Kindergarten Redshirting: What’s a Parent to Do?

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My oldest daughter, Emma, was born on June 11th. Back in my day, most kids with a June 11th birthday would enter Kindergarten at 5 years old, so in my head I had always assumed she would go to Kindergarten the Fall that she turned five.  Am I right?

But then during her second year of preschool, I started to listen to chattering amongst preschool moms on the subject of Kindergarten, and I learned that many of them were opting to delay starting their kids with summer birthdays in Kindergarten until they had turned 6, a choice known as “redshirting.”

I thought this was typically something only parents of fall birthday babies were doing, but it seemed like summer was the new fall as far as opting to delay.

And seeing that Emma would fall into the “summer birthday” category, it seemed as if I had a decision to make, one that I sort of thought would be a no brainer. In my gut I thought Emma was ready, actually knew she was ready, but I started to hear comments from other moms like:

“I want to give my child that extra year to gain more confidence.”
“I want my child to have the advantage of an extra year of maturity.”
“I want my child to have an easier time in school because Kindergarten is so much harder now.”
“I don’t want my child to be one of the youngest ones in the class.”

Hearing their comments, I started to doubt myself, and it made me feel like sending her to Kindergarten as a (younger) 5-year-old would automatically be putting her at a disadvantage.What mom would ever want to feel like they were intentionally putting their kids into a situation at a disadvantage? Was I making the right choice?

I mentioned my fears to my husband who was a little surprised to even be having the conversation. He knew our daughter, and knew she was ready.  He also had the advantage of not overhearing all the comments.  He knew what I always knew, without the self-doubt.

But I still did my due diligence.  After all, it was a decision that would affect her for many years, and was not something I took lightly. I talked to her preschool teacher and I did the Chancy and Bruce Kindergarten Readiness Test, both of which indicated that she was ready. But in the end, I trusted my gut and my five-year-old started Kindergarten last Fall.

Looking back it was the best decision we could have made for her.  She thrived in Kindergarten. She learned, grew, matured and most importantly, she loved it. Knowing what I know now, I believe that waiting a year for her would have been doing her a disservice.

So my advice to any parent looking at this same question with a summer or fall baby would be: do your due diligence, but in the end you have to trust your gut instinct because no one knows your child like you do. It’s easier said than done, but try not to get caught up in everyone else’s opinion about what they are doing with their children ~ their child is not yours.

And once you make a decision, whether it is to start your summer baby at five or six, just know you are making the decision that is the best one for your family. Then I highly suggest staying out of the conversations lest you start to second guess yourself again! I stopped asking moms what they were doing with their kids, because I realized it had nothing to do with us or our decision.

Lucky me, I will have to make the same decision for little sister, a July 2nd birthday. And by the time she goes to Kindergarten, the age deadline will be September 1st, so she really will be one of the youngest. But we will cross that bridge, and at that time, I will have to do the same and trust my gut.

Have you gone through this dilemma?  What did you do?  What is your advice for other moms?

32 Comments

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32
  1. 1

    Great post Jen! I too went through the exact same thoughts about Ella. I knew in my gut she was ready and never would have thought twice about it if it wasn’t for all the other parents holding back. She will start this fall and I am excited for her and trust my gut she is ready. Class of 2025!!

  2. 3
    Lisa says:

    I actually held Sarah back. She has a late September birthday, but I knew she was not ready. Mainly emotionally. She was very sensitive and lacked confidence. So, for us, holding her back was the best decision we could have made. She was a completely different kid by the time kinder started. Very confident and ready to take on the world.

    • 4
      Jen says:

      Again, the importance of trusting your instinct as a parent, and how that feeling of what is right for your child is usually correct!

  3. 5
    Katie Kohn says:

    It’s great seeing a post about this! As a parent I understand all your thoughts, I had it pretty easy because mine are Feb and March Bdays. I feel like boys tend to be held more, they don’t mature as fast as girls and they have a harder time sitting still at 5! BUT as a teacher I can express how hard it is to teach a 30+ class, some just turned 5 and some now as old as 6 1/2! There needs to be a high and low cut off for Kinder. It’s getting ridiculous with parents wanting to give their kids advantages in sports etc! I get it if your child had some academic reason to be held, or their teacher recommends it, or physically and emotionally they are not ready. But it is getting pretty crazy with parents holding back so their kid can excel is sports and academics. Is that then fair to the younger kids in class? Where do we draw the line? Also as a female, do we want our child to go through puberty a year earlier than their classmates? Or a boy to be teased because he is a year older than his classmates? Will they think he flunked a grade? Will they not understand his maturity or will he feel excluded when he is older? I don’t think parents are thinking about the future. I know we want to keep them our babies forever but at some point we have to let them go. I am not against red shirting for the right reasons but as I mentioned it is getting a little out of hand! Schools should have a high and low date and unless the teacher recommends, we should stick to those dates. I have taught in California and also in 2 countries in Europe. In Europe kids are never red shirted BUT many countries don’t have a kinder curriculum as tough as ours! In some they do, in England they start to read at 3 and they manage just fine! It’s an individual decision but I have to speak out for the teachers and say how tough it is to teach to such a huge gap. That gap will remain through their school years, not just Kinder!

