation meeting a GOOD reason to hold back would be to increase TEST SCORES. I was outraged by this. So when we met some of the kids in his future class my son is surrounded by kids 1 yr+ older than him. So geez I cannot imagine why he may now be in the bottom of the class. However my son's preschool has done an excellent job with him so I am happy to know has all the tools to step right in. - 8/10/2012   4:48:40 PM
  • 76
    Who knew! I am a great aunt and suffered enough angst over my youngest great nephew! I have mixed feelings about not being around for all of my nieces and nephews growing up but on the whole they turned out just fine with or without a "leg up". Our community has a rule about the child being 5 by the time the school year begins. Gee, it was that way back in my day. However, this community also has a 4 yr old kindergarten (half day) as well that gives the children that are not fortunate enough to go to preschools or nursery schools the opportunity to experience some social interaction and classroom experience. Today's parents are really weighed down with some heady decisions! I am glad it's not me. - 8/10/2012   3:27:18 PM
  • SHAN2009
    75
    All of these differing experiences and perspectives only prove that holding your child back or pushing them on is a very individual and personal choice. The answer is not necessarily the same for different children. I am a second grade teacher and I've seen situations where a child should be started late and situations where they are ready to move on regardless of when their birthdays fall. What is important is that children need a parent to be their own personal advocate and look at all sides of the situation. Teachers and administrators only see the "academic side" of the equation. This is why God gave children parents. It is the parents' responsibility to see all sides and figure out what choice will be best for their children. - 8/10/2012   2:32:54 PM
  • 74
    One of my grandsons just started kindergarten - he turned 6 this summer. His parents kept him back a year due to developmental issues, and yes, he attended child care all his life. My child reports that my grandson has done well this first week of school, so holding him back a year at his age was a good choice. It's a very individualized decision, which should be based on when the child is ready to start formal schooling. - 8/10/2012   2:12:58 PM
  • 73
    Every child unique. What is best for one is not necessarily best for another. My daughter has always been very tall for her age and towered over the other kids. Fortunately, she tested well and was able to start kindergarten early. Today, she is a lovely 6'1'' lady with her Masters Degree in Geology and has her own company specializing is Remote Sensing and Map Making. An early start was the right choice for her, but not necessarily for everyone. Each child should be evaluated individually for their best interests and not the parent's convenience or egos. - 8/10/2012   1:09:28 PM
  • 72
    I do not appreciate the tone of this article. At five years old, this is not about test scores or athleticism. There are some children who do need the extra year to mature before they start school. I had a October birthday and was always one of the older kids and had a maturity and academic level higher than a lot of my classmates. I had a cousin who had a birthday the following August who was in my class and she always struggled in school.

    My nephew has an August birthday, and his parents made the decision to hold him back. It was a good experience for him, and if they would have sent him, he would have struggled both academically and socially.

    In my home town, the kindergarten teachers are very good with working with parents to help their children acheive success in the school. The school just added a Pre-K program, which I think will also help prepare kids for school.
    It is not about test scores or unfair advantage in holding a child back at age 5. It is actually better to do it then if the child is having issues, than when they are older. I've actually seen parents hold their kids back in 8th grade so that they have better teams and chances to play in high school sports, and that is what I think is wrong.

    - 8/10/2012   12:36:14 PM
  • 71
    When I went to kindergarten (I'm now 30), you had to turn 5 before September 1st. My birthday is August 28th. So, I started kindergarten just before I turned 5. I was always one of the youngest in my class; the only ones who were younger where those who had skipped grades and ended up in my class. I was never behind academically or stunted emotionally. I always performed exceptionally well on the standardized tests (I was at a college reading level in 7th grade). I came from a lower-middle class home with 2 working parents and no siblings.
    I'm so glad this wasn't an issue when I was a kid.... I graduated high school when I was 17, started college when I was 17, and moved into my own apartment just before I turned 18. I think I would have been very angry at my parents if they would have started me late for selfish reasons (because "redshirting" is selfish and for the parents, not the kids)... going when I was "supposed" to meant that I got a head start on "real life", and I can't imagine being 19 years old and still having to go to school and deal with my parents' rules.
    When I have a child, they will go to kindergarten when they are "supposed" to.

    Because all this helicopter parenting is a farce... merely covering up the parents own insecurities. - 8/10/2012   12:13:31 PM
  • CSCESMITH
    70
    My son started kindergarten three days after his 5th birthday. I would not have changed a thing. My kids did not go to preschool because I have met lots of kids who have gone to preschools who didn't learn much. They started school without knowing numbers, the alphabet colors, shapes, etc. I also know some preschool teachers who work in places where the philosophy is "if the kids learn it, great! If they don't, then they'll eventually pick it up". That being said...
    If I had held my son back like several professionals recommended, my son would not have been diagnosed with Autism until he was 6 1/2 years old. Several kids in my son's kindergarten class were diagnosed with Autism, ADD, and several other issues. Red shirting kids will result in late diagnosis of problems that it is important for the child to get help as early as possible.

    My daughter is 2. We are now fighting the opposite fight. The state of NC has passed a law "your kid has to be this old by this date or you can't enroll in kindergarten til next year". My daughter knows her alphabet, numbers, colors, shapes, and is starting to read two letter words. She will easily be ready for kindergarten at 5, but NC law says she must wait til she's 6. We are in the process of fighting this for all we're worth.

    In the end, it should be the parents who decide when their child starts school. The parents are generally the legal guardians after all. - 8/10/2012   11:32:23 AM

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