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Redshirting Kindergartners

Have you read this recent article in the New York Times, Delay Kindergarten at your Child’s Peril?  I only taught K/1 for two years, but I agree 100%.  I had one little student enter Kindergartnen with a November birthday, and she spent the first couple of months losing her hair bows all over the classroom.  But that doesn’t mean her brain wasn’t rapidly absorbing all of the content I was teaching.  By the end of first grade she was one of the top performers, in a class of very bright children to begin with.

In contrast, I had another sweet, delightful, and wonderful boy enter my Kindergarten classroom who had been redshirted.  By the end of first grade he was almost eight.  I really, really, really, needed to retain him because he hadn’t mastered the curriculum yet, but I could not in good conscious hold him back.  I had to commit the dreaded sin of “social promotion” and pass him up to second grade.  He was already the tallest kid the class, and there was no way I could have an eight year old in a K/1 classroom. 

The sad thing is, this little boy’s parents had tried to act in their son’s best interest by keeping him home an extra year and entering him into Kindergarten when he was a bit older and more mature.  But if they hadn’t done that, he would have entered Kindergarten as a very young five year old whose brain cells were still rapidly forming and a laying down tracks.  The NYT articles suggest that earlier entrance to Kindergarten might have actually made this child smarter and more capable.  At the very least, he would have ended first grade as a seven year old and I could have retained him.  Then he would have received an extra year of school that would have made a big difference.

My own daughter Jenna has a summer birthday.  She’ll be a young Kindergartener someday, but that’s fine by me!


  1. Michelle says:

    I read the redshirting article, and I disagree with several points. For kids from a low socio-economic background, getting them in school as early as possible is best. But what about my son? Ended preK at four reading at a late 1st gr level and rapidly improving (math late K), but was very short & would be four for the first 3 months of K. Plus, we are in an affluent area where redshirting is overly done, so MANY kids would be 1 1/2 years older than him. He ended up in our local K for last 1/2 of the redshirting year, as another year of preK (redshirting) was causing a regression in his skills…

    • jenbrdsly says:

      Just to be clear, do you disagree with redshirting Kinders, or do you disagree with the article saying to not redshirt Kinders? It sounds like your little guy was more than capable of handling Kindergarten, even as a younger Kinder. But that makes it hard for everyone when there are children who are so much older in the K classroom.

  2. Blondeviolin says:

    I’m not sure if I agree or not. On one hand, my son has a late October birthday and I am planning on starting him on K material when he is not quite 5. I did the same for my daughter (who has a late May birthday). But! I do believe it’s hard to decide in a public school setting. How much of my children’s readiness to begin school at 4 is because they live in an environment that allows them to learn and grow naturally? How much of it is because he is gifted? If my son were going to public school, he’d miss the cutoff and start K when he was nearly 6. At that point he’d be beyond bored with that material. He is currently in a level 4 swim class and is the youngest by 2 years and it is very apparent he is youngest. If I put him in K when he was academically ready there would be expectations that, developmentally, he could not meet.

    It’s very much a catch-22!

    I think the most important thing is exposing children to lots of books and information and keeping a home of learning.

    • jenbrdsly says:

      The October birthday is tough, but at least would take away any decision-anxiety if you did choose public school, because with an October birthday your decision is made for you. I think you nailed it in that you have go to keep exposing kids to high level material no matter what age they are.

  3. Donna says:

    My daughter entered K as a Late November birthday 4 yr old who looked like she was 3 and, the first day of K, wet her pants because the teacher sent her to the bathroom outside the classroom, the big wood outer door was closed, and DD didn’t have the strength/leverage to pull it open. The teacher found her with wet pants, tears streaming down her face, still trying to pull open that heavy door. She was a tiny, little thing, identified gifted and in pullout classes for math and reading with 3rd and 4th graders. And she attacked everything like she did that door, unwilling to give up and admit that there were things she just couldn’t quite do yet.

    And it is for exactly that reason that I’m glad I sent her to K at age 4, bucking the trend to hold children out (there was exactly 1 other child in the school’s K program who was not 5 at the start of the school year, a little girl with a September birthday). Most of DD’s classmates were closer to 6 than to 4, with several of the children turning 7 before starting 1st grade. By being a year younger, while DD didn’t find K academically challenging at all, there were other challenges to face-things like having to learn to write letters when most of the class already knew how to write quite well due to having spent the previous year in pre-K programs that essentially were the same content as Kindergarten, that DD hadn’t had. By Christmas, she’d caught up. By May, she had some of the best handwriting in the class. The same was true in a lot of other areas. Because DD was NOT ahead in everything, she had areas she needed to work, needed to struggle, and needed to improve.

    And yes, by the end of the year, she could even manage that heavy bathroom door :).

    We ended up pulling DD to homeschool her after the end of that K year, and it’s a constant struggle to find the balance where she’s challenging herself without it being too frustrating. I’m GLAD I had the model of her K year to see that when DD was given a challenge, she could, would, and SHOULD rise to the occasion. Even if that challenge was in the form of a heavy bathroom door.

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