    • 6
      Jen says:

      Katie – thanks for your thoughts and opinions – I always wondered how this was from the teacher’s perspective. And I have to agree on the high and low cut off dates. To have a child that could theoretically be 6 1/2 and a child that turns 5 in November be in the same grade seems off to me. 1.5 years in children is a huge difference developmentally. I wonder based on the popularity of redshirting if new cut offs on the oldest birthday date will start to be considered? Interesting to think about…

    • 7
      C says:

      Well said! I’m also a mom and teacher. I work in an area with mixed mid- and low-income families. Some parents hold their kids back, but even more in my school’s neighborhood send them to kindergarten when they are still 4 years old because the parents need to work and school is free. So in my class, I have 30 kids who range in age from 4 to 6 at the beginning of the year. Thankfully, the age requirement is changing one month at a time over the next few years. But kids this school year can still not turn 5 until November 2012, so I will still be starting the year with 4 year olds. I wish redshirting was my biggest problem!

      • 8
        Jen says:

        I can’t imagine how hard it is for teachers to have such an age range. Doesn’t seem fair…

  4. 9
    JennyH says:

    Great topic Jen. There are definitely lots of discussions and opinions on “redshirting” amongst my circle of moms and as a mother of a son with a mid-July birthday I know this dilemma all to well. I lost hours of sleep worrying about him sporting chest hair in the 5th grade and leaving high school after his Junior year to tour eastern Europe with his band because, after all, he’s an adult. But, deep down, I know him, and I know that holding him is the right decision. Even if it means he’s going to be the weird hairy kid.

    • 10
      Jen says:

      You are cracking me up with your comment! And who knows, maybe his hairy chest will be the envy of all his friends?! 🙂 What is most important is that you are going with what you said “deep down” is the right decision for your family. That is usually always the right way to go! xoxoxo

  5. 11
    nicola cossio says:

    My son was born November 8th, does this mean that by the time he starts Kinder he will almost be 6?
    Then it will only be part time?
    I am from England where i started school at 3 years of age, so the idea that my son will be almost double that is quite shocking to me.
    Unless we can afford to put him in pre school he won’t benefit from a routine, organized activities and will be a year behind in my mind.
    why when you have the opportunity would you not send your child to school? I understand about them not being mentally ready, or for health reasons, but surely schools are trained to deal with such situations?

    • 12
      Jen says:

      Nicola, I believe the cut off date for starting Kindergarten this year is November 1st, so to enroll a child in public school, they must turn 5 before November 1st. At least that is how it is in our district, but I have to think it is statewide?

      So with your son’s case, yes, he would have to be 5 to start, and would turn 6 that November that he started school.

      It’s interesting to me how differently every country does things, and I am sure if you started at 3, this must seem very unusual to you!

      I think starting this year, there are some state-funded preschool and junior K programs available for kids. I would definitely inquire at your school he would attend to see about options for him. I would Google “California State Funded Preschool Programs” for info. I am assuming you are in CA?

      Thanks for your comment…

      • 13
        Jen says:

        And, there is talk that the deadline is supposed to move up one month each year, so this year it’s November 1st, next year supposed to be October 1st, then finally September 1st.

