I was recently asked to talk to a local television station about kindergarten redshirting. Redshirting is keeping a young five year-old in preschool and allowing him to begin kindergarten a year later. I admit that I hadn’t thought about the topic for a few years. In the last while there have been quite a number of research projects on the subject. With all of this research, there still isn’t a definitive answer, just more conflicting points of view. Malcolm Gladwell created a storm of comments in response to his book, “Outliers,” by suggesting that we group kindergarten children together according to the month in which they were born. His research indicated that the more accomplished leaders in school were usually the oldest in the group. However, there are other research papers that indicate older children really don’t have any academic advantages after third or fourth grade. When making a redshirting decision, a parent must realize that self-esteem and self worth are just as critical as academic achievement.
I have personal experience with this. My oldest son was the youngest in the group and I redshirted his younger brother. Although academically both sons were successful, there were other issues that came to light during their school experiences. I think my oldest son would have been more comfortable in some situations had he had more maturity. I also think being older could have helped him be a stronger leader and more comfortable in his own skin. He is an amazing adult these days with a great job. However, I sometimes wished I could have helped with some of the hurdles he had to get over during school. In contrast, his younger brother did have the advantage of age and maturity. He was always a leader and was successful in his athletic pursuits. The day he graduated from high school he said the best thing I had ever done for him was to let him be the oldest in the class.
The bottom line for me is that redshirting must be an individual consideration when looking at each child. There is no blanket rule that is appropriate for all young five year-olds. There are times I think that redshirting would be the appropriate approach. There are other times when the child should begin kindergarten, even if he is the youngest. I do know that the attitude of the family is critical. When redshirting a child, he should never feel ‘less than’ or unsuccessful. When my son was turning 5, I said, “Next year you get to go to kindergarten.” There were never any suggestions that it could be otherwise. Later, when he was in 5th grade, he said to me, “Do you know I am old enough to be in sixth grade?” I told him, “Yes, but I wanted you to be the oldest and smartest and look, it’s working.” His response was, “Cool.”