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?

Ashley grew up in Joplin, Missouri and attended the University of Arkansas where she earned a degree in Finance and Insurance. She met her husband, Jason, in Fayetteville and they have one daughter, Etta Mae. They moved to Baton Rouge in 2013 for Jason's job with the LSU Tigers. Ashley is an extroverted introvert who loves Ted Talks, following politics on Twitter, and figuring out how to get the best deals on everything without paying shipping. If it were up to her, she would get paid to read books and take every college class so that she could learn everything about everything, but instead she pays the bills by working in recruiting for a multinational tech company. Ashley is blessed to have a daughter who is at least as stubborn as she is and a husband who is laid back enough to put up with both of them.

22 COMMENTS

  1. 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!!

  2. 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. 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!

    • 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.

      • And First grade is having them complete double digit addition and subtraction. My daughter hates school. She’s also dyslexic but she’s already the oldest bc she has a late birthday. Would have redshirted absolutely if she had an early birthday.

  4. My daughter will turn 5 on July 9, and I am having this same debate (daily!!) in my head! Like you, I’d love a sign from the heavens!!! My daughter is very social, confident, and knows all her letters/sounds. I’m just worried about her maturity level compared to the other kids…. know there are girls starting K with her that turn 6 in June! Let us know where you net out. I’ll do the same.

    • Hi Krista, I realize that this is WAY later, but I’m interested to hear what you decided and how you feel about it now? We ended up deciding to move forward with Kindergarten and she’s about to start 2nd. It was the right decision for us. And her bday is also July 9!

  5. Yes! July baby here too. He’s in 1st grade now and it’s the best thing we ever could’ve done! I have a May baby as well, she’ll start kindergarten on time in the fall. Two completely different kids, two different decisions! I should add, in his kindergarten class last year, there were 5 of them, all June-August babies that all were red shirted!

  6. I find the option a hard one. We have a boy born end of June. We did not ‘redcard’ but a third of the class did. Some of those were Feb born. That means there are now kids in the class 14 months older that my boy. This pushes the average ability level up significantly. And now my boy is being compared to this higher average making him feel inadequate despite being above average for his age. If people are ‘redcarding’ Feb borns then where does it end? Redcarding a summer born will become a necessity rather than a choice and the average age of a class will continue to rise until all kids are ‘redcarded’ as no one want to be the youngest.
    I can see it is a needed option for some but I also can see the risks if it is overused. It is not an easy decision.

  7. My Facebook Timehop reminded me today that I contemplated the many choices for our end of summer, Irish twins education. The first will be entering Kindergarten and turning 5 on the same day. Her sister will follow the next year and will be starting two months early. I currently homeschool but we are switching to private for my oldest’s fourth grade year + first year of kindergarten for the other two. Assuming that the first girl gets accepted in to school, my plan is solid for starting them both “early”. So many choices! And what’s strange is my youngest that is 3 can read more and write better than the one going into kindergarten. Goodness. 😉

  8. We did not redshirt going into kindergarten but we do have a transitional first grade program at our school that is amazing. We are ending out year in T1 and I am so thankful we did. He was not ready for first grade and would have struggled throughout school later on. He is a June birthday. He has grown so much this year and it has helped him tremendously. School is tougher than it used to be and if there is any doubt I say wait.

  9. My son, born in August, is in Kindergarten now. We talked to his teacher about repeating K since he is so young. She feels like he is ready for first grade and felt like there was more of a transition from first to second. So we will probably evaluate again at the end of first to see if he is ready for second.

  10. I’ve always found this issue interesting. Growing up in NY the cut off is Dec 1st. With that being said, close to 25% of the kiddos in kindergarten are 4. When I moved out west, I realized it was earlier in the year. I then had a July baby. People asked if I was planning to “redshirt” him. Knowing we would be moving back east, this was never a thought because he would be older than 25% of kids in his grade. I think there should be some sort of national standard to keep the cut off the same. No matter when it is though, some “older” kids will not be ready and some “younger” will be super ready!

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