Redshirting kindergarten is a term given when parents hold their child back a year before starting kindergarten, or in some cases, give them an extra year of kindergarten. The term comes from college athletics when freshmen take a year off from competitive play to gain an extra year of eligibility when they are older and stronger.
On Friday, Meghan graduated from the Montessori school she’s attended since she was 2-turning-3. It was a weepy ceremony, all the moms with Kleenexes in hand while our little people sang songs, displaying their talents in the cutest possible way.
Of the 9 students in her class, Meghan is the only one not going on to 1st grade. The Montessori school she attended is a three year program that starts with preschool, then pre-k, then kindergarten.
Here is Meghan on her first day of preschool as a 2-year-old who is about to turn 3.
So this year, as a third year student, she was in the kindergarten class. She was also the youngest in her class. In our state, the cutoff to be in kindergarten in any given year is the student must turn five by September 30th. Meghan’s birthday is the week before that, so she started kindergarten this year as a four-year-old and turned five a few weeks later.
The Montessori school only goes through kindergarten, so either way, Meghan would be attending a new school next year. Our decision was whether to send her on first grade or have her repeat kindergarten. We chose to have her repeat kindergarten.
The main reason we initially thought to give her an extra year in kindergarten is simply that’s the trend around here. It seems like everyone holds their kids back, especially the boys. So if we didn’t redshirt, she wouldn’t just be the youngest in her class. She would be the youngest by a lot. Some parents are holding their kids back with April birthdays. That means she’d have kids in her class almost a year and a half older than her. And most of those older kids would likely be boys. Our minds immediately went to her at 13 1/2 with 15 year-old boys in her class. Are we the only ones not comfortable with this idea?
We looked at all the issues and research surrounding kindergarten redshirting when making our decision for Meghan. There’s research supporting both sides. On one hand, there’s research that shows older students do better in the early grades. But there’s also research showing that later on, it’s the youngest students who are most successful. The fact is, we can’t look into a crystal ball and see what’s going to be the best for Meghan.
While academically she did very well this year in kindergarten, other factors outweighed her strong academics. There is more to life and to school than academics.
What it comes down to is knowing our child. Meghan is the child who insisted her teachers hold the door open for her when she used the bathroom her first two years at school because she was afraid to be in the restroom alone. Meghan is the child who, at four, sobbed (sobbed!) the first time she saw Cinderella at the part where the stepsisters tore her dress. “Why would they do that?!” she gasped between tears. I also had to fast forward through all cat-chasing scenes for months. Meghan is the child who, at four, refused to enter the museum with large dinosaurs at the entrance. I had to carry her and run past them while she screamed, head buried in my shoulder. She’s also the child who, at five, cried upon entering the gym for her first basketball game because it was “too crowded.”
Meghan is a sensitive child who thrived at her Montessori school, but may need an adjustment period when placed in a much larger setting with over 800 students from kindergarten through 8th grade. With an extra year of kindergarten, we hope that she’ll develop more confidence and become more of a leader rather than a follower.
When trying to decide what was going to be best for Meghan, we went back and forth. Because she can already read and has a solid foundation of math skills, it seemed strange to have her repeat kindergarten, despite her emotional immaturity.
There was one thing that tipped the scales: the extra year we got to have her if she redshirted. Once she graduates from high school, she’ll move on to the next stage of her life, no matter what that may mean for her. It could take her to faraway places. I know once that happens, life will never quite be the same. So did that extra year we get to keep her with us influence our decision? You bet it did.
I don’t love the trend of kindergarten redshirting even though we are a part of it. I feel like it’s a vicious cycle; so many parents are doing it that it encourages other parents to do the same. Because of this, parents are holding their kids back earlier and earlier to help them get that competitive edge. Something needs to change.
We do feel, however, we are doing what is going to be best for Meghan. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for when to start your child in kindergarten. You have to look at your individual child and decide what situation is going to help them do their best academically, socially, and emotionally. That is what we tried to do with our decision.
Edited: There’s a lot of conversation going on over on my Facebook page about this. Head on over there if you’d like to join in!