The Repercussions of Redshirting

The Repercussions of Redshirting





The Effects of Holding Kids Back for Kindergarten

Kindergarten just isn’t about colors, shapes, and numbers anymore. Unless the numbers you are talking about are the ages of the kids entering class. More Safer recently reported on 60 Minutes about the increasing trend of parents redshirting – holding their very young 5 year olds back and not entering them into kindergarten until age 6.

Author Malcom Gladwell wrote in his book Outliers about the cumulative advantage that children receive when beginning kindergarten later. If your child is older in kindergarten class, he will most likely be a little more ready to read. In 1st grade that translates into a little more ready for higher reading courses, and in 2nd grade a little more ready for social studies, and so on. Some even propose the idea that simply because the children are slightly taller they are perceived in their class to be more capable, and this translates into academics, among other things. It is the proverbial leg-up that children are being given, by well-intentioned parents, who want their kids to have every extra morsel of advantages.

These advantages extend beyond the academics, however, and into popularity issues, athletics, and even the psychological effects of not being able to get a driver’s license along with peers in order to drive on dates. The physical abilities of children when it comes to such things as dexterity and coordination are different from year to year, so older children on average can have more advantages when it comes to sports.

Where has Kindergarten Gone?

The world of kindergarten has moved beyond colors and letters, and along with increasing demands of standardized testing and more rigorous curriculum, parents are increasing their pleas to have their children ready for those challenges.

  • The incidences of redshirting have tripled since the 1970s.
  • Boys are twice as likely to be redshirted.
  • White children are more likely to be redshirted.
  • Wealthy children are more likely to be redshirted.
  • As many as ¼ of kindergarten classes have redshirted children.

These numbers show the irony of redshirting being done by parents who have the least likelihood to have children to need it. Families with lower incomes are not as equipped to pay for daycare or expensive preschool costs for an extra year, so kindergarten entrance at age 5 becomes financially needed.

Parents interviewed by Shafer who chose to redshirt their children expressed their innate desire to give their children every advantage possible, even if it seems that it actually puts other children at a disadvantage. It might still be called kindergarten, but if it continues to filled with older and older children, is it still the same introductory class that it used to be? Hardly.

What Are the Consequences of Redshirting?

Yes – there is evidence that children who were redshirted go on to be more athletically capable and possess greater positions of leadership while in high school. These are the driving forces behind parents who choose this education path.

However, other researchers point to the negative consequences of redshirting, such as boredom and lack of initiative. If things always come a little bit easier for your child because he was the oldest and biggest in the class, he might grow to be less motivated, less capable of facing challenges, and less likely to be able to succeed in the real world where we aren’t divided by strict age guidelines.

As a homeschool parent we have seen these issues first-hand. Not persuaded by “what everyone else is doing”, we move our children through their academics at a pace that fits them. For my oldest son this meant me reporting him as a kindergartner to the school district when he was 4 – because he was ready. As a very athletic child, he is now as an 8th grader almost always the youngest on his team – by 2 years in many cases as he goes up against those kids who were redshirted. It might be athletically easier for him to be competing against boys his own age, but my goals as a parent aren’t to make things easier or remove challenges. My goals are to teach my kids to find ways to meet challenges head-on while becoming their own unique individual people.

Were we not to homeschool I might have felt more inclined to just start him in kindergarten at age 5, but homeschooling has allowed us to clearly see that when kids aren’t pressured and influenced by the status of the their peers, that they can actually progress at levels that are more natural, and in many cases, more advanced. So, yes, he is the youngest and often on the smaller spectrum of his teammates in 8th grade, but in virtually every other way he is maturing beyond his grade level.

If the move by parents is to wait on kindergarten because now kindergarten is about more than shapes and letters, maybe we need to be more focused on realigning kindergarten to reflect the realistic capabilities of children than parents are on realigning their children to be the best in the class. We aren’t raising show ponies – we are developing people.

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