To Redshirt or Not: 10 Things to Consider

By Deborah Song

Do you have a child born close to the kindergarten cut-off date?  You may be one of many parents in the throes of deciding whether or not to hold your child back from kindergarten until he reaches 6 years of age.  Rest assured, you’re not alone.  But redshirting, as this practice has been popularly dubbed, is a personal decision that involves careful consideration of many factors.  Here are at least ten to consider.

1. Assess your child’s maturity level.  Many kindergarten teachers will tell you what matters more than how much a child may know at this age is whether or not he is teachable.  Is your child able to sit still and listen?  Kindergarten is also about socialization.  Your child will need to take turns, share, listen, follow directions and be somewhat independent.

See 8 Ways to Get Ready for Kindergarten

2. Distinguish between school readiness and other challenges.  Many parents make the mistake of confusing school readiness with learning disabilities like ADHD or other characteristics like high sensitivity.  Highly sensitive children, for instance, have a tougher time saying good-bye.  But a  water-work display at drop off doesn’t necessarily mean your child isn’t ready.  Or if your child has ADHD, you can focus your efforts on teaching him to cope with his learning disability instead of opting to hold him back until he is “ready.” It is worth noting, however, that research shows redshirted children are up to 75 percent less likely to be diagnosed with ADHD, suggesting ADHD diagnosis is subjective and not absolute.

3. Consult preschool teachers and caretakers.  If your child has attended preschool, a preschool teacher’s opinion and assessment will be very valuable since they have seen your child in a classroom setting.  The opinion of a caretaker is also significant because many children behave differently with parents.

4. Have your child assessed. Many kindergarten programs, both public and private, offer free assessments to parents to help them make a more informed decision on whether to send their child to school that year.  Some school districts have strict cut-off dates, so there may not end up being much to consider.  The decision may be made for you.

5. Check out the school curriculum:  Older isn’t always better.  Some redshirted children have been known to run into behavioral problems from lack of stimulation.  It’s important to thoroughly check out the kindergarten and pre-kindergarten options to see which classroom your child would thrive in more. 

6. Is there a gifted program? Is qualifying for a gifted program something you really want for your child?  Even conservative research shows redshirting benefits last until the third grade.  With many gifted programs beginning as early as fourth grade, holding back your child to give him that extra advantage may be a consideration.

7. Differentiate your child’s needs from your own.  Many parents don’t feel ready to “depart” from their child yet.  Taking the time to identify what your concerns are specifically will help you put your child’s needs first.

8. Can you afford to hold your child back?  Another year of preschool means another monthly or yearly expense.  Can you afford it?

9. Weigh physical size.  Redshirting your child can mean that if your child is  particularly tall, he may tower over other students or be one of the first to hit puberty.  This can be socially traumatic.  Or vice versa.  Many parents with more petite children are choosing to hold their child back so they can be “bigger.”

10. Consider sibling grade gaps.  Holding back your child will either shorten or widen the grade gap between siblings.



Posted on Sep 22, 2014

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