        I don’t know if this will be how it goes along, but I do know for sure the deadline for this year (2012 – 2013) school year is November 1st.

        xo

  6. 14
    Michelle says:

    I have two boys, both born in the summer had I realized that “when to put them in kindergarten “would be such a heart wrenching decision I would of had my children in the spring. Having been a kindergarten teacher in the past I knew all the reasons were perfectly valid. Now, our schools cut off is in sept1 ( which all schools will be going too eventually) any way my oldest son’s birthday is August 25th right on the cusp. I wrestled for what seemed like forever with the decision. I absolutely felt like I had his his entire school career in the palm of my hand. He tested ready so that didn’t help, my husband was all for holding him back for sports reasons, and in my heart I knew he wasn’t mature enough and was frustrated easily but still i wasnt sure. Was it a good idea to hold him back and have him be the oldest? I have a degree in Child Development this should of been a no brainier but nope I stewed over it until the absolute last day! However Boys and Girls are very different developmentally. Girls mature much faster than boys in fact by middle school girls are about 6 months to a year ahead of boys, by high school girls are almost 2 years ahead of boys. Yet another reason I wanted to hold him back.
    My other son on the other hand has a June 4th birthday and even though we are still a year away from having to make that decision, we are already discussing whether or not to hold him back. I gave his brother the extra year, is it fair not to give him the same opportunity ? One big rock in the road is …. sports. See once you turn 18 you can no longer play high school sports!!! At least that is my understanding. My boys are all about baseball, so while I know there is a lot of time before they are in school that would totally suck if midway through the baseball season they were told they couldn’t play! And I can’t imagine him turning 19 before Graduation!!! Seems so old. I graduated at 17 for goodness sakes!! But my husband is almost a full year older than me and graduated in my class . So there ya have it.
    I have to say my youngest is nothing like his older brother maturity wise so I’m not so torn on the decision. But holding my oldest back was the BEST decision I could have made. Now going into first grade he is more confident he is reading and writing without the fights, without all the frustration!
    In the end it’s your decision and don’t let anyone else sway you. I personally don’t see a reason to hold girls back, unless they are clearly not ready. Good luck!

    • 15
      Jen says:

      Thanks for your comments Michelle – I know – it’s seriously like holding their future education experience in the palm of your hand! Such a great analogy.

      Us too have the double whammy as little sis, although only 3 weeks younger birthday wise, will be in the same scenario in 2 years.

      However, when Emma started, cut off was Dec. 1 and when Morgan starts it will be Sept. 1 which is a big difference.

      I think both you and I will need to do the same as we did with our oldest ones, and look at the younger ones as individuals at that time and make the best gut decision. UGH!

      Seriously – winter or spring birthdays would be so much easier!!!! I had NO idea!

    • 16
      Christy says:

      Having 2 boys with summer birthdays who “started late” I totally agree that it is a personal choice. My oldest will be a junior in high school and my youngest a 7th grader. (“Red Shirting” 12 years ago was even more of a controversy.) My personal opinion is that the age difference is more of a factor in 6-9th grade – not in K-2, but in the end it all shakes out.
      But in regards to high school sports, we play at a D1 high school in Orange County and there are a ton of seniors playing varsity sports who are 18.

  7. 17
    Misti says:

    What a great topic and yes, every child is different. One cannot listen to the “chatter” in preschool.

    The thing that parents have to discuss is the future. Do you want to have a 15 year old finishing middle school or a 16-year driving before their freshman year ends in high school (taking into account that some kids will turn 6 before graduating from a junior Kindergarten program)? Some kids will be fine, will thrive and will love being older. Others will not like being 19 and graduating high school.

    It really is a huge decision and yes, go with your gut on the decision-making and stick with it. I have an early Sept boy that we “pushed forward” into Kindergarten. He is thriving and is entering 3rd grade this fall. Every teacher he has had said it would have been a disservice to him to give him the extra year, and they would never have known he was “so young”, but they believe he is where he should be.

    Will it come back and bite me in the future with sports? Maybe, but so far he is happy, is challenged in school and is in a great place for his social & emotional development. I still get the crazy looks from parents when they realize just how young he is, and often have to explain the reasoning, but so far, I am happy with our decision for our kid. No two situations are the same.

    On another note, I took my son to Chauncy & Bruce in HB to be tested. I still have his results. They recommended to give him the bonus year based solely on his birthday (no other reasoning aside from that). Since we tested there, I was able to look at their office. All material was about the benefits of another year and the risks of pushing forward, not one mentioned the benefits of entering Kinder when the law states you’re ok to do so. I keep that letter just to remind myself that everyone did think we were crazy….but so far, I don’t regret not listening to a such a reliable outlet or the “chatter”.

    It is a tough decision for every parent. No matter what each family decides, we must be supportive of the 4 year olds and 6 year olds entering Kindergarten. They are what matter most.

    • 18
      Jen says:

      Great points. And I have to say, Chancy Bruce was HEAVILY biased on the additional year. Definitely something to take into account for anyone doing that testing!

      Interesting to get the results – but again – no one knows your child as well as you do.

