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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   :  35,840 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

  • 69
    I have 4 kids and I've sent them all when they were 'supposed' to go. In our school district you have to be 5 by Sept 30. My oldest's birthday is in the summer...she is right where she should be. My next daughter's birthday is Oct 10 so she missed the cut off and started when she was almost 6. I think, for her, it worked out well because she is so shy. Now she's going into 2nd grade and doing great. My next two are boy/girl twins, born on Sept 8. They started kindergarten a few days before they turned 5. The girl did fine, the boy had more stuggles but by the end he had 'kick in' and was just about where he should be. We worked with them all summer keeping their brains active. I believe that if you make learing fun and a part of everyday activities, no matter when your kids start kindergarten they will be fine. - 8/10/2012   11:30:01 AM
  • JYEAST
    68
    Wow...I started kindergarten when I was 4 due to a late November birthday, and wound up skipping 1st grade altogether and being put in 2nd grade after kindergarten. I didn't have any disadvantages, but I can see where it's an individual decision. - 8/10/2012   11:23:47 AM
  • 67
    My youngest is five (just turned in June) and will be starting kinder in a few weeks. I am glad he has already been in preschool and is in a school type program in his daycare. He will be expected to start reading this year and if he were to wait and start in 1st grade I think he would be severly behind his peers. Children are learning more advanced skills at a younger age. He already knows how to write his name and is beginning to read. These skills along with math (addition and subtraction), science and social studies will be taught during the kindergarten year.

    I started school (kinder) at age 4 turning 5 in October. I was in Germany so the age requirements are different and it is common for children that young to start school. After I returned to the States in the 2nd grade I was in advanced reading classes and had to be sent to the local middle school for those lessons. Yes I was younger than all of my classmates and there debates about holding me back so I could be with children my own age but academically I excelled and never lacked socially.

    Children are all different and it is ultimately up to the parents to know what is best for their children, however, holding a child back should be in their best interests academically and socially, not so they can be bigger and smarter than their peers. I think children should be encouraged to excel not be held back so they don't have to rise to a challenge. - 8/10/2012   10:31:19 AM
  • 66
    I don't have any kids yet. But when i do I just might home school them.
    - 8/10/2012   10:21:13 AM
  • 65
    I started kindergarten when I was 4 - my birthday wasn't until November 30th, which was the basic cut-off for starting kindergarten that young, anyone born after December 1st waited a year to start. I didn't suffer any from being younger than the others. - 8/10/2012   10:13:47 AM
  • 64
    I waited till my son just turned 6, he had some slight delays in certain areas. He just turned 15 and is starting HS, he fits in perfect. I guess I participated in Redshirting, but never heard of that term. Keep them home if you can and they need an extra year at home. - 8/10/2012   10:10:07 AM
  • 63
    I am a substitute teacher and a volunteer when not subbing. The teacher of the classroom I volunteered in last year told me that there is not law requiring a child go to Kindergarten! They can start school in first grade at age 6!! Can you imagine?! Now that I know this, I can see which kids are being "hurt" by starting so late. They don't understand rules; how to do work; etc.

    I have 2 sons, the older one, Jon, is headed to 3rd grade this year. He went through a 2 year kindergarten program because they felt he weren't "quite ready" for kindergarten - It's called SOS-1 and SOS-2. He did fantastic both years. I kind of feel that it wasn't necessary for him to do SOS, but, I let the school decide - they knew best, after all... If I'd stuck to the 1 year Kinder, he'd be in 4th grade. It just means I have my son one extra year ;)

    My youngest son, Ryan, started school last year. Oh boy was he ready! He saw Jon going to school, and he wanted to go too! Since I was volunteering, I took Ryan to school with me. He did great... at first... but he started doing "no-no's" and disrupting the classroom. The teacher involved him in the class work as much as possible. One of the subs would put him to work on a website for preschoolers - I never knew about that site!!! And, because of all the 1st grade attention he got, he was READY for Kindergarten last year. :) He heads into first grade this year and is excited!!

    All 3 of my step kids, and my 2 daughters also started school on time. The very oldest step-daughter was held back in Kinder because she "skipped school" so much. She has some pretty drastic learning disabilities now. And I think it's partly because of the grandparents' view of school ((wasn't necessary to them so they never made her go to school when they watched her before school)). - 8/10/2012   10:08:49 AM
  • 62
    Seems like standardized tests are the problem...

