The practice of “redshirting” children in school—postponing a child’s entrance into preschool or kindergarten—can allow for increased time for social, emotional, cognitive, or physical growth. Many parents consider “redshirting” children who are right around the school birthdate cutoffs.
I was one of those kids—I have a June birthday, and my parents sent me to preschool twice, so I ended up being the oldest in my kindergarten class. Looking back on my experience, there are definite pros and cons, but ultimately, I’m very grateful that my parents made this choice for me. They felt that I wasn’t socially or emotionally ready for kindergarten, and this extra year allowed me time to be more on par with my classmates. I have four younger brothers, and they made the same choice for the two who also had summer birthdays and were appropriate for “redshirting.” The following are some things to consider if you’re thinking about “redshirting” your child, from someone who was.
Every Child Is Different
As caregivers, you ultimately know your child best, and you know how your child differs from their peers. Each child has their own strengths and opportunities for growth. The decision you make for your own child may be different from someone else with the same birthday. There may be judgment from others for whatever decision you make, but your role as a caregiver is to make the best decision for your child.
‘Redshirting’ Is Not About Intelligence/Academics
“Redshirting” is different from holding a child back. The decision to start a child later in kindergarten can allow your child to mature in emotional, social, and physical areas. If your child is struggling academically, they will likely still struggle even if they start later. It will be important to get that child the support necessary to help them succeed in school. It’s unlikely that starting school later will compensate for any baseline learning difficulties.
Parents Should Talk to Their Child About It
My parents told me very early that I “started school later because I wasn’t ready.” It helped me answer questions about why I was the oldest in the class. Once kids knew I was the oldest, there weren’t many more questions about it.
Now, things may have been different if I was some stellar athlete or significantly taller than everyone in the class, but I was pretty middle of the road with everything, so no one questioned it. But it was helpful to know so that I wasn’t caught off guard when I realized I was over a year older than some of my classmates.
‘Redshirting’ May Affect Some Things Outside of School
I played travel volleyball outside of school, and I had to play at a grade level above me. The travel league had very strict birthdate cutoffs, and once I was older than 12, they would no longer accept a waiver for me to play with my grade level. This meant that I had to try out and compete with girls who had a year’s worth of playing experience on me, but they were ultimately similar to my age, so it made sense. However, the initial transition was hard. All my friends got to be on the same teams, and I had to play with girls a grade above me. Eventually, this became my normal, but it is something parents should keep in mind.
Maturity Differences May Eventually Become More Noticeable
I felt pretty on par with all my peers from a general maturity standpoint in elementary school. However, once middle school hit, there were some classmates whom I slowly began to feel were significantly younger than me. This was also a shared experience with one of my brothers, who at one point in high school said, “Some of my friends just feel so much younger.”
Ultimately, maturity develops on a different timeline for everyone, and this was the only time that I felt a noticeable difference between myself and my classmates.
Many factors go into the decision to “redshirt” a child, and ultimately, it was the right choice for me. I hope that my perspective offers some insight to parents who are thinking of making this decision. Trust your gut and remember that you are deciding to support what is best for your child.