With M’s 4th birthday quickly approaching I am of course already thinking about next year and how that would mean kindergarten and OMG my baybeee! But then a few weeks ago I came across this post about “red-shirting” kids for kindergarten and the comments made my head spin. Parents of developmentally-normal kids holding back children who are 5 ½? Parents of kids with March and April birthdays considering them “on the cusp”? I mean, I know that parents of kids whose birthdays were within 60 days of the start of school have always red-shirted but kids who are of age by 6-8 months? I was floored.
As it is, our district has a cut off of September 30… her birthday is on the 23rd. If she starts next year she would still be 4 for the first six weeks of school. Other schools in the state have a cut off of August 30, so in the next district over this wouldn’t even be a question – she would have one more year of preschool. In other areas of the country the cut-off is December 30 so she would be right in the middle of the pack in those schools. And even though it’s almost a year away, if you follow me on Twitter you know I am totally stressing over this.
First off, I am also a September birthday and was always the youngest in my class. My mom, a teacher, started me “early” because I was a tall kid and she was worried that my size would be more pronounced if she waited another year. (As an aside: I was the tallest kid in my class until the boys caught up in 4th grade. I’m a pretty average 5’ 8” now). I did fine in school. More than fine. I was in advanced classes from 2nd grade on. The only downfall I can think of was having to beg rides off people until I got my license and not being able to go to any of the 18+ clubs for the first few weeks of college.
But! That was when it was rare for anyone to hold back kid for any reason other than real development issues. But now, talking to some people in the area I’m finding it’s common for kindergarten entry to be delayed until 5 ½ – 6. For one, I don’t think that’s fair for teachers to have to deal with that wide of an age range. Secondly, WHY? Why are parents doing this? So their better in sports later in life? So they are the smartest, biggest, best in the class? This is infuriating!
I think M will be ready. She already knows her letters and can read several sight words. She’s got some math under her belt and has been in full-day preschool/daycare since she was a baby. She thrives at school. But, she’s also on the small side for her age (32 lbs, 37 inches) and has the normal lack of impulse control you’d find in any almost-4 year old.
Second, while she’s used to a full-day of school she’s also used to being in a class with only 6-8 classmates, not 20 or 25. She’s used to naps and lots of one-on-one interaction. She adores her school, the teachers and we love the facility. We live in a fantastic school district and I have no worries about the quality of the curriculum and teachers but the idea of thrusting her into that environment so young does bother me. Especially when she might be dealing with kids 12-18 months older than her as classmates.
Finally, I wouldn’t be truthful if I didn’t admit that the financial side of things weighs heavily in the start sooner column. Daycare cost is, I’m not kidding you, the same as it would be to send her to my college alma mater – WITH room and board! (And her tuition is about the same as other full-time programs we’ve looked into, so there’s no savings to be had). Even though we’d still be paying for before and after care, our budget would get a huge boost.
So, what’s your stance? Did you start a kid early or red-shirt? If you did hold back for a spring birthday – why? If you’re a teacher I’d really love to hear your thoughts on this!
Right now I’m leaning towards waiting one more year. But, we will talk with her teachers and meet with the school’s principal this winter to discuss what’s best for M. I’m just feeling almost forced to red-shirt based on the actions of others.