    In addition to teachers expecting all students to have similar emotional and social maturity, be expected to sit down for long periods of time, and not follow through with consistent discipline of misbehavior and reward of good behavior. At least I saw that at my son's school.

    Also - my older boy started kindergarten one month shy of his 6th birthday, and his behavior and maturity were still an issue. Still are.

    I plan on putting my younger son into kindergarten just after his 5th birthday. Judging by his behavior now that he is 3 (he is very good at self-regulating, is compliant, etc), I think he'll be ready. - 8/10/2012   10:02:25 AM
  • 61
    As a kinder teacher, I think you need to pay attention to how ready your child is. If your child isn't interested in picking up a pencil, doesn't know their colors, letters, or numbers, they are not ready for kindergarten.
    It is important for kids to come to school with basic skills that will help ensure their success. If you're child isn't ready, there is nothing wrong with waiting another year. - 8/10/2012   9:59:25 AM
  • LDMCNIEL
    60
    My has a May birthday and the preschool that he went to said that even though he wasn't ready for kindergarten, they could not take him another year because he was too old. I sent him to kindergarten knowing that there was a possibility that he would be held back. I think that holding him out a year with no school would have been much worse for him. At the end of that year, the teacher, his father and I all made the decision for him to be retained and retake kindergarten. It was really hard to convince the principal because they really don't like to retain children. We finally were able to get it approved for him to be retained. It was a great decision. He soared the next year, we found out he needed glasses and he met his best friend that he has had in his class ever since. They are going into third grade this year. My daughter just turned 5 July 25 and the cut off is August 1st. She had one year of preschool and the teacher said she is more than ready for kindergarten. She is also on the tall side so even though she is the youngest, she is one of the tallest in her class. The first day of school is this Tuesday so we will see how it goes. Luckily, she will be having the same teacher her brother had for his 2 years of kindergarten. - 8/10/2012   9:38:18 AM
  • 59
    My son's birthday is in August and we had no choice, he had to start school. It was a mistake. He did not catch up socially and physically until his senior year in high school. My granddaughter also has a similar birthday and she was kept out. She will be a late 5 instead of an early 5 and I think she will be much happier in school. She just needed that extra time to mature socially. - 8/10/2012   9:26:15 AM
  • 58
    All of my children started kindergarten on schedule; however, my youngest was only 4 when she started. She turned 5 later in the month. I could have held her back, but I'm glad I did not. She was academically ready. It was a good decision. She has been an A student every year.

