The Redshirts are coming! The redshirts are coming!

Back when we shot this Momversation we also shot this one (see below) about whether or not one should "redshirt" ie "hold their kid back" a year before sending them off to Kindergarten to give them an academic advantage. As the mother of a child who was born ONE DAY after the new California cut-off, I'm more annoyed that I have to pay for an extra year of preschool tuition. Fable will be one of the oldest in her class and if the rumors are true that California will be moving its cut-off day to September 1st in a couple years, Boheme and Reverie will also be on the old side of their class. Or so I thought until Daphne brought this whole redshirting thing to my attention:

Apparently there are parents who are like, "forget that my kid is ready for Kindergarten I'm gonna make him THE READIEST OF ALL, RAAAAAAH!"

It kind of goes back to my post on super competitive preschool parenting. Just because your kid is the oldest in the class doesn't mean he's going to be the readiest. Case in point: Doogie Howser, Ronan Farrow and my brother, David.

Obviously, this is a case by case situation much like everything else that exists in life but the idea that parents are holding their kids back even when they know their kids are ready, because they read Outliers and "Malcolm Gladwell said so..." is craziness.

What do you guys think? Do you have an opinion on this thing? And to clarify, I totally respect parents who hold their kids back because their kids aren't ready. I would likely do the same.



Unknown | 6:21 AM

I go at this from two directions...I am a summer baby and so is my daughter. I was held back and didn't start kindergarten until I was 6. I was the oldest in my class and I held onto that distinction for many years. After all, since I was the oldest I was also the smartest right? Well, in my mind anyway. I never struggled with school, and I graduated near the top of my class. So I don't know that I was "over-ready" when I started, but I was definately bored from time to time because I felt I was ahead of my classmates.

My daughter, on the other hand, started kindergarten at the age of 5. She started because she was ready, not because I was making up for my late start. The upside to it is that she has now graduated high school at the age of 17 and will graduate college at the age of essence a year early of everyone else's age. She was able to keep up with her classmates, graduate third in her class and, my biggest concern, was mature enough to handle all of it.

I think holding a child back because they are not ready is fine, but holding them back just to make them the "readiest" in their class is no advantage to anyone's future.

Rachel | 6:22 AM

I think ideally, this would issue would be dealt with on a child by child basis. As a second grade teacher, I can say that most- not all, but definitely most- of the late birthdays struggled academically as well as socially. Did all of them? Certainly not. There were some who were just as bright and well adjusted as their peers birthed half a year earlier (I'm a late summer birthday myself, and I did just fine!). But for those struggling? An extra year really would have helped. Once I taught brothers- not twins, born 9 mo. apart. The younger one just barely made the cut off, and he struggled in class. Not because he wasn't bright, but because he didn't have the benefit of those extra months. Perhaps he will eventually catch up and do just fine- maybe even be better for it. But because his older brother was in his class (and did much better in school), he felt "dumb". I hope that feeling leaves him, but I certainly would have recommended that for him, he start a year later.

AnnaBanana | 6:34 AM

As a child with a September birthday, I was always the YOUNGEST one in my class. I have to say that when I got to high school I HATED being the last to drive. And in college I turned 21 only three months before I graduated, which sort of sucked for bar hopping.

But now, as a 32 year old woman, I actually feel lucky that I entered my "real life" a little earlier than everyone else. Sort of like it gave me a little extra wiggle room to figure out what to do with myself.

Kerry | 6:49 AM

I am SO happy my child is the oldest in his class (not held back, just the cut-off thing). He seems advanced, mature, able to handle any situation. There are some kids in his class who are much younger (started when they were 4). So now, these kids are just turning 6 and he will be 7 next month). I love that he's older, and he doesn't seem to notice. (Though he notices that he can do things that other kids find harder).

Anonymous | 6:50 AM

As someone who has taught Kindergarten and now teaches in special education, I have a slightly unique angle on this. Honestly, I think if your chid is of age, SEND THEM! That is of course, they are borderline age wise, and obviously not ready. All (most?) teachers expect and prepare to have classes with varying abilities. Everyone develops at different rates, and I've seen kids be at the lower end of their Kindergarten class only to breeze through the first grade.

HOWEVER, if Kindergarten is a huge struggle and the teacher is recommending that your child repeats, seriously consider it. And I mean Seriously. I have a couple of students in my Special Day Program (3rd grade) who would probably still be in gen ed had they repeated Kindergarten, but the gap became too much once they moved on. I'm sure they will eventually transition back (and they're receiving great, individualized services in the meanwhile), but they're going through a major obstacle to get there.

Becky Stephens | 6:57 AM

I have a summer birthday and even had to take a "test" to start kindergarten when I did because my birthday was a few days past the cut off date for my state. But, I was sooo ready, and I'm sooo grateful I got to start when I did! If Fable is ready, see if she can take some sort of "test" to start with the kids born the day before her.

As a side note, I did very well in school, went straight to college, and got accepted into a one year Master's program. It was pretty great to have all of school done by the time I was 22. Being one of the youngest was also a badge of honor of sorts...I loved it!

WonderGirl | 6:59 AM

My son was born in mid-July. He also has ADHD, and he simply was not ready to start kindergarten that year - he was just too immature. My husband and I don't regret one bit holding him out one more year because we both feel it was one of the best things we could have done for him. He still struggles socially because of his ADHD, but I honestly think it would have been so much worse had we enrolled him earlier.

Anonymous | 7:00 AM

My son's bday was 1 week before the cutoff. He had already started reading on his own just passed his 4th bday. Academically this child was soooo ready, but socially, no way. Those 5 year old boys would have crucified him. He needed a year of preschool-pre K- his only year of preschool to get ready socially. Now he is in 1st grade, he would have been advanced academically no matter what, now he is on par socially. Not from a strength standpoint, they are just more aggressive socially at 5 than 4. And from a overloving mother standpoint- I loved my "extra" year with him. That said, I could pay for Pre-k, for those that are struggling, that just seems unfair. How about free public pre-k for all???

Anonymous | 7:06 AM

Flashback to 1975. My brother turned 5 on the cutoff date. My Mom sent him to kindergarten. He was ready academically. He is just crazy smart, started reading at 3, could do early math equations in his head, etc etc. At the end of the day the teacher shocked my Mom by telling her to just wait a year. She told her he was just so immature, and would struggle socially. Obviously he would be advanced no matter when he started, but was just not ready socially. They waited, my brother thanks her to this day. Plus, he loved being the first to get his driver's license. As a mom of 2 boys, I will evaluate when we are closer to that age. But I can tell you the immaturity level/attention span of 4 year old boys just is not there for full day kindergarten.

Arnebya | 7:09 AM

DC just instituted its 5 by September 30 deadline two years ago, when Z was born. He was born the 15th, so he's good. I think it has to be decided on a case by case, child by child basis. For instance, my oldest started kindergarten 3 months shy of 5. But she was ready. Beyond ready. Chomping at the bit ready. She's the youngest in her class, but teachers assume she is among the oldest. My middle girl was ready for K as well (though she turned 5 in the summer). The boy, at 2, will go into a pre-K 3 class next year. He's ready. If he wasn't I would hold him in daycare until 4 or 5 (we have a pre-K 4 as well), but he'd still start K on time.

I'm honestly not sure what I'd do if my child were not ready. I don't want to speculate, not being presented with it. But I doubt I'd hold a child back if he/she were clearly ready. To throw a wrench in the whole discussion, though, I disagree w/holding kids back to repeat a grade under third unless there is demonstrated evidence that there's a learning disability/delay (which I guess isn't that far off from those purposely holding their kids out of K now that I think about it). I won't shun any family for doing what they think is right, but when the child is learning and is ready for K, put him/her in K.

I'm glad to have read the anonymous comment about repeating K when necessary. I like having another person's perspective. It makes sense the way it's written (although I still disagree (to a degree)).

Kels | 7:10 AM

I was one of the oldest and I loved it! But my birthday was about a month after the cutoff. My college roommate had started early and skipped a grad, so she was almost two years younger than me. We have a great friendship still, but she really lamented having a shortened childhood.

That said, I know I just read a study in the past couple of months, that found that redshirting really didn't help the kids in the long run and increased problems with boredom during class. I wish I could remember where I read about it, though!

