Academic redshirting, or holding your child back a year in school, has become increasingly more popular over the years. The phrase academic redshirting is a play on a term typically applied to college athletes (especially football quarterbacks) who sit out a year to hone their skills. Most often, parents redshirt a child before he/she starts kindergarten.
As I was researching the subject, I found that In 1968, 4% of kindergarten students were six years old; by 1995, the number of redshirted first- and second-graders had grown to 9%. And by 2008, it had risen to 17%. It is interesting to note that the majority of redshirted Kindergartners are Caucasian males with summer birthdays whose parents are college-educated.
Kindergarten cut-off dates vary widely from state to state, ranging from Aug. 1 to Jan. 1. In my home state of Georgia, a child must be 5 by Sept. 1 to enter Kindergarten. My son turned 5 on July 17, which is what has put us in the thick of the redshirting Kindergarten debate.
My son is second-born in the birth order with a laidback, affectionate personality and has historically had no behavior issues at preschool. So exactly why am I redshirting him for Kindergarten?
5 Reasons for Redshirting Kindergarten
1. Academic Expecations
Ask anyone from Generation X or the Baby Boomer generation, and they’ll agree that Kindergarten has really changed over the years. Whereas once many Kindergartens were half days, most now are full-time, meaning a child is at school upwards of 7 hours a day. Some claim that the longer school Kindergarten days directly correlate to increased pressure on standardized testing.
Today’s kindergarten curriculum is more academic than in the past. And after my oldest son (December birthday) went through Kindergarten last year, I feel even more confident with the decision to redshirt my second-born son. The pace of learning sight words and eventually reading would have been too much for my second son this coming year.
2. More Seat Time; Less Play Time
Along with an increased focus on standardized testing comes a decrease in creative play time, naturally. Kindergarten used to be more of a transitional year, but now has been termed the “New First Grade” as Kindergartners are compelled to do more and learn faster.
As a mother of multiple boys, I know how difficult it is for boys to sit still and remain focused for any amount of time. Some teachers are wonderful at catering to boys, but there’s no guarantee your child will be fortunate enough to have those teachers.
My oldest son attended a private nature school for Kindergarten, which was very hands on. The small class size and multiple outdoor classrooms catered to boys and all types of kids who thrived off moving more vs. sitting more. But this school is not an option for my second son due to a change in tuition costs for us.
So I truly am excited for my sons to take the public school route. I have nothing against public schools, in fact, they offer some great benefits that private schools cannot. But I do know that public school classrooms have a higher student-to-teacher ratio, which puts more pressure on the teacher to manage and control all those little bustling bodies in any sort of orderly fashion. So between classroom management and a boosted academic curriculum, seated time is much more common in Kindergarten than in preschool.
3. Developmental Delays
A developmental delay is when your child doesn’t reach certain milestones in a time frame comparable to peers. These delays may be found in the skills of speech and language, motor, cognitive, emotional, social and behavioral. If your child has a borderline birth date and sees a specialist for any delays, it’s a good idea to talk through your redshirting questions with the specialist to get a better feel for how your child would do in Kindergarten.
At two and three years old, my son had a speech delay and saw a speech therapist regularly. He continues to check in with a therapist two to three times a year to ensure he is on track. He still measures slightly behind the speech curve, but not enough for intervention. Some would argue that enrolling him in Kindergarten would allow him access to any special services he may need, but our city has a program in place that gives kids access to these special services as toddlers and preschoolers before public school begins.
4. Ongoing Health Issues
If your child has health issues and a birth date near the Kindergarten enrollment cut-off, redshirting should be a consideration. You should think back to the past year, especially if your child attended a full-time or part-time preschool, and recollect how many days of school were missed due to health-related issues or illnesses. Some health issues improve with age as the immune system matures, so redshirting your child may benefit him or her when it comes to health issues.
At age two, we discovered our son had a chronic illness that will forever affect his health and diet. Though he is a happy thriving child and from the outside his illness is not recognizable, it still exists and causes symptoms that flare up periodically. He’s on much more medication and has many more doctor’s visits than the average kid. For him, catching a respiratory virus could mean at the very least breathing treatments and rounds of oral steroids or at the worst hospitalization.
Though he will be attending full-time public school Pre-K this year and be exposed to a lot of kids and germs, there is less pressure on attendance in Pre-K than in Kindergarten. If he has to miss a week of school due to health reasons, it’s ok. I’m hoping his body will continue to adapt as he ages and fight some of the health symptoms caused by his chronic disease.
5. Gut Instinct
It’s true that you know your child best when it comes to making schooling decisions. Maybe you’re worried about confidence levels or social interactions or size or a late-summer birthday. Maybe you’re thinking that the gift of time would do a world of good for your child. Whatever you’re thinking, you’re probably right.
For me, the personalities of my first-born and second-born sons are drastically different. One is a leader; the other a follower. One is uber confident; the other wants to get someone else’s opinion first. These characteristics may be a combination of birth order and personality traits. Regardless, both are curious, rowdy and have engineer-like brains.
Due to health issues, academic expectations and his unique personality traits, my gut instinct has told me for a couple years to hold my son back. In fact, he started morning preschool in the younger class—the class that he will be in when he’s redshirted for Kindergarten. He’s done wonderfully as the oldest in his class—and I doubt you would ever know that he was older. Socially, academically and emotionally he is on par with all his classmates. He has no behavior issues at school (he saves those all for at home!) and he has loved attending preschool three mornings a week.
Public Pre K
As I mentioned earlier, my redshirted Kindergartner will attend public school Pre-K in the fall. I feel very confident about this decision for him. Because he will be one of the oldest in his class, he will transition to making the leap from morning preschool three days a week to full-time preschool five days a week. He no longer naps, so that won’t be an issue for him, and I think that full-time Pre-K will set him up beautifully for the increased expectations of today’s Kindergarten the following year.
And with another baby boy due late July or early August, I will have this same decision to make a few years from now. I will not automatically redshirt him because of his late summer birth date, but instead will consider all the other factors involved before making such a big decision.
What are your thoughts on redshirting Kindergarten?