    Last year, she hit a huge growth spurt. She would have been towering over her fellow students had she been in 6th grade. At 12, she is one of the tallest children in this year's 8th grade. Way back when she was starting school, I had no way of knowing how tall she would be, but I'm glad I didn't hold her back. - 8/10/2012   9:24:01 AM
  • 57
    Interesting thoughts - I do remember one mother saying " an extra year of preschool is a lot less expensive than a year of "Prep School"...........In the big picture of life though graduating at 18 vs 17 doesn't mean anything does it?
    Once again though one size doe not fit all - do what is REALLY right for your child! - 8/10/2012   9:23:38 AM
  • STARPLEWIS
    56
    I did not turn 5 until the end of November of the year I started Kindergarten. I was always one of,if not the youngest in the class, one of the smallest, but I was there. Perhaps it was part of the problem I had with arithmetic (yes arithmetic, that is what we called it back then) but it also was the fact I needed glasses which was not discovered until the 4th grade. I did not know that everyone did not see the way I did... FUZZY. Back then arithmetic problems were written on the blackboard and we copied them onto our papers. I could not see the blackboard. On another generation my children both started at age 5. It was not an option to hold them back they had to be 5 on Sept 1st. that meant that my son waited an extra year since his birthday was Sept 5th. My daughter was born in May so she was less controversial. And with my grandchildren they have January and April birthdays. I think that schools should go back to teaching the curriculum and stop teaching for the testing (FCATs, etc). I agree ALL children deserve an equal education but even back when I was still in school there were some that just would not, could not, did not work at learning what was necessary to graduate. That comes back on the individual, the child, the parents, not the school system, not "the Village." I was blessed with 2 parents and 3 grandparents that expected me to put forth my BEST effort in each and every class. And I knew the consequences if I did not would be carried out. We did not have the same tech distractions that children have today and we played outside year round. No sitting in front of the TV all day, and there were chores that we were expected to complete. There is no "right" answer for every child, but there does need to be a way to level the "playing field". - 8/10/2012   9:02:26 AM
  • AMYMBW
    55
    We made the difficult decision to hold our May birthday, oldest boy. Our district had full day kindergarten, and he still napped on some afternoons. We were advised by his preschool teacher that, while academically ready, he was not socially ready. We chose to do a year of pre-K, half days, and then enroll him at age 6. Even the pre-k teacher said, "I understand now why you held him." He has done well in school and is getting ready to go to middle school. It took him awhile to catch up socially. I find the term "redshirting" offensive. It is a personal decision and one not to be made lightly.I do think the maturity issue is more prevalent in boys, and it is also different for the first born because the subsequent kids always have a peer model ahead of them. Make your decision based on your child and not what your friends, neighbors or random bloggers have to say.
    I also find it interesting that few of the comments made note of the financial issues involved. We had to pay an extra year of child care and preschool. I know plenty of moms who have sent their summer birthdays, ready or not, because it is free. - 8/10/2012   9:01:01 AM
  • 54
    My oldest was one of the youngest in her class--with an Aug birthday. She was ALWAYS bored academically since she was (and is) very bright. Another girl in her class was almost a full year older. Our school did offer testing for summer birthday kids--don't know if they still do it. I know we made the right decision for our daughter. - 8/10/2012   8:42:56 AM
  • RAN322
    53
    Both of my children were born on Labor Day weekend, 3 years apart. My son on August 31 and my daughter on September 2. Since school starts around the second week in August here, both my children started Kindergarten 3 weeks before their 5th birthdays. I wouldn't do it any differently. Neither of them went to pre-school. Instead, I worked with them and taught them to read, print their letters and do simple math beginning at age 3. They've since graduated high school, and are well on their way to being who they need to be.

    All that being said, I think it's a personal choice for a parent. If your child is ready for school at the cusp of turning 5, then send him/her to Kindergarten. If they're not ready, don't send them. We as parents know our children best, and it's our job to be their advocates. - 8/10/2012   8:39:57 AM
  • 52
    Great article - and good timing! I have twins that just started a full-day kindergarten program. I never thought full day was necessary (as my older daughter attended half-day and is doing great). But I am amazed at how much more is expected of the kindergarteners now versus a few years ago! My children are among the older 5 year olds and I believe it is an advantage for them. As a middle school and high school teacher, I could usually pick out the kids that were young for their grade based on maturity and intellectual development. Of course, there's always going to be exceptions and I don't believe any system should be a "one size fits all" solution. Each child is unique and parents should be given the opportunity to discuss what they feel is best for their child with the school district - then make the final decision. Unfortunately, our school district is very strict regarding cut-off dates for entry into kindergarten. - 8/10/2012   8:37:29 AM
  • 51
    WOW ~ Everyone seems to have so much to ay about this one! One thing I read very little about is all the parents (and I know many) who insist their 2-year old get into the most competitive pre-school program they can find, so that he/she gets that edge that we are talking about here. There seems to be a whole generation of young parents out there that can't wait to get their kids out of the house and into the job market. And they all say they same thing..."Oh you have to get them in there now, as young as possible, or they will never be able to compete when they get into 1st grade."
    Really? - 8/10/2012   8:34:49 AM
  • 50
    Both my kids' birthdays and mid year. April and May, so I started them the following September after their 4th birthday. Both kids went to pre-school for 3 years before kindergarten, so they were ready. It was not a day-care but an actual pre-school. Yes, mostly fun and games geared towards learning but lots of fun. However, they help with learning numbers, alphabet and recognizing & writing their first names. All of which I did at home but was nice to have the extra reinforcement. - 8/10/2012   8:23:22 AM
  • 49
    The most important thing is to know your child's maturity level. I was one of the youngest in my classes but always did well. Some of the older students did not. Girls tended to out-perform boys at a younger age, which seems to be true even now. - 8/10/2012   8:21:10 AM
  • 48
    I have 5 grown children and each was different. If you push them into a program before they are socially, academically, and morally ready you will have major struggles. Be sure your child is ready in ALL areas. Be sure the program they are going to lines up with your family's moral and ethical standards. Little minds are too easily influenced by others. - 8/10/2012   8:11:48 AM
  • 47
    I would like to add, on the other end of the spectrum, I can see my niece (no bias) starting school early. She is about three years younger than her brother and when he was struggling with a practice test to get into a better kindergarten (a magnet school?), she kept answering (correctly) all the questions until my nephew asked why couldn't his sister go to school instead of him. She is also outgoing and well socialized while I was always scared of my own shadow. - 8/10/2012   7:52:29 AM
  • 46
    I am not a parent, so what I think may not matter. I feel it should be based on the child rather than the age. I have a mid August birthday so I started school being among the youngest in my class. I wound up being held back in kindergarten because the teacher suspected that I was "slow." I later proved her wrong by graduating high school with a 4.0 and as a national merit finalist.