Dorcas | 7:20 AM

As a former elementary school teacher in California, I can definitely see why some parents hold kids back. The kindergarten academic standards are incredibly rigorous. The kindergarteners at my school had absolutely no art, creative play, or experiential learning — they were drilled on phonics and basic addition every day. "Success" was not measured by whether they could share and take care of their learning environment and participate in activities, but by whether they could write two full sentences and recite the spellings of the long a sound. Kindergarten like that is no place for any child, but hopefully a 6-year-old can bear up a little better than a 5-year-old.

The problem is the one you hinted at — poorer parents can't afford a year of preschool, so their kids are starting school as soon as they can and often falling behind, while richer parents are more able to base their decision on the child's readiness. I wish the broader conversation around redshirting were less about the red herring of individual choice and more about the policies that make redshirting desirable, while exacerbating the achievement gap.

My new city has cobbled together a good solution — they have "junior kindergarten" for kids born after August 1. They do a year of jr. kinder and a year of senior kinder, while spring birthdays just start in sr. kinder. It's mostly just preschool, but by calling it kindergarten, they can get it into the regular k-12 budget. Sneaky.


Dorcas - our school is starting to do that, too, actually. Mainly because our cut-off is so strict we'll have no choice but to hold the girls back a year thus taking the pressure off parents to make this decision. It also increases test scores (apparently?) so schools can get a higher ranking, attract amore affluent audience and in turn, raise funds. LA public schools rely hugely on parent fundraising these days which is hugely problematic in the neighborhoods where families can't afford to do so. We're lucky. Many are not.

Susannah | 7:34 AM

I don't have children. So my perspective from this is not as a mom but as one of the "young kids". My mother is also a kindergarten teacher and is asked this question many times and her answer is based on both my experience and what she has seen in 20 years of teaching kindergarten.

I was 4 when I started kindergarten with a mid-September birthday. I happen to have a IQ of 187 (which I feel like a tool for even mentioning but at the time it was a big factor in the decision to go ahead and send me to school and later on became a pretty big point of contention with my parents and the various school psychologists I came to know far too well) and so it was kind of assumed that my age wouldn't ever be an issue.

And for a while it wasn't, at least through middle school but when I hit high school I started to really struggle because I was just... immature. And I really struggled all through college. I just wasn't ready.

But that said, I have no idea if one more year at home would have done me any good. A lot of my problems came from the friends I surrounded myself with and the boys I dated... would being a year behind where I was have changed that or would I have made the same bad decisions?

Because of all this, my mother's advice to her prospective kindergarten parents was ALWAYS that if you are in doubt, wait a year. And her experiences with both sides of the coin, the older kids and the younger ones that came through her classes over the years, just reinforced her philosophy on this.

As for me, now being 34, I think that I mostly regret my cavalier approach to college. I don't know if that has anything to do with starting so young but I KNOW that I am very smart. I could have done a lot more if I had had the maturity and the discipline to apply myself in high school. I just... I didn't get it. I don't know if being a year older at the time would have helped that but I do know that it wouldn't have hurt.

Alyssa | 7:35 AM

As a July birthday I was always one of the younger in my class. Never bothered me or seemed to affect me academically at all.

My son is a September and just barely made the cutoff when we lived in California. Now that we have moved to Florida he is a few months younger than event he youngest in his class since the cutoff here is December 1st. I debated about whether or not to hold him back. As a high energy boy the first few years were a struggle. I think the differences a few months can make are most noticeable in the younger grades, after that I think most academic and social differences are more related to the child than their age.
I think it depends on the child. The preschool teacher and parents are probably the best judges of readiness. My son's teachers said he was ready and I am glad I followed their advice since now he is doing so well.

Wendy | 7:40 AM

The cutoff in BC is December 31. I was one of the youngest in my grade (November birthday), and I have been told that my grade 1 teacher wanted me held back because I was so small. I was fine socially and academically though-I graduated at the top of my class in high school.
My younger sister, on the other hand was born in January. And tall, very tall. At 4 she was ready for kindergarten, but had to wait a year.She would have benefitted from putting her into school a year earlier. Socially, she didn't fit in with her cohort,and academically she was bored. She was badly bullied through high school, and always got along better with the kids a grade older. I know my mom wishes she could have jumped her into kindergarten at 4 years old. Maybe being the youngest of 3 made her pick up everything quicker? I don't know. After watching my sister have to wait, we tried our best to time our babies to be born in the latter half of the year so we wouldn't end up in that situation. Our son is a July baby, and twin daughters born in October.

Elizabeth | 7:41 AM

I think it definitely varies by child. When my brother and I started school, they let us take a test to see if we were ready (I'm a November baby, he's October) despite the cutoff date. We are only 11 months apart, but I passed the test and he didn't, so I was always the youngest in my class and he blended in with everyone else. It worked for me, I graduated at 17 and was a valedictorian. I kind of liked being the youngest because I was the oldest girl at home and had a lot of responsibility there, so being the youngest at school took some pressure off.

However, in Chicago the cutoff is strict and my DSS has a late September birthday, which means he was held back a year. He DEFINITELY needed that extra year. Despite entering preschool kind of early, he wasn't ready for first grade last year. But this year, he's doing great and it's amazing to see his confidence grow as he understands his schoolwork. My son has a February birthday, so he'll fall into the middle of the pack, but my daughter is also a September baby. We'll just have to see how she does!

Jo | 7:51 AM

I'm so so so grateful for this discussion because I am stuck in this conundrum right now. It's a little different as I live in England, where kids start school at age 4, the cut off date being Sept. 1. My daughter turns 4 on August 17, so would be one of the youngest in her class. Being raised in America myself with an end of Oct. birthday, I started kindergarten at age 4 and absolutely loved being one of the youngest. I always felt a little smug being young and keeping up with the other kids, graduating at age 17 and with a masters degree by age 23. Of course, I'm the youngest child out of 3, always trying to keep up with my siblings, so that explains my mindset. On the other hand, kindergarten is way different now from when I was a kid. I'm guessing the teachers will have ways of coping with children who just turned 4 and those who just turned 5, because they are so different, in terms of attention span and sociability. I'm just worrying. It seems so young for formal education. Especially with articles like this:

And when you consider children in Finland, who don't begin school until age 7:

Chid-led learning and play allows for so much growth in a young child. I'm worried formal school at age 4 might stifle or discourage. Being labeled as a trouble-maker or a slow learner could have lasting effects.

Have not personally (luckily) met any parent doing it just to be competitive, that's just weird. But yeah, it is hard to put a 4 year old in proper school... they just seem so young...

Emily | 7:53 AM

Just recently we moved to Nevada from Texas. My 4 year old's birthday is September 12th. With the cut off in TX being 5 by September 1st, he would've been the oldest. Nevada, however, is 5 by September 30th which will now make him the youngest. In his current preschool class he is one of the youngest and I can definitely see a difference in him emotionally from the older kids (still whiney, pouting, not coping appropriately with his emotions like most new 4 year olds!). Although this behavior has gotten much better since the beginning of the school year it did cause me to give thought to keeping him in pre-k one more year. My decision so far is to register him for another year but then see where we are at the end of the summer. I should also mention we are a military family so the fact that he may go to three different elementary schools is also a factor for me...all in all it's just a case by case thing, in my opinion!

MJ | 8:01 AM

I have two siblings and we are all end-of-the-year babies (Oct, Dec, Dec). The town I grew up in didn't have a cutoff, and most of the kids in my class were born in the same year. When I moved to the town next door there were quite a few kids who were born at the end of the previous year so I ended up being one of the youngest in my class. It just so happened that most of my friends were also younger (September and October babies) so my cohort was mostly the same as me. I did well in school, but I suppose it's possible I would have done even better had I been in the year below.

My oldest brother was "cognitively advanced" and made it through school barely trying. He ended up in private school during the difficult years - 8th, 9th, 10th grade - because he needed to be challenged outside of his comfort zone. My other brother struggled in school, and my parents always say that they wished they had held him back a year. He was also small for his grade, which didn't help.

In the long run, unless there are significant physical or cognitive limitations, I don't think it matters very much whether you're older or younger. My son is a January baby, and I feel sort of happy that he will be one of the older kiddos, if only because he's going to be a skinny peanut like his dad and he could use the physical advantage.

Catherine | 8:01 AM

My son is a mid-August child and has that weird birthday issue as well. But in all honesty, while he is SO ready for Kindergarten next year (he's four now), all these stipulations, etc. are just so annoying. He's currently in Montessori, but it still counts as kindy. I'm thinking of scrapping traditional school altogether. Homeschool for us!!!

