Kindergarten is stressful for parents.
Do you send your child at five? Or six? How about seven?
Last weekend, 60 Minutes reported that redshirting, or holding a child back from starting kindergarten, is increasingly popular among middle to upper class families. Why? Because these parents want their kids to be competitive in sports and academics - and hope that age and size matter. But, they're not alone, many schools want older kindergartners, too. "Sometimes teachers look down on the parents that put their kids into Kindergarten at age five (or late fours with September birthdays) and are pushing people to wait. Then, teachers encourage holding the younger students back an extra year because they didn’t compare to the seven year olds in the class." says Kristina, a mom in the San Francisco Bay Area.
It's a big topic of conversation this time of year -- here's what parents are saying . . .
Yes to Redshirting
Mom blogger Lynley Phillips agonized about the decision and writes, “Currently Isaac has strong reading skills, math skills and writing skills. We attribute these things to a quality preschool, an intrinsic love for learning on his part, and my tendency to purchase every workbook I come across. When he does enter the Kindergarten classroom is he going to be bored to tears when phonics are discussed? Possibly. Will he entertain himself to hold off the boredom by getting in trouble? Likely. He is a boy. . . . So, yes, we are redshirting kinder this year.”
Amy Mascott, mom and teacher decided to red shirt her son and explains that when he does go, "He will be a more eager learner, a more patient friend, and a more capable student. And it is our simple wish that our decision to wait on Kindergarten will set him up for a more successful—worthwhile, meaningful, pleasant, and fun–thirteen years and then some."
Blogger and teacher Danielle writes, “I taught kindergarten and started the year with a four-year old who didn’t turn five until October 15, and a seven-year old in the same class. The seven-year old was reading chapter books and thought that the songs and story centers were babyish. The four year old was able to meet the academic requirements of our school but was completely unprepared emotionally and socially for the rigor of full day kindergarten. She cried often, sucked her thumb, and had a hard time sharing."
She adds, "As a child development specialist, there is an enormous difference between the academic, social, and emotional needs of a four-year old and a seven-year old. The teachers at our school were encouraged to tell parents, “I have never known a parent who regretted giving their child and extra year to grow and mature, and I have rarely met a parent who was glad they sent their child with a summer birthday to kindergarten on time.”"
No to Redshirting
ML Nichols, blogger at The Parent Backpack and MA 2012 Mom Congress delegate sent her girls at age five and writes, “For us, sending our summer birthday girls to Kindergarten at five was the right decision.”
Bay area mom, Kristina, can't believe how out of control it is, "I think anytime I've talked with a friend about kindergarten they've asked if i'm going to hold my son back or have him start when he is 5... his birthday is in February, so I am totally sending him when he is 5. He will be ready... though not sure if he'll be ready to compete with the 7 yr olds."
Writer, Amber Johnson, is glad she enrolled her son at age five saying,”I feel confident I made the correct decision for him because he is thriving.” Later she references this NY Times article and adds that, “every child’s circumstance is different and for some children, holding them back is the correct decision. But this article confirmed my belief that these instances should be in the minority, not majority."
Redshirting Depends on the Child
Most educators and most parents agree on one thing -- redshirting depends on the child.
Meryl Ain, educator and administrator, writes in Huffington Post,, “The decision of whether or not to hold a child back from kindergarten should be based on the individual youngster's social, emotional, and academic needs and development, not on a parent-instigated race with other kids.”
"Now days, kindergarten is more academic," says teacher, Danielle. "A teacher cannot possibly know a child as well as a parent does. A teacher can share their experiences and share the academic and behavioral expectations. Then I think the parent must decided what is best. And unfortunately, that decision may cause a huge age discrepancy in our kindergarten classrooms."
How Do You Decide?
Psychology Today writer, J. Richard Gentry uses Deborah Leong and Elena Bodrova's Tool of the Mind research as a guide for these questions about a child's self-regulation readiness.
• Can my child sit and pay attention?
• Can she reflect on her own thinking?
• Can he consciously remember something and make an appropriate plan of action?
• Can she take turns?
• Is he able to cooperate with others?
• Does she have enough maturity to be empathetic with peers?
• Does he have stamina for completing an activity?
• Can she remain focused on a project without adult intervention?
So, I wish you good luck and tell you this . . .
Parenting not easy.
There isn't a right answer.
Be your best self and breathe.
It will be okay.