    At the time, I remember feeling horrible and getting taunted by the other kids for "failing." I think I benefited later by just being a bit older, but not by repeating the grade. Our family moved at the beginning of that second year of kindergarten and the new school area didn't want to deal with a "special education" student after the start of the year so I was enrolled in a school especially for special education (I think they called it a "transition" school). That was an experience in itself, as some of the children were rather disruptive and aggressive, with a wide range of ages in the class (several years difference). I remember feeling very alone and scared there.

    *I am sure there were plenty of sweet, calm children there, but as someone moving to a new area and new school, it had seemed like chaos. This was also 30 some years ago, so I am sure my memory of those months are not what they could be. I think I would have been better off with just starting school later or by being in some sort of preschool program at a younger age to prepare me for the experience. Though that sort of reminds me of a Dilbert cartoon where they had premeetings to prepare for premeetings to prepare for ... - 8/10/2012   7:44:31 AM
  • 45
    My oldest started K at a private school when he was 4. At the end of the year, they were recommending a "junior first" program for him because he had the academics but not the maturity. The school closed, so he had to repeat K anyway and they used a reading program that totally undid all the reading skills he had. That was a long time ago. I am in education now and have seen many children who needed that extra year of preschool to gain success. In fact, I work at the district's preschool. We see kids in K who are 4 and others who are 6, but the state just changed the enrollment date, so there should only be 5's and 6's hereafter. It makes a world of difference for many boys and a few girls to wait a year. - 8/10/2012   7:39:22 AM
  • 44
    interesting... - 8/10/2012   7:15:28 AM
  • MRE1956
    43
    Sigh.......don't get me started! I'm not a fan of "magic ages" (or any specific number or timeframe as being the be-all or end-all to anything), so 5 being "on time" somewhat disturbs me, especially as every child matures at their own rate for a number of reasons - but, conversely, the delay that some folks foist on their children can also seem self-serving......

    Ah, yes......that damned "No Child Left Behind" travesty - should have been renamed "Common Sense Left Behind" as that is exactly what happened here!

    I thank the fates every day that I no longer have small children to raise! - 8/10/2012   5:53:35 AM
  • 42
    As a parent with a son born in August all I can say is that childhood is not a race. I waited to have him start school because I thought he needed another year without the social restrictions of school. He did go to preschool where wiggling is allowed! Redshirting is only a problem if "competitive edge" is what the focus is, not what your child needs. Waiting to send my son to school did not make him the smartest kid, but one of the happier ones. - 8/10/2012   5:27:36 AM
  • 41
    Hi all! Wow, this is a hot, buzzing topic. I sure understand why--and as a mother of 8 and a 26 year veteran teacher, I can tell you there are no easy, straightforward answers. Personally, I held my oldest son back a year, with the advice and support fo his pre-school teacher and it was the best decision ever. (He has a March birthday as well.) My second son has an August birthday and probably could have done well if we had been allowed to enter him a year earlier because he was/ is a gifted, fast learner with the best behavior and self-management skills possible for an almost 5 year old.

