Sunday, May 6, 2012

to redshirt or not to redshirt.

hi there. it's me. talking about first world problems. actually, just talking about one particular first world problem that really annoys me. but, one that we have to deal with nonetheless. blech.

around these parts, if you have a boy who was born after june 30th or so, it is almost assumed that you hold him back and "redshirt" him during what would be his true kindergarten year. the actual cut-off for enrolling your child in school is september 30, but most parents have reservations about sending their young, newly-turned or almost 5 year-old boy to kindergarten.

it's not a phenomenon that is unique to our area. in fact, 60 minutes did a very interesting piece on this issue 2 months ago and i thought they did a pretty good job of representing both sides.

as a kindergarten teacher myself, i've always told parents that it is a decision that needs to be made on a case by case basis. that each child is unique with his own needs and own abilities that need to all be carefully considered before making a decision about whether to redshirt a potential kindergartner. i've seen many children on both sides of the coin that either succeeded and did quite well in all aspects of their learning (including social/behavioral) despite being the youngest in the class, and those that could have really benefited from another year of preschool prior to entering kindergarten. and now that kindergarten has really evolved from the days of juice and cookies and naptime to children learning to be young readers, writers, and mathematicians, this decision seems especially weighty.

and the fact that this decision is one that affects us personally is really annoying! choi boy's birthday is at the beginning of september, meaning he would be 4 years-old for the first week or so of kindergarten if we were to send him to school "on time." and though it seems crazy that this is running through my mind now, when he is not yet even 3 years-old, i can't help it because it will affect how many years of preschool he has and when we send him, etc.

i've always been of the mindset to send a child to school on time unless there are some glaring issues that have to do with maturity and nothing else. in fact, my sister and i both have birthdays that were past our district's cut-off of october 31 and my mom pushed to have us tested and admitted to school because she knew we were ready (and she was *that* mom ;) ), and we both did fine in school and with our friends and actually enjoyed being among the youngest in our grades. the hubs was also on the younger end of his class and did fine as well. or so he tells me...;)

but, i'm not a big fan of retention once kids start school, so i'd rather hold cb back from the start than have him retained once he starts school (should he need it), so it's a big decision to make that could potentially affect the rest of his educational life. i know i sound totally melodramatic and that's why i hate thinking about it! and it really is such a privileged people problem. it costs a lot of money to keep a child home for an extra year, whether you end up paying for an extra year of childcare or preschool or a combination of both, so it's a decision that is not feasible for many.

here's the bottom line: if cb continues on the trajectory that he is on now, i feel that developmentally and academically, he will be ready for kindergarten when he is supposed to enter. we will have to watch his social development and make sure that around the time is slated to enter kindergarten, he can sit and participate in class and interact with his peers as an average pre-kindergartner should. and if he's not, we'll work on those skills and make a final decision the spring or summer before.

however, we are not ones to worry about the fact that choi boy will likely be the smallest in his class (um, we're pretty sure if he continues on the trajectory he's on, he'll always be short!); or that he'll be playing sports against kids that will probably be lots bigger than him (but that won't stop my tiny athlete! and please reference muggsy bogues!)  or the fact that he'll be the last to get his driver's license; or that he'll be 17 when he starts college...for us it boils down solely to his readiness (academic and social) and maturity for kindergarten, not so much to giving him a leg up by having him be the oldest in his class were we to keep him back an extra year.

but, that's us. and i'm not sure there *is* a right or wrong answer.

what are your thoughts? especially fellow mommas and dads of summer birthday boys? i'd love to hear your take on this!

and you know what? regardless of how much i worry about this, i know that in the end, cb will be just fine with whatever we decide to do. (you know, in like 2 years or so!)

after all, he *is* part superhero.

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  1. We have two spring babes, so I haven't had to worry about it from a mom's perspective. But. I was an October baby who went to school "on time." (Not sure how much my mom agonized over this, but we certainly didn't have the resources to pay for another year of daycare for me.) I do wonder sometimes how things might have been different if I had been held back. I did fine academically, but I was super shy, and just always felt a little overwhelmed by the social scene that is school. It is hard to know if being older would have given me more confidence; I might have just been shy no matter what. I think you're smart to wait and feel things out and would agree it is a kid-specific decision. Anyway, good luck with your decision, and I think you *do* have a little time to sort it out :)

  2. Well, both of my kiddos are summer babies (July and September) and we red shirted both of them. Camden completely would have been fine in kindergarten, but we didn't do it for kindergarten. We did it for middle school, high school. Etc. not wanting him to always be the youngest. Brian teaches 4th grade and has had some bad experiences with summer babies in his class who started on time and we also have some family and friends who started on time, but they've regretted it. Rory was definitely not ready for kindergarten, but the same reasons for holding Camden back apply to her as well. The extra year just gives her a bit more maturity. Definitely just a matter of opinion, because, obviously, children can be perfectly fine going to kindergarten as a 4 or young 5.

