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

By , Michelle Stroffolino Schmidt, PhD
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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DBSHAW 3/10/2020
Why is this a Spark People article? Report
CECELW 8/24/2019
You know your own child. Use wisdom Report
From a teacher perspective...
Good Grief People, why would you want your child in school if they aren't ready to be there? If they turn 5 years old 2 days after the deadline, you need to strongly consider if they are mature enough to sit through lessons all day. Kindergarten is NOT what it used to be. There is serious academic learning going on, not just play learning and naps like when we were kids. You can't compare your own experience with K to now. It looks nothing like it used to. Report
That has been so long ago, I can barely remember it. I am now 76 years old. Report
I'm not sure why we are talking about this on a fitness site, lol, but I'm in support of home schooling (parent-guided education), and in which the child goes at his own pace in each subject. He could be 'advanced' in one, or 'delayed' in another. In either case, it does not matter because each person's journey through life is unique and does not need to compare with what others are doing. Report
I started Kindergarten at 5, and at every school system I've attended, I was one of the oldest kids in my class. (This is because my birthday is in Dec., versus the kids who were 5 the whole year with a birthday in June.) Academically, I remember that I could have started at 4 (I was already reading chapter books and competent in math), but my parents wanted to give me that extra year and for me to be around kids my own age. Again, "giving me that extra year" put me in Kindergarten at 5. Just like the other kids. (If testing out was an option for any of my grades, I would have so many times, but it wasn't -- so I couldn't. And I still finished all my courses for high school a year early with a semester of college already in the bag.) But to each their own. One could argue that putting a struggling kid in school -- early or on time vs late -- allows them to get a head start on school, and if by some chance they fail a year (which never happens now -- or does it?), they're still in school with kids their own age. I went to school with two girls who were 16 -- one in 8th grade, & one in 7th. That was really rough for them. There is so much wrong with being 16 and in 7th grade. (And since she failed, instead of being 17 and in 7th grade, she just outright quit after that year, and took the GED. Never spent a single year in high school.) There's good and bad to both. But I'm of the opinion that there's more benefits than downsides to starting at 5. Report
Sometimes the kid needs it Report
This is an old thread, but I just came across it. I also believe in starting children at the time they are supposed to start (with maybe very rare exceptions.) My son also had a late August birthday and started kindergarten the day he turned five. He was the youngest in the class by far - and he was already small for his age to begin with. He was almost two years younger than the "red shirts" and half their size. But he did just fine! (He is now a college graduate.) On the other hand, my grandson who has a February birthday was held back because his parents felt he was "immature" for his age. Now he is nearly two years older than some of his classmates and feels humiliated by this. He is about to turn 10, and is in the third grade. He reminds me constantly that, "I should be in the FOURTH grade." This really bothers him, and I don't see what the advantage is for him, especially when I saw my son thrive in school as the youngest in the class. So that's my opinion from my experience on both sides of the coin. Report
I skipped kindergarten altogether. I started first grade at 5. (My birthday is Nov 22) I could read and write at 4. But that was a different time in the 60's. Parents spent time with their children. Report
Great article! Report
Never knew this existed! Thanks for shocking me. Report
In my area, the cutoff is age 5 by September 30 for kindergarten. Kids may a be derogated if they pass a psychological test. You can hold your child behind, however that child would enter school at grade 1 as kindergarten is not mandato here. This caused me a lot of grief as my late August born son was not ready for school but had to attend that year. ( As daycare is subsidized here, you can not keep your child in daycare for the year he is eligible for school) . He's doing ok now, attending college ( Report
I wish I could have enrolled my daughter at 4 years old. She was already reading, writing and doing math, but because she missed the birthday cut-off, they did not allow this.

A year later, she started school and was bored. She was constantly in trouble for talking and thought Kindergarten was for socializing. She aced the entrance exam and was reading at least a 3rd or 4th grade reading level, but we couldn't move her to the next grade because the school felt that "kids in Kindergarten are too young to test for the next grade."

