5 Reasons to Redshirt Kindergarten

Almost from the time that I discovered that our twins would be “summer babies”, I had school on the brain. Specifically, wondering how being the youngest in their class would ultimately affect them. And that certainly weighed on me as I carefully selected their preschool, ensuring that the program I chose had a “bridge” or “transition kinder” class just in case. Fast forward 3 years later, and it was decision time. No pressure, right? My husband and I spent weeks agonizing over the options, meeting with their preschool teachers, and consulting other parents. Ultimately, we made the choice to “redshirt” and head for transition versus trotting them off to traditional Kindergarten. {I should stop right here and say that I’m not a huge fan of the term “redshirt”, but I dislike “holding back” even more – so for ease of communication, we’ll call it redshirting.}

Clearly, this is a very personal decision. What is right for my family may not be right for another. But for those of you with summer babies, I thought it may be helpful to breakdown our decision. Only time will tell if this was the right choice, but in my heart of hearts, with the information I have currently, I feel strongly this is the best thing for the twins now. Why? So glad you asked…

Redshirt Kindergarten - Featured

1. Social/Emotional Maturity ::

After much observation amongst their peers and friends, I noticed a bit of a gap in the twin’s maturity levels and theirs. My sweet, albeit sensitive, son gets his feelings hurt quite easily, often resulting in tears and tattling. The kiddos that are older tend to be able to stand up more to hurtful statements, but he’s just not quite there yet. And my daughter, vibrant and passionate about pretty much everything, has what we’ll call a patience problem. She’s always going to be Type A and strong-willed, but I think an extra year to grow and realize that the world doesn’t revolve around her desire to move onto a different activity will be massively beneficial. I’m pretty sure Kinder is not an appropriate place for tantrum throwing.

2. Kindergarten Preparedness ::

If I’m being honest, academically I believe my kiddos would have been just fine doing Kindergarten-level work. But since my preschool offers an amazing Transition program, they will be able to work on readiness skills, while at the same time still embracing the philosophy of play-based learning. Research shows that young minds are best molded when they are at play versus sitting at a desk. I want them to have that for as long as possible. Kinder has changed dramatically since I was in school almost 30 years ago. Back then, half-days were the standard, and we still had things like sensory bins, sand and water stations, and we sat on carpet squares not at desks. I just can’t imagine my wiggle worms sitting still for up to 8 hours per day. Simply put, Kinder is the new first grade where expectations are HIGH, especially in our upper middle class suburb. It’s serious business, y’all.

3. Beyond Kindergarten ::

For us, redshirting is more than just waiting a year for Kinder. It’s thinking ahead to the junior high years or sending a newly turned 18 year old off to college {hopefully!}. When I think of middle school and all the social and emotional challenges that come with those formative years, I much prefer my kids be the oldest versus the youngest. I want them to be confident in their ability to stand up to peer pressure and to lead instead of follow. Not that the youngest aren’t capable of that, but I think they will be better prepared by being a year older.

4. Physical Stature ::

Now stay with me on this one. I am NOT holding them back in order to give them some sort of athletic advantage later on. No ma’am. But I can’t ignore that by far, they are the smallest among their peers. For my daughter, it’s not so much a problem. I’m short, and most of my life, I have embraced my size. Not that I didn’t experience teasing or challenges, but I think it’s easier for girls to be on the small side. However, for my son, his friends are starting to notice the dramatic height difference {sometimes as much as a head taller}, and they are making comments, innocent though they may be. But I can’t pretend that those comments aren’t going to just progressively get worse. Because he’s on the younger side, he doesn’t quite have the maturity to deal with them effectively, but I believe if I give him an extra year to build his confidence, it won’t be so heartbreaking. Let’s be honest, even with giving them an extra year to grow, they are still probably going to err on the small side of their class. But I think they will be better equipped to stand up for themselves.