Maggie | 8:07 AM

Here in Michigan our cutoff is December 1st, and my daughter is a November birthday. I went back and forth on this for EVER, but ultimately decided to send her at age 4 based on recommendations by the preschool teachers, not wanting another year of child care and not wanting my daughters more that 4 years apart in school. She is in first grade this year and I am still not entirely sure we did the right thing, she is a total rock start academically (one of the top students), but struggles socially. However, this may have been the case if we waited too and she may have been bored academically, which in her case leads to nothing but bad behavior ;)

I think that choosing to wait because you don't think your child is ready is totally fine, but holding them back because you think they will be the best in the class is absurd and could completely backfire. For the record, all of the parents I know with this issue, only focused on their child's readiness, socially and academically as a factor and I haven't heard of anyone doing it for them to get ahead, so hopefully it is pretty isolated.

Anonymous | 8:11 AM

Both my boys have early summer birthdays and are the youngest in both of their classes. Their classmates all did a year of preppy K no matter when their birthdays were. Holding your kids back seems to be the trend here in the OC. I'm sure my two will be bummed when all their friends in their classes are driving earlier than they are but I personally would not want to turn 18 the summer before I started my senior year either. I think it needs to be a child by child decision and not because the parents want them to be academically ahead of everyone else in the class.

Unknown | 8:13 AM

I am a DECEMBER baby and went to school WAY ahead of everyone else. Always the youngest. I can't really say that it impacted me in any way. Academically or socially.

My little girl is a summer baby and we have the option to skip both JK and SK up here in Canada. I'm of the mind to skip JK, but send her to SK when she's supposed to go. My only reason for doing this is that we are a tri-lingual family and want to give her the benefit of an extra year before introducing the 3rd language.

MY biggest concern is that kids are often bored in school. But even this is a moot point because children can be just as stimulated at home (if not sometimes more so) than in school.

I would never hold my kid back for the sake of holding her back. That's just silly talk.

The Irish and the Jew | 8:16 AM

My oldest was born in June and is on "the spectrum". After meeting with the kindergarten teacher at the new school and his preschool teacher, as well as his S/L therapist, it was a no-brainer that I would start him a year later and give him one more year of preschool (which entailed mornings at a preschool for "typically developing" kids, and afternoons for preschoolers with an IEP). Best decision I ever made (in a long, long line of bad decisions). He is now in 7th grade and is completely caught up socially with his peers and is "typically developing" (sort of).

His brother, on the other hand, was also born in June - 2 years after the oldest. I wanted to keep them 2 years apart in school for a lot of reasons, so I also delayed his start. It was a great thing from K-2, but now that he's in 5th, he seems so much older than his peers and it sort of bums me out. But no looking back, right?

Their sister was born in October and is one of the oldest in her class, but so far it's been a benefit. So what's my conclusion? I don't have one, apparently, but all I know is, neither of my summer birthday boys were ready for kindergarten.

KateFitz | 8:21 AM

This is something I am struggling with my guy Oct. 5th birthday. He's after the cutoff and he already is rocking out in the 99th percentile in height and weight. I'm not so cool with him being a foot taller then everyone. But if that't what happens then that's what we have to deal with.

Also I think a lot of people over think this (myself included). My thought is give the kids the chance to succeed and unless they are way off the curve socially and academically encourage and problem solve. Teach them how to overcome rather then work the system so they can be compared to children 1 year younger. Children are so much resilient and resourceful then we give them credit for. It's the worried parents who want to have their children breeze threw without any bumps in the round.

Alex | 8:38 AM

I'll admit that before looking for pre-schools in April school was the furthest thing from my mind. It wasn't until we started pre-school touring that I realized that school was like a sport for some parents. In one of the schools we toured there was a couple who was touring the school for like the 5th time & a couple who were touring the school that didn't start accepting until age 3 for their 18 month old. It was at this school I learned about cut off dates & red shirting & how parents purposely keep their kid behind so they will be the smartest. I thought it was the dumbest thing I had ever heard.

Unknown | 8:48 AM

I was a fall baby and my mom actually was able to let me start kindergarten at four because there weren't very many girls enrolled. I am really glad I was able to start then because I was a nerd and loved school from the get-go. I was still multiple grade levels ahead in reading and math and would have been seriously bored if I had to wait another year.

Partly because of my experience, and partly because I know that due to our genetic pool our children will be giants we planned our kid's birthday so he would be in the middle of the age pool.

Our niece and nephew are having their schooling delayed by choice and I worry that not only were they more than ready, but they are very, very tall for their age which makes people assume they are much older and judge their behavior based on their assumed age. I'm afraid that delaying their start will make this even more of an issue.

They will also hit their growth spurts before their peers and even though I was nearly a year behind my classmates in age I was always the tallest and felt like a freak. It would have been even worse if I had a whole other year to grow taller than them.

Evidently this physical development issue is another reason parents delay starting so that their kids are better than others at sports, but again, there is no proof that it actually works.

Abbey | 8:49 AM

I admit that I'm thinking about waiting with my daughter - an August birthday - I want her to get to be a kid, to be free and grow outside the public schools. Yeah, it will cost more and maybe I'll change my mind when she is closer. My mom did teach in public elementary schools for 20 years and is a big fan of waiting which will play a part in our decision. Also, Oklahoma is thinking of moving back to July 1 and private schools here are already at June 1. We shall see... I think, at base, it depends on the kid.

Kristen Howerton | 8:58 AM

I have twins with October birthdays and held them back. I think for many of us, it's not so much about academic readiness as it is emotional maturity. My daughter can read already - but she's also sooo young socially. My son doesn't have the focus required for a full day of kinder but I think he will in another year. But also - I don't really want them graduating high school at 17, or not able to drive until junior year. For me, it's not about setting them up to compete, it's about making sure they aren't pushed into something they aren't developmentally ready to handle.

Natalie | 9:17 AM

Once upon a time, I was a little 5-year-old who was technically "of age" to begin kindergarten. However, I cried until I made myself pass out EVERY.SINGLE.TIME my Mom tried to drop me off at preschool and was so not "emotionally" ready for kindergarten, and my wonderful mother took it upon herself to hold me back for a year. I thank goodness every year that she did. Being one of the oldest in my class meant that yes, I was constantly bombarded for rides when I turned 16 before everyone else, and cigarettes when I turned 18, but my wonderful mother knew me better than everyone else in the whole world, and knew I wasn't ready for kindergarten. Know one knows your kids like you do, and I truly believe it should be up to the parents to make that kind of decision.

There were benefits to holding me back as well -- Yes, I was the first of my friends to turn 21, so I got to spend my 21st birthday in a bar with the best cousins a girl could ask for, instead of wearing a tiara and skipping down the street like my friends as their birthdays came one by one through the next year -- and I got to celebrate with each and every one of them when their times came. :)

Thanks for knowing me Momma, and helping --nay, fighting for me to -- succeed every step along the way, not because you wanted me to be "better prepared than everyone else" but because it was best for me!

Anonymous | 9:20 AM

My son was born in August so he turn five just before starting school. He was probably not ready for kindergarten. He eventually caught up. It was really hard on the whole family. We spent many long evenings on spelling and math home work.

He's now in sixth grade and I'm thankful we never held him back. He's always been tall for his age and now he's filled out in that tween sort of way. Had we held him back people would have looked at him and wondered what the hell he was doing in elementary school this year!

As with any parenting decision, I say do what's right for your own family. They're your kids, screw 'em up however you like. You get to pay the therapy bill!

Rachel | 9:36 AM

My brother and sister were generally among the older kids in their classrooms and I definitely think my brother benefited from it far more than my sister. He needed extra time to ensure he could focus long enough, stay engaged, and eventually keep up with his classmates physically - especially in high school. I know several children who went through went Anon. is referring to - being placed in special education classes in order to help them catch up or give them a "buffer year."

As an educator, I can attest to the importance of making sure your child is emotionally, socially, academically and physically ready for school. Instead of constantly playing catch-up as the youngest child (which can be detrimental to their self esteem), children who are held back a year generally only benefit from the extra time. Ultimately it's the parent's decision because they know their child best.

