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Don’t redshirt your kindergartner

October 12, 2011 - Linda Lobeck
It’s not a new idea but it now has a name, ‘redshirting’ kindergartners. I heard a discussion on it the other day on a morning television show and it brings back a lot of old memories from when I started my kids in school.

It seems that it’s something that parents of boys generally think of before letting their kids start school. They hold them back a year, even if they are ready, with the thought that they will more mature and bigger for playing sports.

I think that the only reason to hold a child back in school is due to their readiness level. Kids are tested usually before entering school and that should give you an indication if they should go to kindergarten or one of the prep/pre kindergarten classes.

With my first son, I anguished over whether I should start him at age five or hold him back. I heard from many other parents about how, since he was a boy, I should hold him back because that would give him an advantage over other kids in sports. I laughed at that ridiculous concept. I was more concerned that he was socially and academically ready for school and he was.

His birthday was the first part of September, so that was the only reason I was hesitating about sending him. I still felt unsure as that first month or two of school went on and asked his teacher on a number of occasions how he was doing. Finally she said to me, “Everyone is where they should be.” Then I settled down and felt confident that my husband and I had made the right decision.

The uncertainty that plagued me was mostly due to what other people said to me about having such a ‘young’ kindergarten student. And unfortunately, I began to doubt my decisions and bug the teacher. Thankfully, she was patient and understanding and eased my concerns.

But year after year, I would hear from parents and teachers that my son was ‘by far the youngest in the class.’ I would often repeat what his kindergarten teacher said that he was where he was supposed to be and that someone has to be the youngest.

I don’t think sports and size ever came into consideration. When a lot of kids hit their growth peak by the time they entered high school, my son was just hitting his and grew a lot during that time and even after high school.

I believe that the only complaint I ever received from him about being younger than his classmates was when they started to drive. But I was Ok with waiting another year to have a teen driver in my house.

When it came time for my younger son to go to kindergarten I didn’t hesitate sending him because he was also ready to go. I can still remember several people telling me that he was ‘young’ to be in school and I had to laugh. I looked them straight in the eye and said that if they thought he was young with a June birthday then they should see my older son with a September birthday. That usually ended the conversation.

In addition to the sports angle, the ‘redshirting’ also occurs to give kids an additional year of maturity so they’ll do better academically.

I doubt that is true. Waiting one more year would have bored my kids and they would never have been challenged in school. They both finished in the upper part of their classes, so I don't see how their age really made a difference.

There is nothing wrong with waiting an extra year to send a child onto school, but it should be for the right reasons. Have they tested low in their recognition of letters, numbers and other benchmarks needed before entering kindergarten? If so, waiting is the best idea. The same goes for a child who is shy and lacking some of the social skills they need to feel comfortable in a school setting. Another year can also help them to be more mature and able to handle those situations without feeling stressed.

This voluntary kindergarten delay for ‘redshirting’ will probably continue to be debated. But I hope parents will look at each child as an individual and decide what’s best for them. You can’t judge at age five whether a child is even going to be interested in sports later on and it’s a pretty poor reason to keep them out of kindergarten.

 
 

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