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A Year Later: Redshirting Your Kindergartner

A Year Later: Redshirting Your KindergartnerAbout a year ago I shared how our family decided to Redshirt Our Kindergartner. He turned five right before kindergarten started last fall, and after much debate, we came to the conclusion that he was just not ready yet to make that transition to kindergarten. Our school district does not offer a transitional or pre-k program, so we searched elsewhere for a preschool program that we felt fit our needs. We ended up at local church preschool that has a program (four half-days a week) just for older four- and five-year-olds. I am happy to report back that I feel like we absolutely made the right decision for our sweet boy, and I could not be happier with the choice we made and the progress we have seen from him!

I know many people who have children with summer birthdays struggle with this issue every year. I honestly can’t tell you how many hours I spent thinking, researching, and talking about what choice we should make. So now that I’m on the other end of it, I thought I would share with you what I’ve learned.

*This sometimes seems to be a heated topic so a quick disclaimer: This is our experience and I understand each child and family is different. What worked for us is not the right answer for everybody.

We obviously have no way of knowing if our son would have had some of the same outcomes if we had gone ahead and sent him to kindergarten this year, but here are some of the things I have noticed as huge benefits to waiting.

Maturity

He has matured so much in this last year. He is in much better control of his emotions, and the frequent emotional meltdowns of the past are few and far between now. When he does have the unusual meltdown he is much easier to talk off the ledge and can quickly regain control.

Academic Readiness

He has really taken off academically this year. He was not anywhere close to reading at the end of preschool last year, and now he is reading and sounding out words like crazy. I really think this year helped to solidify things from four-year-old preschool, making him a more confident student.

Other Factors:

  • I love that we were able to give him a chance to attend a Christian preschool. It has been so fun to see his faith develop and to see the differences in public and private school.
  • The very selfish part of me loves knowing I was able to get an extra year with him at home before “real” school starts. He has always been my little sidekick, and having him around is so fun.
  • If I’m being honest, even things like size, coordination, age he would be upon going to college, the fact that he is a boy, etc., all weighed very heavily on our decision as well.

This felt like such a huge and important choice and I am thrilled we don’t have a single regret in holding him back. I can say with 100 percent certainty that if we were ever faced with the same decision again, we would make the same choice.

Have you been faced with the same situation? What did you do?

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54 Responses to A Year Later: Redshirting Your Kindergartner

  1. Crystal April 9, 2015 at 5:11 pm #

    Great post! My son is 4 and turning 5 on April 30. He has a speech delay and it was recommended to us to hold him back and wait a year for kindergarten. So he will be 6 when he starts kindergarten and turning 7 at the tail end of kindergarten. It has been a little rough on me knowing he is always going to be the oldest but I know that if we did start him this year that he would easily become frustrated and end up doing poorly because of his speech. He will be a completely different little boy in a year and I’m excited to wait and send him when he is ready 🙂

    Also, wanted to mention, when you are facing this decision it is crazy how many people come out of the woodwork of having to make the same decision for their child. It is not so abnormal now.

    • Katie Cox April 9, 2015 at 9:12 pm #

      Yes! I was super surprised at the number of people who deal with this issue!

    • Dawn April 14, 2015 at 11:31 pm #

      Hi, thanks for sharing! My kids attend a christian private school and you wouldn’t believe how many kids start much later. My daughter’s class has several kids that are a year to almost 2 years older than she is. So I’d say it’s becoming the new norm.

    • Lisa April 18, 2015 at 3:18 am #

      crystal, my son is also an April 30th birthday. We red-shirted him as well. Best decision ever. He is the oldest but only by a few days to others in his grade. He’s in 1st grade & is a leader, so happy & well adjusted. You’ll never regret it.

      • Crystal August 10, 2015 at 1:34 pm #

        Hi Lisa — would you be willing to share what school district you are in? We are in Des Moines Independent.

