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Kindergarten Age

5? 6? At what age is your child ready for Kindergarten?

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Ann is the mother of an energetic and outdoorsy 7-year-old. Two years ago, though his mid-summer birthday meant he was old enough to enter Kindergarten in the Downingtown Area School District, Ann and her husband didn’t think their son was ready to focus on classroom learning. After talking to his preschool teachers, they decided to “redshirt” him, or delay his entry to Kindergarten for a year.

Redshirting Pros

  • Older children appear to be more advanced and learn at a faster pace.
  • They tend to be class leaders because they are more socially advanced.
  • They have better attention spans.
  • Younger children can be mislabeled as slower learners.

Redshirting Cons

  • As kids get older, they have more difficulty socializing with their younger classmates.
  • Some studies point to academic problems down the road.
  • Older children may be developmentally ahead of their peers, but they’re not necessarily smarter.

“I didn’t want him to be on the lower end socially, physically and academically. Those things impact confidence and carry through,” she says. Now two months removed from the completion of her son’s delayed Kindergarten year, Ann is “100 percent confident” that redshirting was the right decision.

This quiet but persistent trend began formally about two decades ago, when schools implemented transitional preK programs in response to a growing demographic of“immature” boys, some diagnosed with ADHD and autism spectrum disorders. Today, the decision to redshirt comes more from parents who hope their children will mature over the skipped year and start school when they’re a bit more advanced developmentally.  

Area school district age mandates vary widely; some require Kindergarteners to turn 5 by June 15; others will enroll kids who don’t turn 5 until December of their Kindergarten year. About 9 percent of potential Kindergarteners are redshirted nationwide each year. Research shows that redshirted children tend to be:

  • Kids with late-summer birthdays. Instead of entering Kindergarten as one of the youngest in the class, they begin a year later as one of the oldest.
  • Boys. “When you compare boys and girls at 4, 5, 6, girls are more advanced developmentally,” says Dominic F. Gullo, PhD, professor of early childhood education at Drexel University.
  • Middle class. Families who redshirt tend to be able to afford another year of preschool or daycare.

While there is not a lot of current research on redshirting, past studies have drawn mixed conclusions. The benefits may be more short-term in nature, says Rena Hallam, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Delaware. Gullo concurs: “Studies show that either things even out, or such students have more difficulty socially and academically down the road.”

Aug 6, 2014 03:47 pm
 Posted by  Proud mom

Very interesting article. I write from the perspective of a parent whose child has an April 1988 birthday. Her kindergarten class in the West Chester Area School District would be expected to have the majority of the kids born between September 1, 1987, to August 31, 1988. Instead, because so many kids were "redshirted" for kindergarten, many simply b/c the parents said they wanted their child to be "older", the class was very heavy with kids born more than a year before her -- i.e., January 1987 to August 31, 1987. She was one of the youngest in the class, even though she was born more than 4 months before the cut-off date. There were no "summer birthday" boys in her class. They had all been "redshirted" by their parents for the sole reason that they had a summer birthday.

As a result, her kindergarten teacher wanted her to repeat kindergarten b/c she did not have the same skill set as those older kids. Her skills were exactly age-appropriate for just that, her age in kindergarten. Much to her teacher's dismay, and telling us we were not doing what was best for our daughter, we did not hold her back in kindergarten.

Instead, she graduated with honors from Penn State University.

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