You Gotta Know When to Hold Em
More and more parents these days are deciding to hold their children back a year from starting kindergarten, also called "red shirting." Parents of children who will meet the age requirement to start kindergarten by only a few months (especially if they are boys) may grapple with this important decision. I have some friends who are going through it now and it can be stressful. After all, your child's entire future depends on it!
Ok, that may be an over statement, but it can make a difference. On one hand, you don't want your child to be the smallest, least mature or struggle academically. But on the other hand, maybe a little challenge is good for them, and you don't want them to get bored or be too much ahead of their peers. Sometimes the decision can be easy. If the child is in preschool and is very shy or delayed in speech, and is not socially on par with the other kids, another year before kindergarten may be a no-brainer. But what if the child is doing everything the other kids are doing but his or her birthday falls around the cut off date? Parents are torturing themselves over a date? And speaking of dates, the cutoff for kindergarten varies from state to state, sometimes even within the same state! Some places it's September 1st and others it's January 1st, it's all so complicated.
There is some controversy over the whole "redshirting" idea. Some say parents hold their kids back so they will be the smartest or the most athletic. And if everyone starts to do it, is there an added pressure to do it too so that your child will not be even farther behind? More than 10 percent of all preschoolers are redshirted for one reason or another. That may mean paying for another year of preschool and supporting your child another year before they enter the workforce. That is not always as feasible for the lower class, so this issue is more prevalent in upper and middle class areas.
Although most adults vaguely remember kindergarten as an idyllic year of naps, snacks and feeding the class hamster, it has become ever more academically demanding. Kindergarten is not what it used to be, they even give homework!?!? So what is all this telling you? I am not an expert in this field so I am not here to give advice, just get the conversation going. My personal opinion would be to make sure to weigh all the options and do what's best for your child (obviously). Talk to his or her teachers and observe them around the other kids. Remember, big differences at ages 4 and 5 all balance out in the next few years. And after all, your child is a genius no matter what, right?! ;)