Redshirting kindergartners: a rant!

When I saw this headline about redshirting kindergartners, I thought it had something to do with Star Trek, but could not figure out how on earth the metaphor could be stretched – was someone sending 5 year olds out to get killed first on an Away team to the planet Rigel Beta XI? Or what?

No! It is a sports team metaphor. I never get those! Redshirting means sitting a younger player on the bench and saving them for another season.

But here it means this: Keeping your kid out of Kindergarten for an extra year. Basically it means you flunked preschool. (Or, your parents did.)

Now, I understand if your child has some developmental delays or some kind of health problem that means they are truly “not ready”. In that case I am totally understanding and I think a family should do what is best for them and the child. So if that is your child, I’m not talking to you.

But… in my experience over here in yuppieland it does not mean that. Instead, it means people who think one or more of these things:

– their child is too bratty to know how to behave
– they want their child (almost always a boy) to be bigger and stronger for sports and for playground fights
– they want their child (again usually a boy) to have an advantage academically

This is bullshit! It is all bullshit! I call it out on the carpet in a ranty way!

For one thing, if your 5 year old kid is too misbehaving to hang out in a classroom for a couple of hours, I seriously doubt they will improve by being home with YOU for a whole extra year. Since you clearly have done a shit job so far in civilizing it. How hard could mostly-behaving-yourself in kindergarten be?

For another thing so what if your child does have a bit of a behavior problem in kindergarten? What is the big deal here? It’s not going down on their Permanent Record is it? So they were bratty in class one day and cried, or threw a tantrum, or scrunched someone’s owl. Big whoop! They’re in kindergarten! They’re tiny kids! Send them to the principal’s office ! They don’t always behave! And that’s okay.

As for the parents who want their nasty little boneheaded brutes to be even huger and more thuggish so they can kick my kid’s ass around the playground, screw them!

And the ones who are dooming their kids to a future of being 20 year old high school seniors, for the sake of a possible football scholarship again because they are hulking thugs more physically mature than the other kids, whatEVER… And don’t you think that sends a bad message to your kid, down the line?

As for the academic readiness, once again let me remind you this is kindergarten. That place where you learn to sit in your chair for 15 minutes, you learn the alphabet, the names of the shapes and colors, and how to hold a crayon. Come on people. How “ready” do you have to be. Kindergarten usually last for like 2 and a half hours and that is half recess, story time, and snacks anyway. I think your kid can handle the pressure.

Mostly it pisses me off because it is an argument that people turn into something so gender-based and because it is rooted in privilege. It is people with the privilege to pay for a whole extra year of child care or lose the wages of the person caring for the child while it’s not in school. So if you are doing this you are throwing your privilege around in a really ugly way even if you think it is “best for little Connor” or whatever, what you are doing is saying that you can’t stand even for a second that your misbehaving, too dumb to hold a crayon, hellspawn does not have the maximal privilege known to mankind. Put them in school to get socialized like a regular member of our society and shut up.

Also my solution to all of this hullabaloo is to pay teachers more, so that we get amazing, competent, happy teachers, and they will be able to handle a class full of 5 year olds just fine.

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27 Responses to Redshirting kindergartners: a rant!

  1. Evie_Edlund says:

    I've never even heard of that before, but I think you're spot on in some of the reasons why people would do it and spot on on why that's one of the dumbest ideas I've ever heard of.I've always thought of school as more of a social learning ground than an academic one, if I want my kid to learn well, I'd better be prepared to step up to that plate myself. Now that being said, I am kind of appalled at the pre-grade 1 curriculum in my province in a whole host of ways, but delaying school entry by a year does not change that 😛

  2. Anonymous says:

    I guess you haven't been in a Kindergarten classroom lately. Try 90 minute reading blocks, ditto after ditto, the expectation that you will leave kindergarten reading,writing starting on the first day….The principal at one of our local schools announced that there was to be no playtime in Kindergarten beyond recess at lunch, and removed all the toy kitchens, sensory tables and blocks from the classrooms. As an Early Childhood instructor and retired day care director I know this is nonsense, as do most in my profession, but nobody is listening to us. It won't get better until parents unite as a group. We need an organization with clout to make it plain that the pressure the schools are putting on kids in the name of test scores must stop. In the meantime,if I had a little boy who made the cutoff by less than four months you'd better believe I'd keep him back.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Whoa.While I agree that giving your child an advantage in sports or the ability to beat the c**d out of other kids on the playground are obviously misguided reasons, there are many very good reasons that parents decide to keep their children home from kindergarten the year they are technically eligible.The boys in the article have late June birthdays, which would have made them barely 5 if they had started kindergarten this year. That would have made them far younger than many kids are when they start school, even those who go "on schedule" (such as my son who has an early October birthday). Because they were "redshirted", they'll be 18 their entire senior year and when they graduate, which makes them more like their peers than if they graduated at 17. I'd much rather see parents keep their young 5 year olds (or in some states where the cutoff isn't until December 1 or January 1, older 4 year olds) home another year and enjoy them being little before they shove them out the door to 13 years of school. And finally – I'm not sure why this makes you so angry – do you actually have personal experience with your child being harmed by an older kid in their class? If so, do you have proof that it was because they were older, or would it have happened even if the child had been 9 months younger than your child as opposed to 3 months older? Why do you care what other families decide for their children?