    • Christina April 18, 2015 at 5:17 pm #

      My son would have turned 5 in December. I chose to keep him in a pre-K program and send him to a private (small) Kindergarten the following year. When he attended first grade at the public elementary school, he was 6 and turned 7 in December. Best choice I could have made. He experienced tremendous academic success and graduated high school cum laude. He was still small compared to other boys in his class and did not attain his full height until after graduation. I made this decision because I was also a December birthday and got sent to Kindergarten at age 4. Academically, I did well, but Junior High/Middle School was a nightmare of being bullied for being physically small. I did not want my son to go through that.

  2. Margaret April 9, 2015 at 6:51 pm #

    Katie,

    As a preschool teacher, I so appreciate you sharing this life experience with other parents. REDSHIRTING, what a great term to use. Personally, we red shirted our 20 year old, 15 years ago and we have NEVER regretted it. But, it is such a personal decision.
    Thanks for sharing!

    • Katie Cox April 9, 2015 at 9:14 pm #

      Always good to hear a preschooler teachers perspective, Margaret!

  3. Kaylan April 9, 2015 at 7:50 pm #

    My son’s birthday is September 12. The cutoff for kindergarten is September 15. I was so worried about sending him to school when he was 4, going to turn 5. We decided to keep him in preschool another year next year. He is big for his age, so looking at him you wouldn’t know it. But I’m confident that he needs it for his maturity level!! And I just kept thinking about sending him to college as a 17 year old, not even 18 yet. Couldn’t do it!! Reading your post is pretty much the same thought processes I had 🙂

    • Katie Cox April 9, 2015 at 9:15 pm #

      I think maturity is just as important as academic readiness!

  4. Marnae April 9, 2015 at 8:02 pm #

    We too have a son with a summer birthday and mulled over the decision with great care, research, and advice. I couldn’t agree more with the things you’ve said. We had a very similar experience. Now almost through his kindergarten year, he was more focused in a classroom situation, more excited (though still nervous), and more in line with development of the other kids at the start. He has become a reader, a math and science lover, a musician, an artist, a pal, and a leader. Would have he become this anyway? Perhaps, but with less confidence and gusto, and much more struggle at an earlier starting point. That said, a boy we know with a birthday a week before my kiddo’s is thriving in 1st grade this year. I am happy with our decision for our situation. And don’t feel too selfish, our sidekicks got to be playful kids a little longer, an important learning tool in itself!

    • Katie Cox April 13, 2015 at 2:59 pm #

      I really do love the fact he got one more year of just being a kid without the school pressures too!

  5. Lisa April 11, 2015 at 2:31 am #

    We also redshirted our daughter last year. She turned 5 two weeks before the cutoff. She knew all her numbers and letters and was even reading very easy books at that point… but she was soooooooooooooo SHY!! We found a church preschool program that she could do full day preschool 3 days a week and her world opened up! She absolutely loved the extra year of preschool and quite honestly learned everything she learned this year in kdg last year. It has not bothered her one bit to repeat any of that. Just to test my theory that we made the right choice, I’ve asked a few times if she wanted to move up to 1st grade (at the beginning of kdg) or recently, skip 1st grade and go to 2nd next year. She absolutely wants nothing to do with moving up to the grade she “could” have been in. She is exactly where she should be! Best decision ever.

    • Katie Cox April 13, 2015 at 3:02 pm #

      The emotional and social part is such an important piece of the puzzle!

  6. Cindy April 12, 2015 at 4:44 pm #

    Being big sports fans my husband & I have always used the term “redshirt” for kids attending a pre-K class. Both have July birthdays. Our son was in no ready at the end of his 4 yr old preschool class so there was no debate with him. Two years later with our daughter I remembered hearing the regrets of a mom with kids older than mine. She felt her daughter was ready for K but then when puberty issues hit she wished she had redshirted her.

    • Katie Cox April 13, 2015 at 3:01 pm #

      It is much easier when it is a cut and dry decision, that is for sure!

