Kindergarten Redshirting Should Not Be The Norm

red shirt kindergartener

Have you heard of the term Redshirting? I had never heard the term until about 3 years ago when my oldest daughter was about to enter kindergarten. As she was finishing up her final preschool year, the hallway was buzzing with overzealous mothers inquiring whether or not others were sending their child to kindergarten in the fall. I was confused because I never knew that I had a choice.

I remember one mother asking me if I would be sending my daughter to kindergarten. I indignantly answered, “Yes. Why wouldn’t I be?” I was insulted. Did she think my daughter had some sort of deficit?

I started kindergarten at the age of 4 and I was always in the top of my class. I didn’t see why a parent would request that their child be held back or voluntarily put their child in a year of junior kindergarten rather than let them move on to actual kindergarten unless the child was developmentally delayed or extremely young for their age, in size or maturity.

My curiosity got the better of me and I really wanted to know why these parents were about to choose to hold their child back, rather than let them move ahead to kindergarten. Some of the answers I got from parents made a lot of sense and others, not so much.

One mother said she was holding her son back another year because her husband felt that it would give the little boy an advantage in size and dexterity for sports when he was older. To me, this sounded unfair to the child and a little bit like cheating.

Another mother told me that she would be putting her son in junior kindergarten to give him an extra year to catch up intellectually. At first glance this made the most sense but the more I thought about it I realized that when you start kindergarten you learn basic skills – preschool is mostly about socialization, so what exactly was the child behind in? Would holding him back only be delaying the inevitable?

The majority of the moms told me that they were considering junior kindergarten because they felt their child was not emotionally mature enough or that the child was simply still too young to handle the rigorous standard of five-day-a-week, full-day kindergarten that most schools now employ. This made sense to me because no one wants to set his or her child up for failure.

I still feel that redshirting to give your child an advantage is crazy, but in the end, parents know their child better than anyone else and we know what our children can handle and what they cannot. But at the same time, we can’t protect our children from everything that might take effort in their lifetime. Our children need to know that if you want something, sometimes you need to work really hard at it to succeed. There is a sense of accomplishment in the persistence of trying and eventually succeeding. What message are we sending to them, if we take away their chance to even try?

Image via Flickr/Surajram Kumaravel 


What do you think?

Kindergarten Redshirting Should Not Be The Norm

Deborah Cruz, @TruthfulMommy, is the creator of The TRUTH about Motherhood, an often humorous and brutally honest look at motherhood. She's a writer, a wife, and a work-at-home Mommy who's trying to do it all well. She live in the Midwest with her 2 little girls and her husband. She has a lot of degrees from a bunch of schools but mostly spends her days shuttling people under the age of 7, while trying to maintain her sanity and she wouldn't have it any other way. She talks a lot. She ... More

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  1. Alison says:

    I redshirted my May daughter due to developmental issues. When she started kinder, she was the oldest, and the most immature child in her class. It was hard for her to sit still and focus, despite the fact that she was the oldest. Her motor skills were also delayed, as evidenced by her drawing and writing compared to the other kids. Teachers can tell which child is the youngest without knowing, and they thought my daughter was the youngest. She receives special education + services since kinder. My daughter is now in 4th grade and constantly asks me why are all the kids her age are in 5th grade and has been doing this all year. Many days she refuses to go to school because of this and she is really emotionally devastated by the fact that kids her age are a grade above her. Everyone tells me I won’t regret redshirting but I am starting to question whether this was the right decision for her.

  2. Fiona says:

    I was always one of the youngest in class and have always loved it, and also loved the fact that I can do the same things as what others nearly a year older than me can do! I would never want to hold my child back and would encourage my child to develop as much and as early as possible!

  3. Stacey says:

    From a kindergarten teacher point of view….
    The law is the law. Children who are 5 years old by a given date should attend kindergarten. Those who are not eligible- will not. I know I sound like a politician. I just don’t believe that parents should hold their kid back a year to be the oldest, the smartest, the best player on the sports team,more time to mature,etc. What happens when a parents make the choice to hold their child back a year, then the teacher in 4th grade or another grade says the child is not meeting standards and gets held back again. Now the child is essentially two years behind his/her peers. This can be difficult for the child during puberty. This may affect him/her socially and emotionally. Overall, please consider all the options and then make a decision that is best for the child.

  4. Rebecca says:

    My brother is 11 mo. older than me. We lived in WA and he was put in preschool around age 4. When he was turning 6 (Sept.) and I was turning 5 (Aug.) I guess she found that we both were in the cutoff age to start kindergarten. He was oldest in his class w/preschool, I was youngest and this was my first school experience. We moved halfway through the school year. I was bright but very shy and my teacher suggested holding me back. I never regretted it and was never teased about it. I was so glad not to be in my brother’s grade and I loved being the oldest in the grade. I noticed that a few girls in my class that were moved ahead a grade developed slower and were self-conscious about it, dressing & grooming to overcompensate for it. Girls had a harder time because they self analyze and compare so much. Some were less mature and were often teased. These girls really struggled in junior high and some didn’t get over it all through high school. There were a few guys that were very academic who were younger or skipped grades but it seems socially guys didn’t make as big of a deal about things and maybe they didn’t mind being smaller because they had higher self-esteem academically.