    • TheTruthteller says:

      Your rational for redshirting is selfish. Your June kid would be younger inhis class by 1 year if enrolled when he should have. Now he will be 1.5-2 years OLDER than kids in the redshirt class. Nice job. Thanks

  4. Izzy says:

    I can see why you might feel the way you do. There ARE some reasons to hold you child back that don't seem kosher. My daughter, however, was "redshirted" because her birthday is five days before the birthday cutoff for kindergarten. Had she been born just six days later, she wouldn't have been allowed into kindergarten anyway. We opted to let her have another year to mature, which she needed. Our decision had nothing whatsoever to do with sports or poor behavior or flunking out of preschool (is that even possible?) Of course, I can't speak to why other people make the same decision.

  5. Liz says:

    Aw, Izzy, I'm not talking to you if you're a reasonable human being. I'm only ranting at the SILLY people.anonymous1: that sounds like a truly awful kindergarten! definitely organize and resist!

  6. Anonymous says:

    Um, hi. Happened upon your blog this morning and it's been eating at me.I think you would probably have lumped me in with the crowd you're ranting about. I live in the middle-class suburbs. My kids play sports. And my youngest turned five last June and we "red-shirted" him. He's currently in Jr. Kindergarten (really just a fancy name for a second year of preschool). He has no disabilities or special needs. He just was not ready for kindergarten.I think why this bothered me so much is that you DON'T know me. You don't know how many hours I spent last spring wrestling this decision. You don't know that I spoke with dozens of other parents who had sent kids on and held kids back. You don't know that we met with the principal, the kindergarten teacher, and several other teachers. You don't know that we had him meet with a kindergarten teacher from another school. The response was overwhelming by all in education. Boys do better if they are a little older when they begin. All that said, holding him back was the best decision we ever made. He'll start next year ready to learn. If I can make the next 18 or so years he'll spend in school a bit easier, it will have been worth it. I guess I just wanted to say don't judge until you know all the facts. Thanks.

    • The Truthteller says:

      A kid born in June should one of the younger kids in his class with the oldest kid being 9 months older than him. By redshirting him, your son will be 1.5 – 2 years older than some kid in the redshirted class. Nice work screwing it up for everyone else.

  7. FishyGirl says:

    Like Izzy, my daughter's birthday was 3 days before the cutoff – had she been born on Nov 1 instead of Oct 28, she wouldn't have been able to start. Around here (DC burbs) kindergarten is full day. If they don't come in knowing their entire alphabet, their address and phone number, how to count to 20, basic set theory (all round shapes go together, all squares, that sort of thing), AND how to sit and be on task for a 6 hour school day they are going to end up being held back at the end of the year. Combine that with the fact that the year before my daughter started (she's now an 8 year old 2nd grader) preschools were only 2.5 hours a few days a week, she just wasn't ready for that kind of transition, that kind of pressure. Few kids are. I figured it would be extra snack and maybe some "nap" or "quiet" time with the full day, but I was wrong – it's hardcore academics. We shelled out big time to send her to a private, half-day kindergarten, and she then transitioned to the public full-day kindergarten. We agonized for 3 years before making the decision to hold her back, but it was the best thing for her.Frankly I wish they would delay the start of such hard academic pressure for a couple of years for ALL students. It'll come soon enough, we don't need to create an environment where a kindergartner or a first grader is crushed for poor performance on a test. Frankly I've "heard" of people redshirting their kids, but in all the contact with school kids I have on a regular basis, I've never met a single person who did that. Many more people make the decision for the reasons I did.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Yikes! I am a kindergarten teacher. Some kids are not ready. Parents know their children best. I'd rather a child be held back and have a positive experience than have one where they are set up for failure or ridicule.