I found out that they hold kids back so the school looks better on achievement test scores. I don't know if this is why my daughter was held back, but I couldn't take it anymore. I homeschool her. Report
I am currently homeschooling 2 of my children. My 3 and 9 year old. My 3 year old is significantly ahead of what my other kids were at her age and so is my 9 year old compared to my older children. I do not expect them to be rocket scientists or a marine biologist, what I fo expect is that they get the most out of their education and that's why I homeschool them. The "No Child Left Behind" regulation is total crap. They pass kids on all the time that have no clue what they're doing. I have homeschooled all 5 of my children and know from experience there's no way to get 20-25 students on the same page when there's different learning styles and each child embraces information differently. A good teacher will take her time to gwt the kids up to par, but those are far and few in between these days. Report
Why is this article. It sounds like a mommy bragging session. Report
When my daughter was 4 years old we lived in a state where they started kindergarten at 4. But then we moved to another state where since she completed kindergarten, she was placed into first grade. At that school, they were doing a pilot program where there was 1/2 grade between kindergarten and first grade, (a transitional class). It was for those who met the requirements to pass kindergarten but were not ready for the structure of first grade. She was placed in that class and it was the best thing for her. She excelled in the studies and was not stressed out as she was in first grade because she was not quite ready for it. Report
My young cousin (my Dad was the oldest son, her father, my Uncle, the youngest) was not enrolled in kindergarten or preschool. She was spoiled and not socially ready for first grade, in fact, she was a spoiled brat who didn't get along with other kids unless she got her own way, and threw tantrums. We both are only children, no siblings. Attending both pre-school and kindergarten gave me an advantage at socializing better. Report
In the state where I live, a child must be 5 yo by December 1st of the year they are entering kindergarten. If s/he is born after December 1st, they have to wait until the following year. That was my son's issue. He was more than ready academically (he was reading at age 4 and knew shapes and colors, etc.) and socially for kindergarten the year he turned 5, but since he was born on December 17th, he had to wait another year...starting the year he turned 6, which I thought was horribly unfair. He breezed through kindergarten, especially the language arts, so his kindergarten teacher got permission for him to go to the 1st grade class for language arts...put the school district frowned on allowing kids to skip grades, so they wouldn't move him permanently. Their solution was to test him for a "gifted" school rather than move him up a grade. He was successful throughout his K-12 schooling (with a little hiccup in 3rd grade where he decided he wasn't going to do homework anymore...yes, that happened), but he always had a "thing" about being the oldest kid in his class...because they wouldn't let him start when he was ready. Report
One son was born in October, started K when he was going to be five, had trouble all through school keeping up. Other son was born Dec. 25, waited till the next year, and he excelled, he would not have been ready at all if he had begun before being five, but they would have allowed it!! Report
I had one kid who was reading at a third-grade level by the age of four, and generally running circles around any other kid that age academically, who started kindergarten at the age of five. Massive mistake: he was bored out of his mind. When I inquired about gifted programs, the principal of the local gulag explained the sub-par elementary program, and then told me they won't advance children to the next grade so they can stay behind and help teach their slower peers.
I told him I wasn't sending my son to school to be a teacher's aide. Found a charter school geared for gifted kids.
Second son: exhibited autistic behaviors for a young age, started full-day kindergarten at the age of 5-almost-6 at the same charter school, and he was was completely not ready.
Moved both students to home-based cyber charter schools, and it was the best decision I ever made.

In both cases: home-based schooling is the option I wish I had chosen from the beginning. Report
My daughter is very smart and my husband and I have good educations and prepared her well. She was talking in sentences in English and German and singing the alphabet in both languages by 18 months. And when I started teaching her to read at 4 1/2, she learned extremely quickly and was soon several years above grade level. I wanted to have her tested to have her enter kindergarten 6 weeks before her 5th birthday. But I was distraught to find that they'd universally gotten rid of half-day kindergarten where we live. When she was younger she had a lot of digestive problems / upset stomach. When we tried out a full day school program she was exposed to a lot of junk food that we didn't eat at home, and the kids were sitting in chairs all day, until 3 p.m., without much movement at all. At home she could move around freely, go from indoors to outdoors, and eat numerous small meals. She was in the bottom 10% percentile for weight at the time and this was better for her health. She didn't have the physical endurance for full-day school. I pulled her out after two weeks and home schooled her for a year. So she still stayed on grade level and when she entered 1st grade she was the youngest but also one of the top students in the class. My husband is German and in Germany K-12 school ends by 12:30 at the latest, with optional extracurricular activities in the afternoon. Really, a lot of the school day is just a filler so that parents can have day care. Even though she did well in first grade, we saw how she was more exhausted and stressed than she had been while home schooling. The rigid rules, the long hours, all of time spent sitting in the same place, the social pressures and even school pressures ... to eat unhealthy processed food and large sugary birthday treats. These were hard on her, and that was not because she was immature, it was because they are not an ideal environment for a young child. I wish that the school day were universally 6 hrs rather than seven. Legally it only has to be 5 hours.