  3. Can you believe I've already been asked about this--twice--and E isn't even a year old yet. I keep thinking we can't send him until he's sleeping thru the night. Lol! But in all seriousness, I have given it a little bit of thought. E's birthday is early July, and currently my state's cut-off is 12/1, but it will be changing to 8/1 over the next few years (supposedly), so e coud be very close to the cut-off. I started K when I was 4 and was NOT ready socially, but my mom pushed it and I ended a being a very stressed out kid for two years and repeated the second grade. pushing me so hard at that age is one of her biggest regrets in life. So I'm a huge fan of waiting until a child is ready socially rather than academically. I never minded being one of the older kids in the class and I'm sure I would not have had nearly as successful academic career if I had continued along the path I started.

  4. Hi, Grace. Oh, this darn issue used to stress me out, too! My two boys are Nov. and Oct. My oldest is the Nov birthday (and it's the 19th) and I just always assumed he would wait until he was 5 almost 6 to start kinder. His preschool teacher told me that he was ready so we started him when he was 4 and he has done so well. I can't imagine what it would be like had we waited. We did start him with the full understanding he may need to repeat a grade around 2nd or 3rd grade as I had heard that sometimes the "early" start won't show signs until this time, but it's just not the case with him (and just a note that we attend a homeschool-at school hybrid school with mixed grade classrooms so "repeating" a grade wouldn't be as big of a deal.) My younger son is Oct. 24th and we opted to wait a year before sending him for a couple of reasons. I totally think he would have been fine starting last year, but he's a little brother and always trying to play catch-up with his big bro. We thought an extra year's space might give him some room to be his own person and that it might be good for his little psyche to go into school being one of the older kids--give him a place where he wouldn't have to play catch up but potentially could be a leader. So far, he has done wonderfully this year. All this to say, that I totally think it depends on your child and you guys will know as the time gets closer. Plus, as much as it can be messy later, it's not a decision that is set in stone. I have a friend with a daughter with a May bday (pretty cut and dry bday) who repeated 2nd grade and it has been so great for her. Hope this loooong post is somewhat encouraging! Joy

  5. Ah yes, this plagues us too, for all of the reasons you've expressed, but also because I have two boys entering kindergarten TOGETHER!!
    We always assumed we'd keep Matthew out of kindergarten for an extra year (his birthday is May 4th and he has many factors working against him including small size, social/emotional immaturity, and having learned English late). However, he has attended and excelled at his public preschool. They basically told me that there isn't anything else he can gain from going to preschool for another year. I think if we wanted to do it, we'd have to switch him to a private preschool, which would be fine. But the educators really pushed us to start him in kindergarten and then repeat if necessary. I can confidently say we will have him repeat kindergarten for many reasons, one of which is that I don't want the boys to be in the same grade, and I just know Matthew could use the time to catch up. As a kindergarten teacher, how do you feel about that?
    Like Melissa said, he may be ready for kindergarten now, but can he be TOO mature in middle school? or high school? or college? Nope. All we can do is pray about it and hope we made the right decision!

  6. I didn't realize you were a kindergarten teacher! Fun! I was a K teacher too, until taking this year off to stay home with Beau. This is such a hard decision and also one we will be faced with in a few years. It looks like you are totally on the right track, weighing all of the pros and cons. Beau has a late June birthday, and school here in GA starts the first week of August, with the cut off being Sept. 1. Our plan is to wait until Beau has just turned 6 to start kindergarten, rather than sending him as a new 5 year old. While I have seen plenty of young kiddos succeed in kindergarten, I have also seen what a hard year it can be for the young ones who just were not quite ready for the long day and rigorous academics of kindergarten. It is so sad to see kids struggle the whole year, when they really just needed an extra year of preschool. From the teacher's perspective, it has gotten SO hard here in my area to retain K students who need an additional year of K for social/maturity reasons, if they did ok academically. However, it was hard sending them on to 1st grade knowing they were probably going to struggle. It is such a hard decision and one that I'm sure you will be prepared to make when the time comes. I would prefer to wait a to send Beau to K, and then hopefully he will not need to repeat a grade later on. Praying you'll have peace about the decision when the time comes!