5. The Gift of Time ::

For the twins, this extra year will give them time to master skills at their own pace, plus gain confidence in their ability to do tasks. Sometimes, they simply won’t try something because they are afraid to fail. Or they get incredibly frustrated and completely melt down. Kindergarten teachers don’t have time for that in the pressure cooker environment that is now our school system. {I’m not even going to go there – it is what it is, standardized tests and all.} I want to do everything possible to cultivate a love of learning in my kids. I would hate their frustration of feeling behind because of an 18 month age gap in the classrooms that may hinder that.

And I’m not going to lie, I’m looking forward to this “gift of time” too. I don’t have another child coming up in the ranks, so this is literally my last year to have them somewhat at home with me. And as long as the days can be, I’m not 100% ready to send them off for an 8 hour day, 5 days a week. I want to soak up this last year and the sweetness of this age. I don’t want to race through their childhood. Instead I want to embrace the philosophy of “let them be little.”

Let me reiterate :: THIS is what is best for OUR family. Your decision-making may look different. You know your child best. Trust your gut. I don’t have a crystal ball to see how redshirting will affect my kids in years to come. But as many an educator has told me, they rarely, if ever, hear a parent say they regret the decision. That brings me some comfort. Time will tell, but until then I will revel in this extra year to love on my babies.

What are your thoughts on “redshirting”? What are your experiences? Any regrets? Let’s get a respectful dialog started below!

{I know this can be a sensitive subject for many — let’s keep it clean, y’all!}

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36 Responses to 5 Reasons to Redshirt Kindergarten

  1. Danielle July 31, 2015 at 8:29 am #

    I’m in exactly the same situation, boy/girl twins born in August 2010. We decided to redshirt this year and enroll in a transition class for nearly the exact same reasons (only difference is my son is as tall or taller than most of his friends). Great post, thanks for sharing!

    • Meagan C
      Meagan C August 3, 2015 at 8:48 am #

      Thanks for reading, Danielle! Best wishes for a great year 🙂

  2. Caitlin July 31, 2015 at 8:51 am #

    Speaking as someone who was redshirted, I hated the fact I was constantly having to explain why I was older then everyone else. I have resented my parents for years because I was constantly bullied about it. My parents gave me the same answers for why they did it as you have listed, but that never was enough fit me.

    I also fit a lot better with the grade above me so I did not have many friends in 8th and 12th grade.

    • Meagan C
      Meagan C August 3, 2015 at 8:48 am #

      Thanks for sharing, Caitlin!

  3. Samantha July 31, 2015 at 9:38 am #

    Great post! Is this a public school? I have an August baby, and I’ve heard at HISD you can’t “redshirt”; if you show up with a child in the age range for 1st grade, for example, and try to register for Kindergarten, they’ll shoot you to first grade! Do you know if that’s true?

    • Meagan C
      Meagan C August 3, 2015 at 8:49 am #

      Hi, Samantha! This actually is a private preschool. Not sure what HISD’s policies are. I know in our local ISD, that’s definitely not the case 🙂

    • Nicole P July 25, 2016 at 8:38 pm #

      They may try but ultimately the choice lies with the parents. Even SBISD tried to put my son in Kinder. I said no.

  4. suzi kehler July 31, 2015 at 1:03 pm #

    My son was also not kindergarten ready. He needed more time at home and to develop skills. I must admit that I had babied him, and 25 years later, I stll do. There was never a regret over keeping him home an extra year. When he did start school, i volunteered whenever possible. I would bring his younger sister with me and i noticed how she jumped in and completed the work that the other kids were doing. I had no problem putting her in kindergarten because we were confident of her ability to keep up. This decision is as individual as your children! Do what feels best for you. You know your kids better than anyone And it’s your responsibility to do what is best for them. Thanks for listening!

    • Meagan C
      Meagan C August 3, 2015 at 8:50 am #

      Agree totally, Suzi! Thanks for sharing your experience and reading!