      Awesome that he is thriving!!! Probably reassuring for many parents who are considering starting Fall birthdays because they trust their gut it’s the right thing to do.

  8. 19
    Elizabeth says:

    This is a great topic. My son started Kindergarten last year with an early June birthday as well. I, too, heard chatter and even had other parents tell me their opinion of what I SHOULD do. His nursery school had no qualms with him being ready to go. Nor did we. Interestingly, while exploring options, we had him apply to a highly sought after private school in the area. My husband and I were sitting in the interview with the director of the primary school who said, “Hmmm…Chip is a little young.” I was, like, what? She said they don’t traditionally take kids born after June 1. (Ok, can I have my application fee back??!!!) He ended up getting in (there were older kids in his nursery school grade who did not). When I discussed him enrolling with the private school, the director of Admissions told me that as of that day, he would be the second youngest boy (another boy with a late June birthday)with a few girls with June-July-Aug birthdays (the school does not admit to K unless you are 5 by Sept. 1). Then as we were deciding, the director called and said that boy was going to wait a year and re-apply. And by, the way, there were going to be kids in the class with April and May (and on up) birthdays from the previous birth year. So, Chip would have had kids over a year older than he. We also have a really good public school district. That combined with the astronomical tuition at the private school made the decision really easy. About mid-way through the year, I found out that Chip was the second YOUNGEST kid in his Kindergarten class of 22 kids! His closest buddy I found out was 13 months older than he is.

    So, I laid out the details. In the end, Chip did really well and was totally ready to be in K. I also never doubted it, but sure was aware of the peer pressure to redshirt. I volunteered in the class quite a bit and I have some observations that are not scientific–they are just mine. Some of the older kids are also bigger. Many of them easily being taken for 7 year olds. One example of many: There are tricycles in the Kindergarten playground and some of these boys and girls are too big for them. I am wondering what this will mean for kids who may well be hitting puberty before their younger classmates. Especially for girls developing early. In summary, I agree that you have to do what is right for your kid. Everyone tries to do that, I’m sure. There just may be some things to keep in mind. Thanks for starting the discussion!

    • 20
      Jen says:

      Thanks Elizabeth for sharing your experience. It sounds like trusting your instinct that he was ready to go was the best decision for your family. It will be interesting to watch the kids of this generation grow up with the age differences, like you said through puberty and high school. It’s so foreign for me to think of high school seniors being 19, when I myself graduated at 17, and didn’t turn 18 til November. Good for you to not giving into the pressure to do what you thought was right for Chip. It’s hard when others are giving you “that look” when you share your decision.

  9. 21
    tenille says:

    I think the hardest part about this is all the rumoring. Like they changed the rules vs the school districts actually changing it. To my knowledge, the preschool that my daughter is in has changed their classrooms to align with 5 by Sept 1 rule.

    So I assumed that is in place, at least in Irvine. My daughter is late Oct and we don’t have a choice of go in early or not. At this point its a hard and fast rule, from what I hear from a friend that works in the school district office. This is definitely a do what feels right type of thing, though as many of us will shortly find out, its out of our hands really for the after Sept birthday group.

    • 22
      C says:

      FYI, a district can’t supercede the state law. If you want to start your child this year and she/he will be 5 bu Nov. 1, 2012, you are legally able to do so. Any school or district who is not letting you do so is working against the state law, probably in an attempt to raise testing scores.

    • 23
      Jen says:

      Thanks Tenille for your comment…even when 5 by Sept. 1st goes into effect, those of us with Summer babies will be in the same boat – to send at 5 or not to send. I am wondering if then the summer birthday decision will move up to spring? Should be interesting to see…

  10. 24
    Heather Thome says:

    EXCELLENT topic! So glad you addressed this. I have a 6 1/2 year old (DOB 12/8/05) and a 2 yr. old (DOB 6/11/10). It hasn’t affected my youngest yet, but I certainly experienced it with my oldest. Currently, with the start dates as they are, she missed the cutoff by about 1 week. I wracked my brain about what to do. All her friends and most pre-K pals were moving on to Kindergarten and not her. I was worried she would feel sad at everyone leaving her behind. She never brought it up. She missed them but got over it quickly. It did also help that we moved to another school. I never met one person who said I would be sorry that she started late and it would probably be to her advantage. I agree 100% that you need to follow what you know about your child and not what others say. She probably would have done fine in Kindergarten had I pressed to start her early. But now, having seen my little Kindergartener graduate, I know it was the best choice to wait. Curriculum readiness is only part of the equation in my opinion. In that extra year I also saw her bloom with more confidence and self assuredness than she had before. It’s so hard isn’t it, to not pass along our worries for our kids TO our kids. They do pretty well on their own. Thanks for such a thoughtful post. This seems to always be such a hot topic 🙂

    • 25
      Jen says:

      I LOVE that you have a 6-11 baby too!!!! I think given a December birthday, I would have definitely did what you did as well. Glad to see that everything worked out best with her.

