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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nonmember avatar AmNdy

Why do state governments make a cut-off date, then make it optional? I have kids in grades with kids 2 or 3 whole years older. Completely unfair to my kids, who started when they were supposed to. They will be competing academically and athletically against people who belong 2 grades up.

Kristal Hitchcock

My son is a november baby and is almost 3. I as held bk in kindergarden for socil reasons due to moving around so much looking back it helped and hurt me... kids now days are advanced and it hels them. I was teased for being older but i was one of those that did love to learn (sometimes)

Lynda Manos-Verias

I'm alittle confused....In NYC the cutoff is Dec 31. So the year your child turns 5 he/she starts kgn. If you "redshirt" your child cause you feel he/she is too young then the next year they will be place in first grade. Each grade has an age and whether your child reaches that age in Jan or Dec they are all together.

truet... truetigress

They wanted my youngest in preschool when she was three! She is an April baby but it was a shock. However because my oldest began at 4 we made it the same age for her to start preschool. The school didn't seem too happy but she is my daughter and it's my choice.


My oldest (who has a birthday in February) started preschool when she was 4. The school found issues with her and red-flagged her..sending her to the special prek room because they saw in her signs of Asperger's. They told us to hold her back one year so she could spend the next preK year learning better communication skills.  It did help. Now she is 8 years old and is in second grade and LOVING it. My youngest is happy being in Kindergarden at 5 years old. (She had wanted to have homework like her sister.  Her preK consisted of a "hands on learning" classroom where she didn't have many papers at all to bring home. So now in Kindergarten she actually has homework and is more happy.

Katy Yañez

 I live in Mexico and here the kids have 2 years of kindergarten and they start as early as 3 (if they turn 4 before the end of December). Personally I love it. I think it gives them a head start on school and helps them learn how to be with other kids at an early age. I wouldn't hold my kids back but that's fine if people chose to do so because it's their kids and not my decision. 

Mom_t... Mom_to_Skyler

My son's b-day is Aug 13 and we redshirted him. My daughter's b-day is mid-Sept so not a factor for her.

nonmember avatar 2BoysMom

I wish we'd had the opportunity. our youngest son is the YOUNGEST kid in his entire grade (though he is one of the tallest by far). He also has speech and fine motor issues. However, BECAUSE of those issues (and the fact that he was on an IEP prior to starting kindergarten), we didn't have much of an option. Had we redshirted him he would have been without services for a year- or at least without the intensive services the school system could provide, such as daily speech and twice weekly OT. We were already providing private speech two nights a week, and our budget couldn't afford any more. Had we been able to, or had there been another option in place, we would have redshirted him in a heartbeat. He's a popular kid, but he struggles in school and is about exactly a year behind his peers in certain areas. I can't help but think that had we been able to hold him back he would be dead even with his peers in the areas he struggles in and flying along ahead of the curve in the areas he excels in now.

The only time I roll my eyes are the parents I know who BRAG about the fact that htey redshirted their child for athletic purposes. Um, he's FIVE. C'mon already.

nonmember avatar Meghann T

I'm so glad I read this! I placed my son in half day kindergarten last year because of his Aug 27 birthday . He had done well, but I knew he could use another year because of his maturity level and his ADHD . So I kept him in. Schools been in for 3 weeks now, and this year he seems to really like school.. As opposed to last year he was not too excited. I'm all for it! Thank you for posting!

nonmember avatar Meghann T

I'm so glad I read this! I placed my son in half day kindergarten last year because of his Aug 27 birthday . He had done well, but I knew he could use another year because of his maturity level and his ADHD . So I kept him in. Schools been in for 3 weeks now, and this year he seems to really like school.. As opposed to last year he was not too excited. I'm all for it! Thank you for posting!

Hyman Hyman

My son is August 15th! I will have to make this decision someday!



I already feel I want to wait however long I can to enter him in preschool. So redshirting will make sense to me.

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