The Kindergarten Conundrum :: Should I Redshirt My Summer Baby?

A year ago we moved back into the Baton Rouge city limits so that our daughter, who will be five in July, could go to magnet school for kindergarten. My husband and I both grew up in towns where mostly everyone went to public school, and private school isn’t something we had ever seriously considered. I also hadn’t spent a lot of time considering how my girl would barely be five when she started kindergarten.

But for the last several months, I have had a little pit in my stomach about whether we should wait an extra year. I have long been skeptical of how much more stressful elementary school has become in recent years. Higher expectations and fewer minutes of recess don’t fall into what I consider the ‘developmentally appropriate’ category. But I’d also never heard of Pre-K 5, so we sent in her magnet application and crossed our fingers. We were thrilled to find out that she got into our first choice school!

Then came the bump in the road. After her assessment, the administrator from the school let us know that she wasn’t sure whether our girl had passed the reading portion. If not, she wouldn’t be able to register and would have to wait another year or enroll somewhere else for kindergarten then apply for the lottery again next year. Hold up! You can fail a kindergarten assessment?!?!?! Apparently Mommy didn’t do so hot on the reading portion either. And to make matters worse, I had to wait 24 hours to find out the results. Naturally, I went into panic mode. What exactly would we do if she didn’t pass? A few bewildered text messages later, a friend asked if I had ever heard of Transitional Kindergarten (TK). Ummm, no. She told me about one in Baton Rouge, and I was amazed. It was the perfect in-between for kids like mine who may not be quite ready for kindergarten! I made an appointment to tour as soon as possible as a back up plan (it was just as awesome in person, by the way).

I answered the phone the next day prepared for the worst. “Mrs. Suitt? This is Ms. Weaver. Your daughter passed the test. But she did get the lowest possibly passing score for reading.” Answer in my head: “THAT’S BECAUSE SHE’S FOUR!” Answer out loud: “Ok thanks!”

I was relieved, but the seeds of doubt had been sown. Will she be ready for kindergarten? Or should we wait another year? I have an October birthday, and was always one of the oldest in my class. I had no perspective. I did what any normal parent would do. I called my mom, emailed my daughter’s preschool, and posted on Facebook for advice. And there was no shortage of advice. It was fascinating to hear the experiences of friends from so many perspectives. I got replies from teacher friends, friends with elementary-aged kids, friends who were summer babies themselves (they all claimed they turned out alright, but I remain skeptical about a few of them), and I even chatted with a few parents of summer babies whose children are now adults. 

Then there was the research. The studies on academic redshirting looked at different things and came to different conclusions. One found that starting kids early helped them to push themselves harder to achieve in school. Another said that by 10th grade, kids did worse on tests and were more likely to drop out of school and not attend college. Malcolm Gladwell famously asserted that redshirted kids are higher achievers later in life. A few sources noted anecdotally that the age differences of younger kids who aren’t redshirted become more apparent in the middle school year. None of this was reassuring enough to me. 

Academic redshirting is not without critics (is anything these days?). Many assume that parents make the choice to hold their kids back to give them an academic or athletic advantage. While I’m sure this is true for some, it would not be the case  for us. I only wanted to put her in a position that would best set her up to love learning and not come home stressed or crying in elementary school. I also recognized that it was privilege that allowed me the opportunity to even consider redshirting. It came as no surprise that the practice was pretty exclusively done by more affluent families. That extra year of childcare is not cheap and the hours are not easy to accommodate.  

So what did we decide? To be honest, we haven’t made a final choice. I’m notoriously bad at decision-making, and both options have so many pros and cons. I keep thinking there will be a sign from the Heavens (it’s still not too late God!). One thing is for sure, whichever route we go, we’ll support her 100% on the journey!

Have you ever considered academic redshirting for any of your kids? If so, what did you decide and why?

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5 Responses to The Kindergarten Conundrum :: Should I Redshirt My Summer Baby?

  1. Kate April 20, 2017 at 6:40 am #

    I have 2 summer babies. The first one went on time because he was smart and seemed ready. Redshirted number 2 because there were obvious signs. My oldest is now in 4th grade and we are holding him back this year. He makes the honor roll but is obviously a “young one.”
    It had been a feeling in my gut to have him do Kindergarten twice but I listened to everyone else and not my own motherly instinct and now we have to do it and he’s 9. Redshirt!!!! Go with your gut!!

    • Ashley S
      Ashley S April 21, 2017 at 9:09 am #

      Thanks for your feedback! It’s always helpful to hear experience from others. 🙂

  2. Denise April 20, 2017 at 7:29 am #

    I have 2 summer babies Son in July and Daughter in August.

    My son is my oldest and we never considered redshirting him, I was 7 months pregnant when he started kindergarten. It was a struggle from day one. He missed Title 1 reading by a point. He didn’t want to be at school. He still struggles, but that is who he is.

    My daughter – she was ready for kindergarten at 4. She is starting high school in the fall, and is in all AP classes. My daughter was the youngest kid in the school, but socially she was ready and excited. She loves school and has from day one.

    It really depends on your child. Remember momma, God gave you that child. You will know what is right.

  3. Lindsey April 20, 2017 at 4:28 pm #

    Although my son is only two, I have the same concerns you do. Is kindergarten these days too instruction-focused and not play-based enough? Is it worth it to do a year of private play-based or transitional kindergarten before “real” kindergarten at the school he will continue on through? Let us know what you decide! I’ll be watching with interest!

    • Ashley S
      Ashley S April 21, 2017 at 9:10 am #

      Thanks for your reply! It’s crazy that we have to think about this so young. We picked a play based preschool which I’ve loved!!! But yes, it’s so stressful that kindergarten seems to be more like 1st grade these days.

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