    The state of IL moved entry ages to 5 by August 1 several years ago. I am the remedial reading teacher and it seems that a good percentage of my students are the ones who didn't turn 5 until up to weeks before August 1. A lot of these children are physically smaller, socially awkward, and have a lot of difficulty with curriculum that almost scares me. Children are being asked to do things now that weren't even asked of first graders when I was teaching that age 26 years ago. KIndergarten children are all expected to read at higher and higher levels. They are spelling and writing sentences, poetry, test responses. They need to know letters and sounds by the end of the first quarter of school to be put into reading groups and they have a lot of real homework. The new nationally accepted "Common Core State Standards" that are being implemented into schools across the nation--I think there are over 45 states on board for these, have boosted curriculum by two grade levels in order to be rigorous enough to make our children into competitive applicants on the job market. Recesses are fast becoming too time consuming and are becoming a thing of the past. Learning socialization, problem-solving skills is also out of reach with play disappearing from the view. It is scary to me, and I don't see it going away.

    Now, although knowing about each individual child and what his or her abilities and needs are is important, it is important to look over all of this. Depending upon what your family expects for your child, it is important to determine if your child is ready to handle what is coming his or her way, and then make this scary decision the best that you can. (Nobody can see into the future, and needs to use everything at their disposal to make these important decisions.). On another hand, I think it is going to take a lot of good people joined together to take care of our children, and to let them be children and develop in every way at a pace that makes sense for them. We need developmentally sound practice rather than false fears about how the schools are doing to help our children to thrive and grow in every way.. I want to see this happen before it is time for me to retire or before I have grandchildren who might get trapped in the rat race of all of the pushing , pushing, pushing that is the trend now. - 8/10/2012   3:44:19 AM
  • SHAN09
    40
    When my children started public school in our area there was Junior Kindergarden (JK) and Senior Kindergarden (SK) and it was all day, every other day with alternating Fridays. We had just moved to the area and my eldest was "too old" (he has turned 5 in April) for the JK age cut off, so he started SK without having attended JK. This worked for him.
    Unfortunately the legislation in our school board stated that the cut off age was determined by the calendar year end date of December 31,so that my middle child had to be enrolled in JK the same year which made him 3 yrs, 9 months old (he is a December 31 baby). When I inquired about keeping him home for a year I was informed that it was my decision, but when I enrolled him the following year he would have to be in SK. I really wish I had this information then because I would have been able to fight the administration on their decision! As a result, he has always struggled in school, socially and academically (with the exception of math) and this was compounded by the fact that he was Identified in grade 5 with a Learning Disability, which it was later discovered and diagnosed to be Aspergers. I firmly believe that he would have had a more positive experience and been able to excel if he was allowed that extra year to mature and grow, as the curriculum requirements and social skills were well above his developmental age/stage.
    My youngest (a March baby) had to be enrolled, despite the fact that she had a severe speech and language delay solely based on her birth date. Unfortunately it has been discovered that her issues are a result of a working memory deficit such that she may never function at her grade level and she requires a lot of assistance.
    I firmly believe that this legislation requiring that a child must be the required age prior to their JK or SK start and allowing parental input is beneficial to all. Children may only be 30% of our population, but they are 100% of our future and creating future generations geared for academic success, understanding, critical thinking and an eager love of learning/knowledge can only make our society a better place. - 8/10/2012   3:22:58 AM
  • 39
    I started as a youngest on in my class - it may have been harder in kindergarden, but it gets better with each class reunion! Life is never completely balanced and I think part of my bulldozer personality was my inner push to keep up - not a bad thing IMHO. - 8/10/2012   2:24:22 AM
  • 38
    I had never heard of "redshirting" before. I didn't start school until I was 6 years old, but I also was skipped right over kindergarten and started school with first grade. My mother pretty much insisted - but she was right that I was ready. Putting me in kindergarten at that point would have been a waste of my time. (I was already reading and writing by the time I was 4 - learned at home - and had plenty of social interaction with both kids and adults via younger siblings, neighbors, and through our religious congregation. The idea of sitting still and listening attentively was also learned through the religious meetings.)

    My DS and DDa are 13 months apart, born in Feb and March, and they grew up in day care and preschool situations, so socially they were ready. Between preschool and I, they knew their letters and could read, numbers and basic math. I put them in kindergarten more for learning the structure of a classroom setting and did it when they were 5 (well, 5 and a half because of their early in the year birthdays). The idea of holding them back a year would never have occurred to me nor do I believe it would have made a difference.

