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Pros and Cons of Redshirting: Understanding the What and Why

Pros and Cons of Redshirting
Academic redshirting is the act of delaying a child's admission into kindergarten by the child's parents. There may be other reasons for this, but redshirting is done by parents at an early age, due to their kid's birth date being in late spring or summer.
Arun Prabhu
Last Updated: Jun 3, 2018
Because of the late birth date (late August or early September), if the admission process is carried out according to plan, the child ends up being the youngest kid in class. This, parents think, keeps their kid from growing emotionally, socially and physically. Thus, they feel the need to postpone the child's entrance into kindergarten even if the child is already age-eligible. It was earlier discovered that redshirting is a practice among the influential or the wealthy, who generally put their children through private schooling. This practice has, however, found its way into public schools too. Due to this, we find children from wealthy families joining kindergarten as late as 6 or 6½ years and 4½ year olds from poor families because they need the educational support. The National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) has reported in a 2006-2007 study, a 9% rate of redshirting per year in kindergarten-aged children. It has also been shown that boys are more prone to be redshirted than girls.
Understanding Redshirting
As a whole, the effect of redshirting has not been researched on yet. It has been divided into two blunt categories - as effects on the child in kindergarten itself and the effects in Grade school. Let's look at the effects of redshirting through its pros and cons.
  • One is where the children cope up with the curriculum positively, showing equal or greater progress than younger classmates. This causes a positive boost in the child's confidence, helps him/her have a wider emotional comfort zone and improved cognitive skills.
  • It has been observed that younger kids that have been enrolled early have had to be held back a year for being underdeveloped.
  • There have also been cases where people who, as kids had not been held back for a year. Regretting the decision, they may explain that mental growth would have happened regardless, but they would always have to live with the feeling of being too young to do anything when they were in school.
  • The flip side to this is that the child will get alienated by his/her classmates due to his/her size and abilities. There have been cases where the child who has been redshirted ends up being picked on by other children for being big and slow.
  • Another disadvantage is for the teacher, who may find it tough to handle a class with kids of diverse age. With the age difference being as much as 2 to 3 years, teachers will have a hard time having the children to get together despite their differences. This is a cause for reverse bullying, where multiple smaller children will pressure a lone older child.
  • Research has showed that it is not the age, but rather the experience of pre-schooling and early school years that affect the child's growth.
  • During the start of grade school, this problem may be more resonant. This will depend on factors too many to take up all at the same time. Redshirting your child may make the child miss his/her friends who will be a year ahead.
  • The bullying may be carried forward, or your child may fall into the bullying tendencies himself. Academic performance will strictly depend on the child's own cognitive abilities. Rather than holding back your kid a year just because of the birth date, it will be better to get to know your child's skills beforehand. But again, dealing with all this depends on the psychology of the child, the school, teachers and friends.
  • Girls may find it difficult to understand growth through puberty later on, including having to wear a bra and dealing with periods. Boys will face their own problems too. Either sex will experience problems before or after their friends face the same problems, depending on whether the child has been redshirted or not.
  • There will also be the fact that your child may want to join school early themselves. This will be primarily because of the child's friends. It has been shown that mental preparation can compensate for a lower level of development. It has also been observed that there is a greater need of classes for special needs for redshirted kids. This probably has nothing to do with the fact that the child has been held back a year, and has more to do with the fact that the child actually has special needs, that were earlier ignored or misinterpreted as young age.
  • Another problem that can happen with the growing number of six-year old kids entering Kindergarten is the increase in demand for a new an tougher curriculum. An average six-year old will be more prepared for his/her first year in education, prompting the parents and the schools to enhance the level of teaching in Kindergarten. This can prove to be a disadvantage for five-year old kids who might find the new curriculum too taxing.
  • The economic status of the family is also something to consider seriously. If a family chooses to redshirt their kid, they will have to manage an additional years worth of finances before enrolling the child into Kindergarten.

The long term effects of redshirting are not yet fully understood and probably won't be, as there will be too many causes and effects through the child's education.
What Parents Need to Understand
This will always be an important decision on the parents part regarding their child's growth. There are some points that you, as a parent will need to consider before deciding whether you want your child redshirted or not.
  • Understand your child's need rather than simply playing a numbers game. This will be the most important factor. Your child maybe emotionally and psychology ready to handle kindergarten already, even if he/she will be the youngest kid in class.
  • Talk to experienced kindergarten teachers. They will tell you how different children have coped with being too young or too old. Ask your child's pre-school teacher how your child fared through it, on aspects of following directions, their ability to work independently and the academic growth as a whole. These three points will be essential in deciding the right choice.
  • If you intend to hold your child back for a year, figure out what he/she can do for the year, search for healthy and affordable pre-school programs. This can be planned out according to the child's future school in view, with your child learning all the basic skills required to be good at school.
  • Another factor will be parenting itself. Try not to be overprotective of your child, this may result in jarring your kid's confidence whenever times get tough in kindergarten. Instead, talk to them with the right words to strengthen their resolve with the knowledge that all bad things pass with time. Another angle to take care of is to not be overly competitive. Know that your kid is a kid and it is important for him/her to live as one.
In conclusion, redshirting and the decision to do it or not will remain a diversely opinionated subject, and should probably stay that way. Everyone is unique in their own way and simplification of the journey of their lives by research or over calculation of all possible roads may not work.