Saturday, March 24, 2012

Redshirting in Kindergarten?

Have you heard of the new terminology of kindergarten "redshirting"?  I have just recently come acrossed many articles as well as a news segment on 60 minutes that referred to this and it has certainly caught my eyes and ears because, not only am I a kindergarten teacher, but also the mom of a just-turned 5 year old boy getting ready to register for kindergarten.  Redshirting in kindergarten is parents keeping their 5 year old home or providing them with another year of preschool in order to give their child an academic and/or athletic advantage over other children in their class.
The Huffington Post provided an article written by Meryl Ain, Ed.D entitled Kindergarten Redshirting: Smart Strategy or Educational Quackery?  In this article, parents suggested that redshirting, "gives their child a competitive advantage over their younger classmates -- both academically and on the sports field." 
Parents know best whether their child is ready to begin kindergarten or not and it will vary from child to child regardless of their age.  Ain states that, "Sending your child to kindergarten is an important milestone for you and your child," and goes on to list some ways you can help prepare your child for kindergarten or even affirm that what you have done has made your child a perfect candidate to start kindergarten:

• While teachers are happy when children enter kindergarten knowing letters and numbers, they do not want you to drill your child. Kindergarten teachers look for their students to have readiness skills; these are the building blocks that will enable your child to love learning and to succeed in school. You can prepare your child with readiness skills through his/her daily activities and during bedtime stories.
• Does your child approach learning enthusiastically and is he curious? Is she eager to explore, discover, and ask questions? Point out your child's surroundings, including flowers, trees, birds, people, etc., and take time to encourage and answer her questions.  If not, you can help encourage this by asking your child open ended questions and provoke their thoughts and feelings of their surroundings. 
• Hand-in-hand with curiosity and discovery go language skills. Help your child build his vocabulary by giving him words and descriptions as he observes and experiences his surroundings. Additionally, activities, such as visits to the beach, park, beach, children's museum, or zoo, present many opportunities for you to help him develop language skills.  Obviously hands-on experiences are the best, but reading about and exploring the internet can also build childrens' background knowledge.
• Kindergarten teachers will be pleased if your child has the ability to listen. Read to your child every day, and engage her by asking questions about the book. Besides nurturing vocabulary and comprehension, reading develops the listening skills necessary in a kindergarten classroom. 
• Encouraging your child to take care of himself will prepare him for kindergarten. For example, although it's easier to hang up your son's coat yourself, his kindergarten teacher will want your child to do it. She cannot take off the boots and hang up the coats of 25 students. Help your child to become ready for school by teaching him to do such tasks as going to the bathroom himself and washing his hands, and opening up a juice box and putting the straw in. Perhaps if he attends pre-school, he has already mastered these skills.
• Kindergarten is about socialization, so help your child get ready by encouraging him to share, take turns, and understand the rights, space, and feelings of others.  These skills are easily developed and practiced in group settings whether it is a daycare, preschool or even play groups prior to beginning school.  These types of situations are vital to a child's success amongst a group of many children.
• It's important for kindergarten students to have good eye-hand coordination. Many kindergarten activities involve coloring, cutting, pasting, and writing with a pencil. Playing with clay or Play-Doh, writing, coloring, painting, pasting, and stringing beads are examples of activities that will get your child ready for kindergarten.
• Kindergarten teachers will teach their students how to write and recognize letter sounds. But they are happy when their students come to school knowing how to count to 10, and know shapes and colors. If your child attends pre-school, this is usually well covered there, but can easily be learned naturally in a home setting as well. 
In the end, if your child makes your local school's cut off date, it is a parent's decision whether you will start him when he is 5 or when she is 6.  There are certainly advantages and disadvantages to both and it can be a very difficult decision for parents to make, but there are people to talk with and get more direction with your decision. 
Krissy Miner is a long time kindergarten teacher and the owner of Mrs. Miner's Monkey Business.


  1. These are great suggestions for parents. I saw this topic on another blog recently. It's a tough decision about when to start your child. But I'm a firm believer that most children are more successful when they start kindergarten at age 5 rather than age 4. I hope it's ok for me to share this blog post with parents and other kindergarten teachers.
    Ms. Kerri and her Krazy Kindergarten

  2. Absolutely! Share away...I wrote it to help a little bit in the decision making for parents! My question to you, Kerri, is do you think they are more successful starting at age 5 than age 6 (for a typical, average and socially adjusted child)?
    Mrs.Miner’s Monkey Business

  3. That's such an important decision for families, and your suggestions are very helpful. I pinned your post to the collaborative All Things Parenting Pinterest board at Deb @

  4. During a TED talk, the presenter said that kindergarten is the new second grade, that children are now being asked to learn more and do more than ever before. Perhaps if children are more successful starting kindergarten later, we we should be re-examining the expectations of kindergarten, and better aligning them with the age of the children expected to attend.

  5. That is a wonderful response anonymous, and as I was reading, I thought the exact same thing. We're asking too much of our 5-year-olds in order to prepare them for a developmentally inappropriate test in third grade. Perhaps holding them back would make them more successful. The new curriculum in Kindergarten is not developmentally appropriate either and it assumes the children know too much. Why have we stopped teaching them how to sit and listen in kindergarten? It's the reason the kids are so confused and out of control by third grade. We're feeding them material that is not appropriate for them. I think it's smart, not to give them an edge, but to make sure the material presented is appropriate for their age level.