    • Missy April 18, 2015 at 12:22 am #

      YES!! I am a kindergarten teacher. I felt VERY qualified to decide that my daughter with a late July birthday was ready for kindergarten in every way at age 5. Now she is in 5th grade and I regret sending her instead of waiting a year. She was fine in the earlier grades, but in 4th and now 5th I wish she had another year of maturity to help her deal with all of the “girl drama” that is going on at school. I feel like I was short-sighted as a kindergarten teacher and only saw things at that level. I wish I had looked at alllll the years ahead and thought about how another year would influence her experiences. :-/

      • Lisa April 18, 2015 at 3:24 am #

        Missy, this is such an important piece to this puzzle!!! Many of the issues younger kids in s grade don’t start to come out until the middle school
        Years. I was a prime example of that. I have an August birthday & was young for my grade. I always felt a bit behind on the maturity & emotional part of life. I think I would’ve been a leader rather than a follower had I been redshirted. I’m a big big proponent of waiting with children. Thanks for bringing this part of the piece up!!!

  7. Becky April 13, 2015 at 1:24 pm #

    This title facinated me. I don’t have kindergarteners any more, but I do have two boys with summer birthdays. My older son has graduated, but he has struggled with what to do next. I feel it is because of maturity issues having graduated so early. For that reason We have just decided to “redshirt” our rising HS freshman. We homeschool, and even our son agrees that he will do much better spreading high school out over 5 years. Looking back I wish I had “redshirted” both of our boys in K-5.

    • Katie Cox April 13, 2015 at 3:03 pm #

      Thanks for the comment Becky. I do think “redshirting” is much more popular now then when your kids were little.

  8. Trisha April 13, 2015 at 4:16 pm #

    A year ago I was in the same place you were with a little girl who wouldn’t turn 5 until the first part of September. It wasn’t until the pre-school teacher suggested pre-k that I even considered not sending her to kindgergarten. As a high school teacher I asked a lot of my students with late-August & early September birthdays how they felt about being either the oldest or youngest. Overwhelmingly the older kids told me they were glad to have been held a year and my young for the grade all wished their parents would have waited. Hearing it from the kids perspective made the decision a lot easier!

    • Katie Cox April 13, 2015 at 5:16 pm #

      That is really interesting information from the high school kids! Thanks for sharing!

  9. Heather April 13, 2015 at 4:39 pm #

    Our daughter is in preschool two days a week this year and will be three days next year. She turns 5 two weeks before the cutoff. We have a while to figure it out but i think about it a lot what we will do. She is 3.5 now and already knows her letters, numbers, shapes, colors, and about half the sounds. She is in gymnastics and dance. She however is pretty shy and i think keeps to herself and prefers playing by herself. I keep thinking if i hold her back though will she be bored another year in preschool. I don’t know what to do. And like i said still have a little while to think about it.

    • Katie Cox April 13, 2015 at 5:18 pm #

      I was also very worried about my son being bored, but we ended up a great preschool and thankfully that is far from true. Good luck with your decision!

  10. Sonya Love-Smith April 13, 2015 at 7:15 pm #

    I, too, have struggled with this decision. I, myself, am a September 15th baby. My parents made the choice to send me oh so many years ago. I often wonder what my life would have been like if I would have been “red shirted”. Would academics been easier for me? Would my social life have been different? Who knows. Now, I have a January baby & a July baby. The January baby was a no brainer. Had she been able to go to school the year before, I would have sent her! The July baby…well, let’s say that I knew from the day she was born I would “red shirt” her. I faced criticism from many people but had more people tell me that I needed to do what I felt was right for my child! Now, that being said, I had always told other parents (I am a preschool teacher) that they should just go ahead & send their child. It was the school’s job to help them learn! Make those teachers work! I hadn’t ever thought about it from the child’s perspective! That was, until I had my own July baby. Her activity level, maturity level & academic drive all made this a very real situation for my husband & I. The best choice I have made for her, besides sending her to a private school with small class sizes & a wonderful staff & family like atmosphere, was to hold her for 1 more year. I now teach in the school she is at. I look at the 2nd graders (the grade she is “supposed” to be in) and think…”She would have failed miserably!” She isn’t ready for that level of work yet! She fits into her class of 8 very well. Her academic achievement, her size, her maturity level…all point to a successful 1st grader! Now, I encourage parents to do what they think is best! It’s ok to be “held back” or “red shirted”. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    • Katie Cox April 14, 2015 at 1:23 pm #

      My youngest is a March birthday, it does make it easier when they have a birthday that makes sense to just send them on to kindy. Thanks for commenting. I always love hearing from a preschool teacher perspective!

