Red Shirt With Heart

Few things fire up heated discussions on parenting chat boards more than the practice known as “redshirting” – the choice not to register your child for kindergarten even though their birthday falls before the official cutoff date.

There are plenty of articles that argue both sides; the benefits of waiting a year until the child is five before sending them to kindergarten, and on the other hand, the disservice that you could be doing to your child by holding them back (specifically, that they will become bored and disruptive, feel that they don’t have to work hard to succeed, or is perceived as having an “unfair” advantage). While I can see both sides, I think it’s more important to take a realistic look at the child and base their readiness for kindergarten on the individual, not a date on a calendar or what a legislative body with no knowledge of my child whatsoever sets as the arbitrary cutoff date.

In Connecticut, children must turn five years old by December 31, of the year they enter kindergarten. So many children, particularly those in urban areas where parents may not have the financial means to send their kids to a pre-kindergarten program, are entering school at four years old. While there are some four year-old children who are ready – academically, socially, and emotionally – to attend an all-day kindergarten program, many are not. Additionally, the more rigorous standards aligned with the Common Core curriculum require children to have the ability to read, identify and partner geometric patterns, count to 100, and perform addition and subtraction before they exit kindergarten. I’m not a child development specialist, but are most four and early-five year olds even developmentally able to master those skills? Add to that, the fact that Connecticut has the latest cutoff date in the country, yet, still must meet the same requirements as their older peers. Maybe I’m missing something, but that doesn’t seem right about to me.

These were all considerations that we made when our late-December birthday son was in the final year of his pre-school program. At our parent-teacher conference in early December, our son’s teacher had a very honest conversation with us and suggested that we give our son an extra year of preschool before sending him to kindergarten. While she believed that he could keep up academically, his behavior in the classroom was still immature (and downright babyish when compared to the girls in the class), he would cry at the drop of a hat, and some of the sensory stimuli in larger groups was still overwhelming to him – socially and emotionally he just wasn’t ready. None of this was news to me, I had observed all of these things on the playground and we agreed to that an extra year would make a big difference in how confidently he would approach elementary school the following year.

Six years later, I can honestly say it was the best thing I did when it comes to his education. It was the right move for us based on our honest evaluation of our son. Is he bored, no – he has had great teachers who have challenged him and bolstered his confidence in his intellect. Does he feel that he doesn’t have to work hard for academic success? No, he is conscientious and hard working. I think it would have been much more difficult for him to have been successful if he had been struggling with emotional and social issues during his kindergarten and first grade years and that would have set him up for more challenges down the road.

Every child is different and should be treated as such – I believe that an honest evaluation of the whole child should be considered when determining their school readiness, not a date on a calendar.

What do you think?




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