A little over a year ago, I wrote a post on the topic of redshirting potential Kindergartners. And since we’re less than a year out from having our own Kindergartner (should we send Lil’ CB to Kindergarten “on time”), I thought I’d revisit the topic with some new information that has come to light.
Redshirting, in a nutshell, is the practice of holding back Kindergarten-age students from starting school “on time” because their birthdays are close to the cut-off date (the date by which you need to turn 5). It gets its name from the similar practice with college athletes. And like college athletes, most often it is males that are redshirted. In our district, which has a cut-off date of September 30, boys with summer and September birthdays are often redshirted by their parents.
I have always been in the camp of starting students on-time — after all, cutoff dates exist for a reason. I’ve always felt that the decision should be made on a case by case basis and that the most important factor in determining whether or not to redshirt should be emotional maturity, not academic ability or just the sheer fact that a child will be the youngest in his class. With that in mind, we have always leaned heavily towards sending Lil’ CB (who has a September birthday) to Kindergarten on time.
To be honest, though, the idea of having a Kindergartner next year terrifies me and makes me want to curl up into a ball and cry. Even though I teach Kindergarten myself and know what sweet babies my students are at the beginning of the year, compared to preschoolers, they seem so old. And not babies anymore. See? Cue curling up into a ball and crying. It’s almost enough to make me waver on my original stance. Almost.
And then I read this article and my stance was reaffirmed and strengthened. Because for the first time, I was reading something that actually supported my thoughts against redshirting. The article, which is a fascinating and quick read, cites research that shows the benefits to being the youngest in the class, and conversely, the potential negative effects of being the oldest in the class. The article echoed much of what I felt myself as a youngest-in-the-class child: I loved being the youngest in my class and enjoyed the challenge of being a year younger than some of classmates and doing the same work. The research in the article pointed to the fact that children learn well from older peers and often, in the pursuit to keep up with them, end up surpassing them. Plus, the fact that younger students learn to deal with and overcome challenges, rather than having everything come quickly and easily for them, gives them an outlook for learning that goes hand in hand with Carol Dweck’s incredible research on the psychology of success and the “growth mindset.”
I’ve seen this in Lil’ CB’s interactions with other children already. He does incredibly well around older children and strives to keep up with them, pushing himself harder. On the other hand, when among younger children, while he can take the lead with some prompting, he also often ends up acting silly and reverting to more immature behavior.
I know it’s a little silly to be thinking about the psychology of success as it pertains to 4 and 5 year-olds, but I do think there is validity in this argument and I have seen it play out in my own classroom and with my own child. And while I still believe decisions should be made on a case by case basis, in our case, with this information in tow, we’ll be sending our little cowboy to Kindergarten next year as a four year-old. Talk to me again in May at Kindergarten registration when I’m silently weeping in the corner, curled up into a ball…but for now, it looks like Lil’ CB will be heading to big boy school, probably as the youngest and smallest in his class. And really, I think he’ll do well.
It’s me I’m worried about!
Sigh…at least I’ve got this to hold on to: