Redshirting… It’s Not Just for Sports Anymore…
Let’s start with a poll… who here has heard the term ‘redshirting’ used in a context other than sports? (Crickets…) Don’t worry, I too, had never heard of this, and had no idea it was a thing. But as my oldest child approached kindergarten age, and with two siblings not far behind, I noticed a growing trend towards this. I’m perplexed. Isn’t parenting hard enough for the first 5 years, and then we all rejoice and high-five when we ship them off to kindergarten? Apparently not. So because I don’t have enough keeping me awake at night, I had to look into this further and then of course had to share what I found.
What exactly is Redshirting?
Whether you have heard the expression or not, surely you are familiar with the concept. Quite simply, redshirting is delaying the start of kindergarten for an age-appropriate child. Parents do this for a variety of reasons, such as allowing their child more time to grow socially/emotionally/physically. Sometimes parents don’t want their child to be the youngest or smallest in the class. The assumption is that they are at a disadvantage academically and athletically, having to compete with children nearly a year older. But is that assumption correct? The research is actually pretty divided.
Tell me the pros…
Not surprisingly, there is certainly research that confirms the benefits of a one year delay. Every child will grow physically, emotionally, and socially over the course of a year. If a child has more confidence, socially and academically, it could create a more successful entrance into elementary school.
One small study compared the life satisfaction of adolescent boys who were redshirted for kindergarten to those who were not. Overwhelmingly, the boys who were not redshirted felt they would have benefited from waiting a year. They acknowledged the “…bigger, stronger, more mature aspect they wished they had.” They felt they were always trying to keep up. The boys who were redshirted had no complaints, and saw only positives with being older. (To note, this particular study applied only to boys. The author felt the results would have been different had she studied girls. Girls don’t typically want to be the first to mature, the first and only one to have certain experiences.)
In addition, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that students who turn 5 the month before starting kindergarten are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than students who start kindergarten the month they turn 6.
And the Cons…?
While giving your child another year to grow might sound like a no-brainer, there is a lot of research that shows redshirting is not in your child’s best interest. One fascinating study (actually multiple studies) found that it’s actually the younger students in a class who benefit most from having older peers. The younger students are challenged by having to ‘keep up’ and push themselves more. This resulted in higher test scores for eight years after kindergarten, and increased the probability they would take college-entrance exams.
Another study found that there are benefits to being older when a child first begins school, however those benefits decrease rapidly as they move through the grades. By 9th grade there were no noticeable benefits to being a year older.
One of the main problems with redshirting is that students mature vastly over the course of a year, and these older students often end up being bored and unmotivated in the classroom. This can result in behavioral issues, a lack of academic enthusiasm and difficulty connecting with classmates who are not at the same maturity level.
So, what is a parent to do?
Unfortunately, there is no clear cut answer for whether or not to redshirt. However, there are some points to keep in mind that might help you lean one way or there other. First, don’t delay your child based on physical size alone. After all, there is no guarantee they will sprout up even given an extra year. Next, really consider all aspects of your individual child. Does he have any extreme developmental delay? If not, he’s probably ready to start according to schedule. Lastly, keep in mind that if your child doesn’t progress as much as you would have hoped during Kindergarten, you will have the option to repeat the year.
We’re always open to hearing your thoughts and opinions, so pop on over to our Instagram or Facebook page @islandprep and tell us… have you redshirted a child and was it a success?
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