It use to be that the only place you heard the word “Redshirting” was in college athletics. The term is used when a student athlete wants to sit out a season in order to play in their fifth year of college. Now if you type “Redshirting” into a Google search engine, you will get a mix of listings for both college and kindergarten. What does “Reshirting” have to do with Kindergarten you ask? Well it is the new phenomenon of holding children back a year and giving them an extra year of growth before they start Kindergarten. It has become quite controversial and its abuse has made it difficult for parents who really feel that their child needs an extra year.
As you may know, my 5-year-old was born 4 days before my state’s Kindergarten Cut off Date. He should have been in Kindergarten this year and despite my case that he was too young emotionally, I was told that I would have to send him or hide him for the next two years. I chose the latter of the two options and he is now happily enrolled in Montessori preschool this year and will be in their Kindergarten program next year. In our state, it is a town by town decision and my town is adamant that if you are 5 before September 30th then you must be enrolled in Kindergarten. Twenty minutes south of my home, in the state below us, the cutoff is September 1st. In that state my son would not be allowed to start Kindergarten until the fall.
The decision to hold a child back from starting Kindergarten is usually based on social or academic reasons. Some children born on or around the cut-off dates struggle when it comes to social behaviors and basic academic skills. In these cases, parents would like to give their child an extra year in order to grow and hopefully be more prepared for the next 12 years of school in front of them. Unfortunately some parents are holding their children back for other reasons. They want to give their child an edge in academics, set them up for leadership roles and some even hold their children back for athletic reasons. Many children with birthdays 6-8 months before the cutoff dates are being held back for these reasons and because of this more schools are cracking down on their policies.
There is however an opposite phenomenon going on. Some schools and districts actually push for “Redshirting”. In order to have schools with high achieving students and high test scores, they’d rather their population be a year older. They encourage parents to hold back their children and many oblige feeling great pressure.
In my opinion, every decision to hold back a student should be looked at on a case by case basis. In the end the parents know their child best and they should be able to work with the educators to make the best decisions to help set their child up for a successful school experience. If a child’s birthday is within two to three months of the cut off date (more in certain extreme cases) and the parent feels that there is a reason that they should not go to Kindergarten on schedule, then they should be listened to. Schools should not be allowed to push students through who are clearly not ready. And at the other extreme, parents should not feel pressure to hold their students back if they feel that they are ready. And as for the helicopter parents who want little Johnny to have an advantage on the basketball court, stop making life so difficult for the rest of us.