    • The TruthTeller says:

      As a kindergarten teacher, what do you say to the parents of the kid born in May who has kids 15 months older than him in class? Your screwing the other 29 kids

  9. New In Wonderland says:

    I have had friends on both sides of the "red-shirting" question. I think reasonable people can make decisions on both sides, and selfish people with bratty kids can, too. [I rather think selfish people with bratty kids should not be allowed to send their little monsters to public schools, thereby freeing up time and energy for teaching the children who are there to actually learn, but that could just be me.] I personally think that every minute we can hold onto our kids before exposing them to the crap they pick up in school is a good thing.What I don't understand is why kindergarten is all of a sudden such a high-pressured hotbed of academic excellence [90 minute reading blocks, worksheets and no toys!!yikes!!], but by the time the kids get to high school they still can't write a coherent paper, do independent research or find Des Moines on a map? I realize it makes me sound like my mother, but there was a time schools in America tought kids how to read and write and do math. Some of us even learned to do at least two of those things. The problem is bigger than selfish, lazy parents who don't teach their bratty kids how to behave in public [although that is a HUGE problem]. I'm not sure what it is, but I'm pretty sure that those academically overloaded full-day kindergartens with no recess and no toys ain't it!

  10. chris says:

    Wow. Here the deadline in Dec 31. That means you have some FOUR year olds in kindergarten. And then to play it out 17 yr olds going to college, which in this state means you can still only *just* get your driver's license. I have three kids (who all happen to be boys- my only daughter is born in April) that are born between november and december. Two of them have already been "redshirtted" and are perfect right where they are. I anticipate that my 3 yr old will be the same.I am not sure what the rush is to make them grow up so fast.Also, re the sports thing. All of the sports we have played are based on birthdays not grade.

  11. Liz says:

    Okay well all you very reasonable people with the 4 year olds, I'm not aiming at you with my bad self.It's mostly aimed at the twits who talk smack about how Grayson or Devon will have such a great advantage in life, who need to hear a little opposite perspective laid out without any pussyfooting around.They can rant back for me about snotty purple haired jerks who judge other people too harshly and mouth off without knowing their individual situations.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Here is deadline is Sept 30 – and that bugs me, because why isn't it the same everywhere?I was a Nov b day who was the youngest one in class and I was always the last one to do anything. When my first son was 5, I went ahead and put him in school. Now, he's 16 and a sophomore, and a few of his friends were held back. They are more prepared for high school than he is – moral being, I wish I'd waited. Next five kids, I waited. I'm happy with that decision. We have full day kindergarten with lots of academics – recess every day, but the rest of the day is work. In my kids school, it is much better to be closer to six.And, for whatever reason, I can't sign in, but I'm Carmen, over at

  13. Lisse says:

    I have the opposite problem. Both of our boys were born in March (the cutoff is Sept 1) I was encouraged to redshirt both of them for different (mostly social) reasons, even though that would have them turning 7 in kindergarten. I agonized and ranted for a year on each child, but I decided that holding them back would do just that, hold them back.The older boy did fine. He was reading at a basic level by the end of Kindergarten. He worked through his many of his social challenges as you might expect a kid to do in K. The younger boy is finishing his K year in a few months and we are debating whether he will repeat. He struggles in some ways but excels in others. He is a bit on the immature side and when people talk about the behavioral aspects of whether a kid is "ready," this is what they mean, not that a kid is badly behaved.By the way, their classroom has few worksheets, plenty of toys and plenty of "choice time" to play and explore. All these high expectations will take about 10 years to filter up to the HS level, but I can tell wonderland right now that my older child is getting geography in elementary school, and though he's not working on state capitols yet, he can find Italy and China on a map.

  14. Shelley says:

    I'm on the other side of the issue. My daughter's birthday is September 3rd, and our cutoff date is September 1st. I think she was probably ready to start kindergarten this year, but because I couldn't talk my doctor into doing the planned C-section 3 days earlier, she'll be starting kindergarten this coming school year. She'll probably be the first one in her class to turn 6, unless there are some red-shirters in there! But I think if you have a kid with a July or August birthday, especially a boy who may be not quite as mature, waiting a year might not be such a bad thing. I'm hoping that being one of the oldest ones in her class will give my daughter an advantage, but it's not one I chose. The state chose it for me.