  7. We have had the same discussion around our house too....although Paul is an end of April birthday. He will likely be 5-1/2 when starting kindergarten. Sort of falls in the middle I guess but such an important decision that I don't take it lightly. I think we all have to follow our hearts as we know our kids better than anyone else.

  8. Oh! I know this dilemma well... I wrestle with it on a weekly basis! After seeing how well S has done in "preschool," I'm leaning towards enrolling him on time.(He's a mid July birthday, and the cut-off here is September 1) I do worry about his ability to *sit* and *focus* but I have no worries about his intellectual or social level. (My kid is no wall flower, although like CB, he is small... which does scare me. And clearly I have some concerns about his emotional level.) Our school system leaves a lot to be desired as well, which adds another level of stress...So we are actually looking at Montessori and Charter school options currently. Which actually alleviates a lot of the stress because of how they function. Maybe that's why I'm all over the "on-time" aspect?! Like you said, it's a child by child situation. And it's really hard to balance all the different factors. We're actually really lucky in that our daycare center has a "preschool program" that he's currently in, and that's what we will keep him in until kindergarten. Six months before he moves over, he'll enter their "pre-k prep course" which is where they make sure he knows his letters and numbers, etc. But we aren't doing traditional pre-k here. I feel like I make no sense here. But that's probably because I have talked to myself about this over and over. ;-)

  9. I'd ask his teacher in the spring of next year what she thinks and kind of go from there.

  10. Being and Australian this was a new concept for me - never heard of red shiritng, but it rang true for me personally. I went to Kindgergarten when I was four and remained four for six months of the year! When I got to 6th grade (the end of our primary school in Australia), I was young, small, immature, not developing through puberty and scared to go to high school. I was academically the top of the class but not mature enough to move on. So I asked (told) my parents and teachers that I was staying back to do grade 6 again. It was the best thing I ever did. When I finally went to high school I was the same age, I could get my license the same time as everyone else, and eventually be licensed to drink at the same time too. I couldn't imagine doing high school being a year younger. Primary school wasn't a problem and I think I thrived for most of it, but I was glad to repeat the grade in year 6. I think if you put CB in early it doesn't matter, you can always change your mind years later on depending on how he is going.

  11. I think it's funny you are thinking about this because I have already had this conversation with my husband and C isn't even home yet. I think our little guys have the same birthday and since we are both teachers it makes sense we are planning this big decision ahead of time. In our state I don't think we'll have a choice of when C will start school, but I think we would have "redshirted" anyway because he is missing the first 2 years of English language development and is small for his age. Plus, my brother was a Sept birthday and always the youngest, and my Mom says it was one of the worst decisions she made pushing him ahead, not because he didn't succeed at school but he was the last to get his license, etc, and that was hard at times.

  12. I find the differences between the US and here so interesting! As far as I know, there is no cut off for enrolment (except for Dec 31). Alex will be starting Junior Kindergarten in September - when he is just under 4.5. I know a few kids that will be starting and they are just 3 - that's right, 3. The classes generally are every other day, but the province is moving to full day every day JK and SK. I'm really hoping Alex's speech will be 100% clear by September... Personally I would send him - it would put him one step ahead.

  13. Interesting issue. I haven't given it too much thought because Max is a June birthday so he won't be THE youngest, just on the younger side. I read an article in the NYTimes a few months ago about this issue that made a big impression on me. It said studies showed that kids at age 4-5 should be in school period. Their minds are so open and ready to learn at that exact moment that keeping them out of school (even if they are young or slightly immature) is doing them a disservice. But I believe as long as those children are in some sort of school (preschool, pre-K), they are still learning. I think their advice was more toward kids who would otherwise stay home instead of going to K. I do believe that being in some sort of school is so important for our kids. Luckily you have some time to decide and being a kindergarten teacher yourself, you'll be in a unique position to judge - realistically - if CB is ready or not.
    Just found the article- here it is:

  14. I don't have to face this...since D's birthday is in November...I actually worry about him being BORED with preschool and the "old kid" when he finally starts kindergarten. He will be in the same preschool room from before he turned 3 (at 33 mos old) until Kindergarten (when he'll be 5 going on 6). They do split his classroom in half for some things, but they went to this "mixed age" group a while ago because of all the benefits they see with the younger and older kids. I'll have to see where he is at to see if maybe he'll need a different kind of preschool that last year. Not sure. AND SO IT STARTS: worrying about school.


why, hello there! do you have something to say? 'cause i'd so love to hear it!