  5. Janika says:

    All of my 7 children started school at age 3. They actually looked forward to it – just as much as I did. But I guess everyone’s family is different. I look forward to sending my first grandchild to school when he turns 3 – which won’t be for another 2 years. Until then, we’ll prepare him to want to go to school…after all, that’s where you get to color & meet new friends and learn new songs & eat lunch…it’s where the fun of leaving home begins!

  6. Jessica says:

    My step son started kindergarten when he was 4, his birthday was days before the cut-off and his mother chose to enroll him. His father & I thought it would be better to have him wait, and by the first conference it looked like we were right. 2 months into school they were already talking about having him repeat kindergarten.
    That’s where some parents don’t seem to understand, just because he is smart enough to be in kindergarten doesn’t mean he is ready. His learning level is is good, the problem ALL school year has been getting him to sit still & to focus. He had a year & a half of preschool/pre-K & still his problems are that he is more immature. I was fine in school, at first anyway, & I was only a month older than him, but there seems to be a lot of truth in boys not maturing as fast as girls. Not in all cases of course, and that certainly doesn’t make girls better it does affect how effective schooling is.
    I agree you need to let kids try, & that using sports as a reason isn’t a good reason, but that doesn’t mean all kids are ready to start. I think it would be better for a child to start kindergarten later then for them to be held back, especially if birthday timing can be the reason. Once your held back you have the stigma with you the rest of your school career, even if the other kids aren’t saying anything they are still thinking you were held back because you weren’t smart enough to pass the grade.

  7. Tricia says:

    I agree. Unless a child is clearly struggling with either the basic concepts of numbers & letters or socially I do not think I would hold him back. The long day would be my only consideration, but my son is in daycare/preschool and the day there is even longer, so I doubt that would be a problem

  8. Lisa says:

    3 of my 4 kids started school late because of birthdays (almost 4 in preschool and almost 6 in Kindergarten). 2 of them had birthdays within a week of the cutoff and I could have fought to have them enter kindergarten early but I didn’t and I’m glad I didn’t. I am thinking of keeping my now 5 year old (who is in kindergarten now) back for next year. This year they only offered a 1/2 day k but next year plan to implement a full day and I think she needs the full day before going forward in first grade. I went to a pre-first class and I didn’t care until I was older but I also went to school with a lot of kids who were held back in K…. It amounted to the same thing and as an adult I don’t care either way. The only long lasting affects for them are going to be positive.

  9. What I can’t get over is that people who hold their kids back are going to have seniors who are 18. And what if they fail a grade or get in some kind of accident that makes them have to repeat a grade? They’re going to graduate at 19! The dynamics in that house are going to be very odd..

  10. plaingraces says:

    I have a similar issue with my oldest son and there are children one and a half years older than him just because of sports. However, my son will be 17 when he graduates and that concerns me a little, but he was ready when we sent him at the age of 5.

  11. I think you’re holding your kids life back a whole year if you hold them back from starting Kindergarten. I know I would feel like my parents took a year of life from me. I also think if you’re already a year older when you graduate college you’re going to be less likely to pursue graduate school.

  12. Josey says:

    Thank you SeibelLynn for speaking for the rest of us. I agree with everything you said and validate it. While my first born was ready for Kindergarten at 5 our middle child, who is undoubtedly sharper when it comes to learning, is socially immature and will benefit from another year doing preschool at home. Starting a child who isn’t ready can have far reaching effects. I think the author is being judgmental and should try a little harder to understand the other side of this issue.

  13. Angelica says:

    In my state my child must be 5 by late sept. My didnt turn 5 till October . so he missed the cut off by a month. Only a month. and still got held back another year in prek. He started prek at 3 almost 4. was 5 abt to be 6 when he stared Kindergarten

  14. SeibelLynn says:

    As a preschool teacher, I have to say there is NOTHING wrong with giving your child an extra year before sending them to kindergarten. There are many children who, for various reasons, are not ready to attend kindergarten when they turn 5. The current kindergarten curriculum in most districts is intensive and stringent, and most are full day programs. Children who are immature, either socially or academically, often struggle greatly in this setting. As a teacher I can tell you that a child’s first year in kindergarten often sets the tone for all their school years. I can also tell you I’ve talked to hundreds of parents. I have had many parents express regret that they pushed their child to go to kindergarten when they were developmentally not quite ready. Know how many parents express regret about giving their child an extra year to develop, grow and mature? ZERO! I understand that it is silly to hold a child back so they have a sports advantage – but to ensure that your child has the best possible start in their formal schooling? That is a GOOD reason, and shouldn’t be mocked.

  15. rukunitl says:

    The thing that I have been battling is my son’s age, in my state if your child is not born before September 1 ththey cannot attend kindergarten, so I had to put my son in private prek. I do not have a problem because I attended preschool first and than kindergarten. I think that as long as you build a strong foundation at home, your child will succeed in every grade!

  16. JoyRied says:

    I’d rather teach my kids the basics then send them to school.

  17. Mounique says:

    My twins both went to Head Start, Preschool and Kindergarten. They had been given the diagnosis of Autism. All this schooling was of great benefit for them and helped them adapt socially.

  18. Brenda says:

    My small community has parents that do this all the time for the sports reason. I do not feel it is right and would never do it.

  19. PrettyBoogs says:

    The only way i would hold my child back from proceeding to the next lvl of education is if they were clearly struggling. G

  20. Elfie says:

    I went to pre first and I hated it. I felt like I wasn’t good enough for first.

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