  5. Suzanne Jones, Ed. D. July 31, 2015 at 10:38 pm #

    My published dissertation is on the topic of academic red-shirting and life satisfaction. The results were significant in favor for boys to be red-shirted (I did not study girls). My research was a mixed method design where parents and students overwhelmingly responded with the thoughts that there are no negative aspects of being the oldest boy. I should state that I was studying boys in suburban areas where the schools could challenge any of those who were so far ahead academically that their parents feared they would be bored. Besides that, what could be wrong with being slightly more mature as a teen or starting puberty before others (or on time if the child is late for their age)? There is very little research that truly isolates students that are red-shirted rather than those who repeated a grade once issues arrived.

    • Meagan C
      Meagan C August 3, 2015 at 8:51 am #

      Wow! Love that you did a dissertation on redshirting. And of course, I love the results 🙂

    • Kristen Dennis January 6, 2016 at 2:52 pm #

      Dr. Jones,

      I have a 2.5 year old son (summer birthday) and my husband and I are fairly confident in our decision to delay his start to school by a year, but we are afraid that we will regret our decision in the end. We love the private school we’ve chosen, but simply wish to have our son home an extra year before starting a 5-day a week program (half-day pre-K normally starts at age 3, then there’s full-day Jr-K and then full-day Senior-K that would start at age 5; kids begin learn to read/write starting as early as pre-K!). I tried to find your dissertation online but am having no luck. Would I be able to get a copy of your work to read? I’d love to see the data! Thanks so much in advance.

    • Jennifer February 28, 2016 at 10:35 pm #

      Dr. Jones, I’d love to read a copy of this! My mother is a former elementary school principal and lifelong educator. She thinks my August-born son will be bored, but I’m inclined to old him back. Would love to arm myself for that debate! 😉

  6. Chasity August 1, 2015 at 8:07 am #

    My oldest son, an August baby, started PreK shortly after turning 4 years old. He was one of the youngest boys in his class. He also had a language delay. He started speech therapy that same year. I do not regret putting him in school esrly because he was able to begin his therapy early. He went to Kindergarten and First grade with the same PreK students. My son kept up with the students academically; however, we chose to hold him back in First grade. Initially, it was hard but two weeks into his second year of First grade and we’ve never looked back. We started early, but we had an extra year of therapy early on. Thus us a decision I will never regret. My younger boys are May babies and both are in their “regular” age group. It works perfect for them.
    Thanks for sharing.

    • Meagan C
      Meagan C August 3, 2015 at 8:52 am #

      Sounds like that early therapy was massively beneficial to y’all. Thanks so much for reading and sharing your experience – every family has to do what is best for them for sure!

  7. Jennifer August 1, 2015 at 5:39 pm #

    I have summer twins (July 2004 boy and girl) and I did not redshirt them. I started them at the age of 5. I did this to see if they were ready because the pre-K program said they were but it was my choice. Turns out, they were ready and now about to start 6th grade at the age of 11. I think it all depends on the child and my twins have no issues being one of the youngest in their classes (they are actually not the youngest because there are a TON of summer babies that have birthdays either right before or right after theirs). Great article, I really enjoyed it!!!

    • Meagan C
      Meagan C August 3, 2015 at 8:53 am #

      Thanks so much for reading, Jennifer! So glad y’all have had a great school experience – you definitely just need to know your kiddos and sounds like you did!

  8. Annette August 2, 2015 at 8:27 pm #

    Of my 3, the older 2 were summer babies. They went to preK and were academically ready for Kinder. Once my daughter hit about 6th grade, the social/emotional gap became apparent. It was then too late for my son who was already in 1st by then. Both of them had a very difficult social/emotional time in Jr. High and High school. In contrast, my 3rd child was an October baby so she has always been an older one in her grade levels. I would say that they are all just as academically able as the other, but my 3rd child has always been more self-confident and out-going, as well as academically successful. I wish I had held my first 2 back when they were at the Kindergarten level. I would say that anyone who does will not regret it!

    • Meagan C
      Meagan C August 3, 2015 at 8:54 am #

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting, Annette! I think social/emotional maturity is just as important as academics, as you stated here. We do our best, right?