    I have no idea how well holding a child back just to give them an advantage would really work in the long term. Holding them back because they aren't ready makes so much more sense. (It's not like they can really get ahead if they're in a lower class level than they're capable of performing to.) - 8/10/2012   1:30:09 AM
  • ANCILLADOMINI
    37
    I think we need to not worry about what other parents are doing and whether their kids are older/younger than ours are when they start school. Parents need to make decisions for their own child--and, with the exception of their educators, it's really no one else's business. - 8/10/2012   12:55:33 AM
  • 36
    Over protective and over controlling parents helicopter presuming some imaginary advantage trying to manipulate their children to achieve their personal objectives without any consideration as to what effect it will have down the road. I hope all who do this will have a book written about them entitled "Mommy Dearest" - 8/10/2012   12:48:20 AM
  • MARYJEANSL
    35
    I have been so blessed to be able to homeschool my three children, and reading this makes me even happier. Each one was able to work at his/her own pace and all have done very well. - 8/10/2012   12:37:27 AM
  • 34
    This was news to me. My son is starting kindergarten this fall at age 5. I thought it was mandatory that he go to kindergarten. This concerns me now. - 8/10/2012   12:15:20 AM
  • TERID816
    33
    The term "redshirting" was not one I had heard but I must admit that my son, who has an August birthday, did not start kindergarten "on time". He most definitely was not ready. He was not overly shy, but he was reluctant and as it turned out later through testing, is ADD. Letting him have that extra year made a big difference in his ability to thrive in the classroom - not that he is the world's greatest student... he works hard each year to make his grades, even as a high school Junior.

    Had he been "forced" to start school earlier, I feel confident that at some point he would have been "held back" and that would have been worse than the course of action we took in "redshirting" him. It was not done for athletics - while he loves football and baseball, his passion is percussion and he marches snare drum in his school's marching band. He's happy and well adjusted and neither the oldest or youngest in his classes or social groups. - 8/9/2012   11:06:04 PM
  • 32
    I'd never heard of this before. I suspect that the advantage does NOT wash out over the years, after reading Outliers. That said, I'm wondering why, even in kindergarten, our kids have to be competing with each other and parents are looking for ways to give their kids an advantage. How about if we just develop the natural talents of all of our kids, refuse to give up on the ones who get there a little later than their age-peers, and look for ways to play to the strengths and interests that all kids have, whether they fit the current definition of "gifted" or not. Can't they ALL be accomplished and precious in their own individual ways? Maybe I'm naive, but isn't this the view of children you want your kids' teachers to have? - 8/9/2012   11:00:36 PM
  • 31
    I am a kindergarten teacher and a mother. My Child entered Kindergarten my second year of teaching kindergarten. I wish I knew then what I know now. At the time I had parents pressuring me to enroll her into a private kindergarten. At that time she was 3 turning 4. She was a simple reader already and could do simple math. But I knew that was too early. So I waited till she was five. Like the author here my child a girl, had just turned five when she started. I thought no problem. Academically she was ready and to be truthful she was even a bit board in kindergarten.
    That said I wish now I had waited an extra year. academically she holds her own. But the social emotional part she is a year behind most of her peers. Which as the grades increased started to effect her grades as well, as her confidence. Once year she had a combo class two grades in the same class and that was when I knew my point was proven. She did the higher grade work just fine, but she hung out with the younger kids.
    That is my view as a parent.
    As a teacher I see the August and July students as a 50/50 chance. But I can Promise you EVERY student who comes into my class at age 4 because their birthday is in Sept, Oct or Nov. struggles!!!! I am so glad to see the state of California now recognizes this as well and is slowing changing the birthday for admission. Do not get me wrong I have seen MANY 4 year old students who are academically ready even for 1st grade. But that social emotional element is so important and even if they are fine in Kinder I can promise you, it will catchup with them.
    Also one other thing to think about is fine motor skills. I find the younger childer have a harder time with the fine motor skills. I can teach them every trick I know but it is just something that comes with age. Think of a baby. You can not make a new born sit up and hold their head until they are ready!
    School is not like when most of us went to school. Heck in the 15 years I have been teaching it is amazing how much it has changed. In the fast pace life we live lets let kids be kids and not make them grow up to fast. If you have the opportunity give your child the chance give that that extra year! It may seem like a little thing now but when they hit the higher grades you will be glad you did. In the mean time enjoy each and every moment and let them have fun while they are still little. - 8/9/2012   9:31:10 PM
  • 30
    I started school in England at 3 1/2 years old . I could read and write one other boy was 4 and we did fine. ASfter 2 years There was a new ruling standardising the age levels of school children. The boy and I were held back for 2 years. I was lucky I was teaching other kids to read. He was sent to a different school and he was out of his depth in a school with few friends. We were friends in the neighborhood he never liked school after that. There has to be a better way to evaluate children but I doubt it will ever happen. I see many more children being home schooled very successfully but they often lack social skills in their teens. Pat in Maine. - 8/9/2012   9:20:32 PM
  • 29
    A good friend of mine wasn't put into Kindergarten until she was 6 because she was so painfully shy that she couldn't socialize. My sister was the opposite -- she started school at age 4 (she turned five in October), but was placed in a combination K-1 class so that at age 6, she was a second grader. And guess what? Both of those girls grew up to be intelligent, successful women. Why? Because their parents were responding to the CHILD's needs.