  11. Elizabeth April 14, 2015 at 1:09 am #

    We sent our son Jack (July Birthday) to K @ 5 upon recommendations from his Pre-K teacher. After K Jack was promoted to first grade (public school). I had a lot of reservations but we sent him. After one year of first grade, my mother instinct really kicked in. Jack was immature compared to most of his classmates, struggling to keep up and was almost a year younger than most of his classmates. I dislikef the fact that he would be graduating highschool at 17. Again the school recommended pushing him along….this time I didn’t listen. I started researching private schools and got Jack on a waiting list at a Catholic school. Two weeks before the school year started we got the call from the Catholic school that they had an opening. I took this as a sign to go with my gut……turns out BEST DECISION EVER!! What a difference a year makes….and I credit the small, private, personalized education too! Listen to your instincts, they never dissapoint.

    • Katie Cox April 14, 2015 at 1:22 pm #

      You are a wonderful momma and a great advocate for your son, Elizabeth!

  12. Amanda Van Horne April 14, 2015 at 1:14 am #

    An interesting read on how class & gender influence the decision to redshirt in preschool:

    http://curry.virginia.edu/uploads/resourceLibrary/4_BassokReardon_Redshirting.pdf

    • Katie Cox April 14, 2015 at 1:22 pm #

      Thanks for sharing the article Amanda. It is interesting!

  13. Crystal April 14, 2015 at 1:35 am #

    I have one daughter with a mid-November birthday who is currently 6 and in kindergarten. Last year, the cutoff in our state (Michigan) was Nov. 1. I knew 100 percent there was no way I was going to send her to all-day kindergarten at the age of 4. I couldn’t be happier with my choice and the fact that I’m so fortunate to have a Young 5s program in our district certainly helped. She’s currently reading near a second-grade level, she’s in two book clubs and an extra math club per her teacher and her skill level. Even with this high level of academic success, I’ve had to see her endure several speed-bumps with other kids because of different maturity levels. This is such a hard, hard thing to deal with for a parent of a child with a “sandwich” birthday. It’s also hard for her because most of her friends are only five months older than her, but they’re in first grade and she doesn’t understand what she’s done wrong. Still, I come from a mindset that I’d rather have to pull my child up later down the road if necessary than to have her repeat a grade and always be underwater. That being said, so many ignorant people don’t understand how much time, energy and stress a parent must endure before making such difficult decisions for a child. I had one person say to me condescendingly, “Oh, you held her back.” Well, if the state says she’s not ready, then I guess I’m not the one who held her back. On the flip side, her teacher (and many other teachers as well) are thrilled when a child is not thrown into the fire before it’s necessary. I’ve seen kids start at 4 and have to face a variety of unnecessary hurdles if their parents had only waited a little longer. Bravo for taking care of your baby now and making sure the future is built on a more solid ground!

    • Katie Cox April 14, 2015 at 1:21 pm #

      I wished our district did a young 5s program, but I am so glad we were able to find a wonderful program at the local church. I also hate the term “held back” 🙂

  14. Jamie April 14, 2015 at 10:54 am #

    Hi. We redshirted our soon to be freshman many years ago and I can still say (this many years later) it was one of the best decisions I have made! He is a leader among his peers, has self confidence, and is an outstanding student. Going into high school next year, my son tested into all honors classes. I have no doubt redshirting him made all the difference!

    • Katie Cox April 14, 2015 at 1:20 pm #

      I hope I can report back with the same results in a few years, Jamie!