  9. Katie August 8, 2015 at 12:23 am #

    Great read! I am struggling with this exact issue as I have a late August boy. Thankfully we still have a year to decide. I am curious about the “transition school” mentioned. Our MDO program ends once they turn 5. How did you find the “in between” school?

  10. Jennifer August 8, 2015 at 11:20 pm #

    I red-shirted my son (he is now 10). It’s the best decision I feel like we ever made for him as a parent. I did it in public school too. The principal said, “If a parent feels this is best for her child, then we respect that. She knows him better than anyone else.” I was worried he’d be bored and her reply was, “You don’t worry about him being bored. It’s our job to keep him challenged.” Number 3 on your list was my biggest reason for red-shirting him.

  11. Brandi August 9, 2015 at 3:53 am #

    I have been a first grade teacher for many years, and I truly believe it just depends on the child. Some of my most advanced, most mature students have been the youngest in my class. And vice versa, some of my oldest have struggled with both academics and social skills. I think you just have to take it on a case-by-case basis, and for sure, no matter when you choose to enroll your children in kindergarten, having a year of pre-k under their belts is far more important than when their birthdays happen to fall on the calendar.

    Pre-k prepares children for the daily routine of kinder, teaches them basic social skills of taking turns and sharing, and trains them to have self-control and personal awareness. The pre-k teacher’s recommendation on how kinder-ready the student is should be considered with great care.

  12. Dawn August 9, 2015 at 11:42 am #

    This was a great read at a time where my husband and I also “redshirted” my boy/girl twins. We specifically felt the maturity level was our primary reason for waiting a year. Academically I have no doubt they are very well prepared and the principal even commented they could be ready for 1st grade. But my son has a lot of trouble sitting still for long periods of time and I know it would have been a big mistake. I myself was sent to kindergarten when I was 4 (my bday was literally the last day for kindergarten cutoff) and needless to say I enjoyed Kindergarten twice! I appreciated being one of the oldest in my class. You’re right. Each family situation is unique and we do our best with the information we have at the time.

  13. Lisa August 11, 2015 at 3:44 pm #

    I have a late summer birthday boy and we have had this discussion so many times. What we determined was that in public school he needed to go as he turned 5 to K. Mostly because he would have been bored silly academically if he was delayed. But we have the option of a very academically challenging private school and opted to let him have a year of K at the age of just turned 6. In his class he is in the middle age wise, not the oldest and not the youngest.

    One of my sisters started K as a barely 5, was the youngest in her class and eventually held back a year. She is so smart but needed time for the maturity side to catch up.

    She has said she much preferred being on the older end of her grade, and with AP classes in High School or middle college you can basically cover a year or two of college class work before leaving high school.

  14. Marilyn February 29, 2016 at 7:51 am #

    When I found out I was pregnant for the third time and due in June, My husband and I decided that no matter the gender of this baby we would NOT send this child to kindergarten until it was 6. I am a retired teacher and at the time was very aware of younger children in a grade failing in 3rd, 4th, or 5th grades. It was often very devastating at that age for a student to be held back. My third child, a son, was born in late June. He was a big baby and a bigger child than the other children his age most of his life. However, we have never regretted our decision, even when he was upset because kids would ask him if he had failed one or two grades because of his size. It was definitely the right decision for our family!

  15. Carhy March 8, 2016 at 6:53 pm #

    I held my oldest boy back because he was a summer baby (July)and he just needed to mature. So glad I did. He just went to private kindergarten and then public kindergarten. It was never an issue until 1 day at middle school some of the kids accused him of failing a grade. He knew he hadn’t failed any grades so he ask me about it. I told him the truth that my best friend who was a teacher was doing that too with her boy. It was just a maturity social issue and it worked for us.

