Why I’m Redshirting my Kindergartner



The term “redshirt” has taken on a new meaning over the last few years. Most of us are familiar with the definition used in college athletics. A student athlete would be sidelined from games their freshman year, but would practice with the team, gain a year of exposure to the coaching system, learn the plays, and wait for the time when they could really shine. It meant that a new athlete could wait out the players ahead of him or her, without using a year of eligibility, and have time to develop into a stronger contributor in the years to come. They even had the opportunity to get coached without the pressure of performance on game days. 

My husband and I have been using the term “redshirt” about our soon to be 5 year-old.

While he technically will be old enough to attend Kindergarten in the fall, we have decided to sideline (and redshirt) him. In recent years, redshirting has begun to gain popularity. Since I’m a mom that works outside of the home, he has been in daycare since he was just 8 weeks old. He has been in a center-based program that is both challenging and very enriching and he has a pretty good handle on what used to be the basic tenets of starting school. He can walk down the hall in a line. He keeps his hands (mostly) to himself. He sits criss-cross applesauce during story time and interacts well with his classmates and teachers. He can write his name mostly legibly and loves to count. He teaches us all about his favorite artists Piet Mondrion and Paul Cezenne. Despite the fact that his recall is outstanding, we’re deciding to give him an extra year at pre-school. 

Here’s why.

My husband and I have determined that his future academic success is not based solely on ability to recall information and follow directions. We’d like to give him another year to develop his non-academic skills. He seems to make friends easily and can charm the heck out of any of his teachers or other adults. However, he has very little impulse control and will physically strike out at people when he gets upset. He tells me about having to sit out at different times during his school day for throwing sand or other such pre-school offenses. He was a biter as a 2 year-old, and after having that ugly habit remain a thing of the past, he recently became so upset at his big brother, he brought back his old defense mechanism. We were all shocked at his return to biting, not least of all him!

Self-control is a lifelong struggle, so we are giving him an extra year to practice.

Our oldest son just completed kindergarten, and we have a pretty good idea of what is expected for kindergarten students these days. When I show my mom who retired from teaching kindergarten over 20 years ago what my son is doing daily, she is completely shocked. Much of the information they are learning in 2017 was first or second grade work when I went to kindergarten in 1980. Since my kindergartner had very little interest in reading prior to attending kindergarten, we didn’t push him to learn to read. We have read thousands of books to him since he was an infant. His vocabulary was always very large; he just wasn’t interested in learning to read. Now that his first school year is complete, he’s taking pride in the Dr. Seuss books he can read, and it’s spurring an interest in reading in his little brother.

Despite the blossoming interest my almost 5 year-old has in reading, we feel confident in our decision to give him an extra year “at home.” Our decision was based on many things, and thankfully an extra preschool year is an option for us financially. Just like many redshirts who go on to experience success, my husband and I are making the calculated risk for our youngest. We can’t guarantee that it will make him a superstar in the classroom, but we feel confident we are making the right decision for him.

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2 Responses to Why I’m Redshirting my Kindergartner

  1. Linda July 2, 2017 at 11:52 am #

    Soap box articles like this mislead parents and teachers. School Psychologists, like me, advocate for research-based decision making. In this case, over 100 years of research clearly indicates that grade retention can have detrimental long-term effects for most children. For parents who are interested in more than “mommy” anecdotes, here’s some food for thought: https://www.nasponline.org/assets/Documents/graderetention.pdf

  2. Holly R. July 12, 2017 at 4:10 pm #

    Great article Amy! This is something that my family will be considering next year for our youngest. Thank you for some great points for us to think about.

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