Kindergarten can wait

More parents are “redshirting” their children, especially boys, by delaying kindergarten enrollment for a year reports the Chicago Tribune:

Another rough indicator, the percentage of boys starting kindergarten at about age 6 or older has gone up, from 7 percent of boys in 1970 to 18 percent in 2001, according to calculations by the U.S. Department of Education. The number of girls starting kindergarten at about age 6 or older has gone up, too, but from 5 percent in 1970 to a relatively modest 10 percent in 2001.

Redshirting is far more common in affluent areas, where parents have high expectations for their children and can afford another year of preschool.

Does it help?

The 1997 (Pediatrics) study co-authored by pediatrician Robert S. Byrd found that teenagers who were older than their classmates because they had started school late were more likely to have behavioral problems than kids who had started on time.

However, these may have been children held back because of immaturity, not just age. Another researcher claims five-year-old boys are two years behind girls in fine motor skills.

The increasing academic focus of kindergarten is blamed, but there was a lot of redshirting of boys in Palo Alto when my daughter started kindergarten — on time — 20 years ago. I noticed as a classroom volunteer that the girls were way ahead of the boys in their ability to write, draw and stay focused on desk work.

About Joanne


  1. I would think (once again, total speculation on my part with nothing more than anecdotal “proof”) that kids who are older than the majority of their peers would be more likely to feel stupid and frustrated, especially if they don’t understand something right away (i.e. “I’m dumb because I’m older than most of these kids!”). It seemed to be the case with a lot of my classmates. At least, the older kids weren’t doing the best in class.

  2. Redshirting has another meaning among science fiction fen. It means making one’s name available for a minor character who will be killed off.

  3. I’ve noticed that “redshirting” is becoming more popular among my neighborhood. The feeling is that the boys are disadvantaged because they’re so much more immature than girls, and giving them another year to mature would help them in the classroom setting. I will be starting my son on time because his 6th birthday will fall early in the school year (October). However, if I felt he was too immature to start, I have no problems holding him back.

    While my area is somewhat affluent, not all parents pay for an extra year of preschool. I pay nothing for preschool, as I believe its cost-benefit ratio is minimal.

  4. Ryan Grant says:

    My parents kept my brother, with a July birthday, out an extra year. He went on to be a great athlete and student. I started school on time with an August 29th birthday. Academically I did just fine; it was the maturity bus that hit hard, in middle school.

    As a first grade teacher, I think it’s a fine idea. The retention meetings at my school have been 90% summer birthdays (June, July, and August); if those kids had come a year later, I think quite a few of them would have been OK.

  5. AndyJoy says:

    I have a Nov. birthday, and my school’s 5th birthday cutoff date was Dec. 1. My mom recieved tons of flack from her friends for delaying my entrance by a year, since I was already ahead academically. However, she didn’t want me to be the youngest in my class and wanted to have an extra year with me at home under her guidance. I think it was wise of my mom to do so, and completely within her parental rights.

    My sister has an Aug. birthday, and started K “on time.” However, immaturity issues caused her to need to repeat K (even after repeating, her close friends have usually been 1-2 grades behind her in school) I think it is much more damaging for a kid to have to repeat than to just start later.

    States have compulsary school age laws, and most of them are above age 5. I think it is perfectly reasonable for a parent to keep his/her child home for an extra year for whatever reason he/she has. Public schools are limited in their ability to meet the needs of the individual student. Parents who hold their kids back are just trying to counter that problem by ensuring that their child is ready to face the demands/challenges of school.

  6. Indigo Warrior says:

    Public schools are limited in their ability to meet the needs of the individual student.

    It’s not for lack of trying to force down everyone’s throat a communistic clockwork regime with no allowances for individual need.