“Redshirting,” or the practice of delaying enrollment of age-eligible children (usually between four and five years old) into kindergarten to allow an extra year for social, intellectual or physical development, is a question for many parents. The term was coined for college athletes not yet ready to officially join the team, but training and waiting in the wings for one year longer. In the US, the number of kindergartners over the age of five has more than tripled in the past decade, a sign that parents are embracing redshirting in an attempt to engineer the age advantage. But does redshirting guarantee success, or does it cause more harm than good?
The following are three arguments against redshirting, and three for.
More Harm than Good
Don’t Underestimate Your Child
Instead of letting children grow in their own space, which may include stumbles, we tend to try to eliminate all challenges from the get go; even in harmless games, we are inclined to let our children win. However, anticipating a child’s growth, meaning setting high expectations for them, is far more influential than coddling. Exposure to more mature peers has been proven to see younger students rise to the challenge. The National Association of Early Childhood Specialists also suggests that the children being considered for redshirting are the very ones who would benefit from a focused, pedagogically sound environment, like a kindergarten classroom.
Kindergarten Should be an Inclusive Community of Peers
With regard to identity, the National Associations of both Early Childhood Specialists and Education of Young Children oppose redshirting in the belief that it “labels children as failures at the outset of their school experience.” Such a label can also create a wedge between redshirted children and their peers from the offset. As can the fact that from puberty to driving, your redshirted child may struggle to find their identity among peers who may range from six months to a whole year younger than them.
False Sense of Achievement
In giving your child an additional year of development over their classmates, parents may unintentionally create a false reality or false sense of achievement in which the redshirted kindergartner may appear to be ahead of the curve. However, while he or she might revel in bumped-up test scores due to seemingly “advanced” fine and gross motor skills at the onset, studies show that more often than not, belated starters end up bored and underachieving as their school years continue.
Using the Advantage of Time
Time is Key to Success
In Malcolm Gladwell’s bestselling book, Outliers: The Story of Success, the term “redshirting” is reimagined to identify a parallel between the month we are born and our destined success. The theory is drawn that kids who are among the oldest in their class have a developmental advantage that boosts the odds that they’ll excel in school, on the sports field, and in many other aspects of life. In fact, researchers found that grade-schoolers who are among the oldest in their class have a competitive advantage. The same study showed that high-school students who were among the oldest in their class were nearly 12% more likely to enroll in a four-year college or university and 15.4% less likely to get into trouble with the law while underage.
Smooth and Healthy Transitions
From as young as six months, children are typically exploring their attachment with their parents, specifically to their mother. Attachment is a very sensitive scale in that too much can result in poor social skills and too little can lead to risk-taking behavior. Many children, especially boys, are not emotionally prepared for the community of kindergarten. With another year of structured home life or daycare, a child is able to more greatly form a personal identity that serves as a platform for healthy social interaction. They bring this confidence to kindergarten a year later and thrive socially and emotionally with a more stable backbone.
Avoiding Unnecessary Obstacles
Delaying kindergarten by just one year sees a reduction in hyperactivity by an average of 73%. In fact, many children who just needed a chance to develop their skills are wrongly diagnosed with learning disabilities. As such, older students may have a stronger chance of succeeding by being given the gift of time. Whether this means more time in a familiar home environment or more time to adapt to structured surroundings at their own pace, redshirting could be all a child needs to feel prepared in motor skills, emotional maturity and mental capacity to succeed in kindergarten.
Bottom Line: Every parent is looking to give their child a smooth, healthy transition into school. What do you think is the right decision regarding when children should start kindergarten? Is it better to not underestimate their abilities or to give them an extra year at home? Would you consider redshirting?