Erin Schoen Marsh
To Stay or To Go? The Redshirting Debate (Toledo Parent Cover Story)
Updated: Apr 16, 2021
With kindergarten curriculum becoming increasingly rigorous, more and more parents are deciding to hold their children back a year, especially if their birthday lands near the cutoff date. Research continues to show this is consistently the better choice.
As parents, we all want our children to be happy and successful. We may throw in a few other wishes--athletic, sociable, kind, whatever it may be--but hoping for happiness and success is universal. A Stanford study shows one way to help guarantee those two things: if your child has a late birthday, hold him back a year.
The study suggests that “red-shirting” a child, or holding him back so that he starts kindergarten at 6 instead of 5, has numerous social and behavioral benefits. Stanford researchers studied the effects on Denmark students, and the children who had been “red-shirted” showed significantly higher levels of self-control and were better able to pay attention.
The researchers summarized in the study that “a one-year delay in the start of school dramatically reduces inattention/hyperactivity...a measure of self regulation with strong negative links to student achievement.” They also found the benefits of delaying school last up until age 11 for both girls and boys.
Patty Feehan, a Spanish teacher and mother to four adult children, explores another angle:
“I held all four [of my kids] back because they have July or August birthday. They're young adults now and doing well in the work world and grad school. I'm grateful that they had an extra year to be kids.”
That “extra year to be kids” is a sentiment many parents are echoing these days. With the structure and regimen of common core, kindergarten is often jokingly referred to as “the new first grade.” There are numerous expectations placed on young kids these days, and an increasing number of parents feel that it’s best to prolong the childhood experience if possible.
Andrea Brown, an elementary intervention specialist and mother to four young girls, has experiences with both scenarios: she sent one daughter to kindergarten as a young 5-year-old and a different daughter turned 6 just weeks after the start of the school year.
Brown explains their reasoning behind each choice: “I wasn’t worried about academics with Tatum, and after seeing how she was socially with her peers, I knew she was fine in that area, too. We were afraid she’d be bored if we waited another year. We figured if we sent her to kindergarten and felt she wasn’t ready, we could always have her repeat kindergarten. At that point in time, we couldn’t hold her back. She was just not on the same level as the kids younger than her.”
Brown continues, “I’m still 100% that we made the right decision socially and academically, BUT these past few years--now that Tatum is in junior high--there’s been a vast maturity gap. Kids are getting into more mature topics, and she’s still very naive and innocent. Things disturb her easily. I also think that might just her personality; even if we had held her back, things might still be the same.”
With their younger daughter Tenley, the Browns decided to give her that extra year of preschool. Brown explains, “I don’t think she would have been able to pay attention or focus. Her impulses would have gotten the best of her. That extra year made a world of difference.”
Two very different children with two different paths, yet both are flourishing and happy, so the Browns are confident they made the right decision for each girl.
The kindergarten team at Hillview Elementary in Sylvania, comprised of Lindsay Templeton, Andrea Swindel, and Stephanie Evearitt, offer some sage advice:
“Deciding if your child is ready for kindergarten at a specific time is on a case-by-case basis [and] based on a variety of factors, such as birthday, maturity level, preschool experience--exposure to skills and Early Learning Content Standards--and social and emotional skills. If parents are struggling with whether or not to send their child, it could be helpful to have a discussion with your child’s preschool teacher or their future kindergarten teacher.”
Emily Latusek, another mother of 4, did exactly that when they were deciding whether or not to send their son, Timmy, to kindergarten this coming school year. The Latuseks talked with friends and family who had been in similar situations with their children, the preschool teachers and administrator, and their school district. Timmy will turn 5 at the end of July and the Perrysburg cutoff date is August 1st; they decided to wait another year before sending him to kindergarten.
Latusek explains, “There are so many reasons that have ultimately led us to wait another year before sending him to kindergarten. We hoped that having him in all-day preschool this year would help him be ready, but even his teachers have expressed reservations about sending him next year. He will not only be one of the youngest students in his class, but also one of the smallest. His size hasn't negatively impacted him yet, but it possibly will in the future.”
Latusek also noticed a gap in social interactions. She says, “I watched him interact with his peers this school year, and I noticed that he seems like he’s not as far along socially and emotionally. We know that kindergarten is much more rigorous than it was years ago, so we feel that the best decision is to wait that additional year. It will give him more time to mature socially and emotionally so that hopefully once he is 6, he will be ready for a successful year.”
The Hillview kindergarten team summarizes the decision, saying,
“Sylvania Schools developed a list of ‘Top 10 Ways’ to prepare your child for kindergarten and that could be used as a guideline to assist in making a decision. Some of the skills...are reading to your child, printing their own name, developing fine motor skills, following 2-step directions, ABC’s and 123’s, shapes and colors, communicating with your child, and practicing manners, social skills, and self-help tasks.”
The teams emphasizes, “This is just a brief list of skills to practice; these are NOT skills students must have to come to kindergarten. Rather, they are skills that are helpful to practice and might be helpful [for] parents making the decision to send their child to kindergarten.”
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