Redshirting Boys for Kindergarten

Should Boys Born In The Summer Wait To Enter Kindergarten?

My girls were both born in the fall.  Once our oldest approached school age, we learned that the state of Arizona cut-off for entry to kindergarten was August 31.  We were disappointed because we felt she was ready for school socially and academically.  After exploring many alternative options, we enrolled her in a pre-kindergarten program.  When she actually started kindergarten, we noticed that she wasn’t the oldest by any stretch of the imagination.  Many children in her class, especially the boys, had been started at the age of 6.

My son was born in June.  This year we have to make the decision on whether we will start him in the pre-kindergarten program his sisters had taken, or delay it for a year.  By delaying, he would enter kindergarten just after he turns 6.  My immediate instinct is to hold him back.  After two girls, his development is staggeringly different.  Quite honestly, he is delayed in many areas compared to them.  He is less mature and less focused.  Also, his fine motor skills need some work.  His current preschool teachers tell us he’s an advanced, well behaved, sweet little boy.  When I asked them their opinion on holding him back, their response was that he would be fine either way.  But, “It doesn’t hurt anybody to give them the gift of time.”  A gift, I never thought of it in those terms.  Just some time to build maturity, so it won’t be such a struggle to focus on the task at hand when he is in kindergarten.  For those who haven’t had a child in kindergarten lately, it isn’t just colors and shapes anymore.  Children are expected to leave kindergarten reading and writing.  There is a fair amount of internal discipline that is required to complete the curriculum.

In March, Morley Safer presented a piece on “60 Minutes” discussing this topic.  It really disturbed me as I was trying to make the decision on whether to hold back my son.  He defined redshirting as, “Holding your 5 year old back from kindergarten ‘til he’s 6 so he’ll be among the oldest and smartest kids in class.”  He also stated that many parents are doing this because of a book by Malcolm Gladwell called “Outliers”.   Mr. Gladwell presents the theory that giving a child an advantage at a young age will build up every year and accumulate to an overall advantage in life.  Morley Safer then interviews two families, one that held back their son and another that didn’t.  This is where I had a big problem with the piece.  Family 1 holds their child back because they want him to have a competitive advantage.  They want him bigger for sports and they lead mom into saying she thinks this decision will help lead their child to great success as an adult.  Family 2 does not hold their child back, but felt social pressure to do so.  Mom describes how she held to her beliefs and now her child is flourishing in kindergarten, even though he is the youngest.

I really had to sit back and reflect.  I never considered holding my son back so he could be the best in his class.  I wasn’t considering this to give him a competitive edge versus his peers.  I’ve never even heard of the book “Outliers”.  I was worried that he wasn’t ready and I didn’t want him to struggle.  Worse yet, he could become frustrated or develop a poor attitude regarding school.  Upon further reflection, I really think this “60 Minutes” piece was really biased against holding kids back.  They chose the hypercompetitive family to represent all those who have decided to wait a year.  They also made the mom who enrolled her child at the traditional time as the one who was absolutely reasonable.  But, she also argued fiercely that her child was fully reading prior to entering kindergarten.  I imagine she is pushing her child more than she represents.

So what are we going to do?  I’ve started to do some introductory workbooks with my son and he is really enjoying them.  But, he’s just not ready to leave preschool.  I’m going to give him the “gift of time”.  He’s not being redshirted for sports (he’s actually big for his age).  I don’t think he’s going to be a world leader or Nobel Prize winner because he will start kindergarten at age 6.  I also don’t think everyone should make the same decision.  As all moms will tell you, every child is different.  Hopefully, I’m doing the right thing for my son.  According to “60 Minutes”, I’ll have to report back to you in 25 years to see if I was right!

Here is the link to the “60 Minutes” story :

5 Responses to “Redshirting Boys for Kindergarten”

  1. Erika says:

    Great food for thought! Kole was born on August 19th so even though we are just staring Pre-K in the fall I have wondered what we’ll do. Of course it depends mostly on who he is at that point and what we feel he needs, but taking my own experience into account I lean towards giving the gift of time. Even though this wasn’t “labeled” back when it was the end of the year for kindergarden. My school had a readiness program, a sort of transitionary year between K & 1st grade. My mom, who was a teacher in the middle school in the district first was very pro straight to 1st grade because everything I was supposed to be doing I was excelling at despite being younger and smaller than most of my classmates. Her tune changed when she decided to examine several of her gifted jr high classes to see how many had gone to “readiness” when they had transitioned out of K. An overwhelming majority had been given the gift of time. So I got to spend a year learning and growing in readiness. Did it make a difference? Who knows, I’ve got no control to compare to but I am truly grateful for that year.

  2. Blythe O'Donnell says:

    Jack did a “young 5s” class and is just now finishing up Kindergarten. It was sure the right choice for him. He is doing well and is so much more focused. Jack is also very small for his age and that was a positive factor in having his follow this tract.
    My three year old, Andy will turn four on August 28th. My first instinct is to have him do the same thing, however, he is off the growth chart for his height. That fact alone is really making me rethink his options. He is already a head taller than most of the kids in is preschool class. I feel like he will really feel different than the other kids in his class if he starts at six. We have another year to think it over, but I really am leaning towards starting him in Kindergarten next year. My thought is that is his teacher recommends another year of Kindergarten, we will likely give him that “gift of time”.

  3. Angela says:

    Perfect timing! I have to figure this out with both a boy and a girl – they’re both on the cusp! But what a difference from the girl to the boy! Nice post, Courtney!

  4. Megan says:

    I have a lot of thoughts on this topic but ultimately think that it should be a decision based on your child (as good an assessment of your child as a parent can really give). It should not be because you want your child to be the oldest, biggest, most athletic, but on whether your child just needs more “time.” At some point, however, it is just crazy. Children who turn 5 in the spring (i.e. prior to June 1st) should start Kindergarten unless they have very specific learning or behavioral issues. I think a lot of private schools in CA are starting to implement a policy where if the child’s birthday is before June 1st, they have to start Kindergarten. I have to say that unless there are extenuating circumstances, I like that policy and if it is after June 1st, I agree that you know your child best and can make the decision regarding whether they are ready. Thanks for the post Courtney!

  5. Lisa says:

    As you said earlier each child is different. My daughter’s birthday is in may and she was more than ready at age 5. My son who’s birhday is in january and was an older 5 still had a very tough time academically even though he had attended a pre- k for the 2 years prior. Plus in regards to sports i think it is normally age based and not grade based except when in school so i am not sure how much of a true advantage they will have.. Plus are u setting them up for failure by setting them up to “win” all the time.. I still say parenting iis the most difficult job we will ever have..

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