OMGoodness…redshirting kindergarteners is almost as controversial as vaccinating. When we had to make the decision about what to do for our late-August birthday kiddo, it was a BIG deal. I lost sleep (lots of sleep). Because, the reality is, there’s no clear answer. You can find compelling research and opinions on each side of the debate surrounding redshirting (or holding back) your soon-to-be kindergartener.
But, there was one piece of advice I was given that ultimately helped me make the decision about whether or not to redshirt my own son.
If you’re thinking about redshirting your preschool kid (or 5K kid), one important thing to consider is what you think the difference will be for the child entering middle school and exiting high school.
The Evidence Isn’t Enough
You can ask a million people for their opinion on this topic, but when it comes down to it you ultimately have to just go with your gut. Agh. Another big decision we are responsible for making that can impact the rest of their lives. It truly never ends…
There are statistics that point to redshirting as a good thing. Then, there are stats that totally go the other way. There’s no winning here. There’s no clear choice that you SHOULD make.
That said, this one decision could potentially impact your kid today, tomorrow, and at each academic, social, and athletic phase of life for the foreseeable future. No pressure.
That’s why I lost sleep, and that’s what makes this one choice such a tricky one.
It’s Not Personal
After speaking with many admissions reps in the public and private schools in our surrounding area, I was told the same thing again and again: if his birthday is right before the cut-off (which it was), then no-questions asked, “Hold him back.”
This actually offended me each and every time. “They don’t know my son,” I would say. “They have no idea how brilliant he is—I mean, his vocabulary alone…” I was sure he’d be more than capable of sticking with his original class.
But, it seemed like everywhere I turned, I was getting told to redshirt based on nothing more than his birthday. Period. I mean, there had to be more to redshirting kindergarteners than just being a summer B-Day kid, right?
That wasn’t enough for me because I knew his academic abilities, and he was well equipped to hang with the oldest kids in his grade. So, I needed something more to convince me to redshirt.
Big Picture Analysis on Redshirting
Then, I spoke with an admissions director that had worked in public and private schools, and she had been a teacher (as well as admin) for decades. She ended up giving me the piece of advice that swayed me to redshirt.
She said that regardless of how he’s doing academically and socially NOW, I needed to start thinking about the middle school years and the social issues involved. The dreaded puberty.
I had been spending so much time focusing on “the now” that I hadn’t really made it too far down the line. I mean middle school seemed like eons away!
In her sweet southern drawl, she aid, “Honey, I’ve seen it so many times. Come time for middle school, he’s still into super heroes and cars, but his friends are only talking about girls.” I remember gasping when she said this.
Middle school? Girls? Puberty?
Then, she said, “You also want to consider how it will be when he’s graduating at 17 and heading off to college or his gap year before he’s even turned 18.” Again, “Gasp!”
Honestly, I’ve never, not once been worried about my kids’ academic achievements, abilities, or where they fall in the pack—at all. It’s also never once crossed my mind that I should hold either of my children back based on sports.
But, the emotional and social skills piece? Now, that’s a whole other can of worms.
So, between the puberty and the gap year hyperventilations, I decided that my sweet potato would be the oldest in his class instead of the youngest.
At the parent-teacher conference I just attended, the teacher’s powerpoint contained an image of her son getting dropped off at college and waving goodbye to her. The caption read “The Goal.” She said that it’s not college that’s the goal, but sending them off into the world prepared for what lies ahead–that’s THE GOAL.
It’s her goal. It’s our goal.
I know there’s a lot of rationale as to why you shouldn’t redshirt, as well as why you should. Honestly, I think there’s excellent points on each side. Redshirting kindergarteners has a LOT of grey area.
And though no one can see into the future–I believe imagining what your kid may be like as a burgeoning middle schooler and college kid is an excellent scenario to play out in that mom brain of yours.
But, ultimately, the only real question is, “What’s going to serve your kid best in reaching THE GOAL?”