Lifes a potty | 9:37 AM

Ive been having this conversation again and again as my son will make the cut next year but.....barely. I'm with you. F$%# it. Save $20,000 and get my kid out into the world. He he may not be valedictorian, but, he might be and I dont think the day he starts kindegarten dictates that. He is who he is and we are here to help him along the way.

danika | 9:57 AM

I think holding your child back to give them some kind of academic/athletic advantage is kind of ridiculous. It should definitely be handled "case by case". In my own experience, I went to K at age 4 (turned 5 2 months in) and excelled academically. No problems socially either, though I was on the small side. It was a bit of a drag being the last to get my license/be able to legally drink. But otherwise, no regrets whatsoever. I would have been SO bored if my parents held me back. That said, I think the direction our schools are going is a bit sad. Kindergarten should not be academically rigorous! Let's allow our kids to be kids and then there wouldn't be as much of an issue of being "ready" for K.

My own kids will both be on the older side, which is a little disappointing for me, as I think they'd both be ready to go earlier. But I don't think I'll push them to go early either.

Jennifer F | 10:07 AM

I have 3 boys all born late Sept, late Oct and mid December and sent all to school at age 4 as December 31 was the cut off. None struggled academically but they all had some social difficulties. I really believe that there are two components at play here - intellectual maturity and emotional maturity. The emotional maturity issues did not arise until Junior High school, so looking back (they are in their 20's now) I would have held them back. Unfortunately, by the time their emotional maturity issues popped up, it was far too late to reverse course!

Alisyn | 10:10 AM

My daughter is one of the youngest in her 4th grade class, with a late-October birthday. We never seriously considered red-shirting her: she had 2 years of preschool and was more than (academically) ready to move on, despite being very shy.

Only in the last few months has our decision been questioned (by us). The massive amount of homework, projects, presentations and the time in which she has to do them are overwhelming. Her emotional immaturity means that she really struggles with WANTING to play outside/be a kid, versus NEEDING to buckle down and get to work after school. She's really good about balancing most of the time... but my heart sometimes hurts for the little 9-year old who is typing a report, when she just wants to be riding her bike.

If I had to do it over again, I would probably hold her back, not only because of her age, and definitely not to force an academic "advantage" on her, but to help foster the self-confidence and emotional readiness that (for her) comes with life experience.

the king of carrot flowers | 10:13 AM

This topic REALLY gets to me right now. My 5 year old is currently in Kindergarten at an academic magnet school. He was READY for K in my eyes. His spring birthday should make him middle of the road age wise. He loves it and academically is doing really well.

BUT evidently it is the trend for kids to go through Kindergrten at a regular public school- THEN test to get into the magnet school. Which is great for them but when 75% of the class has done this then it puts my child at a HUGE disadvantage. He is having trouble maturity wise and I do not think these problems would exist if he wasnt a full year (age-wise) AND a full year (experience-wise) behind most of his class.

It really makes me mad that this was never mentioned to us at any of the entrance interviews, etc. I wish the other parents thought about how this trend doesnt really give their child an advantage but instead creats an expectation from the teacher for a certain maturity level that 5 year olds (ESP MALE 5 year olds) just cant meet.

Anonymous | 10:19 AM

My daughter has a late summer birthday and you could say I held her back a year and put her in Kindergarten when she was six. However, this is actually her second year in Kindergarten. We are from Canada and she went to Kindergarten there, but only for 2 1/2 hours per day. She struggled and I wanted to hold her back, but the school really didn't want her held back. So when I found out we were moving to Texas and that the cut off for 1st grade is Sept.1, I knew this was my chance to put her back in Kindergarten.
I have not regretted my decision at all. The curriculum here is much more advanced and if I had put her in 1st grade she would have struggled again. Now she is doing much better and isn't struggling at all.


King of Carrot Flowers - that is SO frustrating! And herein lies the issue, right? If parents keep holding their kids back eventually EVERYONE will have to! Because being the ONLY five-year-old in a class full of six-year-olds will not do. Hm...

Erin | 10:25 AM

This is interesting...I read Outliers, and know about the whole phenomenon from there...

I was born in November, and started school "early". I was always the youngest in my class. I think my Mom and Dad made the right decision though - they had me tested in all kinds of things, I came out very well from the testing, and I was already reading at a 3rd grade level when I hit kindergarten, thanks to my Mom who read to me and taught me. I did very well in school for the most part, and took a year off after high school so when I got to college I was closer in age to my classmates, not that it mattered so much.

My son was born in late October, and he is very small for his age and hit physical milestones late, but also seems to be very intelligent and advanced academically - he just turned two but can read all letters and numbers and is extremely verbal, speaking in full sentences and grasping lots of more advanced concepts.

I'll be interested to find out what the cutoff is in our area (suburban Toronto) and figure out how to do right by him. I don't want him to be bored in school, but I also don't want him to be at a disadvantage with the other kids, physically speaking. Tough call.

Anonymous | 11:05 AM

Nebraska just changed their cutoff date to July 31 to handle the fall bday debate. It makes it very hard for families who do not have the money for or access to quality preschool. And of course you will still have people who want to wait until their summer baby is older. There really is no good answer for this situation. I wish public (free) pre- k was available, not just the head start program for very low income. Sigh...

Anonymous | 11:08 AM

A trend here is to send your "younger" kindergartener to public school to prepare them for "real" kindergarten at a posh private school when they are older.

Anonymous | 11:13 AM

This is a HUGE pet peeve of mine! I live in NY, where the cutoff is age 5 by December 1st. My twins were born on September 14th, a full 3.5 months BEFORE the cutoff date. So when they were four-going-on-five (school started a week before their 5th birthday), my twins started kindergarten. I took them to "meet the teacher day" a few weeks before school started, and their teacher -- who knew NOTHING about my kids other than their names -- asked me when their birthday was. I told her and her IMMEDIATE response was "Oh, you could have held them back then." Um, hello? Why? Their birthday was 3.5 MONTHS before the cutoff and they were more than ready for kindergarten. WHY on earth would I have held them back? I was livid that this woman didn't know jack shit about my kids and her immediate response when meeting them was that they shouldn't be there! Screw that. Is it any wonder I pulled them out of school mid-way through kindergarten and began homeschooling them? This "my kid MUST be the strongest, tallest, smartest, best" is the reason so many kids are screwed up these days. Let kids be kids and let kindergarten be what it was meant to be -- an introduction to schooling with an emphasis on fun, sharing, playing nice with others and beginning academics. Leave the hard stuff for later!

Jen | 11:19 AM

We are dealing with this now. My son will turn 5 on Aug 9, and as of right now we're planning on doing one more year of preschool rather than send him to kindergarten on the early side.

I have to wonder how many people are really keeping their kids back when they know they're ready as opposed to just not being sure and erring on the side of caution? It's a hard thing to judge and it will potentially effect your child for their entire life. After reading through the comments there was one person who regretted waiting, and this is honestly the only person I've EVER heard express that. Plenty of people regret sending their kids early, very very rarely do they regret waiting.

It a tough decision, because as a lot of people have said, our son is very ready academically. Reading, math, etc. But socially, he's not there yet. He needs a lot of adult interaction/help to sort out his emotions when he gets frustrated. When I watch him play with kids a little older than him I can see that he doesn't really get what they're doing, and is just kind of tagging along. When he plays with kids a little younger he is confident and takes a leadership role in the play. That's how I want him to feel socially for his whole life, not like he's tagging along.

I have a friend who was older, with a Sept birthday. He said that from the time he can remember he knew he was one of the older kids, and just had a sense of responsibility from it. Like it was his job to do his best, set a good example, and be a leader among his peers. That is inspiring to me. That's what I want for my son, not a vague feeling of social awkwardness.

People talk a lot about "feeling bored". I just don't see that this is a huge problem. Anyone who thinks this much about this decision is clearly an attentive parent. If you catch the "feeling bored" attitude early, you can talk to your child's teacher. You can supplement at home. There are so many options. Admittedly, perhaps not for everyone. But in our school district, there are plenty of programs and opportunities. If he's bored, it's his own and my fault for not taking advantage of them. Academic boredom is just such an easy thing to fix compared to social immaturity.

Susannah mentioned the fact that the effects of your age last well beyond the first few years. I think, maybe especially for girls, that it would be really hard to be one of the youngest kids in high school. Developmentally, there's a big difference between a 12 year old and a 13 year old girl. Going into your freshmen year of high school, with all the drama, hormones, dating, etc, as a 12 year old sounds overwhelming. It's not surprising that someone put into this situation would not be able to appropriately handle the situation.

Anyway, all that being said, I would not agree with holding back a kid who was both emotionally and academically ready. I just wonder how cut and dry that can really be. Can anyone besides the parents and maybe preschool teacher of the child really say a child is ready?
There are a few kids in my son's preschool class that could be in kindergarten now. Sometimes it seems to me that they might fit in better there. But I don't know them well enough to make that judgement or to say whether they were "redshirted" or maybe their parents just weren't sure that they were ready.

