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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.')

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Claire, You are right that someone has to be the youngest and someone has to be the oldest in the class! As parents, we take the research, we take what we know about our child, we listen a little to the noise around us of everyone's opinions and then we make a decision. The decision we make is the best decision at the time with the information we have. You did the right thing knowing your child best! Ps I would love to think about a collaboration we could do. I love your newsletter!

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I agree! Maybe we could mix this topic along with looks back from

parents on the other side on how much it made a difference, do they think.

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Message me at parentingtranslator@gmail.com and we can talk through some options! I am so glad you liked the newsletter. This was a hard one to write as there was so much research.

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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.

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Thank you for lifting up this larger consequence for the Kindergarten class and larger social consequence. I truly appreciate this open dialogue. You are right that when one parent makes a decision for their child and family, it does have ripple effects to classrooms and schools. I agree that we should be pushing for more uniform cutoff days across communities and states for many reasons including those families that move from place to place such as military families. We also need more publicly funded, high quality preschool options so that everyone has access to the play and social emotion support they need before Kindergarten. Last, I think we need more research on the topic --particularly the age range issue that you bring up as I think the age range could even be bigger than you mention up to 20 months--to help support our personal decision making and public policy.

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Thank you for the dialogue as well. I wish we, as a society, could reconsider the way we frame these decisions. I think we should think carefully about the language we use as well: What does "ready" really mean? When we say it will be "better" for one child to wait, how is that making it harder for other children? I've seen instances where parents hold kids back in the name of readiness, then complain later on and demand that teachers make an extra effort to challenge their kids. I think we need to rethink kindergarten and a lot of elementary school altogether so that kids have more time to play and teachers have more flexibility to be creative. I also don't think we can really think about this decision without taking race and socioeconomic status into account. And I wish we could all challenge the over-emphasis on testing, "reform," and the like and make policy decisions (like universal PK and early care) that promote learning and humanizing teaching.

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Annie, I so agree with all of this, especially the policy decisions needed to make PK and early care something ALL families can access.

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May 24, 2023Liked by Dr. Cara Goodwin, PhD

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.

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Grace, Thank you for sharing with the administrators in your district. I would love to get more school administrators on substack to share the great writing that happens here. You can also lead the to my website--www.parentingtranslator.org as that has a link to substack as well. I have started creating downloadable handouts for parents that are available for free. It sounds like this is one that could also be shared with teachers and administrators. I will add it to our schedule!

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May 24, 2023Liked by Dr. Cara Goodwin, PhD

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.

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Thank you so much for your comment from your background as an elementary teacher, school administrator, and parent. I know our readers will appreciate your insights from the many hats that you wear! I agree that the social piece of this is more important than the academic side. Good luck with your final decision next year. Come back to this article when it is time as a reminder of what the research says!

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May 24, 2023Liked by Dr. Cara Goodwin, PhD

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.

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Unfortunately, I don't think that will happen. The best thing to do is follow the research and your parent knowledge of your child!

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May 24, 2023Liked by Dr. Cara Goodwin, PhD

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.

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I always say to parents that kindergarten is not the kindergarten that you and I experienced. Gone are the blocks, dramatic play areas and extended outdoor time. Truly gifted teachers can integrate phonemic awareness and number sense into more active play but we need more of those teachers in our schools. Good luck with you decisions in the future!

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May 24, 2023Liked by Dr. Cara Goodwin, PhD

I think this is such an important point. Every time I see parents push back that “I was young and I did fine” I think that is it a completely different set of expectations.

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Agreed 100%. That is why it is so important for parents to visit kindergarten classes when making the decision.

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May 24, 2023Liked by Dr. Cara Goodwin, PhD

Thank you for reassuring parents that what is important is doing what feels right since every child and family has individual and unique needs!

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Yes-parents know their children best! Good luck with your decisions!

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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!

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Thank you for sharing your personal experience!

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