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

elementary school


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Telep... Telephus44

We did the opposite for my son, he missed the cutoff by 3 weeks and would have been the oldest in his class but we pushed for him to skip K and go into 1st grade so he's the youngest.  For us it was the right decision.  He's very academically advanced (reads on a 3rd grade level).  He also has autism, so he's going to have social/behavioral "issues" no matter what grade he was in.  But I strongly believe in deciding on a case by case basis, some kids do benefit by waiting a year.

jalaz77 jalaz77

I like that my first will be 18 graduating from high school one day and turn 19 in sept making her more mature, well I hope anyways. So yes my next 3 kids will be 6 or close to 6 when starting K as well.

Mocha... MochaCocoaBean

My bday was 4 days after the cut off, so I was one of the older but not oldest kids in class. It worked out pretty well, I turned 19 during my first semester of college. I definately would not have wanted my 17 year old self on campus...:::shudder:::

Besides, the age for compulsory education is 6 in this country. Up until that age, you can have your children wherever you like, no questions asked.

Lizzie Gowers

I started kindergarted at 5 and my mom thought I would go into 1st grade at 6. We lived in Texas at the time and they start school at the end of August; my birthday is in the first week of August. When it came time to register me for 1st grade, the school system said I wasn't "mature" enough for 1st and refused to let me enter. They made me go into "developmental 1st grade" and THEN "regular" 1st grade. Didn't matter that I clearly didn't belong there, I was advanced in my reading, spelling and understanding skills (still am) and my IQ tests refuted what the Texas school system thought of me. I wish I had been allowed to be in 1st grade when I supposed to go; as I got older and more advanced in school (at one point, there was talk of putting me in the gifted program but my mom said no, she didn't want too much thrown at me all at once), it was a pain in the butt to always be the eldest of my friends and, as vain as it sounds, the smartest.

armyc... armycoppertop

I wasn't redshirted, I apparently slipped through the cracks and started a year early because my 5th birthday was after the cut-off (either I actually missed it, or it was really close and my mom mixed up dates - not surprising with her, she did, afterall, try to transfer me into a 5th grade class when I transfered schools as a 4th grader!). I was the youngest in my class. Senior year of high school, I was turning 17, while most of my friends turned 18. I was the oddball that was still 17 years old when I finished basic training and turned 18 during AIT. I was lucky that my classmates didn't really care about my age and I used the 'notariaty' of being the youngest to my advantage.

When my daughter started school, she started in pre-school, then had problems in Kindergarden and they wanted her to repeat K in NC, so when we moved to Chicago and they said she DIDN'T NEED Kindergarden at all, she could go straight to 1st grade, I was stunned, but still had her repeat Kindergarden so she could get the skills she needed... and it had nothing to do with her birthday. It worked to her advantage, because when she got to 1st grade, she did much better and she has developed a love of reading on her own. All because she went through K again as a 6 year old.

Todd Vrancic

Our oldest daughter went into kindergarten when she was almost six, her birthday was October 2, the cutoff was September 30, the school told us "no exceptions," and we were inexperienced and didn't fight it, she dropped out in her senior year.  Our younger daughter we kept out until she was almost seven, she had health issues, she thrived and graduated at age nineteen.  Our youngest, a boy, went into kindergarten at five, by the time he hit fourth grade, it was painfully obvious he was not mature enough and he was held back at our insistence.  He graduated at eighteen, he turned nineteen that summer.  Each child is an individual and you should do what's best for that child and not worry about whether or not it's "fair" to other children.  Other children are THEIR parents' concern, not yours.

nonmember avatar honeybecke

Huh. I didn't even know it WAS controversial? We just uh, redshirted my 5 year old this school year. He just wasn't ready and I was very glad to have the option of waiting a year. It was a hard choice until it became clear that it wasn't a hard choice. I think it's funny I was clueless on the controversy of this! I guess this was one time that not googling was probably a good thing!

femal... femaleMIKE

If everyone did this, then it would defeat the purpose.  Then this theory would be obsolete.

nonmember avatar zizzler

I was naturally "red shirted" by being born just days after the cutoff, so I was always the oldest in my classes. It served me very well! The younger kids really seemed to suffer, all the way through highschool (my school was TINY so I knew every kid quite well k-12). Most of my kids are or were owned by the state (I'm a foster parent and adopted from foster care), so the decision was never mine. My oldest daughter was born the same week as me in September and was also naturally "red shirted", and is the self-described Queen Bee of the school, and says classes are too easy. My youngest daughter is still a baby and was born in the Spring, otherwise I'd definitely redshirt her. I might consider doing it anyhow. You seriously think I'm not going to give my kids an academic and social advantage because it's "classist" LMAO.

Amanda Dunham

We had the same dilemma & fought for months with a decision. She was more than ready academically & socially but her age was the issue. Talked to her preschool teachers, friends, even teachers who had done the same thing with their kids. We got the same response from everyone. You won't regret it! & those whose parents started them young wished they would have waited. Her bday is Sept 11 & cutoff is Sept 15. School starts on Aug 17th so she would have been only 4 for a few weeks & youngest in her grade. Everyone we talked to said it will benefit her when she is older(high school) she is now 7 & in first grade. I am so happy we waited! Am so glad we are not the only ones that had that dilemma

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