Anonymous | 11:30 AM

Maybe someone already said this; I didn't read the comments. Sorry.
I live in Belgium, and here the date is January.
My oldest son has always been ahead of his age, and I was a little baffled he had to redo the first year of kindergarden.
He has always been insecure and cautious, and never really bloomed that first year in school.
When he got to 're-do' his first year, he got the self esteem that he lacked. Yes, he was almost the oldest of class, but that worked wonders for his confidence and social life.
To every down side, there is a plus side.

April | 11:55 AM

i was one of the youngest in my class, making the cut-off by only a few days. i LOVED being one of the youngest and graduating at seventeen. it bugs me to no end that i now have three kids who missed the cut-off and will be among the oldest in their classes.

my five year old does NOT understand why so many of his friends get to be in kindergarten this year, but he has to wait. i don't want him to be 'over ready' - i think he will be SO BORED. he's already reading and doing basic math...

uhg, wish they could do it on a case-by-case basis. i mean, i totally understand that logistically they cannot, but i really hate that my 5 year old is has to wait :-/

Issa | 12:05 PM

I've known people who held their kids back because they just thought they weren't ready. I think that's okay.

In Colorado, the cut-off (for the past 20 years), has been September 15th. My son is a few weeks younger than Fable I believe. His is September 25th. So the decision is made for me. I think being six when you go to Kindergarten seems old. But? I know that he won't be alone. Maybe in the long run it's okay.

I think more about the long term. Where my oldest (10 tomorrow) started kindergarten at 4 (because at the time we lived in LA) will graduate at 17. The thought of sending my 17 year old to college? Scares the crap out of me.

So maybe the cutoff isn't so bad?

17 beats. | 12:12 PM

i'm a school teacher (and mom) and unfortunately, this conversation doesn't stop with "should i 'redshirt' my kid" ... that's just the tip of the iceburg.

if your child is not ready (can't hold a pencil or crayon, isn't completely potty trained, has special needs or diagnosed learning difficulties, etc) then maybe it's appropriate to hold them back. however, i find it ICKY when parents hold their children back because they want them to be the BEST, SMARTEST, STRONGEST kid in the class. ultimately, they are stacking the deck against their child by putting them in situations where they aren't getting appropriately challenged.

Anonymous | 12:31 PM

I work for a school district in Northern CA. I'm not sure when your kiddo's b-days are (and didn't have time to read through all the comments, so I apologize if I'm repeating what someone else has already posted), but have you been given information regarding transitional kindergarten? When the new law was enacted, they also put in a requirement for transitional kindergarten program to serve the "young 5's" - ie, the kids born from September 2 - December 1, who would have been eligible for kindergarten prior to the change. These kids will now get a year of TK (which is free and provided by the school district) and then a year of kindergarten. The new legislation gives school districts some leeway in how they put this program into place - some schools are scaling the entry date back gradually while others (like my district) are going ahead with the September 1st option next year and putting a TK class into every elementary school. Districts are also allowed to determine how their TK programs will be structured - full day vs half day, etc. We're going full-day, so hopefully parents will see what a great option this can be. As a school psychologist, I am a huge proponent of the TK program, as I believe that kindergarten in this state (and, for the most part, nationwide) has moved so far away from developmental appropriateness in a push to get kids ready to perform on the academic assessment measures. YAY TK!!!!

Isabelle | 12:34 PM

We choose not to push our child forward (word choice is powerful and if your kid isn't ready you aren't holding them back you are just starting them when they are ready). It depends on each kid and how their social, emotional, physical, and
academic readiness matches the school that you are intending to send them too. Our child is quite tall so we've gotten some insanely rude comments about our decision to start him when he is a young 6 instead of a young 5. Our public school is super academic, has long days, and the principal openly brags about how they are so rigorous and are the "new first grade". I met with him and a kindergarten teacher and they both recommended waiting even without seeing my son. It is baffling that public schools can make age inappropriate curriculum/schedules.
For what its worth I was young for my class and was so bored. I am not sure how much boredom in school actually has to do with age and how much it has to do with the quality of the school/teachers/curriculum. I never wished I started when I was a young 4 year old so I would have been more academically challenged earlier.

Betsy | 12:38 PM

My little girl is 11 months old so I am just speaking hypothetically here....but I think that if she was on around the cut off date, I would want to hold her back...not to be smarter or more prepared for school, but because it would be an extra year that she was "mine". It is sad enough when your kids have to leave the nest, but letting go of them at 17 would be too much for me. I would want them to be under my roof for another year! Of course, if they turned out to be extra gifted, I would not want to hold them back but, otherwise.....

Anonymous | 12:51 PM

In Chicago, it's always been (well, for the last few decades) a September 1st cut off. I grew up in So Cal and was two weeks after the (then) December cut off. My daughter has a summer birthday and it was ok for her (she's always been fairly mature), but my boys are winter birthdays and I'm glad they fall in the middle of their class years in terms of age. I would prefer, I think, to have later starts than earlier, but, then again, I only work part time and have a nanny for the two days I need for my little guy.

AndreaWasson | 12:54 PM

I have two children - my daughter is an August baby and my son a November. My daughter went to kinder at 4, just turning 5. We held my son back. At five years old, my daughter was ready, my son wasn't ready to be 4 until November. We didn't start seeing 'issues' until my daughter was about 10. She was behind other classmates organizationally, maturity-wise. She just got behind and really never caught up completely. With my son, he's just a bit ahead of some of his younger classmates. It was a good decision and looking back, I wish we would have held my daughter back - if only to make it a little easier as she went through school. My daughter is now 18 (graduated at 17) and in college and my son is now 13.

That being said, the uber-competitive parent is going to be that way whether they start kinder early or 'late'. I think parents who hold their kids back sure put a lot of pressure on these kids. And those types of parents are very, very annoying, in my experience!

Rachel | 1:03 PM

I haven't read through all the comments, but i want to contribute my two cents. (buuut that two cents might be redundant...)

1. I am glad that you all brought up the "stronger" thing. This is why people "redshirt" in the town where I grew up (rural Ohio)--so their child can be a better (bigger, stronger) football player in middle and high school. Really.
2. My husband was the youngest in his class (late September b-day), but still one of the biggest and smartest (genetics). But he hated that all his classmates could legally drive pretty much a year before him.
3. The idea of graduating high school at 17 and college at 21 is great and all, but I entered college at just-turned-18 (in June), got a teaching degree, didn't use it, travelled and worked for five years...and now I'm getting my masters in speech therapy. I don't regret those years of traveling and working, but I would have saved my parents some money if I had done some of that on the front end of college. And I think I would have figured out that I wanted to go into speech (and how) a bit earlier than I have.

I agree with the people who say it should be a case by case basis :) And I hate that people are trying to manipulate the system.

Dranrab | 1:06 PM

I started kindergarten at the age of 5 and just last May 2010 graduated with a bachelors at 21. I thought school was difficult/challenging. At times I would not understand things...then months later, finally grasp then after they had been explained differently/through a different learning approach. I've wondered so so so many times if being held back until I was 6 would have been beneficial.

With my children, I'm not going to fret what so ever. At the age it is possible for them to start kindergarten - they will, and we'll cross out fingers and send our good mojo that everything is perfect!

EMQ | 1:07 PM

Oh man, I have to agree with you on this one Rebecca. I think redshirting is another form of competi-parenting. I mean, we all want our kid to be the best in class, coolest on the playground, smartest, sweetest most with it...and most of us would love to give our children every advantage. But really, that does nothing to teach them about real life. Because real life is about learning to deal with circumstances that are less than perfect and our kids need to learn how to deal with this sooner rather than later. At least that's what think now, 3 years before my first child will be staring down the halway of public kindergarden.

Kim | 1:12 PM

I am a preschool teacher, and my opinion is - move them up when they're ready.
I've had children who were still very young but were BORED in my classroom, and I encouraged their parents to enroll them in kindergarten. Why hold your child back when they're clearly ready to move on!?
On the same token, I've had children in my preschool class who were older and not ready for kindergarten, and I did recommend that the parents give that child another year in a preschool setting.

When a child goes to kindergarten should be a decision that is made based on how ready the child is. Your child should be challenged, but not overwhelmed.

