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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Angel Marie Chance

Luckily for me with my son, his birthday was after the cutoff because there was no way he was ready maturity wise. But with my youngest daughter she was four when she started and she was ready in both ways, maturity and academically. If I had had to make the choice with my son, he would have stayed in preschool that extra year regardless.

happy... happymomof2

I guess I redshirted my daughter before I even knew what the term was.  She will be 12 on Saturday.  I was thinking about getting her into kindergarten when she was 4, soon to be 5.  But decided since she could read and do simple math, that she could stay home one more year.  My son, however, I started early as he needs a little extra.  I think every kid is different.

lt1980 lt1980

My son is 6 and just started 1st grade and I would go back if I could and keep him home that extra year.

nonmember avatar Vicki

I was faced with a similar situation with my youngest son, whose birthday is in July. Because if the pressure from my family, I sent him to kindergarten just after he turned five. He stuggled slightly in kindergarten and I questioned whether or not to hold him back that year. I talked to his teacher, and she thought he would catch up just fine in first grade so I sent him on. His struggles increased as he moved though first grade, and by the end of the school year he started behavioral issues. At this point, I decided that something had to change, so my husband and I met with his teacher and principal and discussed our concerns. In the end, we opted to have him repeat first grade, despite the objections from some members of my family. We are currently only about a month into the new school year, but the difference has been night and day. His schoolwork has improved, his behavior has improved, his attitude has improved, and he actually wants to go to school now. If I had it to do all over again, I would have gone with my insticts, and held him back before kindergarten, but I am glad I did it before it was too late.

cew816 cew816

I dont have a choice, because myine is just after the cutoff, so she will always be the oldest.  I worried about her always being the oldest and afraid that she would somehow be behind other kids her age, that are just a little older.  But reading these comments, I guess Im glad about it

Roshanta Lock

The cutoff date back in 1995 when I started Kindergarten was Oct 15th. I was born Oct 14th. I made the cutoff by one day, was 4 years old, and started kindergarten at 4. I have to say that even though your child "at the time" may seem mature and ready, it really doesn't start to matter until the later years. Though it was just one year, I developed physically later than all the other girls, so once in HS at age 13, I was way outta place with 18 and 19 year olds. As already stated, I also had to start D.ed. later than everyone else, graduated at 17 and still needed my parent's permission even when all the way in college in Florida. I never had any issues academically, and graduated top of my class, but socially I do think I suffered. I am glad my DD is a May baby so she will be 5 turning 6 when she starts. Definitely think 4 is too young for kindergarten.

Angela Hurst

I agree completely with holding a kid back. When I was a child my school district was going through a trial of letting younger kids start kindergarden, I started when I was just turned four years old. I always was the youngest and smallest. I never felt like I fit in with my class all through school. I struggled through school academically and socially. I was extremely shy and often the target of bullies, as I was small and easy to pick on. I don't see the point in rushing kids into kindergarden until they are ready. I can see how waiting until they are six yrs would be beneficial to them, I don't think it's cheating the system at all.

MomLi... MomLily67

As parents, we need to pay very close attention to our kids social skills, that is the main factor when diciding to put them in  Kindergarden, some kids are better off waiting a little longer.

Lorik... Lorik1969

Personally I think August 1st should be the cut-off. In our state it's December 1. My son has an October birthday and holding him back was the best decision we could have made. He's in 7th grade now and has done very well. I have a friend who insisted on putting her August child in kindergarten at age 5 and he's still struggling at 13. When I went to kindergarten we were taught letters and numbers and how to write our name. Now children have to know all of that before they get to school. If a parent feels it's better for their child to wait, then that's their choice and no one has the right to judge it.

nonmember avatar Kristen

I think they should make the age 6 to start kindergarten

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