      The June baby will be likely harder to decide, but the nice thing is that you have already experienced Kindergarten and elementary school with your oldest, so you will probably be able to make a really good gut decision at that time based on whether you feel your child is ready, and knowing the demands of kinder. Thanks for your comment…

  11. 26
    Cheyenne says:

    Hi Jen, my now 16 year old has a summer birthday. When she started kindergarten I felt she was ready but, now, in retrospect, I wish we had waited a year. By 6th grade, we noticed her maturity level lagged a bit behind her peers. My concern now is college–will she be ready to go soon after turning 18? My husband and I want her to go to school in our city so she can still live at home one more year before going off on her own.

    • 27
      jen says:

      Thanks for your comment, Cheyenne! I wish as parents we could have a crystal ball to know if the decisions we are making today will be the right ones 10 years down the road. But I guess once you make a decision you have to just move forward. Thank you for your input as a mom who has been down this road.

  12. 28
    Holly says:

    Great topic. We had this issue with Ava. Her bday is Nov 8th. And yep, she started kindergarten when she was 4. I definitely lost sleep over it!! But, she had always been a confident, smart child, and I realized that I needed to stop listening to all the talk about redshirting! She completely thrived too, so I clearly did the right thing. She did remarkably well in 1st grade too. I do worry about about the upper grades…I know it all is so much harder than when we were in school. And I COMPLETELY agree with the teacher above (Katie). It all needs to stop at some point! There absolutely should be a cut off on BOTH ends. Last year at Back To School night, I went home and cried my eyes out because the boy sitting next to Ava looked like a 3rd grader. I completely second guessed my decision to send her ‘early’ (even though I was actually sending her on time!) *sigh* It’s all so hard. She is tiny to begin with, so when she is in class with kids who not only ARE older, but look 3 grades ahead of her, it is hard as a mom. Having said that, socially and academically, she has performed so well. So I don’t have any regrets. I graduated high school when I was 17 too, and I did just fine.
    Now, my younger one. She has a late Sept bday and will make the cut off for kinder next fall. *sigh again* To send or not to send….She is definitely different from Ava. Less secure, more clingy to me, not as ‘mature’ as Ava was at this age. So who knows what will happen next fall???

  13. 29
    Jen says:

    My youngest daughter has a June 30th birthday. She is feisty, outgoing, and bright. I never questioned whether we should send her at the age of 5. She was ready.

    By the time she hit 1st grade, I started to strongly suspect she had ADHD. After fighting everyone (including my husband and her teachers who never thought she had it) I had her tested. And sure enough, she tested on the high end if the ADHD/inattentive spectrum.

    I have days where I wish we had given her an extra year as maturity definitely seems to help each year. But then I think holding her back would have done her a disservice since I really believe she would have been bored.

    Is there a right answer in my case? Probably not. Your advice to follow your gut is spot on. No one cares for our children like we do, and ultimately we only want what’s best for them.

  14. 30
    w w says:

    Don’t do this. You don’t know what the future holds. My nephew was very bright, eager to learn. Sister missed deadlines to put him in private/public schools. Already year late.
    Middle of 8th grade, moved across country, didn’t meet standards and held back. 10th grade, moved back, held back again. Had to fake age and residency to get a school to accept him as an over-age senior. Summer schools weren’t enough, he was denied graduation and now has to pay for GED at 20.
    Please prioritize education enough to keep kids on their normal age and grade track.

  15. 31
    Katie says:

    Hi Jen, I just came across your blog in my search for answers and you couldn’t have said my feelings any better!! I’m curious, are you still happy about sending your daughter at 5? Or looking back do you think an extra year would have helped! Would love any hind sight input! Thanks!!!

    • 32
      jen says:

      Hi Katie! Thanks! I now have a 1st grader (girl, birthday July 2nd, sent her at 5) and a 4th grader (girl, birthday June 11th, sent her at 5) and both have excelled in their grades so I have not regretted our decision. I trusted my gut with both girls, and my gut was right :). Good luck!

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