Äiti | 1:13 PM

As an expat-american currently living in Europe, I am glad that my children will wait until they are older to start primary education (6 for kindergarten if we stay in Finland, 5 if we go back to the UK, but we have the option to keep them back a year as well which I may take for reason personal to each of my children).
I don't think most children are ready at 4 or 5 to start structured education. I like that here they have time to be children and to play and learn how to deal with social relationships with their friends and to just mature that little bit more.
Finland has one of the best education systems in the world and one of the reasons is that when they actually start primary school at 7 they are ready, emotionally as well as intellectually, to start learning.

Kendra in Dayton | 1:22 PM

My son was born in August. When he was 4, his preschool teacher said "academically" he was ready. But in the realm of maturity, we didn't see it. So we waited a year. He started Kindergarten when he was 6.

Fast forward to 3rd grade. His teacher called BOTH my husband and I in for a conference. Our son was doing GREAT - gifted in great she wanted to skip him up to 4th grade....right then. Wha????? So off to 4th grade he went. He is now in 6th grade and still doing fab (straight A's). He is a sensitive middle schoolers bite. But he doesn't seem to care much about "being cool."

Anonymous | 1:24 PM

what is ready? there are so many ways to look at it. i dont think this is an issue to pass judgement about period end of story. because you dont know whether someone elses kid is ready or not ready and its really not your place to tell (or even think) a parent such a thing. so just butt out!

Magic27 | 1:40 PM

I live in France and the system is pretty different. The cut-off is December 31, and with a December 27 birthday my elder daughter is always one of the youngest. Her little sister, with an April 27 birthday, is pretty much in the middle.
School isn't obligatory here till the equivalent of your 1st grade, so kids don't really learn any reading or anything before that (even though, in practice, most kids start school at least one, often two or three years earlier). Kindergarten ("maternelle" here) is lots of playing, colouring, singing, story-telling, etc. The kids get a nap after lunch. Both my girls started in pré-maternelle, Carla in January (1 week after her 2nd birthday), Lydie in September at almost 2.5. It was absolutely the right choice.
Carla's now in 5th grade and will be 10 at the end of this month. Yes, she's the youngest in her class, but there were 4 birthdays in November and there are 5 others in December, so that's 1/3 of the class essentially the same age as her. She often tells me she's glad she was born early (my due date was 25 January) because she's so definitely "in phase" with the class she's in. She's bright, one of the best in her class. She's one of the smallest in size, but not the smallest. I kind of freak out at the idea of her going to middle school next September at only just over 10.5, but I know there are plenty of other kids in the same situation.
Red-shirting is pretty much unheard of here in France. Daycare places aren't available after a kid turns 3, so almost all go off to "maternelle".
Starting to learn to read "late" (compared to the US and my native Britain) doesn't seem to have any impact either.
The French system has its flaws, but I'm soooo glad I don't have to deal with the matter you're facing!

Kris | 1:41 PM

My son is only 3 & he's on the autism spectrum, so I'm not sure what his educational future holds. He's in a special needs early childhood class now, with an 8/27 birthday (our cutoff is September 1st); and he seems so so so little compared to the big kids who are almost 4. But he's learned so much from those bigger kids already. He's making eye contact now, and will sometimes say the names of the other kids in his class.

It really just depends on the kiddo; and if mine has anxiety issues and/or isn't ready to hang with the big boys when he'll just barely be 5, I'll think about holding him back. But I would NEVER, EVER do it just for social status. Blah. I'm an old hippie, and competitive parenting just makes me so damn angry.

I guess the only people who have the "right" answer should be the parents. Trust your instincts, and you'll never be wrong.

Nancy | 1:48 PM

I was redshirted in 1976 before there was a term for it) because my parents assumed (and feared) I would have the same challenges as my older brother who was allowed to skip a grade and then (due to his size and ensuing social challenges) held back to be put back with his age group. As one of the oldest kids in my class, I was frequently bored and annoyed with the pettiness of my peers throughout school. As it turned out, I ended up playing more with the kids that were ahead of me by 1-2 grades than the kids in my own class. I never really felt like I fit in until college. Was this all a result of redshirting? Hard to say, but (as you can tell) I still resent my parents well-meaning assumption that I would have the same experience as my older (and shorter ;p) brother.

Emily | 2:21 PM

I have heard of "redshirting" being more common among boys who tend to develop their verbal skills at a slower pace than girls ... In theory, this allows them to keep up with the demands of school in comparison to their female peers, by giving them that extra year of preparation. After some research for a masters class I had to take (I'm a teacher), I think it makes a lot of sense when viewed from that standpoint.

I was born September 6th, so I started school when I was 4 (almost 5). This worked well for me ... I always excelled and never had any issues academically or socially. My son is currently 2 and his birthday is September 23rd. If given the option (I'm not sure what cut-offs are, I know they differ by county in Ohio), I am holding him back so that he can start school at 5 (almost 6). I really want to make sure he is ready so that school does not become something frustrating to him. School should be fun! And, in my mind, how can he enjoy school if he doesn't have the skills he needs right out of the gate?

Jackie | 2:23 PM

I am a late August birthday and was always the youngest in my class. I never liked it and I think I would have done better being the oldest in my class.

Every kid is different though. I always struggled a bit academically and socially.

The summer before my 21st birthday was THE longest damn summer of my life! All of my friends were already hanging out in bars, but I was too young!

In the end I think my parents did what they thought was best for me and all has turned out fine. I am a well adjusted adult, ha!

I was super thankful that I graduated in May 2007 and found a job which is right before the US economy took a nose dive. Feel like I missed a bullet there!

robin | 3:15 PM

I think the old CA Dec. 1 cutoff date was CRAZY! I definitely think, for the most part, 4 yr olds should not be going to kindergarten. In OR the cutoff is Sep. 1, which is perfect because the school year doesn't start until after labor day. I think the cutoff should even be Aug 1 in places that start school during Aug. Are there exceptions? Of course. Here in OR. if a child is born during the month of Sep. and the parent feels they are ready, they petition to the school they will be attending and a readiness evaluation is performed.
On the other side of things, holding your kid back on purpose so they are the oldest? Why? That seems silly to me. I can see if kids have a summer birthday that there should be some flexibility, and the parent can determine if their child is ready or not, and decide based on that, NOT based on wanting to make sure their kid is the biggest kid on the playground. That's just silly.

Alli | 3:24 PM

I'm not a mother, yet, but my birthday is in October, so I was always one of the youngest kids in the class. (I don't know if the rules are different here in Canada - I don't think there's a cut-off date. I *think* it goes by birth year). I excelled academically (except for some hiccups in math) but I always felt young when it came to maturity. I was able to grasp adult concepts but I never tried drugs or took risks or drank to excess. I never had a boyfriend. This could just be my personality but when I arrived at university as a 17-year-old (drinking age in Canada is either 18 or 19, depending on the province) I again felt very far behind socially. It was great to finish my degree by 21 but I would have benefited from a gap year, IMO. So it might be worth putting your child in school even if you aren't positive they are ready, but encouraging them to take time off later. Life is not a race.
All that said, my younger sister with an August birthday would have absolutely benefited from being held back. But by the time her teachers and my parents figured it out, she was in Gr.4, and they didn't want to embarrass her by keeping her in that grade. She powered through it (she is now a wonderful, accomplished high school teacher) but the whole thing certainly caused her a lot of pain and frustration.

oh, jenny mae | 3:33 PM

everyone is different. i was the youngest in my class with a december birthday (this friday!) and was bright and socially apt throughout school. my 3 older kids all have late winter/ear;y spring birthdays, so i would never have thought twice about them, although i know kids who are older than mine in the grade behind them. my youngest will be 4 on august 8 & our cut-off in arizona is september 1. she's smart as a whip & big for her age, so i can only assume she'll go in 2 years. as a stay at home mom, i don't have to pay for preschool, so that's not a factor, but i can't see keeping her back because of her age. there's a cut-off for a reason, right? i am, however, wholly uncomfortable about the thought of boys in middle school with moustaches who want to date my babies.

if they keep moving the cut-off back, the spring babies will start kindy a year later instead of summer babies.

