REDSHIRTING: IS IT RIGHT?
A couple months ago, “60 Minutes” ran a segment about redshirting. This phenomenon is a term that is used in sports, referring to a delay or suspension of an athlete in order to lengthen their participation. Recently, this term has been used to talk about parents holding children back from kindergarten based on their age. According to the piece, redshirting has tripled since the 1970's. Now nearly a quarter of all kindergarten classrooms are populated by 6 year olds. Boys are twice as likely to be held back as girls, Caucasian children twice more than minorities and of course rich more than poor.
Parents like me are getting scared into thinking that not only are our children NOT ready for the Kindergarten curriculum (which is seemingly harder than when we were children), but that if we allow our children to be the youngest child in the class, they won't be the leaders. Socially, they'd be out of place.... weaker... less likely to succeed.
My son turns 5 in September. He has been in (private) preschool for two years. The cut off for Kindergarten in the state of California is November 1. So technically, Jonah can go to kindergarten.
However no one, including his teachers, is certain he's ready. Academically, yes. Emotionally, no. Thankfully many schools in Los Angeles have what's called a Transitional Kindergarten program designed for late summer/ fall born children like my son. The Problem? There is only one TK program that filters into six kindergartens.
With a birthday in September, and enrollment for TK working backwards starting with December birthdays, it’s unlikely that my September boy will actually get in to the transitional program. Thus, I’m almost forced to send him to kindergarten (keeping him at preschool is just not an option because of financials).
So now I need to wrap my head around the idea of kindergarten at the age of 5... which has become this ooogy boogy, horrific notion amongst parents these days.
Is it really that bad though? (As Morely Safer said in a follow up piece, he doesn't think it makes a bit of difference.) I would be curious to know how old President Obama was when he started kindergarten.... and also Justin Bieber. Both seem to be doing okay. In most states, don’t children start kindergarten at 5? Maybe it’s just Southern California…
In my “hood,” when the kids were babies the other mommies and I flocked to an acclaimed mommy & me class. I’d carefully and neurotically observe what the other 3 month olds were doing compared to mine. And if Jonah seemed behind the little girl with the September 6 birthday, well of course I’d blame his September 20 birthday. Was the 14 day difference giving that little girl a leg up on my boy? I thought so.
I downed folic acid like it was air and heeded the advice of the number one pre-natal yoga guru as if she were god incarnated. I did EVERYTHING right and didn't even look at deli meats or sushi. How could he already be behind? My son is brilliant and developmentally on track isn't he?!?... Oh, those 14 days. They felt like everything....
Eventually things seemed to even out. Jonah walked, talked, and even learned to pee standing up. Those days and weeks that separated my son from the kids that crawled sooner, those who I assumed were way head of my son developmentally, eventually meant nothing. But 4 years later... I'm back to that place of anxiety... and now, it's worse than worrying about the fact that he drools more or hasn't given up a bottle.
Where do you stand on this whole redshirting phenomenon? Would you hold your 5-year-old back if they were the youngest? Help!