    Their parents understood that it's NOT about test scores -- test scores don't tell you a dam thing about your kid's intelligence, creativity, work ethic, or social skills. So when it comes to kindergarten, you just have to know your child and work with her, remembering all the while that there is SO much that can/will change between ages 5 and 18.

    This talk of redshirting just sounds like trying to cheat the system for the sake of competition and test scores -- and that's not fair to anyone. Society's obsession with college preparedness is absolutely going too far when people are trying to cheat the system or cram the kid with the wrong kind of education, rather than truly responding to the child's abilities.

    Of course, all of this could be avoided if schools were organized by students' learning strengths, rather than the fairly arbitrary factor of age group. There's no reason why it should be shameful for 4, 5, and 6 year olds, or (6, 8 and 9 year olds) to be in the same learning group if they're all thriving that way. - 8/9/2012   9:14:31 PM
  • 28
    I started school at a one-room school house back when the cut off for first grade was Jan. 1st. and my birthday was in October. My husband's birthday was in November so we'd both been "held back" if we'd gone by today's standards. Both of us were great students in school and NO discipline problem. WHY? Because back then we both knew if we'd gotten a bad note sent home, we'd have gotten our behinds tanned by our Dads. Oh, yes, TODAY, that would be child abuse, but our Dads never heard of that. WE DID WHAT THE TEACHER TOLD US. LOL - 8/9/2012   8:13:09 PM
  • 27
    In California, the CDE is moving the dates back a month every year starting this school year until all Kindergartners are at least age 5 by September 2nd, so younger students would not be allowed to attend Kindergarten. However, on the redshirting issue, all children are required by law to be enrolled in school when they turn 6 even if it's in the middle of the school year. This is what I've been told by administrators when parents ask about it. My own child was four years old when she started Kindergarten in July of the year she was turning five (it was a year-round school), but her birthday is towards the end of October. So she definitely is a lot younger than all her classmates. She is a junior in high school right now and actually prefers to hang out with the seniors at her school. She is doing well academically, but probably could have used another year to mature socially. Still, she would have been frustrated with the academics had we kept her back a year for Kindergarten. If she was about to start Kindergarten now, we wouldn't have had the choice on which year to send her to Kindergarten. - 8/9/2012   7:48:34 PM
  • MOMRUNNING3
    26
    I enjoyed reading this article and the posts. I have two children with August birthdays. For my oldest child ( a boy ) we were in a position to hold him back and for all of the reasons stated (academics, maturity, size). It proved to be the right thing for him as he has to really work hard for his grades. Things were different for my daughter and we had to start her in K just 4 days after her fifth birthday. She struggled constantly but was making the scores on the standardized testing by the skin of her teeth. We finally decided that it was a long way to 12th grade like this(she was in 2nd grade by now). The school system would not work with us even though they knew she would be better off if she was retained. So we pulled her out and sent her to a private school for one year, she is now back in the public school system and doing well, she likes school now where as before it was a nightmare. I knew it would continue to get worse as school got harder and expectations from teachers would become greater. It was the right thing to do for her and us as a family.
    Good luck to all of those on the fence with this big decision. - 8/9/2012   6:17:35 PM
  • 25
    I've never heard a parent say, "I wish I would have started my child earlier." However, I've heard many parents say, "I wish I would have waited to put my child in school." I have four kids and held three of them with birthdays in June, July and October out until they were six. My oldest was 5 1/2. I am very happy with my decision! My October birthday was ready at 5, but she missed the cut-off. However, she is doing great both academically and socially so are my two summer birthday boys. However, I agree that parents need to do what is best for their child. - 8/9/2012   5:49:27 PM
  • 24
    My middle child is an August birthday. At the advice of his preschool teacher, we enrolled him in kindergarten at 5. He simply was not ready. He repeated kindergarten with much more success. Know your child, and make the choice you believe is best for your child. I do have friends who had their daughter start at 6, believing she would be more successful with another year of emotional maturity. - 8/9/2012   5:41:06 PM
  • 23
    I have the same birthday as MOLLYVD (October 28th). There was no public kindergarten "back in the day," but my parents put me in a half-day private kindergarten, mostly for socialization. When it was time for first grade, the public schools wouldn't take me as the cut-off date was the end of September. My folks put me in a (terrible) private school for a year - which they really couldn't afford - and then transferred me to the public school in 2nd grade. Unlike MOLLYVD, I am supremely grateful that my parents did this. I was academically far beyond most of my peers. I begged to skip a grade, but that just wasn't done. I did manage to skip my senior year of high school by taking the two classes I still needed to graduate plus several others at the local community college. I was 16 when I started college, and it was great! I suffered through school until I got to college; I was incredibly bored. I can't imagine how much worse it could have been if my parents had kept me home another year!