Bunny | 3:33 PM

My son is 4 and has autism. He has a summer birthday as well, which means he could graduate at 17. This is an issue we struggled with, but after much talk feel prepared to send him into Kindergarten in the Fall.
He is on his second year of preschool and is doing well. We feel holding him back will stunt him intellectually. He is really smart, but has a hard time focusing. With the right supports he should breeze through Kindergarten.
It really is a case by case basis.

jessica | 3:37 PM

In NY Kindergarten is NOT mandatory and if you hold your child back from Kindergarten, they will enroll them in 1st grade since they will be of age for that grade. So the joke is on the parents who keep them out for the year because when they show up the school will be like haha sucker! Your kid is now going to 1st grade and missed the important transition of kindergarten!!

I know this for a fact because it happened to me. I didn't hold my son back on purpose but we lived out of state where his bday made him ineligible for Kindergarten. We moved to NY the following year where the bday requirements were different and they were like "we don't care if he hasn't gone to kindergarten, it's not mandatory anyway. He's going straight to 1st"

So how are these people holding their kids back anyway? Private school?

SupermomWannabe | 3:52 PM

I think the child needs to lead the way and can indicate readiness. My daughter is among the youngest and she was very ready (bday late august). My two youngest will cross the same bridge withe late july birthdays. I just did a post about my daughter not being quite ready for preschool, and our "break" before trying again!

Meg | 5:06 PM

When I was 4, we lived in Texas, which has a cut-off date of September 1st. (My birthday is in mid-December.) I went to a Montessori school which tested students and did not group by age. I was with mostly 6 and 7 year old kids, because I was an incredibly BORED child who taught myself to read for entertainment. It was great for me to be in that class.

Then! We moved to Connecticut when I was 5 1/2 years old. Where the cut-off date is December 31st. I was BY FAR both the oldest and the shortest in kindergarten. Because I had been in Montessori and could already read, I was bored out of my mind in kindergarten, and that's never a good thing. Granted, many of my issues with that school stemmed from being in a tiny parochial school in a tiny town, but being ahead of all my classmates didn't help.

(Incidentally, my girlfriend and I met in high school -- in a completely different state, I moved a lot -- where we were two grades and one year in age apart -- thanks to theatre, we met! Her younger sister is a year younger than me but was in my grade. Now that we're in our late twenties, age doesn't matter as much as the fact that we still both look like we're in high school.)

My verdict? It greatly depends not only on the kids themselves but also on the school.

Mama Smith | 5:34 PM

My kid is only 1 year old and I've just started thinking and worrying about this. His birthday is in November which according to the cut-off here means he'll be old for his class. He's a small kid so part of me thinks good (not so he's tougher than your kid just so that he's not so much smaller than everyone else).

Now that I see thi though I am just realizing we're going to have to pay for an extra year of preschool! That is no good. Preschool should be part of the public school system since it's basically assumed that your child will attend it at this point.

Anonymous | 5:45 PM

Here's an article that argues that holding kids back hurts them in the long run as they end up less challenged.

Anonymous | 6:25 PM

My husband and I decided to hold our son back this year. He has an August birthday, so he would have been just barely 5 when school began. We've gotten a lot of raised eyebrows from the other parents in our NY neighborhood, who seem to believe beginning the academic push sooner is always better. But, you know what? For our kid this was the right decision. He would have been academically fine in kindergarten this year, but he would also have been a social nightmare, so for him this was the better solution. And being a good parent is really knowing what will work for your kid--not anyone else's--and making the best decisions you can based on that. The truth is that the worst part of the decision has been the criticism of other parents, and, just as I disliked the combative and oddly competitive breast/bottle or co-sleeping/crib-sleeping mom conversations I had when my kids were small, I dislike now feeling judged by other parents for making the schooling choice that feels right for my family.

plue | 6:31 PM

My grandfather had a lot of pull in his town, so he got me into pre-k at 2 (this was in Japan). There's a hilarious home video of me in a school play--I was two steps behind everyone else! Obviously, not mature enough. The teachers kept me at pre-k until I was 4.

But when I moved to the US at age 5, I was put into kindergarten at a HUGE disadvantage, because I didn't even speak English, so I guess I should have done terribly in school. But I was fine. I caught up in a year. Academically, it shouldn't make a big difference. But, there were some other immigrant boys in my class who started school late (I grew up in NYC) and by senior year of high school, they could grow full beards!

smak73 | 6:54 PM

I am so glad you brought up this topic, as my daughter is 4 days older than Fable, we live in Northern California, and we will have quite a decison on our hands. She's super smart and will be waaaay past ready academically (I blame Nick Jr. Kidding. Kind of!) Emotionally she's about on the younger side of average. Physically, she's teensy tiny. We don't want her brain to stagnate if we hold her, but I do worry about the mean-girl middle school years & would like our sensitive little girlie to be as mature as possible to handle them. I know middle school teachers who tell me parents of girls also need to consider the possibility that if their daughters develop breasts earlier than the other girls in their class (more likely to happen if they are held), they will be in for some pretty terrible teasing from BOTH sexes. Aaaahhh! Decisions.....

Meg | 7:13 PM

All I can say is Argh! I have one girl whose birthday is a week after our school's cut-off, and a second whose birthday is the day before. So they are two years apart in age, but they'll be one year apart in school! Since they're only 2 years and 3 months old (respectively) right now, who knows about readiness. But I feel your pain on paying for another year of pre-school.
I'm actually suspecting that it might do my older girl some good to wait a year, at least socially (as she gets older, she reveals herself as a wonderfully freaky kid). But I'm pretty sure she'll be reading by then. Fortunately we have a very small school and she may well just be sent to the next room up for some of her work....i can't imagine holding her back deliberately, though. Hello, free public school!!!

Rebekah | 7:14 PM

Well, this was a while ago (I'm 32 years old!) but I was one of the older ones in my class. I turned 18 in the beginning of my senior year in high school. My three year old son is headed the same route as he was born in November.

I have a lot of friends who are the opposite, and almost a full year younger than me, and they were in the same class. I have no real data to back this up, and have no idea the relevance -- but oddly enough all of the 'younger' students I know ended up as super high achievers! Ha Ha Ha. And I'm a total 'under achiever'. So who knows?!

Sorry, my answer is not helpful! Good luck! I agree the extra $ for preschool is not cool. I support public education starting in preschool! For reals!!!

Anonymous | 7:58 PM

A September 13ther - good day Bo and Rev! - I was 5 when I started first grade and 21 when I graduated college. Academically I was more than ready and now have 2 grad degrees. But socially I was not. I majorly lacked self-confidence, had self-esteem issues, and struggled with bouts of moderate (and some major) depression from age 13-20. I always performed in school though and was a quiet kid so perhaps my parents didn't pick up on it. At age 33 now, I honestly don't feel that I caught up to my peers in some ways until the last few years. So definitely think about academic and social readiness.

Anonymous | 9:17 PM

I grew up in Kansas where there was always a Sept. 1 cut off. The late cutoff date for schools on the east and west coast (where i now live)always has blown my mind a little. In my mind, you're five when you start kindergarten and turn 6 during that year. What I also find interesting is that at least in LA & NY if you go to public school there are these late cut offs, however if you send your kid to private school the cut off is Sept. 1.
Malcolm Gladwell is not the first person to write about this issue. There has been a great deal of research done and
of course every case, every child is different and there are always exceptions. But generally speaking kids are better off being a little older. Particularly as one reader mentioned with kindergarten being much more academic now than it was 20 years ago. The cutoff date in la (and other places) is being changed for a reason.
That all being said, I think parents send their kids/don't send their kids for lots of reasons that work for their particular family/situation. I think the term "redshirting" (I've seen this term a lot lately in the media) with the idea that parents are trying to give their child simply an academic advantage makes for an attention grabbing article/discussion topic, but it grossly oversimplifies the issue.

KneuroKnut | 9:38 PM

I am a "redshirter" (although I have to admit until your post, I had never heard this term) and my decision to hold my daughter back has absolutely nothing to do with her being ready. She is chomping at the bit to go to school and I have no doubt that she would do well and enjoy herself. (She is a late January baby so will be 5 1/2 when she starts kindergarten) I just don't see the rush. Once our children are in "the system", they are in it for the rest of their lives. The idea that kids need to be shipped off so young is crazy to me. I love having her at home. This is a special time in her life and mine and if I have the option to prolong it by one more year, than I'll take it. Kids (especially girls) grow up so fast and are getting exposed to things at a much earlier age than I ever did...I think one more year of play-dough and time with her little brother and being at home with me is a gift - for all of us.

Melanie | 10:50 PM

I have one fall birthday daughter and we chose to hold her back one year. We struggled with the decision because academically and socially she probably would have been fine. It was when a trusted soul asked me to think of her at age 16....could she be too mature then?

