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I Don't Want to Redshirt My Kindergarten Kid. Why Do You?

fork in the road

Which path has richer rewards?

Redshirting is the process where parents think bigger kids = smarter kids. They quote Malcolm Gladwell‘s Outliers a lot in their pursuit of accumulated advantage. Here’s the thing: they’re wrong.

I will not be redshirting my youngest son for kindergarten.

He was born January ’10, and will start school this fall. He’s on a path to hit grade 1 in Sept ’15, when he’s just 5.

Let’s discuss.

THE CHOOCH AND ME

Charlie, my youngest son, was born January 5, 2010. In 2 weeks, at 2yrs 9 mos, he’ll start preschool (2 half days). That will put him on a path to include Junior Kindergarten, and Kindergarten that will have him not yet be 6 years old by the time he enters grade 1 in the fall of 2015.

That’s the plan, one that flies right in the face of the trendy ‘redshirting‘ parents that are holding back their kids until they are fully 6, sometimes almost 7 before they enter first grade.

I was born in January as well, and this early start was the education schedule my parents chose for me. Looking back at it, my mom says I was book smart enough to be in the higher grades, but she doesn’t think I was emotionally ready. With sober second thought, she would have done things differently. Fair enough.

first graders who were young for their year made considerably more progress in reading and math than kindergartners who were old for their year”

Still, my wife and I have decided we will give our youngest son a chance to move forward instead of holding him back.  We both agree that redshirting kindergarten is a terrible idea.

IT’S KINDERGARTEN, NOT COLLEGE FOOTBALL

“Redshirt freshman refers to a player in his second year of college — an academic sophomore — in his or her first year of athletic competition.” [About.com]

Redshirting. Ugh. The whole concept reeks of manipulation. Parents creating an artificial advantage to help their kids get ahead. Well, newsflash parents, if you’re all doing it, nobody’s getting ahead. You’re all falling behind.

Where I live, EVERYONE errs on the side of red-shirting,” says Jen at PIWTPITT. “We’ve got 7-year-olds in Kindergarten just with the hope they might be Outliers.”

Ah, Outliers. The bible of the redshirting set. It’s a great little read by Malcolm Gladwell that illustrated how timing and circumstance have as much to do with success as trying really damn hard. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates got where they were because of when they were born, and chance opportunities they were given. Most NHL players are born in January because, when they were younger, kids got sorted by size and early birthdays meant bigger kids and greater chance for advanced placement.

Parents quoting Outliers as an argument for redshirting doesn’t hold water because Gladwell was using it to explain size advantage when it comes to hockey. The good news is my January son is marginally more likely to make the NHL, and it’s not changing the path I’m putting him on for school.

We’ve got 7-year-olds in Kindergarten just with the hope they might be Outliers.”

WHAT OUTLIERS IS REALLY ABOUT

Gladwell’s theory in Outliers all revolves around this notion of “accumulated advantage”. It’s an idea that people succeed not just on hard work, but on circumstance as well. The parents have extrapolated that to mean ‘bigger is better’, and now we have beefy 7-year-olds finger painting all day when they should be reading chapter books and learning cursive writing.

Redshirting was exposed in a 60 Minutes piece earlier this year, one in which Gladwell himself protested the idea and even offered up a solution.

“My intention was to get the schools to break up their classes by month of birth,”
he said in the program. “Stream the kids by their birthdate until they get to high school and you completely remove the bias.”

LIFE IS NOT EASIER JUST BECAUSE YOU’RE OLDER

I don’t want to go all Tiger Dad on you, but a challenge is good for kids. Life is not easy, why should we try to make school easier? Stats already show that our schools are making kids dumber. If 4th grade math students are remarking that their school work is too easy “often” or “always,” why are parents trying to make things even easier by redshirting? The co-author of the study goes on to remarkthat potentially high-achieving kids are probably not as challenged as they could be or ought to be.

A Canadian study looking at young first graders and old kindergartners found the young kindergartners were ahead in reading and math, despite only being two months older than the kids in the year behind.

Results revealed that younger 1st graders made as much progress over the school year as did older 1st graders and made far more progress than older kindergarteners. Overall, findings demonstrated that, in itself, entrance age was not a good predictor of learning or academic risk.
[PsycNet]

Another study looking at kids of different ages and different grades found that it was the school environment that was more of a predictor of success as opposed to the age of the kids.

In other words, if your kids are going to the right school, with the right teachers, it doesn’t matter if they’re 6 months younger, or 6 months older than the rest of the kids in their class.

At 22 months old, Charlie was already asking about school

SECOND CHANCE TO GET IT RIGHT

Now, I may have fibbed a little when I said Charlie will start preschool after Labor Day. We have to wait until he’s potty trained, so he may have to wait a few weeks. After that, however, we’ll give him a little push out the nest for a couple of days a week to test his wings.

By putting my son in school early, we are giving him the choice of whether he wants to rise to the challenge. He can repeat preschool, junior kindergarten, or kindergarten quite easily if we want to get him in with the redshirters.

However, if he thrives, and the teachers agree he’s ready (we’ve already had discussions, and they are impressed with his eagerness to participate), then on he goes as a member of the Class of 2027. By starting early, wee still have 3 years to decide if it’s the Class of 2028.

The moral of the story? Don’t have winter babies. Have your kids in the late spring/summer and it solves ALL your problems.

What about you? Are there a lot of redshirters in your school? Did your kids get a head start on school, or did you hold them back?

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