    OTOH, my sister, whose birthday is a day before mine, should have been held back. The cut-off date had changed by the time she came along, and kingergarten was offered, but she was not ready. She should have been kept back a year. She ended up dropping out.

    In the end, it really does depend on the individual child. - 8/9/2012   4:56:41 PM
  • C2MARATHON
    22
    It's one of those things I think really depends on the child. Both my daughters were born in late November. In most states, they would not have started until they were 5, almost 6. But for years California had a Dec. 2 cut off date. I really didn't feel like my older daughter was ready but the school district told me that I had to put her in because that's the way the law read, so I did. She's always seemed to be behind the other kids and it frustrates me.

    My younger daughter, on the other hand, went to preschool (through the school district, something not offered at the district we lived in when my older daughter was that age). This year California changed the law stating that children born before Nov 1 had to go and between Nov 1 and a Dec. 2 had the option of either waiting a year or doing a two year program. Man have I been frustrated! My younger daughter is more than ready for kindergarten, thanks to preschool. The preschool wouldn't take her again which meant she sat at home with me for a year or did two years of kinder!

    Fortunately, our school district has decided that she, and others like her, will only be required to take the second year of kinder if they are behind.

    If I had to do it over again, I'd probably have redshirted my older daughter. But there is no way I'd do the same to my younger one. - 8/9/2012   4:33:47 PM
  • 21
    It was a non-issue for both of my boys. One has a February birthday and one has a December birthday. Both boys entered K well into their 5th year of life. No way was I going to start them at 6 and a half. I was asked by the PE teacher at the end of my older son's K year if I was holding him back. I was real puzzled because he was well behaved, social, leader, and reading well above K level and very quick to learn. He was tiny and he still is and probably will not ever be taller than 5'6". Is that a reason to repeat K if you successfully completed the academic and social learning? I think not, because it wouldn't have made him grow any. He is still the shortest kid in his grade. My younger son is tall for his age....maybe I should skip him 2 grades to be with his same height peers. - 8/9/2012   3:32:00 PM
  • 20
    My daughter was a pre-mature baby & because of that she has an August birthday. I started her in Kindergarten at age 5 and half way through the year it became aparant it was a mistake. We should have waited the extra year. All through elementary she had always been a half a year behind the learning curve. The good news is by the end of each school year she caught up to where statistically she should be. Now that she is a pre-teen in middle school we are struggling with different issues. She is so much younger than most of her peers, physically and mentally. I don’t want her to grow up too fast and I am happy to still see the little girl in her, but she often feels left behind as all her peers are “maturing” into full teenagers. Most of the time she can’t relate to them. If I could go back I would not be in such a hurry to get her into Kindergarten that young. I would have waited. - 8/9/2012   2:48:38 PM

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