Does your child have a summer or early autumn birthday and are you on the fence about your child starting kindergarten? I worried about it a lot before my son started school. My oldest son has a September birthday and I also have September birthday. But the choice I made for my son was different than the choice my mom made for me more than 30 years ago. I’m going to explain to you the ramifications of those choices to help you make an informed decision.
Kindergarten Red Shirt
The term “red shirt” is used to describe the process of delaying the start of a kindergarten student. It applies to students who were born the summer prior to kindergarten and technically meet the criteria to start school, but either the parents or the school decides to give the student an extra year of preschool. Why red shirt a student? Because being the youngest student in their class does not offer an advantage to them. I believe being the youngest actually hurts the student.
I should start by saying that my son’s birthday is in mid-September so he missed the cut off by more than 15 days. Realistically, I couldn’t argue it, even though part of me wanted to! At the time I thought it was a shame because he was so ready for kindergarten. He had completed years of preschool and he knew his letters and numbers. However, now that my son is going to be starting second grade, and with the beauty of hindsight, I’m so grateful for that extra year. I’m happy he’s one of the oldest students in his class grade level and here’s why:
5 Reasons to Hold You Child Back From Kindergarten
1) Bored academically, but challenged socially
I found that even though I didn’t think the academics were below his level, he was getting a lot of new experiences socially and learning the routine of being at school. He had to take a bus to transfer between morning care and then afternoon public kindergarten, which grew his confidence. Also, having two different places to go provided him expose to new teachers and different groups of children.
2) More opportunities to practice writing skills
My son may have known all the letter names and all the letter sounds but he still was scribbling. With that extra year, he perfected his penmanship. As a result, by the end of the year his letter formation was beautiful.
3) Another year of play
The more research is done about play, the more we realize how important it is to child development. Kids learn through play and he got that extra year of preschool. Instead of being pushed academically, he got time to do lots of crafts and fun preschool things, which is what I really want five or six-year-old to be doing.
4) He was *really* ready for first grade (and I didn’t want to send a brand-new six-year-old to first grade)
If you’re going to send your child that just turned five to kindergarten, you’re sending a child just turned 6 to 1st grade. First grade we found to be much more challenging than we were expecting. It was like the whole family “leveled up” in terms of homework. Our involvement in the school community increased as well. I was so happy that he had a year of maturity under his belt. It was hard enough to get him to sit down and do homework as a first grader. I couldn’t even imagine if he was barely six years old! As a seven-year-old he was able to listen better and sit down and do homework.
5) A chance to become a leader
Because my son is older, he ends up organizing the other students and being that leader on the playground. Instead of thinking about learning the letters and the letter sounds, he spent kindergarten learning about kids. He didn’t have to multitask to learn about the basics of reading and the basics of socializing. Reading skills were easy so that was not the focus of his kindergarten learning — everything else was!
My husband and I are super happy he is the oldest in his class, but I know that had he been born in August, I would have been tempted to send him to school in the fall. Of course I felt he was ready, but I also could have used a financial break, too. That extra year of preschool cost me at least $900 per month!
Looking back at my childhood, I know that I would have benefited from being the oldest instead of the youngest. I was only 4 when I started kindergarten and although I excelled academically for my entire education, I struggled with social anxiety. To compound matters, my parents were constantly moving. We lived all over the state of Wisconsin and even in California and Washington state. Looking back, I think I would have weathered those moves better socially if I hadn’t had been the very youngest in my grade.
Consider Middle School
Ok it’s 2022 and I’m updating this post. My child will be starting 8th grade in one week. The experience of being one of the oldest students has been a huge advantage for him. Middle school is extremely difficult socially. Because my son has his academic skills well and truly nailed, he has only had to navigate those social dynamics. I cannot stress this enough: I am so incredibly grateful he is one of the oldest and most mature students during this stressful time of his life.
Anyway, this is tough choice and I hope that this post gives you some food for thought that makes it easier for you! Good luck!
Ashley Leonard says
Great read, Henry is the end of May so we are already thinking about this! As a first grade teacher, I know just how hard it can be for those really young ones.
I think this becomes more and more important as the curriculum gets pushed younger and younger. There’s no wonder why so many kids – especially the younger ones and the boys – are struggling by 2nd grade.
Great post Sarah! I viewed this situation as “waiting another year” for kindergarten with my son. He actually had a May birthday, but it is pretty common here to “wait.” He went to a PK5. He is now entering 6th Grade and looking back, I am even more thankful we “waited.”