I Redshirted My Kid & It Was the Best Parenting Decision I Ever Made

Mom Moment 183

You've probably heard about the practice of "redshirting" -- holding a kid back from kindergarten until they start at age 6. People say it's unfair, and that parents do it to give their children an advantage that cheats the system. At 6, after all, Junior is one of the oldest kids in class, and theoretically better at everything from academics to sports. More boys are redshirted than girls, whites more than minorities, and rich more than poor.

It's funny that I never heard about how controversial redshirting was until I'd redshirted my own kid. Now that he's just started first grade (at 7), I try to ignore the outcry over this issue that's apparently irresponsible, classist, and erodes the level playing field that age restrictions are supposed to create.

Because I can tell you this: it was absolutely, completely, without a doubt the right decision for us to make.

It was a hard decision, for sure. We went back and forth about it for months, and in the end I went with my gut and hoped for the best. See, my son's birthday is August 31, which so happens to be the cutoff date for kindergarten in our then-home state of Washington. My choices were this: start him at 5, when he'd be the very youngest kid in class, or wait a year until he was the very oldest.

I didn't particularly love either option, but I had to pick one. We talked to his daycare/preschool teacher, we considered his personality, we asked people who had faced a similar conundrum.

Ultimately, I knew he'd be fine academically, but I had misgivings about his maturity level. Of particular concern was the fact that he was plagued with sensory issues back then -- paranoid about sudden loud sounds, prone to hysteria over a scraped knee. If I'd been working outside of the house, I probably would have gambled that he'd eventually be fine in kindergarten, but because I'd just started working from home, I decided I'd keep him home for a year.

So that's what I did. After a year of quasi-homeschooling, he started kindergarten when he was 6 years old.

I know it was the right choice because he adjusted perfectly to kindergarten. He wasn't bored, he didn't have behavioral issues (a common argument against redshirting, because older kids may be too bored); he was happy and fit right in. He didn't look bigger than the other kids, he looked exactly the right age. He'd outgrown many of his noise/texture/sensation freakouts, and even came home jabbering with excitement over the school's first fire drill because wow, it was SO LOUD AND COOL!

My boy started first grade here in Oregon earlier this month, and again he seems like he's exactly where he's supposed to be. I imagine/hope this year will be much like last: he won't be the most advanced kid in class, but he'll do just fine.

The decision to wait a year wasn't easy, and I'd never advocate that it's the right choice for every family. We didn't do it to try and raise a sports star or a mathlete, we did it because we believed it was the best option for our child. I wish redshirting wasn't so controversial, but I'm incredibly grateful it was an option for us.

Still, I'm equally thrilled my second son's birthday is in February. Whew.

What do you think about redshirting?

Image via Linda Sharps

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peanu... peanutsmommy1

My DS made the K cutoff by 5 days and did not get a spot in our districts young 5's program because we had invested in a high quaility preschool vs those children who had no classroom experiences. We decided to have him wait out a year, and I don't regret it for a second.

In the end you have to do what is best for YOUR child, regardless of what other people think of it.

Merideth Higgins Kirby

We did the same with our son. He is in 5th grade now and I still think it's one of the best parenting decisions we've ever made.

Zamaria Zamaria

I honestly think that for most kids 5 is too young to start kindergarten. I started mine at five and I wish I hadn't.

chigi... chigirl1228

I had no idea this was a thing. My oldest is only 4 and in preschool but I have no idea why people give so much hought to what other people are doing. It's annoying. Do whatever you think is right for your children and you have no need to justify it. Kids grow and mature at different rates and only you (the parent) truly know if they are grown enough to attend school.

kalisah kalisah

Here's something most people don't think about: My son's birthday is Aug. 30. We did not redshirt and he was absolutely THE very youngest person in his class. Which was fine in elementary school. Even middle school. Not so much in high school. 

Parents rarely look at the long term with this. They only think of the NOW and IS HE READY? Elijah HATED being the youngest when he was a teenager. Some of his friends were driving a whole year before he was. That's tough for a teenage boy. Couldn't even take a girl out on a date. And think about college. Would you rather send your kid off when he's 17-almost-18 or 18-almost-19. 

Hell yeah. If I had it to do over again, I would have totally waited. 

junecat junecat

Friends of ours held their son back so he could start school with his neighborhood friends.  At the time I thought it was horrible as he was very bright and would have done great.  Well, he just graduated High School and I asked him how he felt about waiting and he said it was great.  He was older than all of his friends and had his driver's license before any of them!!   As long as he's happy, what more can you want? 

cafemama cafemama

My son started kindergarten at 4 which was WAY too young, but you can't get special needs services for a full year if you redshirt your child so we went for it. He ended up having a bad year and is repeating kindergarten this year. He's still only 5, turning 6 in October, but this feels like a much more appropriate age for starting school and hoping we have a better year. I wish we'd had the option to redshirt and I'm happy to hear your decision is working out so well!

nonmember avatar B

My mom was on the other end of this - I started school a month before I turned five, and it was fine. There were never any issues with sports or academics (captain of varsity CC and BB, valedictorian). The only time it ever even came up was when I started college and needed permission slips signed for a month for CC trips :)

nonmember avatar hannah

I had a fall birthday and was the youngest in my class. It was hard for me to make friends. It had nothing to do with my decision to keep my fall birthday child from starting at age four, though, but I was glad I did. I was amazed (and pissed) when both sides of the family got on my case about it. The only person who thought I was doing the right thing was a teacher I met and told about it. Whereas all of the family thought my kid was going to "get behind" and lack social skills, this grade school teacher told me that that's what happens to the kids who go in too young. That's when I realized what MY problems had stemmed from in school. I was glad that I had made the decision I did and hadn't caved in to the pressure of family. My child is an honor student with a decent amount of friends, unhindered by starting at five going on six rather than four going on five.

jessi... jessicasmom1

I agree , that kids should not start until the age of 6 ... I ,moved to Fl. and DD was 5  and they told me she starts now. I do believe if I would have waited until she was 6 she would have been better off in school now

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