  15. WkSocMom says:

    I hear you. 'Course it's in Texas where they really follow the true meaning of redshirting – all about sports, I suspect here in SV it's more about academics. My issue is definitely with the privelage thing… At our school there were a number of barely 5 or 4 YOs (including my son) who started this year – we're not in a wealthy area. But I met a woman from Los Altos who chose the school (for it's Spanish Immersion) and she said she was the only one in her playgroup to send her child to kindergarten. In fact one parent was worried that her Feb. birthday kid would be the youngest.I fully agree I wish that they would make kindergarten more playbased, as because of stupid NCLB it's way too academic, so I really won't fault anyone who holds their child back. We're 6 months in and already have reading groups.

  16. Anonymous says:

    From my own personal experience, being the youngest in my class was a huge problem for me. I wasn't as mature as most of the kids. It wasn't at all a question of academics. My parents were both teachers and knew I could handle the work. But socially, it would have been better if I had stayed home an additional year. This was especially evident in high school. I was the last person in my class to get my driver's license. Some of them had it a whole year before me. In a rural area, particularly, this made me really stand out. Even today, the people I keep up with from high school are from one year behind me.I made the choice to start my fall birthday kids one year later. In the end, we homeschooled, so it really didn't matter. But my early experience had a big impact on my life. I say, don't rush your kids, you know them best.

  17. Anonymous says:

    "It's mostly aimed at the twits who talk smack about how Grayson or Devon will have such a great advantage in life, who need to hear a little opposite perspective laid out without any pussyfooting around."Where do you live that these kind of people are the norm? Sounds to me that maybe you need to move, because the "reasonable" people who have commented here are really quite a bit more common overall than the snobs you are supposedly aiming at. The family in the article you referenced in your blog seemed to fall into the reasonable category, not the priveleged-bad-parent-bratty-kid category; but your blog entry pretty much classifies *everyone* who makes a decision to delay kindergarten entry for their young child into the bad parent category.Us reasonable people wouldn't judge purple hair, either.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Chiming in a little late (thanks google!)….my child is the youngest in his class. A May birthday!There are kids in his class up to 16 months older. The older kids have opted out of after school sports (it is too easy), and are finding that "peers" do not want to play with them because they "are too rough".Academically, there is, according to the teachers, little to no difference between the older kids and my kid. So where does that leave us?- With teachers who will be faced with teaching to the older kids in a couple of years, leaving the "normal kids" to fend for themselves;- Drivers as freshmen in high school;- Physically mature kids with undeveloped kids in middle school years;- opportunities for statutory rape for seniors in high school;- 19 year old seniors (what self respecting parent would want that for their kid or household?????)And what happens if the redshirted kid seems to not be able to hack it academically? What options do the parents have for a 14 year old 7th grader? Where can that kid transfer and be accepted?

  19. Anonymous says:

    Uh, yeah. We have half day kindergarten this year, and our district moves it to full day next year…darn,missed it by a year…anyway, my son is 6, but was 5 1/2 when he started kindergarten. In our state, they have to be five by Aug. 20-something, and I was dying for my kid to have something to do other than preschool, which he was bored with. I THOUGHT he was ready for kindergarten, as do many parents who don't want to pay for daycare for another year, and shove their kids into kindergarten too early. In our school, kindergarteners do a letter worksheet and a math worksheet as soon as they walk in the door in the morning. They get music and PE, and sometimes get outside time, and they also do organized reading groups. This, sadly, is because of the higher expectations that our society has for kids nowadays. My middle schooler has at least 2 hours of homework a night, too. The kindergarteners? They also have homework. Crazy, yes…sometimes, but if your kid is not ready for the academic part of kindergarten, I take my hat off to you if you hold him back. I think any sports reason is stupid, and yes, my sixth grader has played competitive hardball for years, but I never thought of holding him back in school to make him bigger for sports. If it's for the right reasons, it's good.

  20. Liz says:

    Well, looking back I was being too harsh. On the other hand that's why I called it a rant. In other words an expression of an extreme position. I don't really sit around harshing on people for their decisions. Unless… unless they're blathering loudly at the playground about little Trevor's future football career and they're judging on *me* for putting my short kid up a grade.In that case, no holds barred!

  21. thetruthteller says:

    For every kid who is redshirted because of a 5 day difference or legitimate maturity issue, there are 50 selfish parents who want there 7 year old kindergartner to dominate a regular 5 year old classmate. It's a travesty and unfair to the 20-30 kids who are the right age.

  22. thetruthteller says:

    I worked with a guy who had a bright healthy kid born June 1. The kids was 6 for 3 months before entering kindergarten. He specifically said it was so they could better compete in class and sports.

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