Is your child ready to start school? Depending on their birthday, the choice may be up to you.
Redshirting is the practice of postponing entrance into kindergarten of age-eligible children in order to allow extra time for socioemotional, intellectual, or physical growth. It originated as a term for a similar activity in college sports: a “redshirt” was an athlete kept out of varsity competition for one year to develop skills and extend eligibility. These athletes wore red shirts in practice to identify them.
In the United States, children must be five years old by the start of the school year. But what if a child turns five in August? Are they at a disadvantage compared to a kid who’s been five since the previous October? Redshirting is most common among parents of kids with summer birthdays — it’s the difference between being the youngest in their class or the oldest.
Why Redshirt — Or Not?
When it comes to kindergarten readiness, there are a lot of factors involved. Boys are more likely to be redshirted than girls, often so that they can be among the tallest in their class and better at sports. Some parents feel that their child isn’t ready for a classroom setting, or just want to give them a leg up in school.
There’s a common theory that redshirted kids are always a year ahead academically, physically, and socially — but this isn’t really true.
While most children who are redshirted are at an advantage while in kindergarten, studies show that this difference usually disappears by middle school. Some researchers even argue that redshirting can harm children’s development in the future if they aren’t challenged enough. Younger kids, who try to match their older peers in a similar way to a sibling, often rise to the occasion academically. So there’s even less reason to redshirt a child with an older sibling — they already have an example to work toward.
You might feel the pressure to redshirt your child, but it’s not as common as you may think. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports that only about 9% of kindergarten-age children experience academic redshirting. For children who have been adopted, have learning disabilities, or are adjusting to a new language or culture, it’s likely to be more successful — but a child who is held back unnecessarily may become bored and act out.
Redshirting isn’t for everyone — parents need to figure out if their child is personally ready for the challenges of kindergarten, or not. Not all growth happens in the classroom, and not all five-year-olds have the same level of development.
If your main motivation is getting your child into school with a head start, you might want to reconsider. After all, if they’re a bit younger than their peers, they’re likely to rise to the occasion.