We waited. She ended up graduating early, but used her "gap" year volunteering, etc. Now she's away at college and I'm SO glad we waited.

Just imagine your child in high school. It's a brave new world there these days. I can't imagine what it will be like for today's preschoolers!

Anonymous | 7:17 AM

I just recently finished reading Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers, and I am now convinced that having a child who is older in his or her class has great benefits. I will mos def be holding my summer-born kiddo back another year even though the preschool cost is going to kill me (yikes!). Anyway, if you are on the line, and need some research to back up your decision, it's a great read.

Amy | 7:50 AM

This isn't new. I was the youngest in my class back in the 70's. It was totally fine in my super-urban elem school where teachers where used to differentiating in the classroom but when we moved to an uber-suburban school, I was in a classroom with kids nearly two years older than me because even back then parents were holding kids back from starting school. I ended up needing to be held back in third grade which was tough.

I am considering holding back my September birthday daughter for the opposite reason than you listed. I am so not a hyper-competitive mom. My daughter is in a totally off the radar preschool where they play with fun stuff all day and feed chickens, etc. I feel like if I can give her one more year of pure fun and exploration and then she can start kindergarten after that and be a little older than maybe it is a win-win?

Raia Runs Wild | 8:04 AM

I'm a December baby, so I started school when I was 4(The cutoff in Canada was January when I was a kid). I never felt like I was behind any of the kids, and was happy to graduate high school at 17. My mom has said before that she wishes she held me back a year, but she was a stay at home mom, and daycare costs weren't an issue. I think because I had an older brother, and was always surrounded by older kids, I was able to deal with situations and just as mature as the 'older' kids.

Anonymous | 8:30 AM

I have a late November birthday so I started kindergarten at 4 as one of the youngest in my class. I don't remember any problems in kindergarten but around second grade I struggled with reading, everyone else was picking it up and leaving me behind. It didn't really 'click' until the summer between 2nd and 3rd, I guess those few months really make a difference. The age gap was never really a problem, even when we started driving, but I do wish my parents had explained to me why I was late learning to read. I think those are the kinds of experiences that can make a child feel like they are 'just dumb' and stop trying.

andrea.d | 9:14 AM

This is very interesting and relevant as they just changed the cut off in Alberta to Dec. 31 from Feb. 28 (!!!) It is a great move, I think, since all those young Feb. babies in my school really struggled in classes full of kids months-to-over-a-year older than them. As it worked out, almost everyone in my class was 17 at graduation, but the year ahead had a big mix of 16/17/18 year olds by December, which caused a lot of social conflict (the drinking age here is 18.)

AndreaB | 10:12 AM

Both of my girls will be on the younger side of their classes. But if they are ready for Kindergarten I will start them. Similar to what Anna Banana said, I like the idea that they will finish college a bit younger than the rest. If anything, if gives them an extra year to figure out what they want - take a year traveling or trying things out...which can ultimately lead to more happiness/contentment in their lives.

I just dont see how holding back a "ready" kid helps them down the line. If anything, they will be bored and not challenged when they finally start Kinder. And the boredom is what will make them less inclined to succeed academically.

AndreaB | 10:12 AM

Both of my girls will be on the younger side of their classes. But if they are ready for Kindergarten I will start them. Similar to what Anna Banana said, I like the idea that they will finish college a bit younger than the rest. If anything, if gives them an extra year to figure out what they want - take a year traveling or trying things out...which can ultimately lead to more happiness/contentment in their lives.

I just dont see how holding back a "ready" kid helps them down the line. If anything, they will be bored and not challenged when they finally start Kinder. And the boredom is what will make them less inclined to succeed academically.

Anonymous | 12:01 PM

There's actually been quite a bit of research done on "academic redshirting," and the basic conclusion is that any apparent benefits seem to dwindle off by third grade, at which point the possibility of problems associated with being the oldest kid in the class (ie, the girl who develops earlier than the rest and gets mercilessly teased) can pop up. Of course, this kind of research looks at overall trends, so I'm sure there are lots of individuals out there for whom redshirting has been an overall benefit.

JCF | 1:37 PM

I've gone back and forth on this issue, and so I appreciate reading all of the comments here.

My son, who was born in Arizona (September cutoff), has an October birthday. So I thought the choice was made for us, and I was glad for that. We've since moved to California, and I think the December cutoff is too late, in general. In Arizona we knew lots of people who held kids back, and the extra year of preschool tuition isn't a big deal, because it is so cheap there. Here in the Bay area, nobody holds their kids back it seems, because nobody wants to pay that extra year in tuition. So therein lies my conundrum. I think there's value in going with the group, but there's also value in looking at the individual kid.

I have a hard time seeing my son doing well in Kindergarten next year, only because he is a VERY high energy kid who doesn't like being in a big group. He's find on play dates with a couple of kids, but prefers to go off alone to play if the group is larger than 4-5 kids. However, he's already starting to read at barely four, and he can do basic addition and subtraction quite well. We are not hyper-competitive parents, but we just try to read lots of books, talk about what we see and do, and feed his interests in a natural way.

I think our plan at this point is to homeschool next year for Kindergarten, and evaluate the following year how things went. If they've gone well and he's ready, we'll put him into first grade with his age group, and if they haven't, he can start Kindergarten.

I wouldn't ever hold him back to make him stronger/better/smarter/faster than the other kids, but I would hold him back if I feel he personally isn't ready. I have no worries about his academic abilities, but I do worry about his social and emotional abilities, which may benefit from another year of maturity.

Amber | 8:43 AM

My son was old enough to start kindergarten in the fall of 09. He was born in July and would have been one of the youngest in his class. He's a smart, funny and I believed to be social. His preschool teacher suggested we give him one more year of preschool (pre-k) before sending him off. The summer before the school year we moved from LA to PDX, really didn't want to take the teachers suggestion to keep him out another year thus having to pay an additional year of preschool! We took it upon ourselves enrolled him in our local elementary school and believed all would be good.
School started he seemed excited to us; my husband and I were super excited. When we picked him up after school we noticed his pants were damp, he had an accident? My son was totally and completely potty trained so WTF? Second, same thing and he didn't want to talk about school. This continued. By the end of the week the school called my husband and I in for a meeting. If the totally bizarre accidents weren't enough of an indication we were made to see the light. We were told that he wasn't socializing much with the other kids, he was quiet in class but really wasn't following directions well and at recess he was playing alone. The principle and his teacher suggested (to be honest I didn't see it as a suggestion back then but more of a matter of fact statement) we take him out and put him in a Pre-K program. The provided some school names to us and pretty much wished us luck and they'd see us next fall! Hrmph!

Okay so maybe his preschool teacher was right. He wasn't emotionally ready. And i'm sure there were lots of other factors like moving to a new state, having no friends at the new school and transitioning from a small preschool to a really big elementary school

We enrolled him in a great Pre-K program, he adapted quickly and made lots of new friends who lived in our neighborhood and eventually these kids all moved with him to our local elementary school.

He did a great job the following fall starting kindergarten again. He excelled in class and loved talking about school and all he was learning. Yes, he is one of the oldest in his class but it has absolutely no bearing on his learning - he is where he is with school because he is now emotionally and mentally ready for this environment.

My son is in first grade now and has blossomed into an eager learner that loves all things science and reading.

I think that conversation with his teacher and principal back in the fall of 09 was an eye opener for us and that we took him out of school after only 5 days was probably one of the best decisions we have ever made for him.

Ultimately the choice is up to every parent but do it for your child not for yourself.

Anonymous | 10:58 AM

I think this is largely a media thing -- and a blog thing?

I've had 4 kids go into K now and know ZERO families who held back out of some competitive thing. And I live in brownstone brooklyn where there is plenty of competitive parenting.

I know people who have held back for real reasons - which is the only way you can do it in NY (it's hard to hold back unless you can demonstrate a delay via an exam). But that's it!

I do wish the public and private schools would get it together in NY. The public cut off is 12/31 . The private schools use a 9/1 cut off (and usually dont take "summer boys") so for parents looking to do public k-5 and then switch to private -- a big population here -- you need to send your kids to school who may be 18 months younger than their classmates. ie, tweens in a class with drivers. And that creates social issues. My 12 year old can't take the subway with friends at night, his 14 year old classmates can (and he could when he's 14 -- by then his friends will be smoking pot at home!) etc etc.

But the red shirting as a competitive parenting issue is something I've read about but never seen