The research behind delaying kindergarten and how to know if your child is ready for kindergarten
This was one of the first hard choices we had to make as parents of an Aug 17 son. I decided *against* holding him back because he is socially outgoing and seemed ready to "play up." And maybe selfishly we were ready for him to start preschool. I usually feel fine about this decision (someone has to be the youngest one in the grade) although about one or twice a year I panic and make sure the teacher thinks he's in the right place (nobody has told me 'no.')
I appreciate reading your summaries of the research on this topic. However, one piece that I think is left out is that this is not just an individual decision. The way you discuss it here makes it seem like it is purely individual, and this is how I have read about red-shirting in other places as well. But, I'd like to argue that there are real social consequences for red-shirting (in addition to giving your particular kid an advantage -- specifically, an advantage over other children). One social consequence is the broad range of ages and social and emotional development in a given kindergarten class. If the range of ages is now 14-16 months, this makes it even more difficult for teachers to meet the needs (practical needs like zippers and bathrooms as well as SEL and academics) of all kids. It also unfairly changes the expectations for the younger children, especially those who cannot afford to buy extra time at home or in preschool. Another social consequence -- and this seems hard to study! -- is the effect on the younger children who may be left out, confused, or excessively challenged because of the social dynamics of older children and/or the high academic expectations. I'd really like to push us all to think of our broader communities and also to advocate for more consistent cut-offs across districts and states as well as more play and exploration in kindergarten. My child is the youngest in her grade (her birthday is the last day before the cutoff), and some children are 16 months older and the discrepancies are only becoming more apparent.
Tremendously helpful! I’m an early childhood speech pathologist and will be sharing this with administrators in my district.
Anecdotally, I’m a November baby and started kindergarten at age four. I started college when I was 17, so I couldn’t sign paperwork as an adult. It was challenging socially that everyone started driver’s education before me, got their license before me, and turned 21 earlier than I did.
As a veteran elementary school teacher and administrator whose job at one point was to help parents make this decision about when to enter kindergarten - the reason I often recommended it for children with late spring or summer birthdays was not academic at all, but social. If a child needs academic acceleration, it's relatively easy to do that for most kids but it's impossible to fast-track a child's social/emotional development. That happens when it happens. So, I'm really glad to see that as your #1 consideration in deciding if your child is ready for kindergarten. Social/emotional readiness affects pretty much everything else in school and if your child is struggling in that area, it will likely (not for sure, but quite likely) affect their ability to learn. I'm now a parent myself of a child with a mid-April birthday who just turned four and I'm already thinking about this decision in my head about when to have him enter kindergarten because he's had such a hard time socially since starting preschool last August. He's grown by leaps and bounds, but as a pandemic child who was at home without a lot of peer socialization opportunities until he was almost 3.5, we're playing catch up to a degree. I also know that he'll be a completely different child in another year plus when he will be eligible to start kindergarten, so it's not a decision I have to make or need to make now. What I do know from helping many many parents make this decision and being in a classroom and school for almost 20 years? I've never seen a family regret the decision to give their child more time, but I've seen plenty who wished they had. I'll have to wait until next spring to see what the right decision will be for my own child though.
Thank you for sharing this important, often misunderstood research. I have noticed that the cutoffs range dramatically from city to city and state to state, so my child could be eligible in one state and we could move and the cut of could be four months later! I wish that there was a way for that cutoff date to be more standardized across states for transient and military families but I know that won't happen. In the end, parents know their child best and should do what is best for them.
This was such an informative read! We still have a ways to go before thinking about this and making some of these decisions. Having said that though I’m truly baffled by the academic rigor of kindergarten! It feels like such a world apart from my own memories of kindergarten.
Thank you for reassuring parents that what is important is doing what feels right since every child and family has individual and unique needs!
Loved this piece, thank you! Speaking only from my personal experience here-- I was redshirted and I believe it was the wrong decision for the type of child I was. I was always the top of my class, in the gifted programs, etc, but I was so incredibly bored. I got less attention from the teachers for the duration of my academic career, because they always knew I would figure it out. I wish I had felt excited or challenged at any point, but it was just... awful. I spent most of my time reading!