Getting her into kindergarten the fall that she was turning 5 was important for me because we want her to be intellectually challenged, not bored. The school work isn't difficult for her and she's well behaved. She gets along well with other children too, etc. It would have been a big mistake for her to enter as one of the oldest kids in her class. And yet, numerous schools wouldn't consider letting her enroll at that grade level even though her test scores were in the 83rd percentile (better than 83 percent of test takers) for her grade level. I feel lucky that we pulled it off after homeschooling and persistence. Report
First let me say; I am a teacher who has worked with all ages of elementary students. I am also a mom of 2 teenage girls. OK....Now I'm ducking in case the flak flies for this...."IN GENERAL" boys should at the very least be five before the day they start kindergarten, six would be better. I've seen too many "young" boys need to repeat kindergarten, or lag behind. Boys do mature later than girls. They need more time to be active and to develop their cognitive skills. It wouldn't hurt girls either, as long as the "gap year" is one where they can explore and play and create and be nurtured. Some districts have a "TK"; transitional kindergarten, that's a good option, too.
That said, I wholeheartedly agree with the "know your child" crowd. My oldest, with a July birthday was perfectly ready for the "rigors" of kindergarten at 5. Even though she was reading 2nd grade material, she was a "toe the line" kid and just went along with the program, and never let on (and only had to do half day). My second child has a late November birthday, but tested out of preschool skills at 4 years 3 months, and after a month of Kindergarten, while she was still 4 complained to me that she felt "too old for Kindergarten". Fortunately that feeling eventually went away in the next couple of years, but she has never lagged behind her classmates, some of them 18 months older than she is and is right where she should be facing her senior year at 16. Report
One alternative to this "problem" is homeschooling!! I did start all my boys late. I read & saw with my own eyes, that boys take longer to mature and be ready for book learning. Public school is the only area we expect children to stay in segregated age groups. In most of our lives, we associate with others younger & older than us & it benefits us in many, many ways. Report
I think there should be two kindredness. Reason, take my grandson. He was 5 and needed to start kindergarden. Whenever he didn't know the answer to the teacher he answered with something off the wall that made the class laugh. The school put him though a dozen test, He was ADD, he had this problem or that. Finally they said there was nothing wrong with him but he was immature. He drove his teacher nuts, disrupted class and generally made a fool of himself. During the summer everything changed, he "grew" up, learned to read above his class, can write and spell better then most children starting first grade. His problem solving is off the charts. I think it would have helped everyone, teacher, rest of the class, if he had been in a class with others that weren't mature enough. Report
Sorry...where I live is "let the bus pick them up at 6AM, the school feed them breakfast, lunch, and an afternoon snack, and deliver them back no sooner than 4:30 PM. If this can start at age3, so much the better. Report
Speaking as an EC-4 certified teacher, if you can keep your child home for enrichment, do so. Most parents I deal with look on education as free childcare and the sooner they can dump their kids, the happier they are. The attititude whe Report
My daughter did not start school at 5 and 3 days because she wasn't ready. She still had issues with tantrums and often took afternoon naps. Academicly she was gifted.
My rational was that schools were prepared to deal with academicly gifted students but didn't serve students who had immature behavioral issues.
As a stay at home mom, I was prepared to keep her educationally challenged and financially able to gave her the gift of growing up at her own pace.

My DH went to school at a young 5. He didn't see going early as an advantage. He remembers always being the youngest and the last one to drive etc.

It wasn't an easy decision but I one I never regretted. BTW my DD excelled in school. Report
People really do this? How awful! This is pure vanity on the part of the parents, and their claims of concern for the child I would seriously doubt. Report
I pushed for my daughter to be allowed to start even though her birthday was a day or two after the deadline. She went to the first offered "all day kindergarten" and was the first kid ever in that school to read 100 books before the end of the year. She was beyond ready to start. My son started on time but he had emotional issues and the first year was a lot of crying under his desk. This was also an "all day kindergarten" but it was also a looping class. This class stayed together and advanced to second grade with the same teacher. He still struggled and I held him back in kindergarten. He eventually dropped out of school and got his GED. My daughter graduated but chose to not continue on to college a decision that may be linked to my excessively large student loan debt. Either way I think know your child is the best approach. If my son, who is actually my nephew had been with us the entire time, I would have been able to deal with his emotional issues much sooner and maybe changed the outcome. The outcome is not a bad thing, it just is what it is. Report
I started my third child, a son, on time, but he's one of the youngest in his grade, and my fourth child, a daughter, late. I did this because it was what was best for each child. I know it is popular to treat all children the same, this is construed as fair, but they are different, they have different needs. Each child should be given exactly what they need, this is how they will blossom. And as far as the free childcare, in our district, some children just did kindergarten twice. Nevermind that kindergarten has become too academic, when I was a child, it was a place to play, learn social skills, and introduce the child to the structure of school, now they want them to read. Ridiculous. Report
Redshirting is not a term used where I come from. As an educator, I have witnessed the benefits of a delayed school start, but only in very limited circumstances. I think the only valid reason to delay a school start is when a child has substantial socialization delays or is lagging in emotional development making a full day in kindergarten impossible for himself and others. There are extremely few children who fit into this category. The vast majority of children should start school with their peer age group. I am surprised to hear that there are educators who are touting delayed starts for everyone. Kindergarten is about learning through play and learning to interact with others. Delaying a chance to learn in a group so they can have a supposed academic advantage isn't a strong enough reason. Report
It was epidemic in my former community among boys, and pretty common in girls, too. We realized the teachers were spoiled by it when one of the kindergarten teachers told a friend with a young kinder that "moms just want the free daycare". She told her this more than once. We both pulled our kids out of that (highly rated, high test score) school. I suspect more kids are held back for "not keeping up" with their older peers, which just exacerbates the problem. Report
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. Report
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. Report
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! Report
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. Report
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. Report
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. Report
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. Report
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! Report
You really have to check out the schools but I loved teaching at home and also did it at a school Report
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!
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. Report
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. Report
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! :-) Report
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.

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. Report
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. Report
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.) Report
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. Report