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Academic Redshirting: Should You Postpone Kindergarten?

Why do we sometimes stress ourselves out unnecessarily? I consider myself to be fairly calm and level-headed, but this past July I found myself in semi-panic mode. What was I worried about? My decision to hold back my oldest son a year before starting Kindergarten. Yes, I was freaking out about kindergarten of all things.

back to school graphic

As the the mom of two summer babies (June and July birthdays), I always thought I would wait until they turned 6 to start school.  I made plans to do just that with my oldest who turned 5 in July. In Memphis, the birthday cutoff is August 1 for public schools and typically around June 1 for private schools. Since we are going the public school route beginning at 1st grade, we had a choice to make.

When Logan was in Pre-K 3, I talked with his school's director about how logistically we would hold him back in our school that is Pre-K 2 through Senior Kindergarten. We agreed that my son would proceed to Junior K for two years before moving into Senior K. With two Junior K classes taught by different teachers, he would be exposed to two different learning environments and be double-ready for Senior K. Sounds easy enough, right?

Well my aforementioned freak-out moment happened in July of this year when Logan was set to start his second year of Junior K in just two weeks. I felt this tug that maybe I should go ahead and send him to Senior K. I looked at Logan and just knew he was academically and socially ready for Kindergarten and had recently noticed that he tends to act more mature when he is around children his own age and older. Plus, Logan is about a head taller than almost everyone else his age.

I did some google "research" (too bad there is no kindergartenMD), and I learned that you can find convincing evidence and opinions to support both sides of the decision.

Those FOR academic redshirting discussed research that children with birthdays falling earlier in the school year were better prepared, performed better in school, and were more socially mature. Even more opinions were found to support holding back boys in particular because of their tendency to lag behind their female peers in social maturity. However, most researchers reported that the gains made in early elementary years were statistically insignificant as they proceeded to later elementary years and beyond.

On the flip side, I found some really great opinion pieces and research on why younger students perform better long term in school environments and even can be more successful in their careers. Some felt that younger students who have to work harder and put in more effort to succeed in school are building character and the burning desire to achieve.

kindergarten boy

AHHH! So, what did we do? I had my hubby convinced we should go ahead and start Kindergarten, and I was leaning that way as well. But my main worry is that we would regret the decision later no matter what decision was made.

The next day, I scheduled an appointment with our school's Director who is a former kindergarten teacher and supermom to three boys. Plus, she may be the most patient person I have ever met. After hearing all of my crazy thoughts, she told me that they can make a spot for Logan in Kindergarten if that is what we chose. She agreed that he was academically and socially ready. However, the best thing she did was assure me that he would be fine either way and that this decision (regardless of the outcome) would not ruin his life. How comforting and simplistic was that?  Did I really think this decision would make or break my 5 year old?

I told the director I would let her know our decision by the next day, but after a quick talk with my hubs, I texted her that afternoon to let her know we would stay in Junior K this year. Staying the course seemed like the right thing to do, and halfway through this school year I do not regret it at all. My son has made sweet friends in his new class, he is sharpening his knowledge of letter sounds, he is getting better at writing, and he does not yet have homework (This may be my favorite perk!). Plus, last minute trips and days off do not matter for one more year like they will in Kindergarten when attendance counts.

Are you currently contemplating the decision of academic redshirting for kindergarten for your child? I will relay the advice I was given: your child will be fine either way.  Our children are often much better at adapting to changing environments than we are. They really are resilient, aren't they? So, trust your own instincts and the fact that you know your child better than anyone else, and just own whatever decision you make. You will be glad you did.

If you need something to worry about, start researching how expensive college is becoming. Now, that is worth fretting over!


(This originally appeared on our site in 2015.)

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