  16. Angela March 8, 2016 at 7:43 pm #

    Love this. From the moment my April baby boy was born, I struggled with whether to red shirt him. It’s not just summer babies. I always find it interesting when people say their 5 year old is academically ready for Kdg & they would never red shirt him. That is not the only reason to send or not send your 5 year old to kdg. My soon to be 5 year old would be ready for kdg academically as well, but there are other reasons we think it would be beneficial to red shirt him. And like you said, you’ve never met anyone that has regretted the decision to red shirt. This is what we’ve found as well. We just recently made the final decision to red shirt him, but with lots of stress on my part trying to decide what was best for him…my husband assured me that there is not a wrong decision.

    • Shelly March 10, 2016 at 10:05 pm #

      We have been strongly considering red shirting our April birthday boy as well. My husband was red shirted (with a May birthday) and was still the smallest kid in his kindergarten class. He only has positive things to say about his experiences, and has been very strong in his desires to wait since our little man was born. I love the idea of one more year of play-based learning. So while we’ve always said we would assess his readings when it came time to make the decision, I am continually finding more and more support for red shirting.

  17. Juliet March 9, 2016 at 10:15 am #

    I have a son born the first week of MAY and he is totally age-appropriate developmentally. His teachers want me to consider holding him back in Pre-K 3 (rather than move on to Pre-K) to “give him the gift of another year” because he is the youngest in his class. I guess all the summer birthdays have stayed back so now early MAY is the youngest. At some point, someone has to be the youngest, right?!

    • Jen May 6, 2017 at 2:23 pm #

      Yes! Juliet! Yes. Someone has to be the youngest. I enjoyed the article for the most part except for the sentence in the first part wondering how being the youngest will affect them. I felt like all the other reasons were great, valid and personal but the idea of red shirting just so your kids won’t be the youngest frustrates me because someone will have to be the youngest. Likely, it will be a kid of limited socioeconomic means who doesn’t have the opportunity to stay in preschool for an additional year. It’s an interesting way in which Americans are only increasing the educational gaps between rich/middle class and working class.

      I have an April 30th boy who will likely be one of the youngest in his grade. It just is what it is. There will be 12 months of difference between a kid with a Sept 1 birthday and a kid with an August 31 of the next year birthday provided they start on time. I’m not sure of any better way to do it. To be totally honest, I wish more people would just send their kids at the deadlines. Summer birthdays did just fine when we were growing up. I wish my generation were more focused on why there is the need for 8 hour kinder and reduced recess rather than when to start their babies in kindergarten.

  18. maggie March 11, 2016 at 8:05 am #

    We’re right there with you. But we’re just calling it, “the gift of time”!! We’re blessed and happy that we have the ability to give our child this!

  19. Sue Branham March 12, 2016 at 6:57 am #

    Everyone is different, but I went to school before kindergarten was established in our town. I started first grade at five and didn’t turn six until the school year was well under way, January 21st. Yes, I was immature, but I made good grades and graduated. My daughter was born November 28 and she couldn’t start kindergarten until she was almost she did well academically but due to circumstances didn’t complete her senior year. If she had started a year earlier that would not have happened.

    • Sue Branham March 12, 2016 at 7:01 am #

      Comments above should say “she didn’t start kindergarten till almost six.”

      I couldn’t retrieve the comments to edit.
      Thanks.

  20. Jennafer March 12, 2016 at 5:22 pm #

    I was born in August and my parents let me decide if I was ready for school. I did start mere weeks after turning 5. I was never behind from an educational standpoint. I graduated with honors. However, I DID get along with the kids a grade younger than me better. I’m not sure if it was a maturity thing or if the group of kids were just nicer and more accepting. It did also suck to wait SO LONG to turn 15/16/18/21. Now I’m am adult with a child of my own. In the end, I don’t think it makes much of a difference. Go with your gut.

  21. Heather May 10, 2017 at 12:41 am #

    We have b/g twins with an April birthday and are struggling with this decision…whether to start them in K in August or repeat PK and begin K at (6 1/2)Our daughter is ready to start K, our son is super smart but immature….their PK teacher is afraid he’ll act out. What to do?? is it unfair to her… will she be bored? Will they get picked on more for being that “old” and posed to graduate at 19? Any advice out there… this is sooo stressful!

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