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