  15. Laura April 14, 2015 at 1:01 pm #

    My husband and I made the opposite choice for our son (who has a Sept birthday) and I think we made a mistake. At age 4 he was tall and articulate and people often thought he was older than 4. We were proud of his “advanced” level and thought pushing him forward was a superior option. However, in school, he had problems with self control and with the complexity of the Kindergarten environment. He looked and sounded like a Kindergartener, but he was always struggling to keep up. And looking back over his entire school career, I believe that he continued to have maturity related issues every year. I’d definitely make a different choice if I could do it over.

    • Katie Cox April 14, 2015 at 1:19 pm #

      Thanks for the comment Laura. It is so hard to know what the right choice is especially when they seem ready.

  16. Christina April 14, 2015 at 1:31 pm #

    We decided not to red shirt. My son has a Nov.3 birthday and in MI the cut off at the time was Dec. 1. Currently it is Sep 1. We did the same…research, consult with others, stress about this decision.

    Gratefully, we had a half-day K option where we tested the waters. If it didn’t work we were going to repeat K full day.

    He is in 2nd grade and we did not repeat. He is thriving academically. He is very social and could read at 4. We were advised not to send him by many. One reason was he was a boy. Other reasons the athletic ability would be better if he was older.

    We valued the challenge of academics at school. Either way we would have to supplement at home to either challenge him academically if we held him back or social/emotional if we sent him.

    He does struggle with his maturity so we do have to work with him on social/emotional. One advantage is that he has to rise to the maturity level of his older classmates.

    I don’t think I could have supplemented his academic need if we held him back.

    I think when making this decision….parents know their child best. Listen to others but in the end it is your decision. Go with your deep gut instinct to make the decision.

    • Katie Cox April 15, 2015 at 2:12 pm #

      I think you make a good point…each child is different and what works for one family most certainly will not for another. Glad everything worked out well with your son!

  17. Megan April 14, 2015 at 9:42 pm #

    I have struggled with this decision all year. My son is currently 4 years old and in a 5 day a week pre-k, he is the youngest in his class with a June 30 birthday and it definitely show maturity wise but we had the additional complication that he has a brother that is 11 months younger so they would be in the same grade if we redshirted him. We have decided to move him on to kindergarten because we felt it was better to deal with him being the youngest in his grade then having both boys in the same grade but I have to say I’m frustrated with the whole situation. I feel like redshirting has become out of control, my child is on target for his age and what he need to know for kindergarten but I stress over if he will be ok being the youngest and smallest since he will have kids almost 2 years older then him in class. The teachers see an older 6 year old as being the norm now and so the young 5 year old who fit the age guidelines for kindergarten are seen as immature. I think the schools need to reevaluate the age guidelines for kindergarten and either change it across the board or not allow so many parents to redshirt their children.

    • Katie Cox April 15, 2015 at 2:13 pm #

      I totally agree. I know it is not uncommon to have almost a 1 1/2 age difference in kindergarten classes, which at that age is a HUGE difference!

    • Trista April 15, 2015 at 4:25 pm #

      Yes, Exactly, if we all held our children back there would still have to be a oldest child and a youngest in the classroom. I do not agree with red shirting unless there is a disability.

  18. Louise April 14, 2015 at 9:43 pm #

    I really wish that my parents chose to redshirt me. I was advanced academically and actually took high school classes with my peers a grade above me. But I was extremely shy and struggled to make more than a couple of close friends. I was always the last to experience things like puberty, driving, seeing R-rated movies, etc. At 17, I was WAY too young to go to college. But every kid is different. It would take a LOT to convince me to send my child early.

    • Katie Cox April 15, 2015 at 2:14 pm #

      I went to college right after I turned 18, so I totally understand where you are coming from,Louise!

  19. Lisa April 16, 2015 at 5:38 pm #

    I have B/G twins who are about to turn 4 in June & am already thinking about red-shirting them for Kindergarten. My worry is that my son may be ready while my daughter won’t be & I really don’t want them in different grades. This is what I really worry about I guess.
    It may be that by the end if pre-K 4 the decision will be easier as they will have matured & developed over another full year.

