There are so many variables to consider when making the kindergarten start age decision. And as parents, we're lucky to have the right to make these choices and to discuss them with each other. We spoke with several moms who shared the why behind their very personal decisions to send their children to kindergarten on time, or to "redshirt" or hold them back.
Sometimes children just aren't ready to start their school career. Katie Hurley, child and adolescent psychotherapist, explains, "Kindergarten redshirting can be beneficial for kids who need a little extra time academically and socially. Some kids aren't ready for the long days and extra academic push that occurs in K today, and an extra year can provide the necessary time for emotional growth and maturity."
This was the case for Kathy Taylor's son, Nolan, whom she decided to redshirt in preschool. She says, "Our son's late July birthday would have made him the youngest in the older 4's or the oldest in the younger 4's programs. Redshirting him meant most of his friends would move on to K, but not him. We were informed by the teachers and director of the school that, while it was nothing to be worried about, Nolan was not ready for the older 4's because he was behind in his 'cutting with scissors' skills! We were also told he wasn't quite ready to focus for longer periods of time. We put our faith in these teachers because, after all, they had much more knowledge and experience than we did."
Kathy has no regrets about her decision. She says, "Today we have an 8-year-old boy who is happy socially, and is at the appropriate levels for reading and math as he is preparing to enter 2nd grade this fall as the second oldest in his class. While bright, he is not ahead. Kindergarten was perfect and so was first grade. In fact, looking back on it — comparing where he was at in kindergarten to first grade — he never could have handled it if we didn't hold him back for a year. A deciding moment for me back on that fateful day when we found out about Nolan's scissor-cutting deficiencies, was realizing that kids are only kids for so long. We have the rest of our lives to be older and grown up. Why rush it? I'm glad I didn't."
Redshirting was originally defined in terms of sports: Keeping an athlete out of varsity competition for one year to develop skills and extend eligibility. When looked at it in this light, kindergarten redshirting incites passionate responses.
Margot Black is a firm redshirting nay-sayer. She explains, "I believe in pushing our children ahead, educating them properly, letting them compete fairly and teaching them to go forth unafraid — and that starts at a young age. Redshirting can manipulate the system and doing it from kindergarten bets on our children's inadequacies instead of praising their possibilities. Let's not hold ourselves back but let our kids know we expect much of them and most importantly, that we have faith in them."
This is exactly why Margot decided to send her son to school on time. She says, "My son did great in kindergarten, so well in fact he often placed at the top of his class for math and reading. Imagine his enormous sense of pride in his own achievements. My son held his course and thrived — on his own. We did, however, enroll him in karate classes once he got to kindergarten because some of those kids that have been redshirted are freaking huge!"
The discrepancy between children in size and ability is one of the concerns that school districts have about redshirting. Hurley explains, "Many parents choose to hold kids back for athletic reasons or simply to 'get ahead.' If kids who are ready for K both socially and academically are held back, they're at risk for becoming bored or acting out in the classroom."
Remember: It's your decision
Every child and every family is different and as parents we're so very lucky to have a voice in this decision, to be able to thoughtfully make it and — importantly — to talk to each other about it. Former teacher Jodi Durr believes this. Durr sent her daughter Abby to kindergarten on time, even though she was the youngest in her class. She says, "Abby was ready both socially and academically, but this isn't to say that every child is. We need to be aware of and respect the development process for all children as individuals. I believe the choice of when to send a child to kindergarten and whether to do half or full day is completely dependent on the individual child and their readiness."
Hurley agrees, "Redshirting should be reviewed on a case by case basis." And that case, is your child. So like all things related to parenting, listen to your gut, your child's teacher and the moms next door as you make this decision.
Share with us!^ Let's keep the conversation — and thoughtful decision making — open. Did you redshirt your kindergartener? Would you? Leave us a comment below.