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.
“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.”