    • Katie Cox April 17, 2015 at 8:27 pm #

      Good luck with your decision, Lisa. I’m sure things will be much more clear after pre-K

  20. Janet April 17, 2015 at 2:07 am #

    I red-shirted my daughter 25 years ago – tough decision back then and I know she hated that decision for years. BUT, I always knew it was in her best interest and after withstanding the pressures of being the “oldest girl” in high school, the benefits began. Driving & drinking earlier than her peers and excelling school in school out-weighed the downside. She became a successful attorney and I’ve never looked back. Despite the horribly tough decision then, I’d do it again – it’s the ‘ol “gift of time”. Holding a boy back, not such a big deal. I did that too, boys love being older.

    • Katie Cox April 17, 2015 at 8:29 pm #

      Perspective is such a gift. If we were ever in the same position again, I am positive we would make the same choice without giving it a second thought.

  21. Jenny April 17, 2015 at 8:15 pm #

    my daughter turned five in August. One day before kindergarten started. She had gone to a five day a week preschool but not for a full day. We constantly went back and forth. Her teachers believed she was ready and she seemed ready for kindergarten. She is our third daughter and the most outspoken although she is a little more reserved at school. I didn’t want to hold her back just because of her age and also worried about the negative affects of underestimating her. Our oldest daughter was in all the honor classes but was still being short changed. The school she had been attending had the means for children who struggled, but not for ones on the other end. We saw the negative affects of that and luckily we were able to do something about it.
    So far my kindergartener does very well, and seeing her reach her potential does help us feel better about our descsion. Although I admit occasionally when I read things like this I wonder if we should’ve waited another year but I believe we did what we thought was for the best. We sent her on to kindergarten knowing that if she needed, she could always repeat.

    • Katie Cox April 17, 2015 at 8:29 pm #

      Jenny, it sounds like you made a great choice for your family. Such a hard choice!

  22. Kathie April 18, 2015 at 4:25 am #

    28 years ago, in Muscatine, IA, I was angry at first when my daughter’s preschool teachers told us it would be a good idea for her to wait a year.
    She was well ahead in academics, but emotionally needed more time.
    Feelings of inadequacy on our, the parents part, at first, but when I really stopped to think about it, it had nothing to do with US, as parents, it was about HER.
    Keeping her back a year was THE BEST thing we did for her! She was able to handle what she needed to at school and she has been able to handle life and do well in it!

    • Katie Cox April 20, 2015 at 8:08 pm #

      Thanks for the comment Kathie. I think as parents it is natural to want your child to feel like they are not behind or not struggling in any areas. So glad you were happy with your decision!

  23. Kari April 20, 2015 at 8:04 pm #

    On the other side, my son is a late August baby and we did not redshirt him. I struggled with whether we should or not, my mom redshirted my younger brother who was also born in late August but it ended up coming down to our district. In Oklahoma we have a PreK program within the public schools. It’s free but you can not be 5 — you must be 4 by Sept. 1st to enroll. So if we were to put him in that (which I knew I wanted to, I was a teacher-librarian at the school he was going to be at and I wanted him there) he’d have to go in. He started before he even turned 4 — the youngest kid in his class but he did very well.

    This year in Kindergarten he’s done quite well and has gone from not reading to a 2nd grade level since last August. So for us it worked out. He’ll be 5 when he starts 1st grade this coming Fall but I know he’s ready.

    I have nothing against redshirting … I only comment for those who might be where we are, that it can work out just fine if you can’t redshirt or keep going back and forth trying to decide.

    • Katie Cox April 20, 2015 at 8:10 pm #

      Thanks for giving another perspective Kari. I totally agree that redshirting is not for every child/family.

  24. Christi April 21, 2015 at 2:37 am #

    Oh this weighs on me so much. My daughter was born on August 30th, and the cutoff is September 1 for a grade. She’s literally 48 hours away from being in a different grade. She’s not even 2 yet, but it’s still something I think about often. I’m going to have to make the decision a bit closer to time, obviously, but I love hearing others’ experiences with it.

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