Monday, August 23, 2010

Redshirting Kindergarten

Today I read two articles about redshirting kindergarten:
This is (yet another) subject that affects me personally.  My middle child, T, is eligible to enter kindergarten at the age of four, but I have decided to hold him for a year (I'll get into that later).  Interestingly, talk about this practice seems to be coming to a crescendo in my neighborhood; I've had at least three different conversations whether or not to hold a child during the past two months.

We live in Connecticut, where a child entering kindergarten must turn five by January 1 (which also makes S eligible to start when he is four, but he would be the absolute youngest child in his grade).  The only other states that have such late cutoff dates are:
  • California - December 3
  • Hawaii - December 31
  • Maryland - December 31
  • Michigan - December 1
  • Montana - December 2
I would presume that the practice of "redshirting" four-year-olds is more common in these six states than in others, but I have no data to back up that presumption.

I decided that T would wait until he turned five before starting kindergarten when he was still in utero.  I had three reasons for this:
  1. If we lived in any other nearby state (New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Massachusetts), he would not be eligible to start school at age four.
  2. When I was in kindergarten, I could read (my teacher used to have me read stories to the class), so my teacher suggested that I move into first grade.  Thinking it was for the best, my mother agreed.  While I thrived academically, emotionally and socially I always felt insecure and "less than."  In hindsight, staying in kindergarten would have been a better decision. 
  3. As the youngest person in my grade, it was not easy to be one of the last girls to get her period, one of the last to get a driver's license, or to sit home on a Thursday night when all of her friends were barhopping.
I am not holding T to give him an advantage in sports.  Both articles above mention Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point as a reason for "redshirting" children (the first chapter explains that athletes who are among the oldest of their cohort excel), but that is not my reason for keeping T back.  I am also not holding him to give him an edge academically.  I am holding him because I don't think a four-and-a-half year old boy is emotionally ready for the rigors of school.

When T was in Mother's Day Out, I had many conversations with the director about whether to hold T or send him to school on time per Connecticut's cutoff.  P (the director) gave me some sage advice:  If I put T in kindergarten at age four and he hits "bumps in the road,"  I will always wonder if it's because he's one of the youngest in the class.  If I wait until T turns five to have him start, I will figure that any "bumps" are just part of the process.

I'll admit, it would be convenient for T to start kindergarten at age four.  It would be easier for me to have him in school sooner rather than later.  But what's easier for me is not what's important.  What is best for T is what's important.  And as his mother, I strongly feel that giving T the time to mature emotionally and socially is what is best for him.

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