Getting ready to send your baby to kindergarten is an emotional process for both the parents and the child. Many parents with summer or early fall babies, or “early” kindergarteners, often wonder if their child is in fact ready to head off to big kid school. There are many factors that a family may take into account when trying to decide to academically redshirt, or hold back, their child from entering kindergarten when they are of the appropriate age. Their child may not be academically or socially ready, they may be of small stature, or the parents may believe their child will have an advantage if they wait another year. Many experts believe that there is no benefit to academically redshirting children but each parent needs to make the best decision for their family and their child. Below is the story of one mom who decided to redshirt her child, and why she thinks it was their best decision.
It is no secret that in a family with three children, it is generally the middle child who gets the short end of the stick. The first child is just that: FIRST #1- numero uno. The third child will always be the baby of the family and will likely get the white-glove treatment from Mom and Dad for life. But that middle child that poor, poor middle child
My third baby was born when my middle son Jacob, was 2. My oldest child was heading into full-time kindergarten, and I was an exhausted and sleep deprived mess. Having both a toddler and a newborn at home, along with a deployed husband, was just not going to work for this mommy! So, off to preschool Jacob went at the ripe old age of 2 ½ . Short. End. Of. The. Stick.
Fast forward a few years and Jacob was turning 5 in September. It was time to decide whether to keep him in preschool (for the third year in a row!) or send him on his way to kindergarten. He was newly 5, which would mean he would be the youngest kid in his class. I hemmed and hawed over this difficult decision for months. I did internet research, I asked the opinions of my parents, my in-laws, my friends and of course the all-knowing Facebook Universe. I got various answers as to why I should wait or why I should go ahead and send him. The majority of responses fell in the wait camp. A good teacher friend said to me, You will never hear a parent say they regretted waiting, but you will hear them say that they regret NOT waiting. And, truthfully, those exact words were said to me, more than a few times.
Being a military family and moving frequently can be difficult but for this particular decision, we were in the right place at the right time. When it was time for Jacob to enroll in kindergarten we had just moved to a new duty station, but we were only going to be there for one year. I didnt feel like he would benefit from yet another year of preschool, so I ended up putting him into kindergarten with the intention of re-evaluating at the end of the school year. That year, I frequently volunteered in his classroom and I saw a significant difference between those on the older side of 5 and those on the younger side of 5 – especially when it came to the boys. I could see it in my own son too – he was much more of a follower than he was a leader. He was not as confident as many of the older children were. While he did very well academically and would have been ready for 1st grade, his teacher and I agreed that repeating kindergarten would give him some extra time to mature emotionally.
So we moved again that next summer and I re-enrolled him in kindergarten. What I saw the second time around was a completely different child. He was confident, at the top of his class, and was somewhat of a leader to the other children. This success followed him into 1st grade where he is currently. He remains confident both academically and socially. Redshirting was the best decision that we could have made for our son. We have no regrets whatsoever.
It is important to note that kindergarten is nothing like it used to be. The demands and expectations are much higher there is not nearly as much play and free time. Academics and reading are emphasized significantly more than they were years ago.
That being said, here is what I have come away with: there is NO RIGHT ANSWER for everyone. When it comes to the decision about kindergarten you have to remember that every child is different. They each have their own strengths and their own weaknesses. However, if you really are struggling with the kindergarten decision, I suggest waiting. Giving your child an extra year of unstructured life and allowing them to further mature can never be a bad decision.