  6. I saw that 60 minutes episode. I thought it was interest that the advantage of being older carried through high school. The older students score higher on SAT and ACT tests. I also think that since those students being redshirted are supported by their families so they would most likely be successful regardless of when thy start kindergarten. However, the children who have families that do not value education and are not being read to nightly are the ones that need the advantage of being older.

    Queen with Class

  7. Thank you, this is very helpful. My son was born in late August, 5 days before the Sept. 1st cut off date. I'm not looking at redshirting as a way for him to be at the top of his class, but rather because I'm concerned he won't be ready. He'll still be 4 years old when Kindergarten starts in mid-August.

  8. Ah, the gift of time... my August boy was so tricky because he was reading chapter books by his entry into K at the age of 4.11 so we knew he was ready (gifted, even!) academically. Yet developmentally, he was VERY young. Not knowing we had a choice, we sent him on but he just wasn't ready. We stopped the madness and gave him a 2nd year in 2nd grade when he was so clearly connecting with the kids in the grade below rather than with his peers. But it wasn't a haphazard decision. The school counselor did a Gesell Developmental Assessment on him to see what his developmental age was, and that helped guide us for sure. I will say that holding him out of K would probably have been easier on all of us than replacing him in second.

    So if a parent comes to my counseling office for advice, sure, it's their decision, of course, but I always offer to do that Gesell to see what age the child is developmentally and in what areas he/she might be younger than the chronological age. You can't tutor maturity, so if it's those social and emotional pieces need time, that's important information in the decision-making process.

    Replacing our child in 2nd grade was probably the most difficult parenting decision we've ever made because he'd made all As the first time through, but for his social and emotional wellbeing, it was the best thing we could have done for him.

    The Corner On Character

    1. Oh, and it is kind of weird to watch his K peers preparing to graduate as seniors in HS, but we haven't ever ONCE regretted that extra year we gave him (and that we're going to have with him) since he's just a junior.

  9. My youngest barely made the cut off for kindergarten this year. In fact, his birthday fell on the cut-off day! I chose to put him in kinder because our pre-k is only 1/2 day and I found that the daycares here in town where not adequate for his development. The one thing that made my decision much easier is the knowledge that here in Oklahoma we have a Transitional-First program. It is a grade between kindergarten and first grade and it typically has lower class size and more hands on activities than a 1st grade class, but more structure and intensity than a kindergarten classroom. At the end of kindergarten each child is given a Maturation test and those who score young for their chronological age (and demonstrate youngness in the classroom) are recommended for Transitional-First. The Transitional-First teacher uses a mix of Kindergarten and 1st grade curriculum. After Transitional-First students go on to 1st grade - one year more mature and very stable in their academics.
    This way we are not retaining children in kindergarten or first grade because of maturity issues. Transitional-First also does not have the stigma of retention because some of the child's peers also go to Transitional-First so he is not singled out as the only one being left behind as everyone else goes on to a new grade.
    Since we don't require a kindergarten readiness test, the Transitional-First program is a much-needed and valuable resource.

    Oh! and one more thing parents need to make sure their child can do is use the bathroom independently! The other day one of our kindergarten teachers got a new student and on his second day in class he flung open the door of the bathroom with his pants around his ankles and yelled for the teacher to call his mom so she could come wipe his bottom.

    Jennifer @ Herding Kats In Kindergarten

  10. Just want to say that all the comments about developmentally appropriate expectations are right on. That's the majority of the problem. Kinder isn't what is was 30 years ago, 20 years ago, or even 10 years ago. My daughter will be starting Kinder in August. My heart is breaking for her! She's bright and she will be successful, but the Kinder expectations and the standardized test she must take in KINDER are outrageous! Why can't kids be kids at developmentally appropriate levels anymore??? {FWIW - I am also a teacher!}

  11. Great Post!! Before I was a Kindergarten teacher I thought you should send your kids when they were 5, now that I am a Kindergarten teacher and I have a boy who will be a young 5 when school starts I have already decided to hold him back. I think if anything you are giving them an extra year of childhood! What a great gift, life is too short!

  12. I teach Kindergarten in California in the city of Santa Ana. In our state you need to be 5 by December 2 of the year you begin Kindergarten. The city of Santa Ana has more second language learners than anywhere else in the entire country. Many of these children do not attend preschool, some come to school not even knowing their name. We truly have an uphill battle because we have 31 children in our classrooms and only a half day class. I do have a team teacher for almost half the day. This year one half of the students in my class were still four years old when they started school. I feel angry and mad all the time. Could it be that I am hitting my head against the wall trying to shove inappropriate curriculum into ill prepared, too young learners? Many parents think I am mean. The children love me and I love them. Finally, California is beginning to wake up and is SLOWLY moving the birthdate back. This fall it will be 5 by Nov. 1. Next year 5 by Oct. 1 and the following year 5 by Sept. 1. I have a student with a Nov. 28 and another with a Nov. 30 birthdate this year. Also a Dec. 3 and Dec. 10. They are a complete year apart. There are a lot of maturity issues in my group.

  13. I just wanted to say that you state parents redshirt their children to have an advantage over their peers. I don't believe this at all. I think it all depends on readiness of the child, not so they can be better than the other children. With an older daughter with a fall birthday she was more than ready for school. Now with a son with a summer birthday he is not nearly as ready as his sister was. And I know this because I know what she had to learn and what was expected of her in kindergarten. It is too bad that kindergarten is no longer a place for them to play and learn. Now it is all about testing and they must be reading at a certain level by first grade.


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